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With its superb climate and spectacular beaches, Cyprus has every reason to stake its claim as one of our best-loved Mediterranean holiday destinations but whilst the all-night partygoers head for foam parties and neon nightclubs in Ayia Napa, those who prefer to sit and dream take the time to know get to know the island's gentler side. Cyprus has everything to offer those looking for relaxing holidays, with enough deserted beaches and sleepy villages to have everyone winding down a notch or two.
Meanwhile, the island's natural landscapes of steep mountain peaks, limestone gorges, dusty trails and sand dunes lend themselves to every form of outdoor activity, from hiking and horseriding to cycling, abseiling and quad-biking.
Cyprus rises from the Aegean rather like the legendary Aphrodite once rose from the foamy seas that lapped its shores, just a few hundred miles south of Turkey and west of the coast of Syria. This is an island whose history spans over a turbulent 10,000 years, through a string of occupations by Greeks, Venetians, Romans and Ottomans, all of which left enduring impressions on the island's culture. More recent headlines recount the invasion by the Turks in 1974, since which the island has been shared by Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Although the situation is at worst mildly antagonistic, it seldom proves an issue for visitors, who are warmly welcomed by locals right across the island. In fact, at a time when holiday safety is hot on the agenda, there are probably fewer more secure destinations for families to visit.
On the island's west coast, the lively town of Paphos heralds the beginning of the 25km stretch of coastline that culminates at Cape Arnaoutis, the northern most tip of the Akamas peninsula. Basking in 300 days of annual sunshine and renowned for its natural, unspoilt feel, the north western coast of Cyprus is the perfect location for laid-back holidays. Mid-way along the coast between Paphos and the Akamas peninsula, two rocky headlands straddle a swathe of fine white sand, marking the resort of Coral Bay. Modern and cosmopolitan with a selection of fine hotels, this is a family-friendly location with plenty of amenities in the form of shops, bars, restaurants and supermarkets. Nothing happens in a hurry here, except perhaps the clamber towards the shore for the resort's lively watersports, which range from water skiing and jet-skiing, para-gliding to scuba diving. Several glass bottom boat trips depart from the small sand and pebble beach daily and treat visitors to a kaleidoscope of colour through crystal clear waters.
Just a few miles north of Coral Bay lies the charming resort of Agios Georgious, popularly known as St George. Built around a tiny picturesque fishing harbour, this is another low-key, family-friendly resort with the accent on relaxation, where life centres around a cluster of bars and restaurants that overlook the fringes of the Akamas peninsula. Mealtimes are the highlight of the day here, with cosy tavernas welcoming visitors as they serve up the fresh catch of the day and a range of local Cypriot dishes. High up on the clifftop, the open-air Viklara restaurant serves fresh, simple cuisine overlooking the bay with views across to the island of Yeronisos and is the perfect place to watch the sun go down. Now an up-and-coming resort, St George was once an undeveloped wasteland but its popularity as a base for exploring the surrounding areas has seen it transformed into one of the most prestigious residential areas on the island, where many ex-patriots have made their homes in exclusive apartments and villas.
Whatever your choice of accommodation in the Coral Bay and St George areas, whether it be a fashionable hotel or a private villa, your stay is likely to be a memorable one with the most natural and unspoilt region of Cyprus right on your doorstep. There may be a marked absence of all-night party venues here, but this never unsettled the mighty Goddess Aphrodite. In fact, the Akamas peninsula was her legendary playground, where she spent much of her time with her lover Adonis, bearing the ancestors of modern Cyprus. Today, times have moved on and this has become the playground of nature itself and the mere mortals lucky enough to experience it.
This is the natural habitat of around 126 rare indigenous plants, 168 bird species and over 30 different animals and reptiles, set in a wild landscape of juniper forests, deep ravines, sea cliffs and sand dunes. It's the perfect place to enjoy birdwatching and nature trails and at nearby Lara Bay, you might even spot the sea turtles as they crawl upon the sandy shores to lay their eggs. If on the other hand you are hot on the trail of the Greek Gods, you may find yourself following the Aphrodite-themed walking trail, which leads through pine-scented rocky pathways towards the emerald pools of the enchanting Baths of Aphrodite.