One of the highlights of a holiday in Cyprus is its wonderful food – accompanied of course by the island’s excellent wines – so not surprisingly, there are quite a few edible and drinkable souvenirs to pack in your suitcase! These special purchases will help conjure memories of happy times spent on Aphrodite’s island. Let’s explore together the top 10 souvenirs to buy in Cyprus.
1. A Good Bottle of Cypriot Wine
The history of Cypriot wine can be traced back to 2000 BC when the first wine in the world was produced in the area just west of Limassol. Wine was made commercially for the first time by the Crusader knights during the 12th century. The wine was a sweet dessert wine that was called Commandaria and is still available since then.
Today there are more than 41 different wineries in Cyprus. The main vine growing areas are Limassol and Paphos and the wineries range from small family businesses to large co-operatives. There are traditional wines made from the indigenous grape varieties of maratheftiko and xynisteri and some excellent wines made from varieties that have been imported and now successfully grow in Cyprus. Of course, you can simply buy a bottle of wine, or you can combine it with a trip to the winemaking center of Omodhos or Kathikas or the Cyprus Wine Museum at Erimi.
2. A Bottle of Filfar
This delicious orange liqueur was first made in Cyprus more than a 100 years ago by the monks at the monastery in Kantara. The recipe was described by a lady who worked at the monastery to her grandson who years later successfully recreated the drink using locally grown oranges and wild herbs. Today, Filfar is made in the village of Monagri (just north of Limassol) and is the perfect drink to enjoy by the log fire in the winter. During the summer months, Filfar can be made into a lovely sundowner with a measure of Filfar, topped with lemonade and plenty of ice. Mandarin Filfar was introduced a few years ago and so was Filfar Lemon – which is particularly good mixed with sparkling wine. The most recent addition to the range has been Filfar Bergamot which is flavored with a delicious hint of citrus.
The pretty twin villages of Lefkara are situated midway between Limassol and Larnaca and Pano (upper) Lefkara is famous for its beautiful embroidered linen – Lefkaritika. During the 15th century, the Venetians ruled the island and many lived in the village and the women taught the villages their intricate style of embroidery which developed with a range of patterns and motifs that represented everyday life.
Today, groups of women can be seen sitting in shady courtyards and doorways, chatting together as they work on the different and very intricate designs on pieces of linen. Their handiwork appears on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are other villages that are known for their embroidery and lace work and these include Omodhos and Phiti. Another handicraft that is made in Pano Lefkara and makes a very special gift or souvenir is the filigree silver work that is made in a number of little workshops in the village.
You may well have tasted Halloumi before your holiday to Cyprus or during your stay and have decided that it is the essential souvenir! Halloumi is the Cypriot cheese that is currently getting worldwide attention because it tastes so good and doesn’t melt when it is cooked. Halloumi has been made in Cyprus for generations and is made from a blend of sheep, goats and cows’ milk flavored with mint and preserved in brine.
Halloumi tastes good when it is thinly sliced and popped into a sandwich, but fried or grilled on the barbecue – it tastes even better! Village Halloumi is sold in farms and village stores and is usually stronger tasting than the commercial brands, but both are usually sold vacuum packed which is perfect for popping in your suitcase.
5. A Beautiful Leather Jacket
There are a number of specialist shops in each town selling beautiful leather jackets, skirts, and trousers that can be altered to fit perfectly in just a couple of days. Cyprus used to have a very important leather tanning industry but today, the leather is usually imported from Italy in a myriad of beautiful colors and if you cannot find exactly what you are looking for, then it is possible to have a garment made to measure
As well as stylish clothing, there are plenty of leather purses, wallets, belts and handbags to choose from too…
6. Made-To-Measure Suit or Shoes
The pleasure of owning a beautifully tailored jacket, skirt, trousers or pair of soft leather shoes made just for you is something usually only possible for those with a big income – but there is the chance to enjoy both in Cyprus! In each of the main towns, shoemakers and tailors can be found in their workshops, skilfully stitching pieces of soft leather or fine cloth to create stylish footwear and suits, carefully made-to-measure and ready for customers to collect in just a few short days! There are also a number of leather workshops where beautiful jackets, skirts, and trousers are made in a wide range of colors of soft Italian leather. The standard of workmanship by all of the craftspeople is impressive and a real bonus is that once you have had one order completed, it is possible to make subsequent ones by email and have the completed order sent by post to your home address!
7. A Bottle of Rosewater
One of the memorable tastes of Cyprus is rosewater which is used to flavor many of the delicious desserts and of course is the original flavor of loukoumi – Cyprus Delights.
If you are planning to have a go at recreating any of these dishes, then a bottle of rosewater is essential. There is another reason too; rosewater is the perfect skin cleanser! For generations, Cypriot women have used rose water to cleanse and soften their skins perfectly.
A fun place to buy your rosewater is from the mountain village of Agros where it is made as there is the opportunity to see the thousands of Damascus rose bushes growing on the surrounding hillsides and to learn how the fragrant rose water is made.
8. A Box of Loukoumi (Cyprus Delights)
Boxes of these delicious traditional sugar dusted sweets are widely available in Cyprus, but if you have the time, it is much more fun to go to the village of Yeroskipou on the outskirts of Paphos and to visit one of the family businesses making these delicious sweets – an added bonus is that you get some free samples to taste too! Loukoumi has been made in the village since 1896 and the loukoumi was flavored with rose water. Later, a second flavor – bergamot – was introduced and today, there are more than 20 different flavors available including lemon, peppermint mastic, and honey. All taste delicious and if you have room for the second box in your travel bag, it is highly recommended!
9. Delicious Sugared Almonds
As well as delicious loukoumi, the sweet makers of Yetroskipou also make delicious sugared almonds. The Cypriot version of these popular sweets is quite different as there are no colorings added, so the sugar coating is a soft golden color and is quite soft so it easily dissolves when you pop one in your mouth. The sugared almonds are available both in boxes and small plastic bags and the latter is perfect for squeezing in your bag if space is tight!
10. A Very Special Piece of Gold Jewelry
Jewelry has been made in Cyprus for thousands of years and many beautiful pieces have been recovered in archaeological excavations on the island. Today, there are jewelry workshops in each of the main towns where craftsmen can be found at work creating contemporary and innovative designs, copying some of the historical designs or working with their customers to create something totally unique. They work with 18ct gold which is really well priced. It is tempting to get a piece of jewelry made during your visit – if you do decide to get some gold jewelry, make sure it bears the hallmark of the Cyprus Goldsmiths Association.
And if you find that everything will not fit in your travel bag for your homeward journey, perhaps the best news is that a piece of new luggage will be a really good price in Cyprus – just don’t forget, you may have to pay extra to the airline for checked-in luggage if you flew to Cyprus with a cabin bag only!