Cyprus is not only one of the most populated islands in the Mediterranean, but it is also the most Eastern of them all. Situated off the coasts of Syria and Turkey, it is a veritable melting pot of cultures.
On the one hand, there is evident proximity to the 'Old Continent' marked by the heritage of British presence; on the other, there is also an indelible link to the Middle East and Africa. With a complex but spirited identity Cyprus is known, above all, for its golden beaches and crystal clear bays.
Known as the Island of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, this archetypal figure of Greek mythology is said to have been born here. And if she had the choice, it is easy to see why. The guarantor of the great weather in Cyprus is its geographical location. At high pressure over Siberia and the Sahara, a low-pressure channel is created over the Mediterranean Sea, absorbing moist air from the Atlantic.
During the winter months, this translates into rain from Mallorca to Mykonos. Meanwhile in Cyprus, dry winds blow from the North African desert, maintaining near-perfect temperatures all year round. No wonder the private beach at the swanky Annabelle Hotel in Paphos is regularly packed with visitors. The oldest member of the Thanos hotel group, along with its sister hotel the Almyra next door, make up the epicentre of the five-star coastal promenade of Paphos.
When the town was first developed for tourism, the authorities were cautious concerning planning permissions, rendering it a slightly more upmarket atmosphere than other Cypriot towns with palm tree-lined boulevards, quaint tavernas, stunning archaeological gems abound, Byzantine monasteries, museums and, of course, delightful beaches.
Some of the island's vibrant cultural heritage is easily reachable by foot - just five minutes walk from the lively main boardwalk are the ruins of its ancient city, Nea Paphos, with plenty of archaeological highlights, including stunning frescoed tombs from the early Hellenistic period.
Just north of Paphos, spotless sandy beaches dot the coastline further inland where low forest-covered mountains are overgrown with Cyprus tulips, crocuses and pink thistles, orchids, and yet more frescoed Byzantine monasteries to be explored around quaint towns and villages. As so often on islands, the inland regions seem more authentic and grounded than the upbeat playfulness of their coastline counterparts. However just a stone’s throw away from the coastal village of Neo Chorio, a tranquil spot provides the perfect backdrop for the Thanos Group’s pièce de resistance: the lavish Anassa hotel, one of the true grande-dames of the Med.
The imposing, traditional Greek Cypriot-style buildings inspired by the guise of local villages with its own Byzantine chapel make up the blueprint of this legendary resort. The 8.5-acre property on Chrysochou Bay, with its terracotta-tiled roofs, whitewashed walls, and mauve shutters unfurls down to pools and rolling greens that in turn fall headlong onto the beach. Outside, the air smells of wild herbs. Juniper, pine, olive and eucalyptus trees cover the expansive gardens. The Anassa’s cosmopolitan clientele includes celebrities, music stars and well-heeled families with limitless credit cards in pursuit of absolute repose in the ultimate Mediterranean retreat, polished, yet far from flashy.
The low-rise rooms and suites have been transformed into understatedly elegant spaces presented in soothing neutral shades. Natural materials have been used throughout including local stone, marble, shabby-chic wood and crisp white textiles. Most have floor-to-ceiling windows and doors that lead to balconies or private sun terraces looking over the sea or the outstanding natural beauty of the Akamas.
A favourite day-tripper spot is the Blue Lagoon. Surrounded by rocks, it features crystal clear waters in mesmerising shades of blue. To avoid mass tourists who flock to this beautiful spot, be sure to sail out early, later moving on further up north, to the tip of the Akamas cape, where small beaches provide a perfect refuge for a mid-day picnic carefully prepared by the Anassa’s sophistic chefs, bien entendu. Of course, no trip to this part of Cyprus would be complete without a visit to the Baths of Aphrodite, a small grotto of great mythological importance. By the coast, Aphrodite's Rock is more easily accessible, and on full moon nights, dozens of young couples swim around the stone colossus as the legend goes that whoever surrounds the rock three times, will be rewarded with eternal love.
Back at the Anassa, it is pampering time, and the titanic spa is a notable set-up, catering to those in search of all-encompassing five-day programmes (anti-ageing, recovery or fitness, for example), or those just looking to relax, work out at the well-equipped gym or luxuriate in one of the many pools and saunas.
Seriously relaxed and suitably groomed, late afternoons beckon for a sundowner at the main terrace bar. This is where guests hobnob to watch the sun bid farewell to yet another perfect day against a most spectacular Mediterranean backdrop. The cashew nuts come slightly toasted and perfectly seasoned, the mojitos are adorned with rose petals, and the turquoise blue of the water glistens at a distance on the shore down below.
It seems that in Cyprus, particularly at Anassa, your senses are somehow turned up to full volume: colours are brighter, sounds more lively, while the sun caresses your body and the essence of the island warms your spirit. Habitués come for golf, because of the beaches, the almost perennial good weather - and some, of course, because of Aphrodite.
Images courtesy of Thanos Hotels