IT’S a commonplace to point out Cyprus’s British feel. People drive on the left hand side, and many speak English alongside their native Greek; there are pubs called things like the Red Lion and The Robin Hood. But it is also a strange and secretive land, offering a legacy of the Ancient Gods.
'I really enjoyed this, leaping a jutting rock into the icy waters below. Needless to say, I still look the same'
The weather is certainly the kind of British summer you can only dream of. Not that I’d recommend Cypriot summer proper unless you are determined on a teak tan. July and August are searing hot, peaking at 40+. The best times to visit are spring and autumn. In October I wore sundresses, flip flops, a sun hat, with a light cardigan at night.
It’s a larger Med island than you think – around 149 miles long, 90 miles deep – and the countryside reminded me of parts of southern Spain. The huge, occasionally rugged coastline is pocked with reefs, shallow patches and strangely varying depths of waters. There are two ships perched on the rocks just south of Paphos which look unlikely to leave and simply stand firm in the wind, a reminder of the unpredictable nature of this seemingly gentle isle.
It is, of course, still divided territory after one of their nearest neighbours invaded this former British colony just after independence in 1974. The most northerly strip of land remains under Turkish occupation. We drove up to the border, past the seaside town of Pomos on our last day, phones bleeping with “Welcome to Turkey” at the point that the military watchtowers came into view over the parched mountains.
We were staying in Latchi on the north west coast of Cyprus proper an hour from Paphos and its airport. We were guests of Akamas Villas, named after the nearby national park, famed for its loggerhead turtles sanctuary and Aphrodite’s Baths, where the Goddess is said to have bathed.
Arsinoe, the property we stayed in, is a gorgeous, minimal space, the holiday home of a nightclub owner in Manchester, who Gordo reckons might be one of the guys who run the Frog and Bucket.
As we walked in, the black polished furniture spoke of space, as full cow hide rugs splayed on the floor and black glass chandeliers chinked softly overhead. The décor lets the environment do the talking, which is exactly what I want on holiday; the huge bougainvillea plants, the hibiscus and fruit trees to transport you a thousand miles from home. The only remind was huge portrait of Liam Gallagher (see pic) which to my surprise worked, too.
Ants marched around the pool outside, as the sun beat down on curvaceous sun beds. My son loved the pool. In May and from September onwards it’s slightly chilly, but we still spent most of our time lolling in the clear water each day. You can see the sea from the top floor, and there’s a beach just four minutes walk from the house. We ran down on our first day and found it a bit wavey for snorkelling.
Better was a boat trip with Latchi Watersports Centre, where Dutch Captain Hans (“I know the waters around here better than the Cypriots”) ferried us along the island’s northern peninsula to “the Blue Lagoon”. The aquatic enclave is home to flat and pipefish, as well as fantastic corals. The water is shallow and warm, and it’s just around the corner from an ancient stone quarry dating from 2000 years ago. Hans pointed out the cubist rock formations, doted with grazing goats.
If you like diving, there’s a lot going on, not least on St George’s Island just outside Latchi which hosts a tunnel running directly from one side to another, an ancient monument concealed in it’s aqueous core alongside grouper fish and moray eels.
In fact, water features are a bit of a theme. A highlight was a jeep safari of the Akamas national park and surrounding sights. A local dude picked us up from the villa and drove us around in a Land Rover with two lassies from Macclesfield. We crossed the national park, a huge, tufty expanse, covered in a stubble of fragrant juniper and wild goats who’ve run away from the farmers and grown large and brave, grazing across these plains, right down onto the rocks by the sea.
Having walked a length of the nature-packed Avakas Gorge, the trip concluded with a visit to the baths of Aphrodite where, legend has it, if you bathe, you will look 10 years younger. There would be a wild rush if you were actually allowed in. It’s a romantic setting at any rate, and for those intent on bathing, you can enter the pool under the Falls of Adonis which we found on our drive back to Paphos.
I really enjoyed this, leaping a jutting rock into the icy waters below. Needless to say, I still look the same.
Food in Cyprus:
It’s rather Greek. Village salad (aka Greek salad, with fresh, melting soft feta), pitta bread, hummus, fish and kleftiko (slow cooked lamb in a wood-fired oven) were ubiquitous – and by that I mean we pretty much ate the same thing for every meal. Which was no bad thing. The best version was at Moustakallis Tavern ((www.moustakallis.com, 00357-26322883) a thriving family-run café in the centre of Polis village, just a few miles up the road from our villa. Dad is there, son is manager, staff are charming. We had the lamb which had spent more than 10 hours in the kleftiko oven out back.
Another night we went to Molos (00357-26321512), a fish restaurant in the harbour in Latchi, enjoying what Dad and I thought to be the finest sea bass on earth, simply seared in butter and lemon.
Ruth travelled with easyJet from Manchester to Paphos. www.easyjet.com
Arsinoe Beach Villa:
Ruth stayed in this property, one of several in the area available to rent from Akamas Villas (www.akamas-villas.com). It is a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, modern villa with private swimming pool. Location within walking distance of Latchi Harbour and 100 metres from beach. Mid-season rates £1,275 per week. High Season rates £1,450 per week. this link Right, another Akamas property, the Charno in Ayia Marina.
Car hire: Petrides Rentals. Tel 00357-26321578, www.cyprus-rent-a-car.info
Boat hire: Latchi Watersports. Tel 00357-26322095, www.latchiwatersportscentre.com
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