Scholars argue whether the word Cyprus derives from the island’s cypress trees or her copper. Famous for being the birthplace of Aphrodite, this island of Adonis and Pygmalion was the setting for Shakespeare’s Othello and more recently John Wayne’s film “The Longest Day”.
It’s a hotchpotch of cultures having been ruled in turn by Ottomans, Venetians, the British, and the Greeks and now bisected with a Turkish and Greek partition. I got a strong sense that, both geographically and culturally, it’s where the Mediterranean meets the Middle East. It’s the home of halloumi, with squid, octopus, red mullet, and sea bass the favorite fish on many a restaurant’s menus.
Paphos is a city named after Pygmalion’s son, and is the reputed site, according to the Ancient Greeks, of where Aphrodite both landed and rose from the sea. Decorated predominantly with white buildings and scattered with Byzantine churches, it’s renowned for its Roman mosaics and medieval castle. With the mildest temperatures on the island, it’s more for an older crowd than its rival cities of Limassol and Ayia Napa where party animals rave the night away.
I came to stay at Constantinou Bros Athena Royal Beach Hotel, an adults-only hotel and one of a chain of four resorts that grace the waterfront of Kato Paphos the city’s southern stretch. It’s super-convenient being only 15 minutes drive from Paphos airport and an hour further from Larnaca airport.
Here it’s all about the location and the view and is set along a coastline served by a long, continuous boardwalk that offers a wonderful 20-minute walk up to the harbor.
My room had paneled wood, carpeted flooring, and cheery pictures and I was able effortlessly to spill out at night onto my verandah that afforded a majestic view of the Mediterranean, the sunsets, and the stars. Below were the hotel’s extensive gardens ablaze with color white and red plants and the avenues were punctuated by full banana leaves and palm trees. And it was on the freshly-laundered spongy grass that I sunbathed amongst the private secluded cabanas and the many deckchairs spaciously arranged at a respectful distance.
The hotel even has a green bowling court along with numerous swimming pools and there are four excellent golf courses within a short driving distance. Indeed all is catered for with dining at the hotel’s numerous restaurants set upon vast marble floors both indoors and outdoors and with menus that offer either buffet or à la carte. I particularly loved my lazy lunches in the shade at the all-day Olive Tree Restaurant. Constantinou Bros Athena Royal Beach Hotel is truly an unpretentious, friendly, and deeply relaxing resort.
One night I walked a healthy distance along the boardwalk to develop the appetite I knew I would satisfy at Ouranos. This restaurant, meaning ‘God of the heavens’, is set within a hotel. The architecture is slick and styled with a stunning marriage of stonework, wood, and marble. It has an understated but effortlessly chic vibe and a wealthy, international clientele. I loved the ‘creole’, a fishcake with chives, habanera, and crushed avocado and a slow-roasted squash salad with organic red quinoa, pomegranate, bay leaves, fresh herbs, and pecan nuts, dangerously to indulge further with my ‘Talking monkey’ dessert, comprising spiced banana spring rolls, dark chocolate, coffee, and vodka twist. All enhanced by a glass from the delightful and local 2020 Kyperounta Winery.
On one morning stroll along the boardwalk, I came to Pafos Boats. This professionally-run organization offers every sort of watersport from parasailing to jet skis and I was lucky enough to experience a private speedboat trip heading north along a coastline that’s fronted by all the luxury resorts. With two 1000 brand new engines, I zipped at a fabulously jaunty pace past Coral Bay and the coves and caves, beyond reefs and mammoth shipwrecks before stopping at Cap St. George’s Harbour with its restaurant and church perched on the rocks above.
To savor the ultimate seaside sensations I like to watch the world at play and for any motion to animate and complete the picture. Here I was able to indulge my love of seeing waves crashing, swallows darting, butterflies flitting, cypresses swaying and boats dancing across the water.
I went as far as the Akamas, the wild peninsula nature reserve that’s home to rare butterflies and orchids and where locals come for their holidays, only reachable otherwise by campervans and 4x4s. Where once there were old churches now is populated by wild horses and by forty-strong herds of goats as they descend to lap the salt from the littoral rocks and munch the shrubs that stay green throughout the year from both the rainwater and some of the oldest wells in the world.
Another night I took a taxi up to the old town to reach Muse, an uber-cool restaurant with its sunset and panoramic view over the city and out beyond to the Mediterranean. With a chic metropolitan feel and design, it entertains a half-Cypriot, half-touristic clientele and is clearly a place for a special treat as my table was sandwiched between a family birthday and a wedding party. It’s perfect for sundowner cocktails so I recommend arriving before an inevitably gorgeous sunset for which Cyprus is rightly renowned and then a creative display of the restaurant’s lights as they change into the night.
I chose well with a gazpacho soup and then the restaurant’s signature salad consisting of mixed greens with avocado, quail eggs, asparagus, snow pea, goat cheese, jalapenos, and champagne vinaigrette. The waiters were especially keen to pair my next course of a delicious fillet seabass with aubergine, and red chilies with an appropriately matching glass of wine.
With the sun virtually guaranteed to appear shining, as it does, for more than 300 days a year, it’s perhaps best to visit between May and June or mid-September to mid-October when the sun is penetrative and not sapping and the land provident and not parched.
I must go back. Whenever but soon!