Stay The Night: Ayii Anargyri Spa Resort, Cyprus
People have sought out the sulphur springs here for centuries. Now, says Minty Clinch, it's the site of a rather good hotel, too
Sunday 09 October 2011
Set in the hills, just a 20-minute drive from Paphos, Ayii Anargyri has been a centre of healing since the 17th century.
Two doctors discovered the sulphur springs that still bubble up in the gardens and wondered if they would benefit people with skin complaints. After the doctors' deaths, grateful patients built a chapel in their memory and called it Anargyri – meaning without silver, in Greek – because the doctors often refused to accept payment.
In 1984, the Chrysanthou family bought the property from the church. They farmed the land and ran the former monastery as a simple 18-room hotel. When the next generation – Eva and her two brothers, Chrysis and Despo – inherited the place at the turn of the century, they came up with a wonderfully peaceful hideaway that raised the Cypriot boutique hotel bar when it opened in 2009.
It stands in a lost valley with no other buildings in sight. The grounds are a showcase for indigenous trees and plants, with vegetables, herbs and citrus fruits growing in abundance. The focus is a swimming pool overlooked by everything you need to make you happy: waterfalls, historic buildings, new cottages, a terrace bar, ranked sun beds and the sulphur spa.
Ayii Anargyri reborn has 56 rooms, ranging from a garden bungalow that sleeps four to a prestige suite with private hot tub and a balcony overlooking the river. Mine was a monk's cell, one of the 18 originals, with a high ceiling, stone walls and a parquet floor. The tones are contemporary brown and beige, lightly touched with turquoise. The king-size bed with its crisp white linen would be hard to leave, were it not for the healing waters in the contemporary bathroom. Turn the white tap for the sulphur flow or the silver one if you prefer your shower unscented.
The food and drink
Thanks to Cyprus's colonial past, porridge and a full English head the breakfast wish list that also includes pancakes and waffles. From a health perspective, best offset these pleasures with copious figs, melon and other fruits. A meze lunch on the terrace is an unstoppable force of Greek delicacies: the olives and grapes for oil and wine are on site, the lamb on the hoof can be spotted on the hillside. The Old Bar – the lovingly restored 300-year-old altar in what used to be the monks' refectory – is the focus for the cocktail hour. Dinner is served either in the Amaroula restaurant or the Cava, a wine cellar with racks displaying vintages from around the world. The extraordinary table is made of teak train sleepers, imported from Indonesia and polished to a rich sheen. Thanks to an ingenious swivel mechanism, it seats 50 or divides into segments for groups of six. The chef's specialities include wild boar, venison, pheasant and guinea fowl. Don't expect to go to bed hungry, or necessarily sober if you indulge in the house digestif made from walnuts – home grown, of course.
The Spring of Life spa takes up the whole lower-ground floor, a complex of pools with diverse jets and lounges with assorted benefits. Take your pick from the substantial treatment menu. Alternatively, head for the hills to explore the vineyards and drop into village bars for a taste of Cypriot rural life. The Roman mosaics in the centre of Paphos are outstanding and the Elea, designed by Sir Nick Faldo and recently opened, is a welcome addition to Cyprus's growing golf portfolio.
In the interests of tranquillity, children under 14 are not admitted. There are three rooms adapted for guests with disabilities. Free Wi-Fi in the lobby.
A standard double room with breakfast costs from £135 per night, a garden bungalow is from £250 (sleeping a maximum of four).
Ayii Anargyri Natural Healing Spa Resort, Miliou, Paphos, Cyprus (00 357 814 000; aasparesort.com).
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