Cyprus puts on a fantastic show for visitors, with a host of atmospheric festivals of performing arts, plus all kinds of unique local traditions. New Year’s Eve is a blast – not just for the firework shows, but also because it’s the night when Ayios Vasilis (Saint Basil) brings children their Christmas presents. What a great way to kick off the year! We’ve come up with our top ten list of festivals and events on Cyprus, a truly magical Mediterranean island!
1. Carnival (February/March)
This is celebrated across Cyprus with costume parties, parades and processions. The biggest celebrations take place in Limassol, with a week of masqued balls, concerts and parades of beautifully decorated floats. On the day after carnival, locals celebrate ‘Green Monday’, the first day of Lent, with a big veggie picnic and kite-flying competitions.
2. Easter (March/April)
Easter (‘Pascha’) is a big event across Cyprus. Every day during Holy Week, there are daily services in the churches, which are beautifully decorated with fresh white and cream flowers. After the services, the icon of Christ is paraded through the village streets, and there are big bonfires held on the evening of Easter Saturday. On Easter Sunday, church bells across the island ring out at noon, and the people celebrate with fireworks. You can try the traditional Easter delicacy called flaounes – a delicious tart made with cheese and mint or sultanas – which are available in local bakeries.
3. Larnaca Flower Parade/Anthestiria (May)
This gorgeous spring festival is celebrated with a parade of beautifully decorated floats covered in fresh flowers and children in costume. The parade takes place along the seafront parade in Larnaca, covered in carpets of blooms. The tradition is inspired by the Anthestiria festival that took place in ancient anthems.
4. Festival of the Flood/Kataklysmos (May/June)
Held on Whitsun (50 days after Orthodox Easter), this remarkable and unique festival celebrates the story of Noah and his ark full of animals. A week-long event, it takes places in villages around the Cypriot coast, which host sailing and swimming competitions, fairs, traditional food stalls, and special events. The biggest celebration is held in Larnaca.
5. International Pharos Chamber Music Festival (May/June)
The Pharos Arts Foundation hosts this wonderful festival every year, inviting some of the finest performers from around the world. It is held in the atmospheric surroundings at the beautiful Royal Manor House in Kouklia (ancient Paphos) as well as in the Shoe Factory in the Old Town of Nicosia.
6. Shakespeare Festival, Kourion (June–September)
The magnificent ancient theatre at Kourion near Limassol is the setting for an annual production of a Shakespeare play (usually performed at the end of June), with more drama and concerts performed by outstanding performers held over the following weeks. Previous guests have included Vanessa Mae and Nana Mouskouri.
7. Ayia Napa Festival (September)
This popular festival of performing arts is held towards the end of September in the island’s liveliest resort, Ayia Napa. It features traditional Cypriot music and dance, concerts by international performers and lots of special events for kids.
8. Limassol Wine Festival (August–September)
This fantastic wine festival has been going for more than 50 years, and is a wonderful chance to sample some of the island’s best wines. It takes place in Limassol‘s lovely municipal gardens, and you’ll be serenaded by music as you wander from stall to stall trying the different labels.
9. Paphos Aphrodite Festival (September)
One of the most atmospheric festivals of performing arts on Cyprus, this is held in the beautiful surroundings of the castle by the old port in Kato Paphos. There are three opera performances, held on consecutive balmy evenings in early September. You can expect both local and international performers, and a night that will live long in the memory.
10. Kypria International Festival (September–October)
The biggest cultural festival on the island, this is a chance to see some of the best local and international performers at locations across Cyprus. There is a wide range of performances, from ballet, drama and opera to cinema, circus acts and family-friendly events.