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
One Direction's Zayn Malik gazes at a bouquet of flowers in the 'Night Changes' music video
people
News
people
News
'Free the Nipple' film screening after party with We Are The XX, New York, America - 04 Feb 2014
news
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
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
  • 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

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
    Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

    Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

    A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn