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Launchpad London: Nicosia logistics
Though largely bypassed by Americans, Cyprus is a very popular warm weather destination for Britons and other northern Europeans. Cypriot coastal resort towns include Ayia Napa, Larnaca, Limassol, Paphos, and Protaras. Planeloads of sun-hunters descend on Cyprus throughout much of the year; the island occupies a kind of sunny mid-haul position not unlike the place of the Caribbean and Mexico for many Americans.
For my second budget-friendly Launchpad London excursion I bypassed the coastal strip altogether and ventured instead to Nicosia, the divided city serving as the capital of both the Republic of Cyprus as well as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus--the latter recognized only by Turkey.
Cyprus is served well by a range of airlines from London. From one or another of London's four big airports, Larnaca in the southeast is reached by British Airways (Heathrow), Cyprus Airways (Heathrow), easyJet (Gatwick), Monarch (Gatwick and Luton), and Thomas Cook (Gatwick, Heathrow, and Stansted). Paphos in the southwest is served by Cyprus Airways (Heathrow), Monarch (Gatwick), Thomas Cook (Gatwick, Luton, Stansted), Thomson (Gatwick, Luton, Stansted), and Tor Air (Gatwick), while Ercan in the north sees indirect traffic from London Stansted courtesy of Pegasus Airlines.
I chose Monarch for my jaunt last week from London Gatwick to Larnaca because it was very cheap: £108 round trip, purchased, remarkably, just 12 days prior to departure. Once the credit card surcharge was taken into account, my grand total came to £113 ($182). I managed to hold onto that fare by refusing all the extras Monarch threw my way: reserved seats, meals, flight status texts, and insurance.
Between Larnaca and Nicosia there is an affordable shuttle van by Kapnos Airport Shuttle, just €7 to an anonymous parking lot in the south of the city. From there, it's fifteen minutes by taxi (€10) into Nicosia's Old Town.
Budget hotels are thin on the ground on both sides of the Green Line, the island's buffer zone. Though I knew I would spend time on both sides of the Green Line, I researched hotels in south Nicosia only. Two fine business-class midrange hotels in south Nicosia's Old Town are Royiatiko, where I booked my single room (€110 for a double) and Centrum Hotel (€99 for a double). Averof, 15 minutes from the Old Town by foot, is also well-liked (€60 for a double without breakfast). Airbnb lists a number of budget rooms in Nicosia. Rather unfortunately, none of these had a sufficient number of photos or reviews to make me feel confident about making a reservation.
Restaurants are reasonably priced. I snacked at cafes for €3 and had an unremarkable lunch for €10. My dinner at a fine Cypriot restaurant was considerably more expensive, though far cheaper than a simple lunch in most cities in Western Europe--and with gargantuan portions, to boot. A meze meal at Zanettos is big enough to do service as lunch and dinner. I counted 17 plates, some groaning with a range of delicious things. There were strips of liver, snails, mushrooms, eggs in tomato sauce, and plenty of greens. Along with an enormous bottle of KEO, the local beer, my outlay came to €23.
Visit Gadling tomorrow to read my two-day Nicosia culture break itinerary.