With the sun virtually guaranteed to appear shining, as it does, for more than 300 days a year, it’s perhaps best to visit Cyprus 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.
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 to 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 favourite fish on many a restaurant’s menu.
I headed an hour north of Paphos airport through the divine landscape of cypress-covered hills to reach Polis, a coastal town near to Neo Chorio, the authentic and charming village that borders the Akamas national park, to arrive at Anassa. The hotel is family-friendly and deserves its meaning of ‘queen’ as ‘she’ rests assuredly on her perch, cradled by rugged hills and hidden behind mature greenery and proud cypress trees as ’she’ overlooked her gentle descent to the wide crescent of a sandy beach.
I knew I was in for something special as I drove past the white walls punctuated with upturned gourds housing bougainvillea to the hotel entrance. To the left is a charming herb garden exploited by the kitchens and to the right is the quaint St. Athanasia’s Chapel set before the liberatingly large open area designed successfully to resemble a village square.
Still looking brand new and constructed in its light limestone, the whole complex is set amongst that winning Mediterranean combination of cypress trees and terracotta roof tiles. The vibrant and vivid landscape has beautiful green lawns with flower-lined paths, with those sweet and pungent scents of honeysuckle, rosemary and jasmine that lead down to the sparkling Mediterranean.
The bright and spacious interior with its opulent marble flooring is assisted by large windows and imaginatively decorated with images of the sun and circular motifs that reference Roman mosaics for which the island is famous. Charmingly scattered throughout are amphoras and gourds in their natural, neutral tones.
There are 166 low-rise rooms and suites that populate the ‘village’ and all have matching balustrades and iron balconies with celadon French shutters. Beside the infinity pools and terraces and under its bamboo roof is the taverna Pelagos where I was to enjoy many a quintessential Mediterranean lunch of taramasalata and olives, of beetroot and onions sprinkled with thyme and oregano picked from the hotel’s garden and creatively presented in its rainbow of colours.
Close by is the sumptuous Thalassa Spa, it’s decorated in an elaborate Romanesque style and comprises an indoor heated pool, powerful saunas and steam baths as well as thalassotherapy treatments drawing on sea water from the bay. At the spa, amongst the full range of facials and massages, of detox and anti-ageing programmes, I went with, and highly recommend Claudia the Columbian who practises the amazing Anastasia Achilleous method which goes beyond the usual facial, combining skincare and massage treatment with holistic emotional release. Outstanding and deeply impressive. As was the magical cocktail of the welcome drink which set the tone of the amazing journey on which I was to embark.
Anassa has a very special vibe with telepathic service from happy staff in their smart and unique uniforms. Indeed ‘she’ is assuredly stunning, elegant and refreshingly unflashy.
The architecture and landscaping of Anassa is aesthetically pleasing and blends with the coastline as I was only able fully to appreciate her invisibility to the outside world from my treat of a boat trip. For, by staying at Anassa, I was able to take a minute’s walk down to the beach office of Latchi Charters to climb aboard the locally made Karnic SL800 motor yacht belonging to this very professional outfit. Although tempted by the many other options that included a sunset trip, I chose a privately skippered tour up to the western peak of the island.
It’s a divine stretch of coastline that emerges as does the blurred coastline of Turkey. It’s one of Cyprus’s best spots for diving.
With Roman amphora still reputedly hidden deep beneath the turquoise water as I skipped round one of the island’s many rocks devoted to the Aphrodite myth and around which one swims three times for luck (though it wasn’t established in which direction!)
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. It is now 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.
To savour the ultimate of seaside sensations I like to watch the world at play and for any motion to animate and complete the picture. For here I was able to indulge my love of seeing waves crashing, swallows darting, butterflies flitting, cypresses swaying and boats dancing across the water.
Four colours dominate: the turquoise blue water with its sand beneath, the cobalt blue water above its rocky fundament, the scattered green of trees and shrubbery and the gold of the metamorphic limestone whose strangled striations seem sculptural even to the point of one being called an amphitheatre.
Straight from Latchi Boats’s other offices in the port of Latchi and standing out a mile from the other restaurants that line the waterfront is Restomare Latchi which overlooks the boats in this marina. This large restaurant has both roofs and doors that open and shut to give it the ultimate indoors-outdoors feel. Above the heated floor the décor consists of framed shellfish, wooden fishbones covering their lights and playful butterfly fans. I sat outside under the awnings to watch the boats beside me and the stars above. From the large fish menu, I chose a seabass ceviche infused in coconut cream, red pepper nage, candied pistachio and cherry consommé air. The helpings are generous, and the price is fair and the vibe is trendy and upbeat.
I must go back to Cyprus. Whenever but soon!
Adam hired a car in Cyprus with Manos Cars (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 357 9965 3302). He had support from Gatwick Express and www.holidayextras.com (0800 316 5678) who offer airport lounges at all major UK airports and many international destinations). He was covered by online travel insurance specialist, CoverForYou, Tel: +44 (0)207 183 0885.
Adam Jacot de Boinod was a researcher for the first BBC television series QI, hosted by Stephen Fry. He wrote The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from around the World, published by Penguin Books.
Photographs courtesy of Cyprus Tourism and Anassa Hotel