Good food is one of the great pleasures of life with which a holiday in Cyprus is associated, as is wine, another of Cyprus’ claims to fame. My uncle Alan retired to Cyprus many years ago, and in the UK, he had made wine out of anything that stuck its head above ground, from lettuce to strawberries. In Cyprus he put his heart into making the real thing from grapes. He now makes so much that he has to drink a bottle a night to keep up with himself! Beside the TV, he has a statue of Socrates, as he drinks, he talks to Socrates and he knows he has had enough when Socrates starts to talk back to him.
The grape harvest in Cyprus starts in late August and carries on until October. We visit a winery after walking through vineyards on one of our walks from Platres, and the autumn holidays will at times enjoy the background smell of fermenting grapes on the walks. All this wine is made possible by Cyprus’ beautiful climate – with spring stating early and autumn ending late. It might be cold here in London, but in Cyprus the temperature in the shade is 30 degrees along the coast! Therefore, Nigel Sloan, who researched our holiday and is leading the first tour, will be looking for his sunhat this weekend, whilst the rest of us are trying to remember where we left our gloves and scarves.
In our brochure, we have two holidays to Cyprus in the early spring next year, and two in autumn. We underestimated the popularity of the holiday, so we have just today been able to organize another departure for 28th March. Anyone going on this stands a good chance of seeing the cherry blossom in the Troodos Mountains, and will be on the island at a very good time for flowers.
Our holiday spends 5 nights on the coast, and 5 up in the mountains. On the coast, we stay just outside the fishing village of Latchi in the south west corner of the island and walk mainly in the Akamas Peninsula. Cyprus is hoping to make the Akamas Pennisula a national park, as it has over 600 plant species. It was used by the British Army as a practice range until recently, and so much of it is undeveloped and perfect for walking. We get to the top of some small peaks, walk through olive and almond groves, and along the coast. We stay in the Souli Beach Hotel, on the seafront, many of whose rooms overlook the sea and we eat out in local restaurants, which we find is always popular with our clients. The hotel has a pool, and there is the chance to swim in the sea on several walks. If you fancy a spot of ancient culture, we’re not too far from the Roman and Greek sites in Pafos.
Just an hour away at 1200m, is our second centre, Platres in the Troodos Mountains. It’s obviously cooler up here, and the town grew up as a retreat for rich Cypriots, and rich people from Cairo and Alexandria who wanted to escape the summer heat. They have their own version of the Tour du Mont Blanc on Cyprus – the tour of Mount Olympus…but we can easily do it in a day, contouring round at a height of about 1800m, and getting to the top at just below 2000m as well. Helen Nelson walked there last November and said the air was wonderfully dry and crisp, with fabulous views across the mountains. Other walks take us slowly down through open cedar and black pine woodland.
We stay and eat in the New Helvetia Hotel. It’s the sort of family run hotel, which we always try to find – it has been in the same family since it was built in traditional colonial style in 1929, and they give us a very friendly welcome. When they renovated it in 1995, they incorporated a living pine tree into the building, now growing through the middle of the bar. Both in the mountains and on the coast most of the walking is on well-made tracks and paths. It’s not really practical to use public transport, so we hire minibuses and small coaches where necessary. This means of course that we can take our time and enjoy the scenery and each other’s company.
We’ve called our holiday ‘In Search of Aphrodite’, as the Greek goddess of physical love, according to tradition, emerged from the sea in a clam shell south of Cyprus and made Cyprus her home. I hope from what I’ve said , you think she made a sensible choice – good food, good wine, sunshine for most of the year and beautiful scenery. We don’t know if Aphrodite enjoyed another great pleasure, walking on Cyprus, but you, of course, can!