Europe

Cyprus: Basking in the Mediterranean Sun

written by | Posted on January 1st, 2010

Limassol is also celebrated for its 12-day wine festival held in late-August/early-September, showcasing 50 island wineries with tastings, dancing and traditional foods. Anastasiou introduced us to an assortment of these culinary delicacies at Yialos Fish Tavern in Pissouri, where fresh catches are hauled in from Episkopi Bay below.

A traditional Cyprus “meze” is the epitome of epicurean experiences. You’re faced with a lavish feast of local specialties—either a seafood or meat medley with hearty sides of vegetables, Halloumi cheese, pita breads, olives and dessert—often chased with a traditional spirit known as Zivania. You can expect up to 20 dishes, so it’s wise to pace yourself.

Laid-back Pissouri accommodates with the five-star Columbia Beach Resort, where paved paths overshadowed by bougainvilleas and olive trees lead to 94 exquisitely appointed suites. Its spa pampers visitors with five treatment rooms, jacuzzi, plunge pool, sauna and steam room. The main hall that houses its reception is highlighted by a heated indoor swimming pool flowing into the outdoor lagoon-style garden. Nightly rates are from $510.

Another pleasant trek takes in one of six distinctive wine routes. The most popular is Krasochoria, traveling through the scenic Troodos Mountains that are home to 10 Byzantine churches on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Hidden off the beaten path, Kykkos Monastery is considered Cyprus’ most significant religious site. And once you step inside, you’ll understand why.

A rich interior of Christian and Byzantine mosaics and frescoes, and intricately detailed golden altar screen make this monastery remarkable artwork in itself. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it’s home to one of the three surviving icons painted by the Apostle Luke.

From here, it’s one picturesque village after another, with Omodos being the most photogenic.

Built around Timous Stavros Monastery (Monastery of the Holy Cross), this hamlet flourished into a site of such Ecclesiastical relevance that in A.D. 327 St. Helen presented the monastery with a section of the blood-stained rope that bound Jesus to the Cross.

Narrow cobblestone streets are lined with tasting rooms showcasing products from village wine producers, shops selling lace and Cyprus Delights candy, and the avant-garde Stou Kir Yianni restaurant. Presenting our meze of succulent lamb, pork and beef dishes, owner Stavros Zenonos converted his family’s village property into an agro-tourism concept that melds their vineyards, fruit orchards and market gardens with a restaurant and 3-suite guesthouse above. Nightly rates are from $125 per couple.

festive pafos Pafos has always been a top tourist destination, with its town center and pleasant harbor anchored by a 16th century medieval fortress. But antiquity status as the center of Aphrodite’s cult is what garnered its UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site status.

Today, visitors swim at Petra tou Romiou (where the goddess Aphrodite was believed to have risen from the waves), make a pilgrimage to her sanctuary at Koukila and visit the grotto near Polis where legend says she bathed. The nature wilderness at Polis and Akamas Peninsula appeals to adventure lovers with scenic hiking trails and boating along dramatic coastline that forms part of Aphrodite’s playground.

The region thrives with plush accommodations removed from Pafos’ action. Overlooking Petra tou Romiou, the self-contained 290-room InterContinental Aphrodite Hills Resort Hotel meets that mark with an 18-hole championship golf course, Greco Roman-style spa, four tennis courts and trail activities. Its exclusive Beach Club stretches along secluded Avdimou with wooden decking runways leading to the sea. Nightly rates are from $240.

Thanos Hotels operates a trio of five-star Pafos-area properties. The 177-room Anassa is perched majestically on a rocky headland near the Baths of Aphrodite overlooking one of the island’s finest beaches, while the 189-room Almyra and adjacent 218-room Annabelle share upscale amenities on the shores of Pafos. Nightly pp rates are from $345, $285 and $210, respectively.