Celebrate May Day bank holiday in Cyprus

Join-in century old Orthodox celebrations, as the island comes alive with sumptuous feasts, singing and dancing

Extra promotional offers make this one of the best years to visit Cyprus

A great time to visit Cyprus is defiantly during it’s the period of its Orthodox Easter celebrations. And in 2013 the Cyprus and UK May Day bank holiday coincide (Monday 6),  which means that you could spend your normally rainy May Day weekend basking in an average temperatures of 25 degrees Centigrade, making Cyprus the perfect escape destination far away from Britain’s changeable weather.

This is an excellent time to visit Cyprus. The Cyprus tourism product is superb with quality hotels, 56 Blue Flag beaches, mouth-watering cuisine, warm hospitality and a rich heritage.  Hotels and tour operators are gearing up for the busy spring and summer seasons by offering very attractive prices.  Extra promotional offers and add-on value by hoteliers and tour operators across Cyprus offer an ideal opportunity for a visit now [please see offers below].

Revel in Cyprus’ most sacred holiday, as its rich religious and cultural heritage comes to the fore over a two-week period, that sees the whole Island transformed into a buzzing celebration of both new life and tradition through lively flower processions and colourful ceremonies.

Food around Easter plays central role and 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-week period and local villagers across the island welcome those with an interest in the Cypriot way to join their ancient traditions with many hotels and rural properties offering special packages and villages putting on public celebrations for visitors to enjoy.

Plan your first May Bank Holiday:

Orthodox Easter Sunday (Kyriaki tou Pascha), the most important event on the Cypriot religious calendar, will take place this year on Sunday 5 May coinciding with the UK’s first May Day bank holiday.

During the preceding two weeks traditional celebrations are organised across the island. One highlight during this period falls eight days prior (28 April) to Orthodox Easter Sunday when Larnaca’s townspeople celebrate the day of their patron Saint, St Lazarus, who according to legend lived in Larnaca when given a second life by Christ. His icon is taken from the town’s church and is paraded through the streets following the morning service in a two-and-a-half hour lively community procession.

Other traditional highlights include the ancient tradition of the dyeing of the eggs on Easter Thursday. This custom dates back to Byzantine times when a ring-bread was baked with a red egg in the middle, with the colours symbolising the blood and resurrection of Christ. The eggs are then put on display across the villages until Easter Sunday.  The night before Orthodox Easter Sunday midnight mass is held to celebrate Christ’s resurrection; this is followed by beach firework displays and bonfires in churchyards all around the island where effigies of Judas are thrown.

Key Dates:

3 April – Orthodox Good Friday

5 May – Orthodox Easter Sunday (Kyriaki tou Pascha)

6 May – Orthodox Easter Monday / UK Bank Holiday (May Day)

Food Traditions:

The UK celebrates Easter with hot cross buns and chocolate eggs. In Cyprus it is celebrated with Flaounes (special cakes made of local cheese, semolina, sultanas, mint and yeast wrapped in pastry), Magiritsa (special lemony lamb soup) and Tsoureki(sweet bread), which are usually baked on Holy Thursday (2 May).  The air all around the island’s villages is filled with freshly baked aromas. Like in the UK, eggs are a symbol of Easter holidays.  However, in Cyprus real eggs are an alternative to chocolate and are traditionally dyed red, but nowadays are found in many different colours, when boiled and eaten on Orthodox Sunday. Traditional Easter Sunday lunch is succulent barbequed lamb, which is often eaten in churchyards and town centres on long wooden tables with the whole community bringing food and wine and eating together. Visitors are invited to join the unique and traditional feasts.

What to do:

Whilst on the island, visitors wanting to further delve into Cyprus’ rich heritage, can lose track of time visiting the numerous Greek, Roman and Byzantine sites, enjoy wine tastings across the island’s 40 boutique wineries (Cyprus as a 5,000 year-old viticulture tradition), as well as discover a world-class gourmet scene from contemporary eateries to the more traditional tavernas.

Whilst for the more active, Cyprus is also home to an exciting watersports scene, including over 200 scuba diving sites.  Five new marine parks are expected to be created this year; a variety of cycling routes through the Troodos Mountains are proving extremely popular among European spring visitors; as well as four stellar golf courses – the newest addition being the Elea Golf Club designed by award-wining designer Nick Faldo, all within close proximity to the coastal town of Paphos.

Current special offers during Orthodox Easter weekend / May bank holiday, include:

Thomas Cook (www.thomascook.com; 0844 412 5970) is offering seven-nights at the four-star Crown Resort Horizon in Coral Bay, from £434 per person – with a saving of £43 per person. The rate is on a half-board basis and inclusive of return flights, departing on 4th May.

Sovereign Luxury Travel (0844 415 1936, www.sovereign.com) has a saving of £815 per couple off a seven night holiday over May Bank Holiday.  Departing 4 May, the holiday costs from £745 per person and includes return flights from London Gatwick with Easyjet, airport lounge access, private transfers and a complimentary upgrade to half board at the five-star Annabelle Hotel.

Thomson (www.thomson.co.uk; 0871 231 4691) throughout May is offering a seven-night stay at the five-star Atlantica Aeneas from £499 per person, based on two sharing. The rate is on a half-board basis, including a free upgrade to all inclusive for bookings made before 20/04/13, as well as return flights from Birmingham to Larnaka and airport transfers.

Olympic Holidays (www.olympicholidays.com; 0844 499 4449) is offering a seven-night stay at the four-star Ascos Hotel in Paphos from £529 per person. The rate is on full-board basis and inclusive of return flights from Manchester.

James Villa Holidays (www.jamesvillas.co.uk; 0800 074 0122) is offering a seven-night at the Niovella villa in Latchi, from £249 per person. This price is based on six sharing, with departures on May 1 from London Gatwick.

Getting there: Return flights with Cyprus Airlines from London Heathrow to Larnaca, from £240 (inclusive VAT) per person. For more information, visit www.cyprusair.com