September 2019 – By Kathryn Liston – 5 minute read
Aphrodite’s isle isn’t all sun, sand and sea. Visitors can also explore the island’s natural and cultural attractions through its impressive range of driving and walking routes.
Hold on tight! I’m bouncing around in the back of a jeep. No, it’s not the poor state of the roads – the road system around the entire island is excellent. I’m on a jeep safari of the protected Akamas nature reserve, a vast wilderness of steep-sided cliffs, deep limestone gorges and shimmering sandy bays to the north of Paphos.
I keep my eyes peeled for eagles, falcons, green and loggerhead turtles and 400 species of wild flowers, many endemic to the island.
Agile wild goats keep me company in the Avagas Gorge, springing up the steep-sided limestone walls to a cacophony of cicadas and bird song. We look down on beautiful Lara Bay, but its infamous turtles which return to lay their eggs each year are not at home.
After a typical lunch meze of dips, squid and barbecued meats, we enjoy a swim in the clear waters of the remote Fontana Amorosa, but Aphrodite, and the lovers she seduced here, are not at home either.
Charmed by the region’s raw natural beauty, the next day I hire a small motor-boat in Latchi and pootle along the coastline to the Blue Lagoon where the bright azure hues assault my senses.
With so many amazing places to explore on the island, the following day I hire a car and take to the open road.
Themed driving routes
The Aphrodite Cultural Route is one of several self-drive themed routes. It visits historic sites, museums and artefacts associated with the goddess of love, such as Kouklia, Amathus and Kition, providing visitors with an insight into her mythology, rituals and character.
The Antiquity Cultural Route takes in the UNESCO neolithic settlement, Choirokoitia, near Limassol; the grand Greco-Roman Kourion amphitheatre (second century BC); and the Archeological Park’s Roman villas and stunning mosaic floors in Paphos.
Other cultural routes focus on Venetians in Cyprus, the history of copper and eastern and western culture.
Boutique wineries, vineyards and museums, including the Wine Museum in Erimi, are featured on seven signposted wine routes. Cyprus is one of the world’s oldest wine-producing countries, and the desert wine, Commandaria, that it produces has been around a long time too.
To encourage holidaymakers to enjoy a taste of authentic Cyprus, the Travel Foundation and Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative have developed six self-drive village routes which showcase traditional crafts.
Extending from Farmagusta in the east to Akamas in the west, the tours visit local businesses, such as the Oleastro Olive Park and Museum, the rose-producing village of Argos, the lace-making village of Lefkara, the red earth villages of Kokkinochoria and windmills of Farmagusta.
A booklet outlining village festivals, events and places to buy local crafts is available from csti-cyprus.org.
Visitors staying in Larnaca next winter (November to April) can enjoy a host of traditional village crafts such as basket weaving and halloumi-cheese making plus free guided tours.
With 52 designated trails there’s one for every week of the year. They vary in length and difficulty and traverse a variety of beautiful landscapes and flora, taking walkers past Byzantine churches and historic monuments.
Cyclists are spoilt for choice too, with routes offering everything from forest mountain bike trails to coastal rides.
The island’s warm climate and water temperatures (16-27C) make it ideal for golfers, who can play in shirt-sleeves year-round on four 18-hole courses - the PGA Aphrodite Hills, Sir Nick Faldo-designed Eléa Estate Golf Club, Minthis Hills and Secret Valley.
Water-sports, including kite-surfing, are available in the resorts of Paphos, Limassol, Larnaka, Ayia Napa/Protaras. Divers will find underwater caves, vibrant marine life and wrecks, including the Elpida off the coast of Larnaka.
Shearings’ winter-sun Cyprus Delights break at the Hotel Aloe in Paphos comes with two new tours: Authentic Cyprus, which includes breakfast cooked by a local villager and a wine tasting at a local winery, and Cyprus History and Scenery which visits key historic sites.
Two hotels opened last May - the five-star couples-only Amavi, in Paphos, marketed under the Made-for-Two brand, and the four-star Louis Ivi Mare, Kato Paphos. The four-star adults-only Amarande Hotel will open in Ayia Napa in June 2020.
Columbia Beach Resort is inviting agents to join its UK sales team for a 30-minute Lunch & Learn session, which will include tips on targeting specific market sectors and an update on offers and incentives. Agents register their interest by emailing Nicola Pickup at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggested dates and timings.
Jet2 has increased winter capacity to 200,000 seats – a rise of 45% on 2018.
Kourion: A magnificent Greco-Roman amphitheatre built in the 2nd century BC is the centrepiece of this ancient city-kingdom, which also haa villas with 5th century mosaic floors and a bathing complex.
Tombs of Kings: This vast complex of underground burial chambers is carved out of solid rock, some with ornate Doric pillars. It dates back to the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
Nicosia: Surrounded by 16th century Venetian fortifications, visitors will find ancient churches, medieval buildings and a maze of narrow streets. quaint old town of Laiki Yitonia.
Hala Sultan Tekke, Larnaca: By a salt lake awash with flamingos, this mosque was built over the tomb of Umm Haram, believed to be the sister of the prophet Mohammed’s foster mother.
Troodos Mountains: A paradise for walkers, bird watchers and cyclists and cool respite for day-trippers who flock to the town, Platres. Recommend the 3km Kalidonia walking trail.
Where to book it
Olympic Holidays has a seven-night holiday at the adults-only Amarande Hotel, which opens in June 2020, from £657pp based on two people sharing a deluxe room on a half-board basis and travelling on June 2 2020 from Gatwick. The four-star hotel is 300 metres from Maistrali beach and a short walking distance from Ayia Napa’s buzzing centre.