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If you are looking for laid-back holidays, bear in mind that it's not just the all-night party resorts that draw over two million visitors to the shores of Cyprus each year. The more gentle side of Cyprus lies in its deserted coves, its unspoilt mountain landscapes and its medieval villages, where the skies are cloud-free for an average 300 days a year. This is an island of legendary history and culture that embraces the times of Cleopatra and Alexander the Great and romances to the tales of the ancient Greek Gods. Its past has resulted in landscapes peppered with reminders of an ancient world, with traditional stone amphitheatres sitting beside richly decorated Byzantine Churches. Holidays in Cyprus are about exploring this diverse landscape, which also lends itself to every form of outdoor activity, including hiking, horse riding and cycling the many trails that wind through magnificent forest parks.
On the island's rugged west coast, twenty minutes drive from the airport at Paphos, stretches a sweeping crescent moon of fine white sand known as Coral Bay. This modern but tranquil resort nestles amongst lush banana plantations and citrus groves and caters for visitors with a cluster of fine hotels, shops, bars, restaurants, banks and supermarkets. Coral Bay Beach is often quoted as the most beautiful on the island, so it's no surprise that this is an increasingly popular destination for families and romantic couples alike. The shallow waters of the blue flag beach are perfect for children, but for the adventurous, every form of water sport is available close by, including diving, waterskiing and windsurfing. Although nightlife in Coral Bay is a laid-back affair, mixing hotel entertainment with gatherings in local tavernas and a selection of cocktail bars and small music venues, the bright lights of Paphos are just a short taxi ride away. Western Cyprus is one of the most beautiful regions on the island and Coral Bay enjoys the advantage of being well-placed for experiencing everything on offer.
When it's time to go exploring from Coral Bay, a steep climb from the road out of nearby Leptos Kammas brings you to the Adonis Baths, favourite haunt of Greek Gods Adonis and Aphrodite, who, legend has it, bore many of their children here. This is a truly idyllic spot sheltered from the heat by the surrounding trees, where waterfalls plunge from towering cliffs into deep emerald waters which are perfect for a refreshing dip, with rocky boulders that make excellent diving platforms. What's more, bathing here reputedly bestows youth and beauty on women and makes men strong and virile, all homage paid to Adonis and Aphrodite themselves, whose statue stands at the entrance.
Just a little further up the coast at Cape Lara lies another of the area's top beauty spots, with huge swathes of deserted sand dunes attracting the adventurous as well as those looking for their own private beach hideaway. This is also a haven for wildlife and a protected area for green and hawksbill turtles, who come ashore to lay their eggs, whilst monk seals huddle close by in the sea caves.
Coral Bay is encircled by the ancient Pegeia Forest and further north lies the Akamas peninsula, an area of extraordinary biodiversity and natural beauty that reaches out into the Aegean at Cyprus's most Westerly point. The best way to uncover its hidden gems is by hiring a car and exploring at your own pace, a four wheel drive vehicle being ideal to tackle some of the remote dirt tracks that wind their way through the peninsula's 230 square kilometres of wilderness. The variety of flora and fauna to be found here is always of great interest to nature enthusiasts and includes almost two hundred different varieties of birds and butterflies and up to a dozen different mammals. The area's rocky peaks and deep gorges are blanketed with fragrant pine and juniper forests and dotted with rare endemic plants and flowers.
In spite of its appeal as a region untouched by mass tourism, this area is no less popular as a place to enjoy a real community feel amongst friendly locals, ex-pats and visitors passing through. Just a short drive inland from Coral Bay brings you to settlements such as Pano Arodes, a typical Greek Cypriot hill village dating from the Mycenaean era. Life here centres around the little Church and its patio area where each year in August, villagers welcome visitors to the annual festival to celebrate with traditional dancing and music. Close to the village sees the beginning of the majestic Avakas gorge, which heralds two kilometres of bizarre and mysterious rock formations which are well worth a look if you are prepared for a little scrambling. Just a short drive directly south from here brings in the town of Paphos itself, with its shops and shady terraces and a more lively selection of restaurants in which to indulge in a glass or two of local wine and a hearty Cypriot lunch.