Episkopi, Akrotiri and Dhekelia

Photo: Karpouzi (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Karpouzi (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
So you think you know Cyprus fairly well. You’ve explored the rocky coastline and the pristine beaches. You’ve visited ancient ruins and tiny villages. You’ve eaten at little tavernas and slept in old stone homes. You’ve even traveled to Northern Cyprus, the Turkish side of the island. But there are two places you probably haven’t seen on Cyprus. You probably haven’t even heard of them.

Akrotiri and Dhekelia are a British Overseas Territory on Cyprus. That’s right, not two, but three countries claim this Mediterranean island. Cyprus gained its independence from Britain in 1960, but under the treaty, Britain retained control of two military bases, which amount to about three percent of the island’s land. The Sovereign Base Areas—one in the east and one in the west—are still used to gather intelligence and monitor the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

You’re heading toward Akrotiri, the Western Sovereign Base Area. The two military bases here are, obviously, off limits, but you’re free to explore the rest of the cape. From Limassol, brilliantly blue Akrotiri Bay is on your left as you drive south toward Cape Gata, the southernmost point of the island. Farmland and Limassol Salt Lake are on your right. The lake is the largest body of water on Cyprus and an important migration stop for wading birds. Thousands of greater flamingos spend the winter in these wetlands.

Cape Zevgari sits on the southwestern tip of Akrotiri. The huge white building is Princess Mary Hospital, which has stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and Episkopi Bay. The bay is home to steep cliffs, windswept beaches, and nesting loggerhead sea turtles. Traditional Cypriot tavernas line the waterfront. Pick one with outdoor tables and start ordering mezés—skordalia, taramasalata, tzatziki, and pita bread. They’re accompanied by a big bowl of olives. Grilled fish, calamari, halloumi cheese, and moussaka follow. You wouldn’t know you were in a British territory, except for the pints of beer that keep being refilled. But at this point, between the gorgeous view and the feast in front of you, it doesn’t matter what country you’re in. Cheers or yá mas!

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