Cyprus is pretty new to us here at Oliver’s Travels, so when Maria Demosthenous from Aphrodite Hills Resort popped in for a cuppa, we jumped at the chance to learn a bit more about this sun-soaked island paradise.
1.Tell us a bit about yourself! What do you do, how long have you lived where you are and what makes you an expert in the region? Do you have any special connection there?
Although I was born and raised in the UK, I have now lived in Cyprus for a good 30 years, living in the Paphos region on the west coast of the island. Working at Aphrodite Hills from almost the very beginning in 2003, I am considered the person to contact whenever you need information or guidance about the resort and how it has developed over the many years.#
2. Why should people travel to your region at least once in their life? What might they find surprising on their first visit?
Cyprus is known as the island of love and the mythical birthplace of the Goddess of Love – Aphrodite. No wonder when people visit for the first time they fall in love with this beautiful East Mediterranean island. The island is steeped in history, where many civilisations such as the Romans, Phoenicians, the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, have left their everlasting prints on its shores.
3. And what makes people come back time and time again?
The amazing weather that Cyprus enjoys for over 300 days of the year is a great factor that makes travellers visit time and time again. There is also such a contrast of landscape, weather and scenery when travelling the island. You are never more than a short drive from the sea when visiting the mountains, so no matter what you feel like doing – you can find it on Cyprus.
4. Summarize the region for us in three words:
Mythical, sun-drenched and authentic.
5. Have you had any famous visitors or well-known events (historical or otherwise) take place in the region?
Aphrodite Hills being an ideal getaway for sports fanatics has brought an array of sporting celebrities to our resort either for golf, tennis or football. We’ve had the likes of Kenny Daglish, George Best, Andy Cole, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Williams, GB Olympics track team (Kelly Holmes, Darren Campbell, Linford Christie), Gary Player (golf), Annabel Croft (tennis). We have also had our fair share of TV and music celebrities visit the resort over the years like Tom Wilkinson (Actor), Sandra Bullock, Olympia Dukakis, James Blunt, Alexander O’Neal, Bryan Adams, Tonia Buxton, Gillian Taylforth as well as HRH Princess Anne.
6. Time for some travel inspiration – can you give us your recommendations on:
- The first thing to do – you should drop your bags and…
Head for the hills and the region surrounding the resort. Nearby villages offer traditional and true Cyprus hospitality. The lower Troodos mountain range villages offer unique experiences for you to take in the local culture, drive through the lush vineyards and pop into any of the local wineries for a guided tour and learn about the production of some of the island’s exquisite wines.
- Your favourite restaurant and/or bar, and why – is there something served there that visitors should really try?
A traditional local taverna meal is a must when in Cyprus, with great local wine and warm hospitality. There are numerous villages close by that offer quaint village squares with coffee shops and tavernas, one of those being Kouklia just a few minutes’ drive away. Visit Gabriel’s Tavern in the heart of the village and choose the traditional “Kleftiko” from the menu, which is a traditional Greek Cypriot lamb dish slow-cooked in a sealed clay oven.
- An activity that really takes in the best the area has to offer
Visit the nearby town of Paphos, either by driving a short distance of 25 km by car or taking the local bus from the resort centre. Once in Paphos you can visit the local markets in the old town and take in the pretty shopping streets and traditional market atmosphere. You could also visit the Kato Paphos tourist area of the town where you can take a walk along the sea front towards the direction of the picturesque fishing harbour, the medieval Fortress and the archaeological sites spotted in the area featuring numerous museums, exhibitions, antiquities and mosaics.
- Something free to do – perhaps that people can’t do anywhere else!
Hiking along any of the trails nearby would be a great way to take in the scenery along the coast line below the resort, but also up into the hills to become one with nature. The fresh air and the smell of pine trees within the hillsides is a mesmerising experience for those who wish to discover the island on foot.
- The best activities and things to do for families?
Families can enjoy numerous activities at the resort but also offsite too. Kids and adults can both enjoy either golf or tennis while on the resort. Both facilities offer academies that can help our adult and young guests learn the games from our professionals. A unique experience would be to take a horse riding trail afternoon in the forest at Aphrodite Hill Riding Club. The experienced stable team will take you on a guided trail ride through the breath-taking scenery to the highest point of the region looking out on the whole of the western coastline. Spend a relaxing family day at the resort’s exclusive beach club, taking in the sun and have a light lunch at the Aphrodite Hills Zias Beach club restaurant. If you want a more active family day out, you could also consider the Fasouri Waterpark, about 25 minutes from the resort, for a fun-packed day of water slides and activities for the whole family.
- Your best-kept secret of the region?
Although not exactly a secret – every visitor must see the UNESCO World Heritage site of the “Aphrodite’s Rock” or as the locals say “Petra tou Romiou”, where the mythical Goddess Aphrodite rose from the sea foam and arrived on the shores of Cyprus. Legends say that if you swim three times anti-clockwise around the rock you will have eternal youth and fertility.
7. What would your perfect day in the area comprise of?
I love to explore the west of the island on a mountain bike. There are great opportunities for a family or couples to cycle in areas along the coastal road but also up into hills, making a few stops along the way for drink at any of the village coffee shops where you can mingle with the locals. Take in the scenery from either the coastline or the higher hills which both offer spectacular views of the Mediterranean sea and the green mountainous regions and valleys.
8. What’s the one experience that really captures the essence of the region for you, and why?
A boat trip which will take you to the Akamas Blue Lagoon as an experience to be treasured. Although I have been living in the area for almost 30 years, I have only managed to take this boat trip a couple of times. It’s an area so untouched and virgin, that the memory is so vivid in my mind. The drive to this area to take the boat trip is rather long (around 50-60 mins) but I can guarantee it will be well worth it.