Cyprus branches into high end tourism – without neglecting its roots
By Rupert Parker
Gone are the days when Cyprus was only good for cheap sun and sea packages and raucous clubbing in Agia Napa. Luxury spa hotels, agrotourism and designer golf courses are now on the menu and there’s even a brand new airport.
Cyprus is undergoing a major transformation with many of its hotels being refurbished, in a move upmarket, and its beaches gaining blue flag status. It seems to ooze new confidence with English place names reverting to their original Cypriot versions, and delicious traditional dishes flaunted in the restaurants. There’s also a new breed of boutique winemakers producing quality products from indigenous grape varieties in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains. Even the look of the place is changing with the government providing money for villagers to restore their houses in original materials.
A good base to get a sample of what’s on offer is Limassol or Lemosos, as it’s now called. Hotels like the Four Seasons or the Amathus Beach, just outside the town, provide 5 star accommodation on a long sandy beach edging the calm waters of the Mediterranean. They both offer luxury spa treatments as well as traditional and international cuisine and you certainly get the sense that this is where the sophisticated choose to go, tourists and locals alike.
The town itself is only a few kms away and its well worth exploring the narrow streets of the old quarter and the ancient castle which now houses a small museum. The bustling central market is a great place to shop for Cypriot delicacies and it’s surrounded by traditional tavernas, great for a morning coffee or a meze lunch. Work has already started on a new yachting marina which will accommodate up to 1000 vessels and offer a complete range of services including dining, residential, shopping and conference space.
If you want to get away from it all, then head for a group of villages between Limassol and Larnaca. The most famous of these is Lefkara which carries on a centuries-old lace making tradition – on every corner you see women practicing their craft, whilst inside the men occupy themselves as silversmiths. Nearby is Tochni where Cyprus Villages has turned a number of local houses over to agrotourism. It’s a great idea since, although rustic on the outside, the facilities are state-of-the-art and some even have their own private pools. There’s a central bar and restaurant area which serves up great food, but you can also eat in the village tavernas. Bikes are provided and there’s also transport to the beach, if you fancy cooling off.
To the west, near Pafos, is the delightful Columbia Resort in Pissouri. This 5 star spa complex, on one of Cyprus’s most beautiful bays, is surrounded by cliffs, and feels cut off from the world, but not from luxury. There are only 94 garden suite rooms and they all offer outstanding comfort and unforgettable views. Try the Dionysos restaurant for outstanding examples of molecular cuisine created by chef Ioannis Yiakoumides.
This part of the island also is home to three golf courses including the brand new Elea, designed by Nick Faldo. Situated in rolling countryside, its 18 holes are surrounded by imposing weathered outcrops of limestone and mature carob and olive trees. If nature’s your thing then you may want to explore the Troodos mountains, crowned by Mount Olympus at 1951m. The southern slopes are perfect for grapes and there are six designated wine routes – when you’re tasting just don’t swallow too much, otherwise you may have problems negotiating the winding mountain roads.
Cyprus Tourism Organisation Tel: 020 7569 8800
Cyprus Airways operates flights to Cyprus from London, Manchester and Birmingham. Visit website or telephone: +44 (0)20 8359 1333
Elea Estate. Tel. +357 26 202003