Sun, sand and history in Aphrodite’s garden - Metro US

Sun, sand and history in Aphrodite’s garden

At first glance, a traveller may think the island of Cyprus was divinely intended for relaxation alone.

The Mediterranean’s azure waters, the meandering coastline replete with beaches and inlets, and, inland, the seemingly never-ending plains and mountains can lull visitors into a state of relaxation, one in which exertion constitutes no more than a leisurely stroll.

But the island’s sun, sand and natural beauty have been enjoyed by plenty who’ve come before. Cyprus was occupied by Greeks, Romans, Venetians and Ottomans, and fortunately, there remain plenty of well-preserved signs of their time on the island.

So it would be a shame not to dedicate one or more days of a holiday to exploring these archaeological sites. Of those sites, the ancient city of Kourion — just a few kilometres from Paphos, heading towards Limassol — is among the most spectacular.

Start at the Roman villa known as the House of Eustolios, which dates from the second century BC, then head to the Graeco-Roman theatre, where shows are still staged today. Next, prepare yourself for a three-kilometre walk to the Temple of Apollo.

After all of that history, you’ll want to recover your strength by returning to leisurely pursuits: At Paphos, sit on the promenade next to the marina and order an iced coffee, called frappe, and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere. When you’ve recovered it’s time to visit the Kato Paphos archaeological park, with its magnificent Roman mosaics.

Then, it’s time to trade ruins for myths. Cyprus is a land of legends and one of its most popular tells of the creation of Aphrodite. It’s said that the fraught birth of the goddess of love took place in the foam of Petra Tou Roumiou beach, between Limassol and Paphos.

The story says that whoever swims three times around the central rock will be forever young and beautiful. If you’re after a less romantic dip, the beaches between Protaras and Agia Napa, on the southeastern coast of Cyprus, are highly recommended.

To take in the fresh air of the mountains, rent a car and explore inland, enjoying the tranquility of villages including Omodos.

The people of Cyprus are very hospitable and it’s at the table that they truly reveal their relaxed spirit, with meals that last for hours.

Order meze, so that you get several dishes of delicacies to share. Try Octapodi Krasato (octopus in red wine) and kebabs of every description.

Where to stay

Cyprus has fantastic five star hotels, some with gardens and hidden spots at cliffs over the beach. The Golden Bay Hotel, goldenbay.com.cy, is the only luxury hotel in Larnaca, close to the tourist zone and beach. There are also many guest houses ideal for backpackers located in areas near the beaches and the nightlife, in Agia Napa and Limassol. For more information check www.travellerspoint.com.

Where to eat
Try out the local taverns and restaurants which serve up Greek and Turkish fish, seafood and meat delicacies. They’re easy to find, especially on the coast. Laona, in the heart of Paphos, offers great value with its local, traditional fare. In Omodos, the Ambelothea tavern is a man­datory stop.

What to do
The open air Paphos Aphrodite Festival takes place every August at the Kato Paphos Castle square. It’s a sort of opera-centred gathering, with English and Greek subtitles; www.pafc.com.

Local wine is also much appreciated in Cyprus, and the country’s wine festival has taken place every June since 1961 in Limassol. Best of all, the wine is on the house. See limassolmunicipal.com.cy/wine/index.html.

More details
• For more information on Cyprus, see www.visitcyprus.com.

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