Cyprus sits at the crossroads of three continents, attracting over two million vacationers per year. There is a tender division between the Greeks and Turkish, which is fascinating while driving across the border, noticing the distinct division from the north (Turkish) and south (Greek). The international airport is located in Larnaka, in the south, and the drive from there to the north, takes just over one hour through the mostly-baron inland, and once you reach the coast, the sights are simply incredible.
I’m currently staying at the spectacular Merit Crystal Cove, an all-inclusive beachside resort that has hosted the WPT many times. A day at Merit Crystal Cove consists of: buffet breakfast by the pool, a snorkel session in the ocean followed by baking on the beach with free cocktails, buffet lunch by the beach, more swimming/baking, buffet dinner with more free drinks, a stop by the casino with even more complimentary buffets and beverages, sleep, repeat. Tough, huh? Throw a world class poker tournament in there, and you’ve created a poker player’s haven.
The food at Merit Crystal Cove is fantastic – the resort is located in the Turkish region, so they have a lot of traditional breads and deserts. The buffets include everything you want – fish, chicken, kebabs, pasta. At dinner they host live music every night, with the odd appearance from a belly dancer and stray cat.
- Language: English is widely spoken across the island, but Turkish is the main language in the northern Turkish-Cypriot community where the WPT is held.
- Currency: Turkish Lira is used in the north of the island.
- Tipping: While tipping is always appreciated worldwide, a 10% service charge is automatically applied in all hotels and restaurants in Cyprus, so you won’t be chased out the door if you forget to tip.
- Weather: Cyprus is in its heart of summer right now so prepare for dry Mediterranean heat. The average sea temperature climbs up to around 27° C – bliss.
- Electricity: The power voltage across the entire island is 230 volts, so beware North Americans: save the appliance disaster by leaving your blow dryer at home.
The town of Kyrenia, which is a 20-minute drive from the Merit Crystal Cove resort, is surrounded by the calm Mediterranean Sea to the north and greenery of the Besparmak Mountain Range to the south, offering some of the best scenery on the island.
Within the town is a small harbor framed by the Kyrenia Castle, a museum holding 6,000 years of history, surrounded by fantastic water-side restaurants and plenty of souvenir shopping. I even got myself a henna tattoo.
I’ve had quite a lot of Chinese meals in my day, having such a strong Asian influence in Australia, but I can still easily claim that one of the best Chinese feasts I’ve ever had was in Cyprus at Dragon, located at the Rocks Hotel & Casino in central Kyrenia.
For some traditional food, try Niazi’s, one of the most popular restaurants in Kyrenia. It’s situated right by the water and offers all sorts of food, but you’d be crazy not to order their trademark “Full Kebab,” with charcoal-grilled kebabs and Meze – a traditional Middle Eastern cuisine full of dipping sauces and breads.
For an after-dinner-digest, take a walk along the Kyrenia harbor through the stunning night markets. It was here that I purchased some of my favorite jewelry, made friends with some stray dogs, and then stopped by one of the harborside bars for a nightcap and Hookahs.