Sonja Astbury makes a return pilgrimage to her favourite holiday destination of Cyprus
It’s reputed to be the birthplace of Aphrodite - the goddess of love.
I fell in love with the island after years of hopping from one Greek island to another and no matter where my travels took me, like a boomerang I’ve returned
My affair with the sun-drenched island of Cyprus began more than three decades ago and although there have been quite a few interlopers over the years, it has stood the test of time.
Until recent times it became the regular venue for the household’s autumn debunk.
So, after a few years away I jumped at the chance to help Easyjet celebrate the launch of its inaugural flight to Larnaca.
Over the years I’ve travelled from one end of the Greek side of the island to the other (even though a friend has an apartment on the North side scruples prevent me crossing the border) but I’ve never spent time anywhere other than the airport in Larnaca.
So, what a pleasant surprise when the flight was greeted by a traditional ‘band’ of musicians playing us into the arrival hall with local music and girls dressed in native costume handed us a welcome gift.
Although the short trip was to promote this end of the island, the best was clearly being left to last as we headed south west – my favourite – the Paphos region.
A modern road network makes easy work of getting around the island and within an hour and a half we were in the old capital and next year’s European Capital of Culture.
Once booked into the fabulous Almyra Hotel in the centre of town we headed up into the old town for a traditional evening meal.
Fetta’s Restaurant is THE place to head for a typical Cyprus meze on a Saturday night and it was easy to see why the locals flock there. The food, which was a delight to the tastebuds, kept on coming and coming and coming.
Rounding the evening off with a drink at Muse, the happening bar for the city’s trendy crowd, afforded the perfect opportunity to view Paphos by night.
I have to admit the harbour region has changed a bit. Money has been ploughed into upgrading the streets and in and around the front, with a new pedestrianised area, shops and bars have been given a facelift and there’s even a new university.
However, the old charm has not given way to, but mixes elegantly, with the new.
For, those who don’t know, smack bang in the middle of the main tourist area are Paphos’ famous Roman ruins.
So much work has been done in modern times to preserve the UNESCO site, which houses incredible mosaics, and new discoveries are being made all the time.
I once spent a whole week driving my daughter around the ruins for a project she was doing and can never tire of the wonders of the past.
The whole coastline is dotted with pretty postcard towns and villages offering escape from the stresses of working life.
Sipping coffee on the harbour front at Laatchi – just a few miles from the bright lights of Paphos – couldn’t have been further than life in Preston.
Cyprus is very much an island of contrast and just a short drive up from the seaside and all its tourist attractions are the wonderful villages in the Troodos which make up, for me at least “real Cyprus”.
Villages, where age old traditions are still sacrosanct – despite the additions of modernity, including mobile phones and the internet.
Wine forms a key part of life in this area and a trip to Panayia area to visit the Chysoroyiatissa Monastery was aptly followed by a visit to, and lunch at, the nearby Panayia Winery.
There are so many villages, which offer a warm welcome to visitors and none more pretty than Omodos, which I disordered to my delight, already has a handful of British ex-pats and a wonderful old house ripe for doing up if I win the lottery.
After wine tasting, we sampled halloumi making and managed to fit in a few more historical sites.
With’s its 10-month summers ( even winter isn’t really cold, though you can ski in the Troodos in January and February), it is easy to see-why Cyprus attracts so many Brits.
Besides the weather, and driving on the same side of the road, many people speak English.
There’s also a new influx of tourist.. the golfer.
Though the sport hasn’t taken off among natives and doesn’t yet have the same lure as Spain or Portugal it is set to explode.
Nick Faldo, or Sir Nick as the locals call him, has just opened his brand new golf course at Elea in Geroskipou village above Paphos ( which incidentally is already within driving distance of three other golf courses.”
En route back up to Larnaca we stopped off at the gorgeous village of Pissouri, nestling neatly on the coast between the hustle and bustle of Paphos and the mountains.
The Columbia Beach Hotel and Resort dominate the village – but in a good way. This fabulous compilation of hotel and studio resort offers sheer escapism in affordable luxury, with THE most breathtaking views.
The perfect trip had a perfect ending with a whistle-stop tour of Larnaca, where old meets new in a most tasteful way.
The lovely beach front promenade is a delight to the eye and although the front has plenty of bars, shops and hotels, these all fit snugly in between the city’s historic past, which,like the rest of the island, tastefully blend.
easyJet offer two flights per week from Liverpool to Larnaca, starting from £32.49 one way
easyJet offer up to six flights per week from Manchester to Paphos from £33.49 one way
Flights and accommodation
easyJet Holidays offer a wide range of 3, 4 and 5 star holidays from Manchester and Liverpool to Cyprus
A seven night break at the five star Almyra Hotel on full board basis departing from Manchester (to Paphos) on 5 December costs £424 per person
Book at www.easyJet.com/holidays or 0843 104 1000