TRAVEL: The best of Cyprus - an island full of delight
PUBLISHED: 21:57 28 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:22 01 March 2019
copyright markus bassler
Stepping off a plane into warm sunshine is always a lovely feeling, but no more so than when you've left a cold, wet and (occasionally) snowy England behind... unexpected heatwaves aside!
February may seem like an unusual time to visit Cyprus but, with average temperatures still around 17C, it is perfect for a holiday combining activities, culture and relaxation.
Having been to Cyprus once before – albeit 15 years ago – I was most looking forward to the food. Starting off with a trip to Sophia’s Traditional House in the quaint village of Letymbou, just 20 minutes by car from Paphos International Airport, set the bar.
There, a smiling Sophia showed us how she makes halloumi and her own bread – a family tradition which tastes as good as it sounds. We also got our first taste of Cypriot coffee, which for most is perfect with a little sugar.
And then there was the meze. The three I had – at the Polis Herb Garden & Restaurant, the New Kings of Aphrodite Tavern in Paphos, complete with Greek dancing where a young chap managed to balance about six glasses on his head, and Makrinari Tavern in Omodos in the beautiful Troodas Mountains – were all wonderful. Each had their own idiosyncrasies, but the food was always plentiful, suitable for meat-lovers, vegetarians and vegans alike.
And the service was fantastic. I think that is something which really stood out from my trip – the people were all so welcoming and eager to show you their country at its best.
On that note, the hospitality extended to me at The Athena Royal Beach Hotel in Paphos was wonderful. The four-star complex had it all – beautiful suites with sea views, up to four restaurants to choose from and a spa complete with an indoor-heated pool, which I made the most of on my first of two nights there. While the hotel was for adults only, just next door was sister hotel the Athena Beach which welcomes families.
Admittedly it was difficult to say goodbye, but my suite at the five-star Aphrodite Hills Hotel by Atlantica – which looks down towards the sea and, as the name would suggest, Aphrodite’s Rock – softened the blow. It was truly stunning, topped off with my own private pool! During my stay we also visited the idyllic five-star Columbia Beach Resort in Pissouri, which boasted an interlinking indoor-cum-outdoor pool which led down to a private beach just for guests. Bliss.
And for those looking for a little more of that, look no further than Anargyri Natural Healing Spa Resort at Miliou village and Kypwell Wellness Club in Germasogeia near Limassol. At the former I loved the bathing area with jacuzzi-style sulphur pools to massage your upper and lower body, while the back and head massage at the latter was relaxing and stimulating in equal measure.
But Cyprus has so much more to offer, too. A visit to Eleouthkia Park showed the versatility of the climate, and the abundance of fruit trees and wineries never got old.
Horse riding at George’s Ranch in Peyia provided a lasting memory – partly because it was my first time on a horse, but also because it demonstrated how ex-pats have made a success of their new lives in Cyprus. Visits to the Kourion archaeological site – where an ancient Greek-Roman theatre looks out to the sea – and Platres Cultural Centre in the Troodos Mountains helped me take in some of the country’s rich history, demonstrating Cyprus is so much more than a sunshine getaway.
There was something comforting about the reminders of home – driving on the left-hand side of the road, seeing signs to ‘Wembley’ (a park where kids were playing football, for the record), and the occasional red phone box – but after four days spent exploring and enjoying the warmth of the Mediterranean sun, I can’t say I was too keen to return.
• For more information about what Cyprus has to offer, visit the Deputy Ministry of Tourism for Cyprus website – www.visitcyprus.com.
• Flights: For London Gatwick – Paphos: easyJet flies to Paphos from London Gatwick with prices starting from £44.45 per person (one way, including taxes and based on two people on the same booking). All flights can be booked at www.easyjet.com.
• Athena Royal Beach Hotel: A sea view Junior Suite (with single supplement) at Constantinou Bros Athena Royal Beach Hotel starts at £130 per night on a bed and breakfast basis. For further information, please visit http://www.athenaroyal-cbh.com.
• Aphrodite Hills Resort: A one-bedroom luxury residence at Aphrodite Hills Resort starts at £150 per night on a bed and breakfast basis. For further information, please visit http://www.aphroditehills.com.