A few great reasons to visit Cyprus in 2013

Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean, last year played host to just under 1m visitors from Britain, and has long been a favourite year round tourist destination. It offers stunning scenery, mouth watering cuisine and sun 365 days of the year, what is there not to like about it?

With only a 4 hour flight time from the UK, there are a series of events set to take place during 2013 which will have many visitors returning, and which will also appeal to those considering visiting Cyprus for the first time.

ANNUAL CYPRUS MARATHON, PAPHOS (March)

With a temperate climate and varied terrain, Cyprus has long been a popular training ground for athletes and sports enthusiasts, and is a regular haunt of Team GB since the island hosted the group for the 2004 Athens Olympics Games.

So, why not sign-up to the annual Cyprus Marathon? Taking place every March in the Paphos area, the event draws professional and non-professional runners from across the globe, incorporating three different distances – the marathon, half-marathon and the 10 km road race. Starting at Petra tou Rominou – the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, the race offers participants the chance to soak-up the panoramic views from the island’s rugged coastline with a large proportion of the course along the Paphos seafront. www.cyprusmarathon.com

EASTER WEEK CELEBRATIONS (late March)

Easter is one of the most fascinating times to visit Cyprus. While the weather is warm (highs of around 18 degrees) without being too hot, the island’s rich religious and cultural heritage comes to the fore over a two-week period that sees the whole of Cyprus transformed into a buzzing celebration of both new life and ancient traditions.

Highlights include lively flower processions and colourful ceremonies, while food plays central role as mouth-watering feasts of spit-roasted lamb and delicious traditional cheesecakes and breads are prepared on key religious days. Centuries-old ceremonies still dominate the two weeks and villagers across the island invite visitors to join their ancient customs. Hotels and agro-tourism properties often have special deals around Easter, making it an ideal time to take the family during the school break.

KATAKLYSMOS/WATER FESTIVAL (June)

Hosted on the day known as the day of the Holy Spirit, the annual Kataklysmos (otherwise known as the Water Festival) is celebrated 50 days after the Orthodox Easter. Kick-starting the summer season, all coastal towns from Larnaca through to Paphos come alive over the bank holiday with boat races, swimming competitions, a series of performances by popular Greek and Cypriot singers and dance troupes, as well as the traditional chatista contest – an off-the-cuff repartee of rhyming songs in the Cypriot dialect. And of course, the all-important throwing of water at each other!

ANNUAL SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL AT THE KOURION THEATRE (July)

Performed on the ancient stage of the stunning Kourion Theatre – one of the most spectacularly located ancient sites in Cyprus, which enjoys an uninterrupted backdrop of Mediterranean sea, the annual Shakespeare Festival is organised by the Performing Arts for Cyprus Charities. Performances are daily throughout the month of July.

Cyprus is also home to a whole host of historical landmarks, including the Paphos Mosaics – considered to be the finest mosaic in the Eastern Mediterranean – as well as the 10 UNESCO-listed churches.

LIMASSOL WINE FESTIVAL (30 August to 9 September 2013)

With a 5,000-year-old viticulture tradition and as the location of Europe’s earliest vine harvest site, it comes as no surprise that Cyprus is teeming with a unique variety of boutique wineries. The annual Limassol Wine Festival has been one of the island’s highlights for over five decades, and is a chance for visitors and locals alike to take part the traditional custom of grape treading as well as enjoy free wine tastings of some of the region’s finest wines – such the famous Muscat and Commandaria grapes.

It is also an opportunity to savour flavours of the local cuisine – such as the fasolia yiahni of haricot beans in a rich tomato sauce, accompanied with fresh onions and freshly cooked bread to soak up the delicious juices; as well as enjoy a variety of concerts and theatrical performances throughout the ten-day festival. www.limassolmunicipal.com.cy

AYIA NAPA INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL (September)

An annual highlight, the Ayia Napa International Festival is held in the monastery’s Seferis Square (Plateia Seferi), in the heart of the town. Bringing the community together year-on-year with traditional Cypriot music and folk dancing, all manner of concerts and an abundance of art exhibitions showcasing Greek legends, mythology and archaeology, it really does showcase an exciting alternative for this thriving town.