17 Unexpected Things I Learned About Cyprus

Such blatant disregard for rules, you kitty...

As a follow up to my previous posts about our Cyprus trip, I wanted to share some things I was surprised to discover in Cyprus. I thought I knew a decent amount about it, but when I was doing my research before my trip, and when on the trip itself, I discovered some things that were totally unexpected for me. 

17 Unexpected Things I Learned About Cyprus

  • Plugs. I'm going to make this first because it was most important and ended up making things more challenging (and expensive) for us on our trips. They have British plugs. I assumed that, being in the EU, they'd have the standard EU plugs and outlets, with 2 round prongs, or 3 in a triangle shape, so that is what I brought with me. Nope. They use British plugs. Which meant the first night there we couldn't all charge our phones and computers, but could only use the one adapter they had. We needed to go buy adapters on our first day there. If I'd thought about it in advance, I might have realized that this was a possibility as a former British colony, but I didn't. So that is why I'm making sure that everyone who reads this will know that.

  • Driving on the "Wrong" Side of the Street. Ok, I learned this before I arrived, and asked for tips from friends on how to adjust to driving suddenly on the left side of the street. This makes sense, the same way the plugs do, as a former British Colony (even though many former colonies switched to driving on the right). Because of the many tourists that come to Cyprus, and that for many of us this way of driving is really awkward, there are signs very, very frequently about which side of the street you are supposed to drive on and which way you go around traffic circles. It was a little hard for me to adjust to it, but mainly gauging the distance between the left side of my car and the cars parked on the left, but eventually I figured it out, and I avoided scraping any cars or poles, so I'll take that as a win.

  • Weird Road Signs. Maybe I'm used to living in a place where people tailgate, but I found it amusing to see chevrons painted on the road of the highway with signs warning you to stay 2 chevrons away from the car in front of you. There were also weird zigzags on the road, but at least those I was familiar with from when I was in London, even though I didn't know what they meant at first. It means approaching a crosswalk, though in Cyprus I saw it a lot before I saw schools, so maybe it has a different meaning there.

  • The Stars. I'm used to light pollution. I'm used to needing to go far to be able to see the stars well. Because, at the very least, there are street lights that make it harder to see the stars. But in most of Cyprus where we were driving, there were no street lights, not even along the main highway. This meant that the amount of stars and details of the night sky that you can see was astounding. If you are an amateur astronomer, make sure to bring along your telescope on your trip to Cyprus.

  • At the top of Mount Olympus.

  • Mount Olympus. Anyone who has more than a passing knowledge of Greek Mythology knows that Mount Olympus is home of the Gods... and that it is in Greece. But there is another Mount Olympus, also in an area home to Greek myths (the goddess Aphrodite is said to have been born there), I was surprised to learn. Mount Olympus is the name of the highest peak in the Troodos Mountain Range, and it has the country's only ski slope. And that is how my kids and I went to play in the snow, on Mount Olympus, without having been to Greece.

  • Flamingos. Did you know Cyprus has flamingos? I would have had no idea if not for my trying to figure out what to do in Cyprus in the winter. I always associated flamingos with the zoo... and the tropics and Central America. I was woefully ignorant about how many types of flamingos there are in the world and how widespread they are, and certainly didn't have any idea they over wintered in Cyprus. That was exciting for me to learn and for us to see in their natural element on our last day in Cyprus.

  • Akrotiri, UK. My son is a geography buff and would one day like to go to every country in the world, or as many as he can manage. Before our trip, he'd only managed to go to our home country and Bulgaria, but on the trip to Cyprus he asked to go to North Cyprus so he could tick off another country from his list. Learning that the UK controlled part of Cyprus, he was hoping to go to that part and "visit another country" and we were amazed to learn that, one of the cities we were going to, Akrotiri, appeared on Google Maps as "Akrotiri, UK". He was really hoping there'd be some sort of border crossing to go into this new country and have them stamp his passport, but there was no border crossing at all, nothing to let him know that he was now in the UK.

  • Expat Center. There are so, so, so, so many expats living and working in Cyprus. I like meeting people, especially when I'm traveling, but many of the people I met who were living in Cyprus actually were not Cypriots. Cyprus is a Mecca for expats from around the globe. I guess this is why it was much easier for me to find foods from around the globe including fresh produce that I'd never seen before in person in Cyprus. This wasn't just my observation- Cyprus has the third largest amount of expats per person in the EU

  • No Nightlife. I was sure that every place has some type of night life, some things going on at night there... apparently, at least in the winter in Cyprus, there isn't any. Doesn't matter the city. Even if not a huge night life, I was expecting there to be at least something. But as a local told me on a mostly deserted street "going out to a restaurant and having a drink with a friend is the most nightlife you'll find in Cyprus."

