The Anassa: Cyprian Family Chic
Situated on the doorstep of three continents, Cyprus’s very location guarantees its visitors exposure to an enchanting blend of history, culture and religion. It’s noted by holidaymakers for its friendliness and warm hospitality and unless you’re determined to spend every minute on the beach you’ll inevitably stumble across at least one of its other attractions. Archaeological treasures, Byzantine churches, remote monasteries, olive groves, rugged hills and dramatic coastlines all come in plentiful quantities. It’s also an island of strikingly varied terrain, where you can travel from cool pine-clad mountain paths at 2,000 metres to a stifling 40°C on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in under an hour, you can even ski here in winter. To be honest, I was quite disappointed by many of Cyprus’s hotels (many are a 1970s hangover of the first wave of ‘one size fits all’ tourism), that was, until I visited the family owned Thanos group of hotels, which include the famous Annabelle, the trendy Almyra and the impossible to ignore flagship property, the Anassa.
An Authentic Experience
Situated in grand isolation in the far north-west corner of the island, the Anassa has found an unspoiled spot next to the little fishing village of Polis – where the air is notably cooler and the sea is delectably warmer. Thankfully, the landscape remains unblemished by unsightly buildings, instead the rich soil is furrowed with vigorous olive groves and appetising orchards of sweet-smelling oranges and apricots. Its combination of traditional whitewashed villas and terracotta-tiled roofs has been carefully constructed to recreate a pretty Greek village. There’s even a peaceful Byzantine-style chapel and traditional village square surrounded by banks of lavender and bougainvillaea. It’s a welcome sight for sore eyes.
Bedrooms are cool, cream, airy and very restful. They possess that solid feeling of stillness normally associated with age-old, thick-walled villas. Some suites even have their own plunge pool or outdoor whirlpool. All have a private terrace facing the western sky from where the early morning scents of jasmine and citrus greet you, combined with eruptions of perfume from the ubiquitous banks of lemon-scented geraniums.
First thing in the morning, the sea looks like a giant mirror reflecting an occasional cloud, by midday small white horses appear and rippling waves wash over the beach’s myriad of multi-coloured pebbles. It’s not hard to believe that just around the corner the goddess of beauty, love and laughter is said to have emerged from a foaming sea. Older children can enjoy the sportive opportunities, including sailing, paragliding, scuba and water-skiing. The younger ones (4-11) can be nurtured in the Smiling Dolphins Kiddies Club, which offers a wide array of activities from biscuit making to beach games. And if you want some ‘me-time’, head for the Romanesque health spa for a mêlée of meditation, aerobics and yoga or a wide menu of Thalasa treatments.
Four exceptional restaurants are supplied with fresh ingredients from Anassa’s very own farm, while local fishermen from Latchi promise to provide the daily catch. A simple Greek salad of olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and chopped cabbage dressed in virgin olive oil may be all you feel like in the sweltering midday heat. Come dinner-time don’t just stick to the moussaka, try the delicious loukanika (coriander seasoned sausages) or the traditional koupepia (stuffed vine leaves). Dinner may be best enjoyed sitting under the twisted knotted branches of the ancient olive trees watching the Plough cross the sky from east to west. As your meal progresses from course to course, the stars gradually disappear behind the mountain.
The House of Dionysus
Only forty-five minutes away, lies the bustling hub of Paphos port, the island’s capital for over 800 years (from the fourth century BC to the fourth century AD), whose population has swelled from a modest 5,000 in the late 1960s to nearly 50,000 today, making it the fourth largest town in Cyprus. Its rapid growth was no fluke. In 1962 a farmer, discovered one of the island’s greatest treasures, the House of Dionysus – which includes 600 square metres of miraculously preserved Roman mosaics. They are simply too rare and too impressive to miss.
To find a taste of the real Cyprus, head inland towards the generous views provided from the summits of the Troodos range. The arid plains that hug the coastline rapidly fall away as you scale the untouched, pine-filled mountains that dominate the heart of the isle. Huge flocks of sheep are herded by Zorba-like fellows astride donkeys draped in colourful blankets. High up in the hills lies the sleepy village of Omodos with its exquisite beamed church and icon-crusted altar. In the cloister, black-stockinged widows sit in the shaded doorways exchanging gossip, industriously working on intricate lace rosettes sold for a pound, while distinguished looking Greek Orthodox priests stroll around the square nodding to visitors.
Most of the Troodos villages appear half derelict; full of tumbledown buildings with decrepit doors hanging on rusty hinges… but they aren’t forsaken. Many are still home to families that have lived there for generations. Further down the cobbled lanes at the village café you’ll spot the ‘old boys’ balanced on rickety wooden and straw chairs, playing serious card-games at tables reserved for the village patriarchs. It’s the same wonderful sight from village to village.
The are of Kourion has been inhabited since Neolithic times – in a spectacular position overlooking the sea – and hosts many impressive ruins. The fifth-century house of Eustolios still holds a beautiful inscription, “Enter to thy good fortune, and may thy coming bless this house.” Lying adjacent, the restored amphitheatre seats 2,500 people and is regularly used by performers who relish its perfect acoustics. Whatever you choose to do in Cyprus, make sure you leave the beach for a day or two to explore its wealth of beauty and history.
IDEAL AGE: 4–16
FYI: Interconnecting rooms available. Smiling Dolpins Kiddies Club for children aged four to eleven, open daily from 9.00 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. (April to October and during the Christmas holidays)
N.B: All around Cyprus you’ll find curious notices requesting you not to cross your legs – to cross your legs and arms at the same time is the sign of death and you may be asked to leave.