For a laid-back vibe, Cyprus is all you need

Cyprus, the closest tourist destination to Israel, is often overlooked in favor of more distant getaways.

 LOUIS ALTHEA Kalamies villa complex, Protaras.  (photo credit: ORI LEWIS)
LOUIS ALTHEA Kalamies villa complex, Protaras.
(photo credit: ORI LEWIS)

Global travel mania to close gaps on well-deserved holidays missed during the pandemic could likely continue for years, as most of us try to shed the effects of lock-down trauma and escape to happy places.

The exorbitant prices of local holidays should make it an easy call whether to stay home or travel abroad. The only question is how to best immerse in the vacation feeling.

Cyprus, the closest tourist destination to Israel, is often overlooked in favor of more distant getaways. The laid-back, easy-going nature of the place combined with a pervading sense of personal safety, are just the right mix at a time when Israel has issued a severe travel warning for nearby Turkey. That has made Cyprus a no-brainer alternate destination for many Israeli holidaymakers seeking a place to relax and unwind.

The Louis Hotels Group and the Cypriot Tourism Ministry recently hosted Israeli journalists for a quick weekend getaway. We departed on Thursday morning at the civilized hour of 10 a.m. and arrived in Paphos about 45 minutes after wheels-up.

The eastern-most outpost of the European Union hosts many tourists who happily sit on a plane for three or four hours to catch the sun. By contrast, for Israelis, the flight time is barely worth a mention, as check-in, security screening and baggage claim take significantly longer than the time you’ll spend airborne heading to one of Cyprus’s two international airports: smaller Paphos at the southwestern end of the island, or the main air hub at Larnaca in the southeast, which is hardly any further than the flight distance from Tel Aviv to Eilat.

 THE POOL at the Louis Althea Beach Hotel at Protaras.  (credit: ORI LEWIS) THE POOL at the Louis Althea Beach Hotel at Protaras. (credit: ORI LEWIS)

The Mediterranean climate and the scenery at the birthplace of Aphrodite are indeed similar in many regards to parts of Israel but nevertheless, there are marked differences at this oasis of calm of about a million inhabitants.

Rural Cyprus

WHAT IS striking at first glance in Cyprus is how the rural areas have managed to maintain their pastoral ambience. Even when main population centers are invariably close, city life has not encroached on or engulfed their sleepy demeanor. In the cities, traffic can certainly grind to a frustrating crawl, but the congestion pales in comparison to what is regularly encountered on Israel’s roads.

British influence has also remained very apparent even 62 years after the Union Jack was lowered on the island; you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who does not speak very good English. Cars drive on the left (beware when crossing the road) and the electricity sockets are UK standard. These are just some technical aspects that give Cyprus an unmistakable British vibe, but clearly most un-British is the predictable, endless sunshine.

Cyprus is a major summer destination for European tourism, hosting about four million visitors per year. Many arrive from the continent’s cooler climes seeking sun, sea and the typical Mediterranean spirit. Some tourists also like to get in a round of golf, at one of the four 18-hole courses situated around Paphos.

Dining in Cyprus

THE ISLAND is also home to so many fine restaurants that offer traditional culinary delights. It’s hard to go wrong when sitting down for a Greek meze at a local taverna. Course after course – starting with appetizers and salads, followed by grilled meats and concluding with fruits of the season – are served at reasonable intervals to allow the palate to savor the irresistibly sumptuous food. Indeed, it’s hard not to devour too much of one dish, but it is advisable not to do so, because the next serving is almost certain to be even more enticing.

Traditional tavernas in the cities or the many family-run establishments in the villages dotted along the nearby hills are guaranteed to offer fare that hits the spot, and for a reasonable price, too. The excellent local wines should also not be missed, because you probably won’t find them anywhere outside Cyprus, as almost all is made for consumption at home.

 APPETIZERS AT the Akakiko restaurant in the Royal Appolonia Beach in Limassol. (credit: ORI LEWIS) APPETIZERS AT the Akakiko restaurant in the Royal Appolonia Beach in Limassol. (credit: ORI LEWIS)

First stop

THE FIRST stop on our tour was Paphos, home to six of the Louis Group’s 18 hotels in Cyprus, including the Louis Ledra Beach that is part of its “Family Collection.” 

