As autumn and winter settle over northern Europe, many of us start to frantically look around for the best winter cycling destinations for warm weather miles.
Although cycling through winter in the UK and northern Europe is doable, we all know it’s a lot more fun when you’re riding in bib shorts on smooth roads in the sunshine…
Cyprus is a relatively new kid on the cycling scene, but it’s a long-established favourite amongst sun worshippers that don’t want to jet off to the Seychelles or Caribbean. And perhaps, in this case at least, they know a thing or two about the best winter sun destinations closer to home…
We’ll spend the rest of this article explaining why the town of Limassol in Cyprus is a great bet for cyclists, with a little help from Cyprus-based cyclist, Mike Hadjioanou.
We asked Mike what makes Limassol superb for autumn and winter sun cycling holidays…
1. Winter weather in Cyprus is great for cyclists
Perhaps the biggest factor when looking for a winter sun cycling holiday is knowing it’s actually going to be sunny! And one of the most reliable things about Cyprus is the winter weather. In July and August temperatures are very hot but even between November and March you can expect mild weather and sunny skies.
When you look at the average temperatures, you see that even in the coldest months of the year, December to March, in Cyprus you still get averages that are in double digits – roughly 12 or 13°C and these temperatures can continue into the evening. Highs can even be edging up towards the late teens, around 17°C. So Cyprus in wintery months like December and January should be warm, even if not “sunbathing hot”.
Cyprus does get rain – and indeed December and January are the rainiest months of the year, but even then in my experience, while you may get rain for an hour or two, it’s never going to stop you from riding for the whole day.
Autumn in Cyprus is often spectacular and weather averages support this. You’re looking at an average of just one rainy day per month in September and four in the month in October…
2. Roads stay open
If you want to get some winter climbing in, it can often be difficult to find somewhere to ride in mainland Europe. After all, most of the roads get closed when the snow arrives – and if they aren’t closed, they’re bombarded by ski buses…
The good news is that in Cyprus, you can cycle to the top of Mt Olympus year around. Even if there is snow on the top of the mountains (Olympus Peak) the roads are clear of snow and its possible to ride (though take care on turns that are hidden from the sun in early morning hours). So even in the months of January and February, when Olympus peak is covered with snow, cyclists can enjoy a nice but hard ride to the top with a unique scenery of white snow, clear blue skies and the views to the Mediterranean Sea!
There is lots of other good riding around Limassol in autumn and winter too. One of my favourites is the route that goes from Limassol to Lofou, Pera Pedi, Platres, Troodos, Olympos, Kyperounta, Potamitissa and back to Limassol. It’s route 2 here, and is described better in the guide to cycling around Limassol.
3. Bike shops stay open
Cycling is a popular local pastime in Cyprus, so unlike other parts of the world (Port de Pollensa in Mallorca for instance!) the bike shops don’t all just shut up shop over the winter months. You’ll still be able to get your bike hire and repairs throughout the year.
4. Limassol is buzzy
The shops and restaurants serve a local market; Limassol and the towns and villages around it are very much lived in towns rather than just tourist resorts. Yet they’re still small enough to have that relaxed holiday feeling about them.
This means that you’ll find cafés, bars and restaurants stay open throughout the year, even once the sun worshippers have left the beaches. What better way to end a ride than a shot of zivania?! (You’ll want to be walking distance home though – it’s strong stuff!)
The relatively warm evening temperatures also mean you can head out to dinner on foot, stop for a drink outside a local taverna, find a delicious local restaurant to eat at and then stroll back home again, maybe even via a bar…
Starting to see why Limassol (and Cyprus) make such an attractive winter cycling destination?!
5. Cycling events in autumn/winter in Cyprus
There are two cycling events that happen in and around Limassol in Autumn:
L’Étape Cyprus was a new addition for 2022 to Cyprus’ cycling events calendar. The first event was held on 13 November 2022 and the full course took cyclists on a 136 kilometre ride with more than 3,000 metres of elevation gain, into the hills behind Limassol.
The GranFondo Apollo and Aphrodite is an event I run; it’s a cycling race for all, designed to suit all fitness levels, from beginners to pros. It is always held on the first weekend in October and the next event will be on 2 October 2023.
6. Grab a bargain during low season in Cyprus
It’s well-known that because demand from sea and sand visitors is lower between October and March, hotels reduce their prices too to try and attract people to visit. It makes a trip to Cyprus at this time of year even more affordable!
7. Easily accessible throughout the year
Limassol is really easy to get to, with Larnaka International Airport just 70 kilometres away and Paphos International Airport 63 kilometres away.
Larnaka and Paphos are also small airports so there are no long walks within the airport and no long transfers once you leave it and head to Limassol! This makes life much more relaxing.
It’s also worth knowing that you can find direct flights to these airports from around the world including London and Manchester – even in winter. Meanwhile flight times are an acceptable 4.5 to 5 hours from London.
8. Outside Schengen
Post Brexit, the question of how long you spend in Europe each year has become a big issue for British citizens that like to travel a lot…
For anyone that has faced this issue of how to escape the whole of winter in southern Europe, it’s certainly worth bearing in mind that at the time of writing, Cyprus is not part of the Schengen area and the UK government website states “Visits to Cyprus do not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit in the Schengen area. Visits to other EU or Schengen countries do not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit in Cyprus.”*
Might this clinch the deal for you when considering your list of best winter cycling destinations?!
* Always check the UK government website for the full details and latest advice.
9. And finally, a dash of culture!
As well as being situated on the beach, Limassol is home to plenty of cultural events and attractions, from the Kourion and Amathus archaeological sites and mosaics to 12th Century mediaeval castles.
Take a look at Limassol’s tourism website for details.
It’s a great place to celebrate Christmas by the sea and as well as one-off events including workshops and Santa runs, there are always wonderful decorations and festivities to enjoy on the cities’ Anexartisias street.
The annual Limassol Carnival is held in February/March each year, 12 days before the start of Lent. It is a colourful time of year with lots of people and a large parade which includes lots of floats that cross the city.
Even if you are here primarily to cycle, timing your trip with one of these events is bound to add an extra dimension to your holiday.
So, all in all, there’s a lot to be said for considering a winter cycling trip in Limassol. Let us know if you decide to go!
A big thank you to Mike for sharing such useful information about autumn and winter cycling holidays in Cyprus.
Have you cycled in Cyprus in autumn or winter?
Let us know your experience in the comments below!
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What an inspirational article about Limassol . I am always looking for new places to cycle , my husband is not quite as keen but loves great architecture,history and culture as do I . Thanks again and your area certainly looks like our kind of place.
Thanks for taking the time to let us know Leona. Happy cycling!