YOU would think a native would know more about his country than a first-time visitor, but George sold Cyprus short when he said it was “all about the beaches”.
We were at the end of our trip to the Mediterranean island when we met the affable water-sports shop owner on a sandy stretch in Limassol.
The previous four days had been spent in a wine-filled haze exploring vineyards and historic sites, with spa treatments, kayaking and a 4×4 safari expedition thrown in for good measure. So much more than just beaches.
Activities are open year-round, come rain or shine, though you’ll find far more of the latter in Cyprus as the mercury edges over 23C even in November. And the 5H Elysium hotel, our base for the first two days, is in demand no matter the season.
Delicious dry white
The resort, in the historic heart of Paphos, has its own luxury spa, gym, landscaped gardens, impressive multi-level pools, swim-up bar and five restaurants. The striking Byzantine-style architecture with mosaic and marble interiors, arches and colonn-aded reception area will transport you back in time.
Our large deluxe room was equally impressive, with cream walls and bedding, timber furniture, Molton Brown toiletries and a sea-view terracotta terrace.
The hotel is adjacent to the Unesco-protected Tomb Of The Kings and has direct access to the underground cemetery where high-ranking officials and aristocracy were buried as far back as 300BC.
You can spend a few hours clambering over the necro-polis, before heading back to the hotel for a lazy afternoon of swimming or spa treat-ments. In winter, you can laze at the hotel’s heated indoor pool and Jacuzzi.
On our first night, after sampling the pool bar’s boozy Caffeine Fix, we ate at Elysium’s Ristorante Bacco. Its Tuscany-inspired dishes include burrata, lobster ravioli, and an amaretto tiramisu pudding prepared at your table. For the half-board buffet, the Epicurean restaurant provides endless counters of dishes, from a different international cuisine each evening.
In the morning we rented bikes from the hotel, charged at ten euros a day, and cycled the scenic coastal boardwalk to Paphos Castle and the harbour. It is an easy route that can be walked in 30 minutes and passes the must-see Archaeological Park. At the end of the trail are a large portion of the city’s restaurants and bars.
The island has one of the world’s oldest wines still in production and Cyprus has seven wine routes, most snaking into the Troodos Mountains, and the Elysium’s guest relations can organise a bespoke tour to explore them.
Chris, our English-speaking guide and driver, took us on the Vouni Panagias Ambelitis route to the family-run Tsangarides winery in Lemona village, where owner Angelos showed us around. We sampled six wines before my friend Jenni snapped up a bottle of the delicious dry white Xinistery as we left.
Dip in the ocean
Next up was the enchanting Chrysoroyiatissa monastery, founded in the 12th century but twice restored due to fires. It has been producing its own wine since the Eighties and you can walk around the old cellar and its church before admiring the country-side from the terrace.
On our way to the Vasilikon winery in Kathikas, we passed through the Paphos forest and Kannaviou Reservoir, both of which are perfect for treks, picnicking and mountain- biking. We also made a pit stop in Choulou, one of many cobbled limestone villages that show the Cyprus of bygone days. Tired from our off-road jaunt, we dined in the hotel’s pan-Asian O’Shin restaurant. We dug in to dishes including sushi, miso roasted black cod and beef tenderloin, washed down with Paphos wine.
Eager to see more of Cyprus, we drove 40 minutes east to the Mediterranean Beach — Elysium’s sister hotel in Limassol. While the interior lacks the wow factor of its palatial sibling, the sea-view rooms, spa, private beach and friendly staff are a big draw.
After an afternoon sun-bathing and a buffet dinner in the hotel’s Celeste restaurant, we headed to the new marina, its cafes and bars attracting the city’s in-crowd. If people-watching is not your thing, go to the Old Town where you can pick up traditional souvenirs and visit the 12th- century Limassol Castle.
The Mediterranean Beach is also a good base for the Troodos Mountains, which you can explore on foot or electric scooter. It is home to Mount Olympus, the island’s highest point, plus wineries, waterfalls, monasteries and nature trails. And in winter, there is enough snow for skiing.
Next door to our hotel is Vouppa Beach, where we encountered George and his watersports shop. He offers kayaking, banana boats, fly-boarding and jet skis for a reasonable price.
While he is right that Cyprus has beaches, by George, there is so much more to this island — even in winter.
COVID: Fully vaccinated visitors, and under-12s, need not take tests to enter. Over-12s, or those not fully vaccinated, must show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure then take a test on arrival.
GETTING THERE: Fly to Paphos with easyJet from Gatwick, Luton, Manchester and Bristol, from £22.99pp one way. easyjet.com.
STAYING THERE: Rooms at the 5H Elysium in Paphos are from £120 per night, including breakfast. See elysium-hotel.com/en. Rooms at the 4H Mediterranean Beach in Limassol from £80per night, with breakfast. See medbeach.com.