Written by Lynsey Oxton
We wanted a week away with conditions: Short haul, hot (obviously) and somewhere that would allow us to unwind from the daily slog for a while. We found a sleepy village in Southern Cyprus that fit the bill just perfectly: Argaka.
Just less than an hours drive from Paphos Airport, Argaka was close enough to save an overly-lengthy car journey upon arrival (never a good thing), yet far enough to leave the ‘all-inclusive’ mecca of central Paphos behind – and head for the hills!
We struck gold with our rental villa (Mediterranean Coast View Villas). Located high into the mountains and overlooking the turquoise seas of Chrysochou Bay, it was a great spot. The villa itself was spacious, clean, well equipped and boasted a huge private swimming pool that was ideal for lazy ‘pool days’. Even better, it had a brand new barbecue area that was kitted out with everything we needed for a ‘barbie for two’. The owner had kindly picked us a basket of lemons from the garden outside as a welcome gesture (perfect for those all important G&T’s). What more could we ask for?
The beach at Argaka was within easy reach of the villa (5 minutes by car, 30 on foot) and stretched along the Akamas Peninsula. The beach was a combination of soft sand and pebble, surrounded by palm trees and the occasional beach bar to grab a snack and an ice cold Keo beer to help quench your thirst in the heat!
Polis was the nearest town and just ten minutes away by car. It offered a sizeable supermarket (great for those bbq essentials), a handful of cute, independent shops and a number of cosy tavernas (complete with the obligatory feral cat). Of course, what town would be complete without a number of watering holes too? Vital, really – to refuel after a day in the sun! Given that the word ‘Polis’ in Greek actually means ‘city’, this couldn’t have been further from it – small, traditional and quaint – but with just enough to see and do.
We ate in Polis most evenings (and sometimes at breakfast) and found Chix Chox Restaurant ideal for a laid-back meal with plenty of atmosphere, especially as it was the towns only form of ‘sports bar’. Just a few strides down the road, Finikas did lovely traditional Greek food and was set in a gorgeous courtyard. Moustakallis was my personal favourite, thanks to its prime location and generous servings of the best dolmades and mousakka I had tasted! There’s little better than alfresco dining in the evening sun….
……and it goes without saying, that the Greek-influenced cuisine is a foodies dream; delicious mezes to share, tasty Greek salads and as much seafood as the heart desires! The traditional breakfast of Greek yoghurt and fruit was pretty amazing (and healthy) too! I could go on forever, I’m a big fan.
Also in the area (a 10 minute drive from Polis) was Latchi – a popular fishing town, with a small beach and a working harbour. Although once again small in size, Latchi was a good spot to have a walk a long the beach, buy a souvenir or two at the gift shops and have lunch at one of the harbour-side restaurants.
From Latchi, we took a 3 hour boat trip around the peninsula. I’m not sure I’d do it again in a hurry as (to me) it was overly lengthy and spent more time stationary in the ocean, whilst those who wanted to swim had opportunity to do so. Great for those who wanted to, not so great for me (I should have paid more attention to the itinerary!). But, if nothing else, the trip provided some shelter from the baking hot midday sun. You can also get day-long trips out to the Blue Lagoon from Latchi, should you so desire.
Worthy of a visit, if in Latchi, is the Baths of Aphrodite, where a winding trail through woodland leads you to the spot at where Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty, used to bathe in the pool of the natural grotto.
The area is not short of hiking trails if you’ve packed your walking boots and want to be ‘at one with nature’. The island has lots of interesting flora and fauna that you wouldn’t ordinarily see back at home.
If walking in the heat doesn’t appeal and a day at the seaside is preferable, Coral Bay is around a 40 minute drive from the Argaka/ Polis/ Latchi area. Coral Beach itself offers plenty of water-sports, fresh seafood tavernas and the opportunity to people watch over a pina colada! The area (by contrast to Argaka) is quite commercial, with cheap gift shops galore and happy hours in every bar. Not that that’s a bad thing! But it’s less traditional – and you can see why it attracts couples, groups and families who want a beach break with everything in one place, without the necessity to hire a car and explore.
If like us you do hire a car, you should put a drive into the mountains onto your to-do list. As well as the stunning scenery, you’ll also get a flavour of the religious culture in the area. Primarily Greek Orthodox, you will find many monasteries and monuments, set into the hills with artistic depictions of religious figures.
Nea Pafos (meaning New Pafos) is also home to a large archeological site, which costs just a small fee to visit. The site houses ancient ruins and monuments, from prehistoric times through to the Middle Ages. Here you will find the houses of Theseus and Orpheus, with impressive, age-old mosaics.
A walk from the site into main Pafos (or Paphos, as we know it), takes you past an old lighthouse and Pafos Castle on the harbour edge. The castle was built to act as a fortress originally, but has since been used as a prison and even a warehouse for salt! Nowadays, it is used for exhibitions and costs just €2.50 entrance fee. As one of the more distinctive landmarks in Pafos (at least in cultural terms), it’s worth a visit.
Cyprus as an island, has been divided in two since 1974 when Turkey invaded the North. Having been to both parts, my preference is the South, where (in my opinion), there is a more cosmopolitan and friendly vibe than in its counterpart. Plus, the food in the South is better by far (and we all know that good food on holiday is non-negotiable!).
Have I managed to persuade you?
If you are interested in my experience of the North, read my blog on Northern Cyprus and its Turkish Influence