Travel is such a wonderful part of life and I’m so lucky that I get the opportunity to visit so many fascinating places, the most recent being Cyprus. There’s so much to do and see on the island, more than I had even realised. You can visit ancient ruins, go kayaking, do yoga, go horse riding and mountain climbing.
So as Storm Ali battered Ireland, I stepped off the plane to 32 degree heat in Cyprus. Though it had seemed that I may not make my flight the day before, it appeared that luck was on my side and I braved myself for a few days of sun, made all the better by the health and wellness activities we had planned – not to mention that oh so wonderful Mediterranean diet.
I need to live in a place like this I’ve decided. The Mediterranean is just where I belong, I love the culture the weather the food and the people (including our fabulous guide Mary Patroklou). Anyone want to move with me?
I’m not going to lie. There was a time in my life where I was too afraid to get up on a horse – I blame a terrible experience sitting on one without any instruction and then feeling as though I may fall off and die. Dramatic I know, but there you have it. Despite this, I’ve always had a fascination with horses and will always stop by a field where they’re grazing just to get somewhat close to them. Their intelligence and deep, thoughtful eyes have always captivated me.
Managing to get over fears at George’s Ranch, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Toffee (my young, cheeky and playful 7-year-old Cypriot horse). I realised that I’m a horse talker and asked guide Michelle if I should considering checking into the mad house. She said no (thankfully) and instead told me all about horses and how they’re excellent listeners and feed off your mood.
I tried not to get too giddy though as I was a little weary of Toffee’s tendency to feed off my energy and didn’t want him to gallop off into the sunset, as romantic as that sounds. It was also quite fitting that I got the snacker of the group. Overall, the sunset trot was so relaxing and it was the perfect way to kick off my time in Cyprus.
Now I’m no yogi (give me time after this) but you simply cannot deny the relaxation and mental health benefits from a class in the mountains. Like many, I carry a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders and often struggle to relax. So to actually come away from the class feeling light and airy and as if I could float away into the air was pretty amazing.
Our bus manoeuvred the little roads with great dexterity, though I will admit to feeling nauseous with the twists, turns and bumps. After braving the mountain roads beyond the village of Simou, we reached the most peaceful spot.
Greeted by yoga teacher Kate and Pawal, owner of Yurts in Cyprus, we experienced a wonderful outdoor yoga class and the only sounds for miles were from nature. Afterwards, we had some fresh fruit and tea and embraced our blissful state.
As we travelled up through Mount Olympus, I was awestruck by the incredible views from the path. From one of the highest points on the island, you can see the Turkish mountains, and on a clear day, Turkey is even visible.
Walking the Kaleidonian Nature Trail, we started off 2000 metres high in the mountains and hiked 500 metres down through the trail.
It was so much fun and so peaceful as there were a number of viewpoints with a burst of sunlight shining through the trees. The only unfortunate occurance happened when we made it back to flat ground.
After carefully avoiding any injuries while hopping over rocks and winding through the woods, I fell smack on the ground as soon as the hard part was over. Thankfully, the sea water from my kayaking later that day cured me right up.
Kayaking is not something I have ever done before. In fact, I’m not the biggest outdoor girl. But I really loved my time kayaking in Lemesos with Sea Kayak Cyprus.
We headed out at 5.30pm with our guides Lazarus and Demetris, just as the sun was beginning to make its descent. I even managed to have a bit of a swim in the ocean, which was just so relaxing.
As we were making our way back over the waves (which actually gets more thrilling the bigger the wave), the sun was setting and it was wonderful to watch it slip away behind the mountains from my vantage point at sea.
So much more than an arm workout, Kayaking is such good fun (though not sure I’d be up for it in the much colder Irish water).
Spa and Wellness
Assuming a massage was in order, I was pleasantly surprised when the cure for my days of activity (including my fall) resuted in a complete full body exfoliation scrub.
My masseuse Natasa created the perfect atmosphere and was a true pro. It was a great chance to experience the relaxing surrounds of the spa at Pioneer Beach Hotel and the perfect way to end my time in Cyprus.
It was incredible to get a feel for the history of Cyprus while wandering through Paphos Mosaics. With these historic ruins looking out onto the sea, it’s not very difficult to imagine what they would have looked like in the past.
With the fantastically preserved mosaic floors located inside the remnants of elaborate Roman villas, you’d be forgiven for feeling like you were in ancient times and not in modern day Cyprus.
