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Kissonegra Cyprus

Kissonerga lies in the Ktima lowlands, an area largely given over to extensive banana plantations which although no longer thriving as they did in the past, still coat the hillsides with their lush greenery. Venture slightly inland from Kissonerga and you reach the neighbouring hilltop village of Tala, timelessly immersed in the story of Saint Neofytos and famed for the unique Tala holy tree, the only tree of its kind in the whole of the Mediterranean. Rumour has it that St Neofytos brought their seeds to Cyprus on his return from the holy land, where he had fled in pursuit of a life of religious devotion and self-discipline. Tala is overlooked by the monastery founded by St Neofytos, where visitors can reflect and relax in the succulent gardens that occupy its central courtyard. The monastery's museum holds some rare Byzantine relics that lend a fascinating insight into the ancient history of the island and include many significant religious manuscripts. Close by, the cave where Saint Neofytos took refuge contains well preserved ornate paintings of biblical scenes, many of which were painted by himself.

With rugged mountain backdrops, a show-stopping coastline and fascinating myths and legends that have shaped a unique culture, the third largest island in the Mediterranean has a lot to answer for. Cyprus is a pleasure seeker's heaven, an island basking in warm year round sunshine and lapped by the gentle waters of the Aegean. The most strenuous activity of the day here tends to be pulling up a chair to tackle a sizzling banquet of freshly prepared local dishes, washed down with a chilled glass of ouzo.

Cyprus is the most eastern of all the Mediterranean islands, lying just south of the Turkish coast and west of Syria and the Lebanon and as such enjoys an eclectic Middle Eastern flavour that shines through particularly in its culture and in its cuisine. In spite of the invasion of the island by the Turks in 1974, Greek and Turkish Cypriots have lived side by side in harmony here since the declaration of the independent Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and influences from two distinct cultures have only served to create a fascinating holiday destination with friendly, hospitable locals both north and south of the border. Roam off the beaten track here and you are likely to find old men in rustic villages bent over a friendly game of Backgammon and women gathering close by on cobbled streets, hard at their traditional lace making activities. In some areas of the rural interior, lifestyles have barely changed for hundreds of years.

Along the island's 400 mile long shoreline on the other hand, life is a touch more cosmopolitan and visitors can melt into local life and savour an atmosphere conducive to relaxation. Nestling on the south-west coast around five miles from Paphos, Kissonerga is a sleepy resort that lives up to all these expectations. Well situated close to all of the sandy beaches that grace this corner of Cyprus, the village itself centres around a main street with several basic shops and supermarkets as well as a few interesting souvenir and craft shops. The village's colourful tavernas and restaurants serve up local dishes such as cinnamon baked lamb kleftiko, fresh red mullet and grilled halloumi cheese, as well as plenty of tempting mezze dishes. As evening falls here, the atmosphere in the local restaurants livens up but nightlife in general is a low key affair in Kissonerga, with entertainment mainly centred on the resort's international hotels.

Cyprus is an island steeped in history and coloured by myths and legends and just north of Kissonerga a small settlement dating back to the ancient Chalcolithic culture gives a glimpse into the history of the Paphos region, dating back to the days when the locals lived in mud houses and relied entirely on hunting and fishing. Artefacts retrieved at this fascinating site suggest that a Goddess of Fertility was once worshipped here, to protect expectant mothers facing the hazards of childbirth.

There comes a time when even the most avid sunseekers feel the urge to stretch the legs and when that moment arrives, Kissonerga has plenty on offer to keep everyone active. Horse riding is available in the village and the surrounding area is a haven for golf fanatics, with the Tsada and Secret Valley golf courses located nearby. For those who enjoy water sports, the pristine waters at Coral Bay offer opportunities for jetskiing, paragliding and scuba diving. The waterpark and Snake George's Reptile Park in Paphos are popular choices for a fun packed day out for families and you may want to head into the town for a spot of souvenir hunting, or to visit its abundant cultural attractions. Many visitors to Kissonerga opt to hire a car and venture off up the winding roads that lead into the Troodos Mountains to discover spectacular mountain views and visit some of the charming inland villages that remain untouched by tourism even today.