  • Few Kids. While my kids and I were traveling around Cyprus, they pointed out something that I hadn't noticed- the dearth of kids. We live in an area with a high birth rate, and take it as a given that we'll be seeing so many kids and pregnant people, but on our trip we saw very few children. Yes, we weren't there during school breaks, so that would make sense that we wouldn't be seeing so many kids on school days, but on Saturday and Sunday, on non school days, we still saw very few children. We saw three playgrounds in our entire time and in all the different places we were in Cyprus. Cyprus has a birth rate of 1.37 births per woman, so their observations were spot on. 

  • Don't Flush! As someone who has grown up with modern plumbing, I've taken it for granted that you flush after using the toilet. Not just your waste, but toilet paper and tampons too. There are signs in many places reminding you not to flush sanitary pads or even flushable wipes. But in Cyprus, toilet paper goes in the trash can, not the toilet. The plumbing isn't good enough for toilet paper. I have to admit, this really is annoying for me. It's so hard to remember and also feels gross to leave your toilet paper behind in the bathroom, but such are the rules in Cypriot bathrooms. 

  • A fluffball in a sea cave.

  • Cats Galore. There are cats everywhere in Cyprus. In many places there are street cats, but I've never seen as many as I saw in Cyprus. We were in a sea cave in the middle of nowhere and there was a gorgeous, fluffy, and very healthy-looking cat. Apparently, there are more cats in Cyprus than there are humans. According to legend, they were brought over in approximately 300 CE, to deal with a poisonous snake issue, and there is even a monastery named for this, St Nicholas of the Cats. All the cats we saw looked in good condition, unlike the street cats we are used to seeing. There are lots of kitschy tourist items having to do with cats.

  • The fluffy friendly feline who wouldn't leave the back porch of the AirBnb we were staying at in Paphos.

  • A "Huge" Small Island. When we were hiking the Avakos Gorge, we met Cypriots who were around my age that were hiking it for the first time. They were from the "opposite side of the island" and though they liked hiking and did so often, this was the first time they "came this far". I was amused about this and spoke to an expat friend of mine who lives there, and she said that this is the norm. Despite it taking only 3 hours to drive from one end of the country to the other, most people feel that is a really far distance and stick entirely to their side of the island. My kids find it shocking that when I was growing up in Cleveland, we drove 9 hours each way at least one or twice a year to visit our relatives in NY. For my kids driving 4 hours each way for a trip feels like a lot, but we do that once a year, at the very least.

  • Wild Donkeys. Cypriot wild donkeys were not things we were able to see on our trip, since they can be found in the UN buffer zone between north and south Cyprus and in North Cyprus but they have been feral since being abandoned when their owners fled during the war and are now a protected species. Many Cypriot souvenirs have donkeys on them.

  • Sexualized Everything. We were waiting to get gas in the middle of "nowhere" in Cyprus and one of my kids pointed out the large sign advertising a strip club. In so many places selling souvenirs, there were boobs and penises and butts on display everywhere, from mugs to salt shakers... to statues of donkeys playing with each other's penises. I'm not prude, but this was a bit much for me. I guess for an island that boasts being the birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of sex and love... it makes sense... It just was not something I expected or cared for.

    The cage keeping gawkers free from nettle stings... or rather protecting them from would be foragers... in Buyuk Han, Nicosia.
  • Cages. I saw so many cages in Cyprus that seemed out of place. The first time was a cage filled with nettles, but then after that I saw many cages filled with rocks, made into benches and walls and many other things. This seemed really strange to me, but my Cypriot expat friend told me that that is something they're doing more and more in Cyprus, "building" this way in an eco friendly way, since they can remove the cages after and the rocks go back to how they were before. I thought that was really cool and unexpected. 

  • A caged rock wall outside the Cavo Grekko nature center.

  • Not Just Beaches and Churches. For many years, despite being able to go to Cyprus relatively cheaply, I had no interest in going there, because all I knew about Cyprus was that people went there for the beaches, but we have many beaches in my country so I didn't see the point in traveling somewhere just to go to the beach. I also knew that it had many churches, but I had no interest in traveling to see a bunch of churches. So I simply wrote it off. Only once I decided to go with my kids there to get passports did I research what there was to do there and found so many things that were not beaches or churches. So I can safely say... Cyprus is, by far, not just beaches and churches.
I hope you enjoyed this list of the parts of Cyprus that you, too, might not have known about this small but beautiful country. 

If you've been to Cyprus, what things were you surprised to discover when you went there? If you haven't been to Cyprus, which of the things on this list did you know, and which didn't you?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. That's interesting. I always like to read about random facts of countries- probably much more than the more "boring" well known facts. As someone very into green living, I loved to read about the cages. They're actually not very uncommon where we live, but I hadn't quite considered the positive impact they could have on the environment.

    And of course, cats will always ignore rules! That's what they're cat for, lol.

    1. Where else do they have these green cages?
      I also like esoteric knowledge of places and things. That way you can win trivia questions. Or know the most useless facts. Lol.

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