The hotel is classed as four-star, but the facilities, food and location could easily pass for five following reopening after a full refurbishment. 

The pools and the beach are pretty much  no distance at all from each other if you want a quick dip in the Mediterranean’s crystal-clear waters.

 Sophia Kyriakou prepares ''Kleftiko'' meat stew at her home restaurant ''Sofia's House'' in the village of Letymbou near Paphos. (credit: ORI LEWIS) Sophia Kyriakou prepares ''Kleftiko'' meat stew at her home restaurant ''Sofia's House'' in the village of Letymbou near Paphos. (credit: ORI LEWIS)

With the Cypriot holiday season stretching from the end of March to the end of November, the hotel also has an indoor pool and offers spa treatments and activities for kids and all the family. It has two restaurants, one of which, the “A Mano,” offers superb Italian cuisine.

An all-inclusive seven-night stay for a family of four during July and August ranges between NIS 1,200-1,350 per night with one night free under certain offers.

The second hotel on the tour was the exclusive Royal Appolonia Beach in Limassol. The serene surroundings, the beautiful sea views and the hypnotically calming ambience of the hotel trigger relaxation mode from the moment you present yourself at the reception desk. Well-appointed spacious rooms offer pretty much everything guests might expect to find in a luxury hotel. Spa treatments are also available and the food is superb. The hotel hosts a Japanese-style franchise restaurant “Akakiko” and it’s very easy to lose track of time during the evening while savoring its delights.

A bed and breakfast six-night stay for a family of four during July and August ranges between NIS 1,200-1,300 per night with one night free under certain offers.

The final stop at Protaras, northeast of the party town of Agia Napa, afforded a stay at the Louis Althea Beach. Large family rooms allow for self-catering and include a kitchenette with all the utensils and a microwave oven. Here too, the pools are suitable for all ages and are just a few steps away from a small sea inlet of the azure-blue Mediterranean waters.

 The interior of the living room and kitchen areas at one of the Althea Kalamies villa complex, Protaras. (credit: LOUIS HOTELS) The interior of the living room and kitchen areas at one of the Althea Kalamies villa complex, Protaras. (credit: LOUIS HOTELS)

An all-inclusive five-night stay for a family of four during July and August ranges between NIS 850-950 per night with one night free under certain offers.

After sampling a delightful fish meze at the “Kalamies” restaurant adjacent to the hotel – and before having to rush back to pack for our early-morning departure to Larnaca Airport and the flight home – our Louis Hotel hosts delivered their “wow moment” at one of their 18 holiday villas that are part of the Louis Althea Kalamies complex.

These are situated on a quiet residential street near to the hotel and are ideal for a broader vacationing group, such as families or friends, who might want to spend their time together in shared accommodation where they can also split the bill.

A row of 18 two-story houses, lavishly appointed with up to four twin or double bedrooms – and a good-sized kitchen and living room that has audio facilities suitable for partying – are topped off with a private outdoor pool. Unquestionably an ideal place for a memorable relaxing getaway for extended family and close friends.

A seven-night stay with one night free in a three-bedroom villa for up to six people during July and August not including meals is priced at between NIS 16,500-17,500.

Charalambos Lardas, business development manager of Louis Hotels, told The Jerusalem Post that the Louis chain considered itself as having an advantage over rival hotel groups because of their familiarity with the demands of Israeli holidaymakers.

“We know how to cater for Israeli customers and we have the same culture of Israeli guests… we have plenty of facilities for families – and our ‘Family Collection’ of hotels that has extensive water parks, big family rooms and very good all-inclusive hospitality – so we feel this is very appropriate for them,” Lardas said. “Last, but not least, we currently have great offers in various hotels and special discounts only for the Israeli market.”

More information for booking holidays and about the Louis Hotels group can be found at louishotels.com – More details for tourists about Cyprus can be found at visitcyprus.com  

The writer was a guest of the Louis Hotels group and the Cyprus Deputy Ministry of Tourism.