An island of your own: Why it's best to visit Cyprus in spring

It was my wife's idea to go to Cyprus to catch some early spring sunshine. I was not enthusiastic. Would the weather be OK? Was there much to see? Wasn't the place overrun with Brits? And hadn't the coast been ruined? On three out of four of these I was proved spectacularly wrong. The sun was warm, the hills green and, by avoiding the towns, we hardly saw another Brit. I was right about the coast, in part at least. In the official Republic of Cyprus, occupying the southern part of the island (the top third is under the control of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), some shores are blighted by building work. Yet there are charming places. Governor's Beach near Limassol on the south coast, for instance, where you find soft chalk cliffs like meringue. And when you have had enough of the sea, you can head for the hills.

We left freezing London on the last day of February, and arrived late in the afternoon. The sun was already preparing a spectacular evening show as we sped down the motorway from the main airport at Larnaca to the house we had rented in the village of Khirokitia, 40km away in the foothills of the Troodhos mountains.

Previously, we had been (too) familiar with the scorched earth that characterises so much of the southern Mediterranean in high summer. Instead, there were mimosa trees bursting into bloom and verges covered in banks of yellow daisies.

Khirokitia is the site of the earliest neolithic settlement on the island, occupied from 6000BC. It lies at the foot of a fertile valley carpeted with wild irises and dominated by a hill. It was also carpeted, we found, with shotgun cartridges – hunting is a passion – but, amazingly, still full of birdsong. Twice we walked the length of the valley, past clumps of wild anemones, overtaking a shepherd and his flock, unsure whether to deplore the local appetite for blood sports or celebrate the locals' lousy aim. Our house in the old part of the village had a lovely arched high-ceilinged room that opened onto a courtyard with a pool and an almond tree, and a view from the tiny balcony to the orange groves below.

On our first morning we sat in T-shirts and shorts eating the fragrant fruit on the terrace – and 90 minutes later were walking through ankle-deep snow around Mount Olympus, the highest peak in the Troodhos at 2,000m. Trudging on one of the marked trails between 500-year-old pine trees, we did not see a soul. The Troodhos have become busy in summer as refugees from the coast seek relief in the cool mountains. In spring, however, we had them virtually to ourselves.

The hidden glory of the Troodhos is the painted churches no bigger than a barn. One morning we drove for half an hour to Louvaras, a traditional mountain village, and found the key-keeper – a short, smiling man who spoke no English – next door to the chapel of Ayios Mamas.

The sun was blazing as he unlocked the door to give us a private view of the exquisite 15th-century frescos, covering every inch of the interior, their colours glowing in the gloom. Our brief encounter with the charming key-keeper – he named all the saints for us – added to the sense of personal discovery. We returned to Vavla, a pretty village next to Khirokitia. It was our favourite place for walking: unspoilt, remote, and peppered with olive trees. You can walk anywhere in Cyprus. Just pick a track and head into the country. It is easy to find glorious scenery, especially in spring.

Despite its troubled colonial past, and continuing unease with the Turkish north, we were met with nothing but kindness. Restaurants needed no booking, roads were free of traffic, and we never saw a crowd. We ordered the meze in a tiny place in Agios Theodorus and counted 25 dishes including stuffed pepper with cream cheese, ribs, succulent souvlaki and a baked apple tart – at about €1 per dish. Three other tables filled up with locals and all chose the same menu. As we ambled through the deserted village streets afterwards, inhaling the wood smoke, we felt we had arrived.

Travel essentials: Cyprus

Getting there

* Larnaca is served by British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com ) from Heathrow; Cyprus Airways (020 8359 1333; cyprusair.com ) from Heathrow and Manchester; easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyJet.com ) from Gatwick; Monarch Airlines (08719 405040; flymonarch.com ) from Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester; and Eurocypria Airlines (00 357 24 658 003; eurocypria.com ) from Gatwick and Luton.

Staying there

* The House of Achilles, Khirokitia Village, Larnaca (07909 538844; thehouseofachilles.com ). The listed 19th-century stone building has three double en-suite bedrooms but it can be rented as two separate houses sleeping four each. Rental of the whole house starts at €550 per week.

More information

* Cyprus Tourist Office: 020 7569 8800; visitcyprus.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff