As we took in the stunning clear blue water by Aphrodite’s Rock (Petra tou Romiou, as it is known in Greek), our cab driver told us that according to ancient legend, this was the birthplace of the Greek goddess of love and beauty. “It is said that if you swim around the rock three times in moonlight, you will find the woman of your dreams and have eternal youth,” said the driver. Without missing a beat, my husband pointed at me. “Doesn’t she look young enough already?”
We were celebrating our anniversary in Cyprus, and our home was a three-bedroom Holiday Residences villa at Aphrodite Hills Resort with its own infinity pool with breathtaking views over the mountains and bright blue Mediterranean Sea.
The award-winning five-star resort, between Limassol and Paphos, lies in the middle of a protected forest and is idyllic, complete with ancient olive and carob trees, manicured lawns and designed gardens. It spans 2.3 million sq metres, of which 92 percent is greenery and landscaping. Winters are fairly mild on the island, so it’s always a good time to visit.
The accommodation ranges from apartments and junior villas – such as ours – to superior properties, and the exclusive ‘Elite’ and ‘Mythos’ collection with extra benefits. Each comes with a fully-equipped kitchen, entertainment systems and access to private or communal pools.
The resort is a golfer’s paradise; its 18-hole course, which spreads over 6,289 metres over two mountain plateaux, won the accolade ‘European Golf Resort of the Year 2018’ and has recently had a €2.5m upgrade. There are also eight floodlit tennis courts, a horse-riding school for all abilities, nature trails, mountain biking and an exclusive beach club a short drive away.
Although we went without our children, the resort is family-friendly. The Aphrodite Hills Kids Club offers arts and crafts and sports activities for children aged from three to 12, along with a crèche, and there’s a soccer school (with a UEFA qualified coach) and a golf academy.
As it was low season, we enjoyed an all-inclusive arrangement with Atlantica’s Aphrodite Hills Hotel. The huge buffet at the Eleonas restaurant is sure to satisfy everyone, while the Fig & Olive à la carte restaurant provided for more formal and delicious Mediterranean dining. The latter’s pastry chef created a huge chocolate cake for our anniversary dinner that was so big we shared it with the staff.
A short walk from our villa was the ‘Village Square’, with 18 restaurants and bars, including Pithari Tavern (traditional island cuisine), Zimi Trattoria, and Gate to India. The Golf Clubhouse Restaurant – currently under refurbishment – will offer Cypriot and international cuisine. There’s also a supermarket (stocking Israeli brand Ahava and some Waitrose lines), as well as other shops, a Costa Coffee, a Häagen-Dazs and
a 24-hour medical centre onsite.
The resort is geared up to take care of your every need, and rest and relaxation is high on the agenda. Fancy a beauty treatment? Head to The Retreat Spa by Atlantica, in beautiful surrounds, which has 27 holistic treatment rooms, six heat rooms, a hammam and a private gym. My husband enjoyed his Swedish massage, followed by a dip in the infinity pool and the Thermae overlooking the sea.
We embraced the relaxed Mediterranean holiday vibe, and didn’t miss having a car, but one is recommended for longer stays (the resort has a car rental office). We did, however take the bus into Paphos Harbour, where we explored the old parts of town, stumbling across quaint cafés, shops selling craft wares, walls with interesting graffiti and houses dating from pre-colonial times (Cyprus was a British colony from 1925 until 1960).
We enjoyed succulent oven-baked fish at the welcoming Laona restaurant, located off Mararios Avenue, before walking to the Tombs of the Kings, a large necropolis and Unesco World Heritage Site. While no kings were, in fact, buried here, the seven excavated tombs were the resting places of high ranking officials and aristocracy from around the 3rd century BCE to the 3rd century CE.
We took in the stunning scenery as we walked the coastal route back down to Paphos Harbour, where you can also view the mosaic floors of four Roman villas dating back to the 2nd century and depicting scenes from Greek mythology. Nearby is Paphos Castle, originally a Byzantine fort.
Those with money to burn can buy a villa either to live in or as an investment (Cyprus, which is in the EU, offers citizenship through investment opportunities – particularly attractive post-Brexit), many of which are on sizeable plots with large living areas, and Aphrodite Hills Properties offers management services. The Persefonis villa, at 600sqm, is the priciest at €5.5m and is furnished to a high spec.
While we, sadly, won’t be buying a home there, we’d love to return for another visit.
Alex was a guest of Aphrodite Hills Resort, where junior two-bedroom villas start from €190 per night during low season, and €300 per night during high season. www.aphroditehills.com