'Agrotourism' is option for Cyprus visitors

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LARNAKA, Cyprus -- Travelers who want to help pick grapes, join in harvesting oranges or chat over coffee with Cypriots in their village squares represent the growing numbers of those seeking what is known as "agrotourism" accommodations in restored, traditional village houses.

Cyprus offers traditional tour packages, including a new customized culinary itinerary.

Agrotourism accommodations are available in houses in villages throughout Cyprus. The houses have been restored to their traditional style, creating value-priced accommodations for 254 visitors at a given time.

Most of the villages have cobbled streets and public squares, where residents traditionally meet to savor coffee and conversation.

Agrotourism stays enable visitors to partake of the slow rhythm of Cypriot village life and join local residents in their traditions, tourism officials said. Nightly prices start at $20 in winter and $32 in summer.

Some houses have been converted into small museums and cultural centers in the villages of Kato Lefkara, Chirokitia, Lofou, Kato Pachna, Phiti and Vouni. The Cyprus Tourism Organization also is planning to create a series of nature trails and other facilities in agrotourism villages. The tourism organization also plans to create a central reservations system for the village accommodations, forming the Cyprus Agrotourism Co. to administer the program.

Packages featuring a one-bedroom apartment for a week, including car rental and taxes, start at $200 per person, according to tourism officials.

Tochni and Kalavassos in the Larnaka district have the most tourism establishments, but others exist throughout the countryside. Kakopetria, for instance, in the pine and cedar forests of the Troodos Mountains, reveals the pastoral side of Cyprus. Here, visitors can fish for trout in the streams that run by the Byzantine church Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis -- one of nine churches designated by Unesco as a World Heritage site.

Danae House in Tochni has a swimming pool, is about three miles from a beach and is a 30-minute drive from Cyprus' three major cities: Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaca.

Cyprus villages has 25 apartments in traditional houses in Tochni and 15 in Kalavasos and can be reached at (011) 357 433-2998.

The Kontoyiannis House has three one-bedroom cottages and a two-bedroom apartment. It can be reached at (011) 357 535-9305.

Tour operators offer packages with more traditional types of accommodations as well as air from New York. The following examples are per person, double, prices.

  • Homeric Tours is offering 10-night trips starting at $1,499 with three nights in Limassol, four nights in Paphos and an overnight cruise to Israel. All meals and shore excursions on the cruise; a half-day tour of Paphos; a full day tour to Troodos and the Kykko monastery; transfers, and hotel taxes and service charges are covered.
  • Sunnyland offers a 14-night archaeology cruise-tour to Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt, from $2,095, until March 2000. The package includes a seaview hotel room in Cyprus, an outside stateroom cabin on the two-night cruise to Israel and Egypt, meals and shore excursions during the cruise, port taxes, superior hotel in Greece, all transfers, tours and transportation.
  • Amelia Tours of Hicks-ville, N.Y., which specializes in cultural tours to Cyprus, is offering seven-night, land-only packages priced from $688, including breakfast and dinner daily from January through April 1, after which the price increases to $912.
  • Homeric Tours, Phone: (800) 223-5570, Fax: (212) 753-0319
    Sunnyland Tours, Phone: (800) 783-7839
    Amelia Tours, Phone: (800) 742-4591.
    The Cyprus Tourism Organization, Phone: (212) 683-5280, Web: www.cyprustourism.org

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