It’s easy to see why legends and myths have bestowed Cyprus with the honour of being Aphrodite’s birthplace – the Mediterranean island is easy to fall in love with; it has something for everyone, whether you’re seeking the spark and zing of an adrenaline rush or the gentle embrace of a pampering spa getaway.
I want to... explore
The southern half of Cyprus, with its glorious golden beaches, is where all the action is at and to squeeze in as much as you can into a four-day Eid break, Larnaca is your best starting point. The ancient port town is a pleasing assortment of ancient ruins and an urban costal promenade lined by palm trees and cozy cafes, such as Finikoudes. Cyprus is first and foremost about beaches and Mackenzie beach, strewn with sunbeds and flat stretches of golden sands epitomises that ‘fly and flop’ holiday culture, and various operators offering the run-off-the mill watersports like windsurfing and jet skiing. For a cool vacation tale to tell, go scuba diving around the MS Zenobia shipwreck, a ferry that capsized off the coast of Larnaca in 1980 and is one of the world’s top 10 dive sites. The beach is dotted with PADI-certified dive shops that train beginners.
Further inland the 6,000-year-old past creeps up on Larnaca – all the must-see relics and Byzantine marvels are pooled in its central Old Town. The medieval Larnaca Castle, Saint Lazarus’ Church, 8th century Catacomb of Phaneromeni Church and the Kamares Aqueduct can all be covered in a single day’s walking tour.
Stay at the Lokal Hotel, a heritage listed family home in the Old Town that has been converted into a stylish 17-room boutique hotel. Standard double rooms start from Dh800. Visit lokalcyprus.com.
I want to... unwind
A dip in Aphrodite’s Baths in the northern city of Latchi might be tough to squeeze into over the Eid break.
You’ll have to skip the pools of eternal youth this time but the city of Pahpos, an hour’s drive away from Larnaca and the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite, makes up for it with its luxurious spa resorts focused on wellbeing – pick from an array of thalassotherapy, spring water treatments or Greco-Roman massages all designed to leave you feeling as beautiful and pampered as a goddess. The best tactic to explore Paphos is to set up shop at a resort of your choice and once you’ve rebooted, fan out and explore this Unesco World Heritage listed city’s most breath-taking sight – Aphrodite’s Rock, the foamy spot in the churning milky sea where Aphrodite is said to have risen. The rocky beach, while spectacular, is closed to swimmers because of how rough it is. Further off, by the harbour, the beaches are calmer and rife with opportunities to enjoy lazy catamaran rides, bobbing across crystal waters that mirror the cloudless blue skies Cyprus is known for at this time of year. Phaphos Cruises organises half and full-day trips including refreshments (paphosseacruises.com).
The magic of history, art and architecture all come together at the Paphos Archaeological Park that’s just by the harbour, the magnum opuses here are elaborate mosaic floors of four Roman villas – the House of Dionysus, the House of Orpheus, the House of Aion and the House of Theseus. For a blissful spa-break stay at the Alymra Hotel. The seafront resort with its serene whitewashed villas offers special spa packages and day trips to nearby mountain villages in the Troodos Mountains or guided tours of Paphos. Inland view rooms start from Dh814 per night including breakfast. Visit almyra.com.
Being super-popular, flights to this destination are often busy. Emirates flies direct daily, or try a stopover via Royal Jordanian (Amman) or Middle East Airlines (Beirut).