Recently I was walking down the beach in Limassol and began to wonder: is it possible to truly learn about the country without tasting its traditional food?
Each country’s culture is closely tied to its culinary traditions. When it comes to the small island of Cyprus, I should say that there is much to be proud of.
The famous meze, the juicy shrimp and calamari, the most delicious squid — all of this seafood cornucopia can definitely be considered one of the country’s main attractions.
The island is full of places, where you can taste fresh, authentic seafood. Any Cypriot will gladly recommend his or her favorite seafood restaurant. But most Cypriots agree that the village of Zygi is one of the best places to begin your journey into the island’s seafood cuisine.
A little bit of the history of Zygi
Zygi is located on the Mediterranean coast of southern Cyprus, halfway between Larnaca and Limassol. According to Byzantine sources, the area where the village is now located, was named after St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. Legend has it that St. Helena visited this area after her pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Zygi’s contemporary history began relatively recently, in the mid-19th century during the rule of the British Empire. Zygi was then the center of carob farming. It was harvested, stored, exported and sold across the world. This is how the village obtained its current name (from the Greek word ζυγίζουν — to weigh).
The first written record states that beginning in 1891 the population of the village was estimated to be between a few dozen to a few hundred people. In the period preceding the Turkish occupation the village was comprised of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. After 1975 the village was primarily populated by Greek Cypriots. According to the most recent census (2001) the village is home to 704 people.
Today Zygi is a quaint, little fishing village with a scenic embankment. Its natural and authentic beauty attracts many visitors. Thanks to its climate and geographic location, the village is an agricultural hub. Legumes, grains, fruits and vegetables are harvested here. But most importantly this mediterranean village is known for its seafood. Fishing is part of almost everyone’s lifestyle here. And this is part of the reason why this village is aspiring to become a gastronomical mecca for food tourists as well as a respite for those seeking break from the hustle and bustle of large Cypriot cities.
The first time I ended up in Zygi it was because my friends recommended it. We were talking about the best place to visit if you want to try good food and just generally have a good time and everyone seemed to agree that Zygi is the best match.
Zygi welcomed us with great weather. We took a walk down the piers, where visitors like to be photographed against rows of fishing boats and yachts parked nearby.
The coast is famous for different types of bream fish, grey mullets, octopus, devilfish as well as calamari, crab and other seafood. Fishermen of all ages (from 15 year olds to elderly Cypriots) come to fish at the piers. Some of them live nearby, while others travel here for a few hours during the weekend. Almost every village resident is either a professional fisherman, who sells his catch to local taverns and restaurants, or makes a living by organizing boat cruises and fishing trips for tourists. If you decide to take part in one of such trips, you will be taken on a scenic tour of the local waters and given a fishing lesson by an experienced fisherman. Freshly caught fish is then immediately prepared and served.
After walking down the sea, we realized that we were hungry and decided to get a taste of local food. We settled on Captain's Table, located in the heart of the village right next to the sea. We picked a table closest to the water, even though most of the tables are located outside in an interior courtyard. Obviously, we went for the meze and discovered that we were right about coming to this place. We had the pleasure of enjoying a flawless mixture of seafood caught almost in front of our eyes, while reveling in the perfect view of the sea. As a nice bonus were offered complimentary dessert in the form of traditional Cypriot sweets.
Even though we could have stayed here for the rest of the day simply enjoying life, we felt the urge to continue our journey of the village and carried on. We set out in the opposite direction of the sea and came across a lovely church dedicated to St. Barnanas. Unfortunately, it was closed. There were benches hiding in the shadow nearby, where visitors are welcome to have a break from the heat. Two more churches — one dedicated to St. Iraklidios and one dedicated to St. Kiriyakos — are located nearby. We were charmed by the simple beauty of these small chapels.
Other attractions worth seeing include a public park and the beach, which boasts very clean waters.
There is a camel park just outside of Zygi, in a village called Mazotos. You can go on a camel ride, feed them and interact with other animals at this petting zoo. There is a restaurant, a children’s playground and a pool. It’s best to set aside a whole day to visit this park, since there is a lot to do there especially if you are coming with children.
We also recommend visiting the Khirokitia Archeological Site, located in the outskirts of Zygi, in Maroni valley. This is the former site of a neolithic settlement, which existed here circa 6000 BC. To learn more about this place, read our story.
We finished our walk in later afternoon when the heat had begun to subside. The day we spent in Zygi had many pleasant and colorful moments in store for us and we liked our stay there so much that I still continue to come here at least once a month either bringing my family or friends for a short trip.
Some of the places we recommend visiting
Tourists love traditional meze. And Zygi is a particularly great place for it since the fish is always freshly caught. Even Cypriots from nearby villages and towns come to dine in Zygi, since its seafood is known everywhere in Cyprus. Food tourists can take part in a culinary tour of the local farms that produce traditional halloumi cheese, wine and olive oil.
Fish Tavern To Xefoto — is a cozy restaurant that serves freshly caught seafood. Enjoy traditional meze, Cypriot appetizers and delicious homemade wine.
Address: Archbishop Makarios II, Zygi, Ζύγι
Telephone: +357 24332378
Captain's Table Fish Tavern is located in the heart of the village. The tables are located outside and face the harbour. In addition to the stunning view the restaurant offers serves delicious seafood caught in the Mediterranean sea practically on the spot. Great appetizers, salads and drinks (e.g. homemade wine, draft beer, juices and cocktails). Take a look at the menu (displayed outside the restaurant) as you walk down the harbour.
Address: 48 Gr. Afxentiou, 7739 Zygi, Cyprus
Telephone: +357 24 333737
Eraklis Fish Tavern also serves a great variety of seafood.
Address: E321 63, Zygi, Cyprus
Telephone: +357 24333169
Koumbaris Fish Tavern — is a great place for a delicious lunch or dinner. Koumbaris serves fresh-from-the-sea finds, tasty appetizers and salads.
Address: Grigori Afxentiou 34, Zygi, Cyprus
Telephone: +357 24332450
Lapithos Fish Tavern — is a traditional tavern with an authentic Cypriot interior style that serves a large selection of seafood dishes, salads and appetizers.
Address: 40 Gregory Afxentiou Str., Zygi, Cyprus
Telephone: +357 24332032
There are also many new hotels and apartments emerging in Zygi that are open to incoming visitors. New infrastructure, supermarkets and souvenir shops are making Zygi more comfortable for travel.
If you decided to stay here for more than a day we recommend the following hotels:
Zygi Beach Villa
Zygi Beach is an elegant village with 3 bedrooms built in a modern style. The villa comes with a fully equipped kitchen, dining area and satellite television. There is also a furnished patio. It takes a couple minutes to reach our person beach. Seafood restaurants, shops and supermarkets are a few minutes away. Limassol and Larnaca International airport are 25 minutes away by car. There is free public parking outside the villa.
Zygi Marina Sea View
This is a small hotel located in the heart of the village with a great view of the sea. You can stay here with your family and even your pets. Rooms come with everything you need for a comfortable stay. Restaurants and cafes are 5 minutes away.
You can also find lodging in the private sector by renting one of the local apartments. Since the village is located far from large tourist cities (e.g. Larnaca, Nicosia, Limassol) many tourists like to escape to Zygi for a day trip by car or taxi.
If you want to try amazing mediterranean seafood and visit a scenic village, then Zygi is the place for you!
Getting there: Google.maps