Family holidays are supposed to be fun: relaxing by the pool with a cool drink, reading a book as the children splash around, before heading back to your room for a siesta, a change of clothes and a nice, relaxing evening out. For many families, however, the reality of a holiday with young children is a far cry from the fantasy. Aside from the fact that you can’t simply allow children to play near water without absolute hands-on supervision, there are plenty of other challenges to face. Your first challenge, regardless of whether you wish to accept it, is the walk of shame on the plane, during which every other passenger seems to avoid eye contact with you while secretly praying you won’t be sitting within an eight-seat radius of them. The challenges reach their pinnacle while dealing with small children in the heat and – the big one- meal times. Cyprus is an ideal, family-friendly destination, geared up to offer entertainment and relaxation for children and their parents. Check out our top things to do in Cyprus.
Where to go ….
Where to stay in Cyprus depends on your children’s ages, your budget and preferences. The south of the island (Lemesos and around) is great for children aged 5 – 12, with shallow beaches, water sports and horse riding. The nearby waterpark, Fasouri Watermania, is one of the best things to do in Cyprus for kids (and big kids) of all ages – pack plenty of sun cream and try to arrive early so you can nab sunbeds with a bit of shade.
For water babies, head to the west (Paphos), where there is an abundance of water-based activities. The snorkelling is great, and an ideal place for novice swimmers to get acquainted with the under-water world. There are also plenty of fishing and boat trips to choose from – shop around for the best deals. The Aphrodite Waterpark is ideal for slightly older children – although there are baby pools and a lazy river, it is the soaring slides that make it worth the money.
To the east (Larnaka), there are plenty of more stimulating adventures awaiting older children. Visit the sea museum, explore sea caves or ride a camel – the list of fun things to do in Cyprus will bring a smile to even the most truculent pre-teen’s face! Aspiring Palaeontologists will love the Palaeontology Museum, whose highlights are the 12,000-year-old remains of hippopotami and pygmy elephants.
Northern Cyprus (Kyrenia) is a haven of tranquillity, away from the hubbub of tourism. Here, you can visit the Shipwreck Museum, where you will see the vast 2,300-year-old Kyrenia shipwreck, frolic on almost deserted beaches, and explore enchanting castles. In fact, it is rumoured that St Hilarion Castle was Walt Disney’s inspiration for the castle in Snow White.
Family things to do in Cyprus
Obviously, beaches and waterparks are likely to be high on the agenda, and you can pick from a broad choice, depending on ages, abilities and budgets. A boat trip of some kind is fun too – provided you don’t have a hyper-active toddler who is likely to throw themselves overboard, or a child (or parent) susceptible to seasickness. As prices indicate, not all boat trips are created equal, so do some research. If you have a free-range child, opt for a bigger boat where they can wander around safely – thrill-seekers may prefer a RIB or speedboat for a more adrenalin-fuelled experience.
The Fun Bus
George’s fun bus is a full, laughter-packed day of activities, information and, well, fun. Children will have the opportunity to learn more about the island, starting with a tour of a prehistoric settlement. Other stops on the way include an eco-built art college, made entirely of recycled materials, a trip the Ayios Neophytos Monastery, a dip in the Adonis Waterfall (don’t forget your swimming costumes) and a tour of the magical sea caves. A beach barbeque and evening entertainment round off the day – this might be the closest you get to truly relaxing on your holiday!
For adventurous families, horse-riding is one of the most memorable things to do in Cyprus. There are plenty of places to choose from, but we love the horseback safari at Eagle Mountain Ranch in Paphos. The package includes hotel pick-up and drop-off, an induction course (depending on your experience this will be dull or useful, but is essential, regardless) and picnic. There is something romantic and exhilarating about seeing the countryside on horseback – the wind in your hair, as the rolling landscape whizzes (trots, or ambles) by. If horses aren’t your thing but you still want to explore the “real” Cyprus, try a jeep safari instead, where your friendly driver will give you the low-down on Cypriot life.
Akamas National Park is a far cry from the half-completed holiday resorts which stand desolate yet expectant along the stretch from Paphos to the airport. Situated on the western tip, the Peninsular is untouched by tourism and shows Cypriot nature at its most beautiful. Designated trails will take you from the Baths of Aphrodite, along the coast path overlooking azure lagoons, before turning inland. If there has been recent rain, the trail can get muddy, so hiking boots may be a good idea. If you don’t have any, don’t worry – you can always turn back if the going gets tough. The trail is manageable for walkers aged over 5; littler legs may struggle.
When it comes to eating, families tend to come in two broad categories: the smug ones, whose children chow down on calamari and shrimp like natives, and the anxious ones, who can’t possibly go to a restaurant if they don’t serve chicken nuggets or, at the very least, baked potatoes. There are ways of getting around this – some parents come forearmed with a jar of pesto from home and order plain pasta for the fussier eaters, while others just accept that their child might just have to live on chips and ice cream for a week or two.
It is undeniable that Brits generally aren’t great at eating out with children – particularly in the evening. Cypriots, however, do; it is central to their culture, even more so with the massive influx of tourists during high season. Children are made welcome, and Cypriot food doesn’t tend to be spicy, so more adventurous children will enjoy it. For the chip-eaters, there are usually kids’ menus featuring the usual suspects, although be warned that a chicken nugget or fish ‘n’ chips Cypriot style may not perfectly reflect their UK expectations.
Whatever happens on your family holiday, try to enjoy every moment. Parents want each second to be perfect, but children will remember forever being able to eat ice cream for breakfast, hours making sandcastles, or the day they learnt to swim. So, relax, enjoy and don’t worry – if there are tantrums, sulks and minor disasters, you won’t be the first family – or the last – to survive it with a smile on your face and wonderful memories.