Idyllically beautiful and largely untouched, Cyprus is one of the few remaining natural retreats in the world. While the azure blue waters and stretches of sandy beach might be attracting your attention, there is a whole list of reasons why you should be heading inland on your next excursion. Once-abandoned villages have had a serious makeover, and now they’re the life and soul of the island. Want to see the real Cyprus? It’s all happening away from the coast.
Joint European capital of culture Paphos is always a good location to start off a Cypriot odyssey, offering a bevy of cultural delights. The bars and restaurants are also worth noting, and wherever you look, there’s bound to be something to whet your appetite. Take Carob Bar, for example. Attracting the city’s slickest professionals after a hard day at the office, the bar is the ultimate place to grab a sundowner and drink in the magnificent view. The Aphrodite Hills adjoining Paphos offer up spectacular sights all year round, so make sure you take your walking shoes with you for the ride.
If you’re looking for something a little more secluded, take the coastal road bound for Mount Olympus. The winding rural road takes in spectacular historical sights that are worthy of a closer look. Ten of the ancient churches that are dotted amongst the Troodos mountain ranges have even been awarded a coveted World Heritage status, so make sure you stop to take in the Byzantine frescoes. Once you reach the top of the mountain side paths, look out from the resplendent Mount Olympus. Measuring an impressive 2,000 metres above sea level, it offers up wonderful views of the island below.
While hotels in the region might be few and far between, there’s nonetheless ample opportunity to bed down in a luxury spot for the night. Apokryfo is one of the chicest of the bunch, a boutique hotel that overlooks the sleepy town of Lofou. The rooms themselves are laid out in a series of stone houses, and are often referred to as resembling Cyprus’ very own Cotswolds. The chic, warm interiors are remarkably plush, offering much occasion for some serious R&R.
Brimming with history, Cyprus is the perfect place in which to get reacquainted with antiquity. Located just outside the town of Kakopetria, Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis is one of the most incredible painted churches on the island. Despite having been finished hundreds of years ago, the church is as vibrant and well preserved as if it had just been given a fresh coat of paint. Take your time to stroll around this architectural anomaly and stare into the countless images brought to life on the walls. The place is enchanting in every sense, and merits a good afternoon’s worth of sightseeing.
Head north of Mount Olympus and you’ll uncover a region that is entirely different from its coastal counterpart. Located near the peak of the mountain, the town of Platres merits a visit. In this area, the slopes turn black with pine trees, a far cry from the sandy villages across the island. A natural paradise, the region around Platres is waiting to be discovered, not least for its breathtaking hiking trails. The path to the Kalidonia Falls might take a steady footing, but the payout is more than worth it. After you’ve dipped your feet in the icy waters of the fall, stumble back down the path for a meal at the Psilo Dendro restaurant. Serving the freshest local produce on the dappled sunlit terrace, the place is well worth the wait.