The Byzantine Church of Archangelos Michael
This small UNESCO church is dedicated to the angel Michael. Decorated in elaborate paintings that illustrated the stories for the people, the majority of whom were illiterate, this Byzantine church can be dated back to 1474.
Interestingly, this church is one of ten UNESCO churches in Cyprus alone and the paintings were created on plaster using egg yolk and vinegar. It was amazing to see how well preserved it was.
Kourion Ancient Theatre
En route to Lemessol and our kayaking adventure, we made a stop at the Kourion Ancient Theatre. As an avid fan of the arts and culture, this was definitely somewhere I had wanted to visit.
While I was sad to see that it had needed to be reconstructed so much, it was great that this historic place had found a home and use in the modern age and it is used for many concerts and events these days.
Cap St. George
After indulging in some pre-dinner cocktails while watching the incredible sunset over the sea, we sat down to our first of many culinary experiences in Cyprus.
From the moment the first course began at Cap St. George, I knew I was in for a treat and after a number of courses, we had no idea when the fresh dishes would stop coming.
However, despite feelings of fullness, we were instructed by our gracious hosts that we shouldn’t bring our knife and fork together because “here in Cyprus, there’s always more food coming”.
Dishes devoured here included seafood salad, octopus, prawns, salmon, lamb, halloumi and calamari, described by our local hosts as “the most delicious seafood”. After helping myself to a more than generous portion, I would find it very hard to argue.
Our time at Paradisos Hills was a great and unique experience. We were treated to a cooking class by the chef/owner of the resort. She was so passionate for her dishes and so full of personality that we felt like we were just getting a peak into her kitchen at home.
She showed us how to make vegetarian Moussaka and also some unspeakably delicious halloumi bread. Topping it all off with some stuffed vegetables, lamb, Greek salad and a nice strong shot of Cyprus coffee.
The mountainous village of Omodos was one of the highlights of the trip. The narrow streets and historic buildings were just beautiful and the pops of colour really brought the village to life.
While in Omodus village, we also sampled some Cypriot wine. Passing a 300-year old wine press, we tried a white, red and rose wine from the local winery, which has been producing wine since 1987.
We also couldn’t pass up an opportunity to try the famous Comanderie sweet wine, a drink King Richard the Lionheart dubbed the “wine of kings”.
Lunch took place at To Katoi restaurant and was a fabulous and fresh burst of flavour. Of course, halloumi was involved amongst a wide array of dishes like Moussaka, breaded courgette, aubergine salad and a glass of local wine.
Leptos Coral Beach Hotel
This 5-star hotel is located in Paphos. We had a short but sweet stay here. With spa facilities and numerous restaurants, this is definitely one place I would want to return for a longer stay in the future.
Aristotelio Boutique Hotel
This boutique hotel is nestled in the mountainous village of Pedulas. With just 8 rooms and 3 staff members, this family hotel is a charming local spot with service that just can’t be beaten.
While here, we dined on a number of Cypriot dishes (paired with local Cypriot wines of course) like Cypriot slovaki, a divine halloumi dish with cinnamon and orange – it felt like a dessert. We also had the most sinful salad, which consisted of figs, orange and lightly battered halloumi balls.
Pioneer Beach Hotel
Our final night in Cyprus was spent in blissful luxury. Located right on the beach and with a charming chapel a short 2 minutes away, the Constantinou Bros Pioneer Beach hotel was a brilliant experience. Staying in a spacious suite with the bathroom of dreams, our dinner was a treat from the sea, with scallops and spiced prawns all on the menu.
The next morning, after a fruity breakfast of Dragon Fruit and Guava, a peaceful walk along the beach and a spa treatment ensured I was well rested before my flight home.
You can fly from Dublin to Paphos with Ryanair and Easy Jet (connection in London). Once you’ve landed, the best way to get around the island is by car.
For more information and Cyprus and everything this sensational island offers, explore visitcyprus.com.
Sarah has always had a great love of travel, food and photography. Following her journalism degree at DCU, she developed a passion for travel writing while living in Spain.
Named Best Break Out Travel Writer at the 2018 Travel Media Awards, Sarah loves exploring new places and sampling the local cuisine. Working with TheTaste.ie combines her love of food and travel.
A big people person, especially when it comes to hearing other people’s stories, Sarah loves interviewing chefs, food producers and more.