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

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
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
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own