Cyprus is a beautiful and fascinating island where Turkish, Cypriot and UN soldiers stand guard at demarcation lines at places around the island — one of the last contested borders in the EU. It’s also home to stunning ancient historic sites such as the birthplace of Aphrodite (Petra tou Romiou) and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tomb of the Kings.
You can get your fill of history and also dive into modern diversions such as watersports and some of the best Mediterranean food we’ve ever eaten. In four and a half hours you can be landing in Paphos and about 20 minutes later be waltzing into your hotel right on the water. Ready to splash in?
(We visited Paphos as guests of Olympic Holidays, a leading specialist in holidays to 50 European islands.)
Where to stay
Athena Beach Hotel is that rare thing, a family resort that caters equally to families with young kids and those with teens. Onsite there are the pools (inside and out), a couple of slides, ping pong, a games room, a kids club and organised activities like mini-golf, shuffleboard and bowls at its extensive bowls facilities.
On our first night, we attended a busy reception for new guests where we were treated to drinks and nibbles, and met the hotel’s “Resident Bowls Coordinators”. The white-haired couple urged us to come out for a free taster and try our hand. The outdoor rinks (as they’re called) were right beside our suite so we got to watch some of the more skilled bowlers in action — it’s fascinating and much harder than it looks! The array of restaurants, the inviting loungers and the location right on the beach along with the 10-minute walk along the water into town make it ideal for exploring Paphos as well as staying put. Athena Beach Hotel, www.athena-cbh.com | Theas Afroditis Ave. | 8101 Paphos | Cyprus
What to see
Paphos is full of delights whether you’re old school (antiquities and history) or new-fangled (shopping and thrill-seeking). The UNESCO World Heritage Site Tomb of the Kings is the home of underground tombs dating back to 4th century B.C. In one afternoon you can see that plus the stunning Roman mosaics, the medieval castle and Paphos archaeological park, all within walking distance of Paphos harbour. Our teen enjoyed the delights of the Kings Avenue Mall (lots of shops we recognised plus Jumbo, a massive discount shop where we bought toys, Christmas decorations, candy and more — it must be seen to be believed). We went with Olympic Holidays, which organises fantastic day tours nearby as well as further afield including to the stunning Kykkos Monastery. You can’t go without visiting Aphrodite’s birthplace, Petra tou Romiou — a great beach for paddling and taking pictures.
Where to eat
To start the day, it would be hard to beat the indulgent buffet breakfast at the Athena Beach Hote’s Zephyr restaurant. This is a special privilege for guests staying in Superior Rooms or Suites. There were cooked to order eggs and omelettes, sausages, cheese, fresh fruit, fizz and orange juice…it’s worth booking a Superior room just for this.
The dress-up evening meal here was also delicious, with a live musician. The regular meal buffet at the Atrium restaurant is varied and extensive, and the light snacks and drinks at Helios Beach Bar meant we were never far from a sun lounger during the day.
On the seafront promenade into Paphos you find the Ouzeri, just in front of (and part of) the Almyra Hotel. This casual, chic open-air taverna is one of my favourite places to eat on the island. We had ultra-fresh and delicious Cypriot meze — tzatziki, calamari, Cypriot salad and grilled meats. There’s a kids’ menu too. Order a fresh fruit drink, wine or ouzo and admire the sun glinting on the water. I could eat small plates every day at one of the many good tavernas around Paphos: halloumi, hummous, souvlaki, yemista (stuffed vegetables) and koupepia (stuffed grape leaves).
What to drink
The tradition of winemaking on the island dates back to ancient time and there are 7 wine routes to follow around the island. A good friend and local recommends a day trip to Vouni Panayia Winery, a small family-owned winery with tasting room and a restaurant that provides views over the land. It’s only 45 minutes by car from Athena Beach Hotel. Call ahead to arrange your visit and meal. Other ways to lift a glass: with a brandy sour made with Cypriot brandy — it’s something of a national drink. With Commandaria, a local sweet dessert wine, which claims to be the oldest wine still in production, from 800 BC. Or with a cold Keo beer, brewed in Limassol. Because of all the fresh fruit juices, the kids aren’t left out either.
What to do
Of course there is the beach. The Athena Beach Hotel has its own parcel of sea and sand just in front of the pool along with loungers galore. (I’d love to book one of the private cabanas at the hotel for all-day great views and a comfortable bit of shade.)
There are popular public beaches along the waterfront promenade and loads of water activities — stroll up and book an outing on jetskis, windsurfing or paragliding — very popular if the number of people we saw swooping in the air is a guide.
A perfect activity with your teen at the hotel is side-by-side massages. My daughter and I had a blissful hour with two female masseuses who were wonderfully sensitive to massage-novice status and explained everything clearly as we went along.
In addition to the organised activities and freeform activities at the hotel, Olympic arranges day trips. The Kykkos Monastery is a beautiful and striking part of the island’s history (be aware, this tour goes by coach and takes all day so not ideal for those with antsy young kids). For a shorter geataway, drive or take a bus to Petra tou Romiou, Aphrodite’s birthplace. (I discovered with the help Olympic representative that the bus system easily and cheaply takes you all over Paphos and all over the region.)
What to buy
It would be a travesty to return home without at least a small bottle of Cypriot olive oil. One of the main wine-making areas is right next to Paphos, so plan on picking up a bottle of wine as well. Fruit jams including walnut jam, pickled and dried fruits, and nougat are traditional sweet options as is Cyprus delight, not unlike its cousin Turkish delight. Cyprus honey is known for its curative properties. For something non-edible, pick up some lace. The lace embroidery from the Lefkara village, called lefkaritika, is said to once grabbed the eye of Leonardo da Vinci, who took some back to Italy.
Disclosure: Jenography and family travelled as guests of Olympic Travel. Flights, hotel and some outings were covered by Olympic.
Olympic Holidays is offering 7 nights at the 5 star Amathus Beach Hotel from £3,612 for a family of three based on two adults and one child travelling. The package includes 7 nights’ half board accommodation in a superior room inland view, VIP UK airport lounge access, private taxi transfers in destination and return flights from Gatwick. Departures are available on 20/07/18. The package is subject to availability. For bookings call 0208 492 6868 or visit www.olympicholidays.com.
Olympic Holidays is offering 7 nights at the 5 star Amathus Beach Hotel from £3,985 for a family of four based on two adults and two children travelling. The package includes 7 nights’ half board accommodation in a superior room inland view, VIP UK airport lounge access, private taxi transfers in destination and return flights from Gatwick. Departures are available on 20/07/18. The package is subject to availability. For bookings call 0208 492 6868 or visit www.olympicholidays.com.