Aphrodite's Hot Spot
European Road Trip Adventures
Cyprus. Yes, it is a hee-uge (note: very large) holiday destination. Ask any slightly pale English teen, and they'll wax lyrical about the bars, clubs and beaches.
And bars, clubs and beaches there are. Much the same as you'll find in Ibiza, Thailand, and Cancun. And that's fine, if all you're after is bubbly happiness in a cocktail glass and nice tan (and the beginnings of a sexy and malignant melanoma).
But this tends to mean you'll be overlooking the fact that the island itself has one of the most fascinating histories around. Almost every empire on the face of this earth invaded here. The Ottomans, the Lusignans, the Byzantines, the Venetians. Even the Arabs conducted a few casual raids, possibly just to keep up appearances. All left their mark on the culture and history of this remarkable island. Add to this potent mix a healthy foundation of Ancient Greek and Roman influences in an island washed by inky blue waves and warmed by a Mediterranean sun, and you've got a holiday worth a thousand brandy sours and ouzos.
Paphos, more than just a nightclub
One of the cities of Cyprus, which provides an excellent base to immerse you in the history and culture, is Paphos, situated on the West Coast.If you just want to have a roam around Paphos itself, you've got loads of history to wander about in.
But the whole countryside nearby is one precious find after another. If you're not keen on donkey-power, perhaps a cheap car rental might be the way to go. Internet sites like http://www.vroomvroomvroom.co.uk/locations/cyprus-car-rental.aspx (car hire Cyprus) can sort you out a deal on car rental Paphos ? where you can compare rates from different companies to make sure you get the cheapest.
Paphos has loads of ancient sites which are protected as UNESCO world heritage sites, and according to Greek mythology, Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, was born here, arising from the sea foam. Places to visit include the Paphos and Saranta Kolones castles in Kato Paphos ? the lower part of town. Also on this side of town you should meander over to the Panayia Chrysopolitissa church built on the ruins of a Byzantine Basilica. Have a look for St Paul's Pillar, where apparently the unfortunate saint was flogged by authorities (the Romans) before they were convinced to turn Christian. Paphos's medieval fort in the harbour is also worth a visit.
Grapes, Gods and that loving feeling
Once you get outside of Paphos, you can go in any direction and hit cultural gold. Head on up into the Western Troodos Mountains to peek at little villages quietly going about business as usual, circa the 15th century (alright, a complete exaggeration, but it's easy to be carried away by the romance around here). To the north is a little village by the name of Kathikas ? it's a great destination if you like to indulge amongst the vineyards. To the east of Kathikas is an even tinier wine-growing village ? Arodes ? with a population numbering in the tens. Nearby gorges provide dramatic scenery should you wish for inspiration or a Kodak moment.
Close by Arodes is the Akamas Peninsula, where you'll find the most romantic sounding spot in the entire universe ? the Baths of Aphrodite. And worthy of such a name it is, being bloody beautiful. And if, after your own holy soak, you make your little legs walk a couple of kilometres, you'll find yourself at the Fontana Amorosa or "the Fountains of Luuurve". Tis a sexy spot indeed.
Closer to home, or Paphos, you've got the brilliant Ayios Neophytos Monastery ? carved out of the mountain by a hermit. Bless those hermits, they really do have a lot of spare time. The monastery houses some of the best Byzantine frescoes around.
And just because Aphrodite was a popular girl around here, you've got the ruins of the famous Temple of Aphrodite about 14 kilometres east of Paphos. It once was a popular pilgrimage for believers, back when people were still convinced the Gods could very well turn up any second in the form of a bull, or a heavy old person.
This is really only the start, and whether you've got a few days, or a few weeks, Paphos and the surrounding areas will keep you knee-deep in Gods, mosaics, tavernas, ruins, vineyards, beaches, mountains and donkeys. Keep an ear out for Pan's pipes.