'I sing of beautiful Aphrodite of Cyprus and the sea,' so goes the seventh Century Homeric Hymn devoted to the Greek goddess of beauty and love, 'where the camp force of Zephyr breath carried her along on waves of the resounding sea and the soft foam.' Aphrodite, daughter of Cronos, famously emerged out of the sea near Paphos, an ancient harbour town on the South West coast of the island of Cyprus, and floated ashore on a giant gold scallop shell. Cypriots are rightly proud of their beautiful island's leading role in Greek mythology and the ruins, mosaics, monuments and rich archaeological heritage that date back 9000 years, in a Mediterranean paradise that is about half the size of Wales. Indeed, much of Cyprus is protected as a UNESCO world heritage site and a holiday here could not be further removed from the infamous stag party-style hedonism of Ayia Napa.
Juniour suite, complete with a private pool. Photo: Amathus Beach Hotel
I can't tell you how lovely it is to lie like a particularly relaxed sloth in blazing hot sunshine by the lagoon-style pool at the five star Amathus Beach Hotel - right on the seafront it's a fifteen minute drive from Paphos airport and five minute drive from the harbour - gaze out to that thin navy blue line where the sky meets the sea and the horizon shimmers, and think about the antics of the Greek Gods whilst wondering just how many delicious traditional Cypriot meze dishes you can manage to squeeze in for lunch.
The Amathus Beach, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, is all about relaxation, fine dining and fabulous service and is a wonderful place to come for a few days fun in the sun, especially now the clocks have gone back and winter proper sets in. Locals told me they often BBQ throughout December as well as eat their Christmas lunch sitting outside and that fine, sun-bathing weather is pretty much guaranteed the whole way through November. January and February can see some rain and at an average 18 degrees it's slightly cooler but the deals are so good I can't think of a better place to chill out after the madness of Christmas. March should be warm and April is when the blazing sunshine makes its return. Since the flight is a manageable four hours and the time difference only two hours it's an easy escape to make and, judging by the wide grins of all those strolling and lolling about the minimalistic spaces with their sleek, comfortable sofas and squashy armchairs, everyone here is thrilled they made it. There were tonnes of returners enjoying the laid-back, convivial atmosphere including one couple I spoke to at the swim-up bar who couldn't wait to tell me that this was their fourteenth visit in eleven years.
A treatment room in the spa. Photo: Amathus Beach Hotel
'The thing is,' said Brian, a doctor from Buckinghamshire who has the biggest smile of all and let me tell you, that is saying something with this crowd, 'this is a brilliant place for me and Mary to come. I can play golf and tennis and Mary can laze by the pool or on the beach and have a few pampering spa treatments. The food is just wonderful, the weather's fantastic and there's loads to do. What's not to like?'
Brian is not wrong. And I can't say I'm surprised to hear that Mary liked the spa so much since I very much enjoyed it myself. The new spa and wellness centre opened in April this year and uses gorgeous Pevonia Botanica and Carita products alongside a huge range of treatments from reflexology and reiki to Thai, Shiatsu, hot stone and Swedish massages. There are Asian suites for Thai treatments, a couple's suite, a hydrobath suite, a sauna and hammam plus a dedicated mani and pedi room. The place is beautifully designed, featuring stunning glass painted ceilings from a local artist, slate everywhere you look, waterfall features and a lovely relaxation area with such an engaging aquarium it's all too easy to find yourself slipping into a meditative trance.
Cyprus is not the best place to come if you're on a diet - especially to the Amathus, where there are six wonderful restaurants. Asiachi serves pan-Asian cuisine, including one of the best crispy ducks I've ever tasted; Byzantium serves a varied breakfast buffet - the omelettes are excellent - and all-day dining overlooking the Med; Luna Rosa serves local and international cuisine in a glamorous setting whilst La Rottisserie on the upper level, divided by glass and crystal curtains, is more formal. La Terrazza offers buffet-style Italian cuisine including carpaccio and cheese stations, whilst the poolside, informal Orangery is the place for a snack in your bikini.
The spa. Photo: Amathus Beach Hotel
For those whose holiday is incomplete without a few Mojitos the hip Nubar is positioned just off the lobby and enclosed by striking blue glass walls. If you want to get out and about then Jianni's Taverna, a ten minute taxi ride away, serves the best mezze I've ever had. Plates of taramasalata, tahini, tzatziki and breads are followed by grilled meat skewers, moussaka, meatballs, vegetables and Greek salads. I can't remember the last time I was so stuffed and you've got to remember to take things slowly or you'll run out of steam after the first couple of courses. The Sternas Winery is another local must visit - the owner Savvas is a brilliant raconteur and bon viveur whose family has been making delicious local wines for hundreds of years.
All of the 273 rooms and suites at the Amathus are spacious and comfortable with outside space in the form of a balcony or veranda but the recently renovated junior suites are undoubtedly the cream of this crop. Located on the ground floor all of these sleek, stylish boltholes have private pools and sun terraces if you fancy locking yourself away for the day. For supreme relaxation and easily accessible winter sun alongside fabulous food and a rich cultural heritage then Cyprus is hard to beat. If you're concerned about SAD setting in then I suggest you get yourself to this gorgeous monastic style hotel right on the seafront at Paphos ASAP.
Classic Collection Holidays (0800 294 9318) offers seven nights at Amathus Beach Hotel Paphos from £606 per person in January and February. Price is based on two adults sharing a twin/double inland view room on a B&B basis and includes private transfers and return flights from London Gatwick (other UK departure airports available) to Paphos or Larnaca airports. Treatments at the Spa and Wellness Centre start from 55 euros (approx £49) For more information visit Amathus Hotels.
By: Sara Lawrence