|by Budget Travel||Islands, Cyprus||15|
When I last visited Cyprus, the Mediterranean island nation had just become the European Union's newest member, despite a failed, last-ditch attempt to reunify the country. (It's been divided acrimoniously between Greek and Turkish sides for over 30 years). And while I enjoyed exploring the bustling fishing town of Paphos and the hiking trails of the Troodos Mountains, what I really wanted to see was the North, virtually unchanged since 1974 when a Turkish-led occupation resulted in economic sanctions. Unfortunately, what little time I had on the island was spent outside the capital -- which left few opportunities to cross the U.N.-guarded border -- but friends who did cross over reported a world frozen in time: Locals driving cars from the 1960s, outdated architecture, and a crumbling infrastructure. But it's not all bad news. Since the majority of the North's visitors come from Turkey (which is to say there's hardly any tourism at all) much of what's there is a well-kept secret, and a well-preserved one at that. I'm thinking, in particular, about the Roman and Byzantine ruins that have largely been untouched and the finger-like Karpas Peninsula, home to some of the loneliest beaches on the island. The Greek side of Cyprus is wonderful, and should be explored at all costs, but if I had a second chance on the island I sure know where I'd be headed.--David LaHuta
By the way, it's no coincidence that today's Real Deal is a terrific air/hotel package for a week on Cyprus, which averages 340 days of sunshine a year. You can find the details as well as more information about crossing over to the Turkish-controlled area, by clicking here.