Polis, Cyprus - Summer 2009

In 2009, due to a friend's daughter's wedding, Mandy booked a week in the North West of Cyprus, in Polis.

With likely temperatures in the mid-30s Centigrade, I wasn't convinced as Mandy had complained about the heat in Amalfi, the previous year, but it was booked so we all went.

Wed. 26th August

We had an early start (around 5) for an 8AM flight out of Gatwick. We left our car at the Long Stay Plus, car park which is right by the terminal.

After a pretty cramped and not very comfortable 4 and a quarter hour flight aboard a Monarch Airbus, we arrived in Lanarca.

Our rental car (A Kia Something or other, ok in a bland way, but it was an automatic - a crazy idea in a car with such little power. Everything Avis had was automatic except a Citroen C3, which had too small a boot for our luggage) was quickly collected from right by the terminal and we had an easy 2 hour drive to our hotel, the Akamanthea Holiday Village on the road between Polis and Latchi.

The public facilities were pleasant enough, but our appartment was rather basic for the claimed 4 Star standard.

We drove down to Latchi, where we enjoyed an excellent fish dinner at Seafare, a restaurant on the harbour front.

Thu. 27th August

On our first day we walked down to the local beach (10 minutes or so in 35C heat was enough).

The beach was rather stoney, but it was virtually abandoned and the sea was wonderfully warm and clear.

Even on this unprotected stretch of beach, there were Turtle nests, protected with a metal frame to prevent unwary bathers crushing them.

Above : Yellow circle shows frame protecting Turtle nest on beach near hotel

We returned to the hotel for lunch (just a snack as we were self catering) and then spent the afternoon at the rather good (but much colder than the sea) pool.

Above : Ryan tries on the Scuba gear

In the late afternoon, some people from the Latchi Watersports centre arrived and Ryan and I had a quick go at Scuba diving in the pool.

We had dinner at a Chinese restaturant on the edge of Polis on the way to Latchi(around 5 minutes walk from our hotel). It was fine as Chinese food goes (I'm not the world's biggest fan, to be honest).

Fri. 28th August

After the heat of the beach on Thursday, we took a trip into the Troodos Mountains the next day.

Above : Ryan, Mark and Lauren at the Mouflon enclosure

We stopped on the way to look at some Mountain Goats called "Mouflon" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouflon) and spotted a Sling-tailed Agama.

Above : No Mouflon images, but we did spot a Sling-tailed Agama.

We carried on and visited Kykkos Monastery, with its chapel dripping in excess of gold (we were told 20m worth!).

Above : Kykkos Monastery

The official site has some rather poor quality images of the inside of the Chapel (You're not allowed to take photographs), but they give an idea of the oppulence.

All along the altar are icons of saints and the devout walk along and kiss each image (Lauren commented that it didn't seem very hygenic...)

Above : Inside Kykkos Monastery

Within the walls of the Monastery you have to cover your knees (of all things) and as we were all (except Ryan) wearing clothes that didn't we got a chance to wear the fetching purple robes they provide for visitors. It all seemed a little odd, especially as we spotted at least one female visitor with an impressive expanse of naked cleavage on display, but her knees modestly covered. Still, when in Rome, as the saying goes.

Above : Inside Kykkos Monastery - Fetching robes to cover our Knees!

The building is quite young, having burnt down numerous times in its history, but it's an attractive building, with a bell tower up on the hill above it (Former President Archbishop Makarios III is also buried up there, apparently) and there are colourful (partly gold leafed) mosaics and paintings of biblical scenes all over the inner corridor walls.

Above : Kykkos Monastery - Ryan's shorts covered his knees, so no robe!

As we drove around the area we experienced a torrential cloudburst that lasted about 5 minutes.

Above : Mount Olympus (highest point in Cyprus) is the one with the TV aerials

After a quick drink in a very quiet cafe (where they spoke no English, which seemed very unusual in Cyprus) we strayed dangerously close to the border with the Turkish area, following a road along the UN buffer zone, past observation posts manned by Argentine troops.

That evening, we had an idea of getting an Indian meal as we'd spotted a takeaway in Latchi, but when we got there it was closed down. We ended up eating good old English Fish and Chips from Tammy's Fish bar (which amused Mandy as her sister is called Tammy). It seemed a bit dear at first, but the fish was huge and amazingly fresh and, to be honest, we could easily have eaten one piece between Mandy and I.

Sat. 29th August

On Saturday, we decided to visit the nearest 'large' town, Paphos.

We first explored the harbourside, which was quite attractive, but very touristy with restauranteurs and boat trip organisers constantly touting their wares at you.

Sadly the impressive looking fort on the quay was closed due to an Opera (Seems this happens every summer), but we did wander up to see what were thought were the Mosaics and houses.

Above : Mosaics in Paphos

At first the 3.40 entry each (including the children) seemed a little steep, but not excessively, but once inside we released that the fee covered not just the Mosaics, but all the houses, the Amphitheatre and the Seven Columns fort, a large area which took us a couple of hours to explore and could have occupied us for much longer, had it not been very exposed on a hot day.

Above : Mosaics in Paphos

Above : Amphitheatre in Paphos

Whilst the mosaics were well preserved and impressive (mainly scenes from Greek mythology), the Amphitheatre and the ruined (by an earthquake) Seven Columns (so named for the Seven columns of a stone not found in Cyprus and so obviously imported specially) fort where the highlights for me.

Above : 'Seven Columns' Fort in Paphos

We found a small opening under the outside of the fort wall and (in pitch darkness) followed it in until it appeared under a well opening which we had seen within the fort.

In contrast to the preciousness of some monument, the site was fairly free for you to wander (although, obviously, the mosaics were protected for walking on, but easily viewable from the wooden walkways constructed above and around them).

After a snack lunch (in Debenhams of all places - It tempted us in with its highly effective air conditioning!), we drove up to Agios Georgios where we'd been told there was a 'sandy beach' - There wasn't and the stones were slick as anything, (Ryan and I both took a tumble and received some cuts and bruises), but we swam in the small harbour.

Above : Agios Georgios does NOT have a sandy beach.

Lauren was convinced she'd seen a Stingray in the clear water, but I suspect it was probably a flat fish of some sort.

We ordered some takeaway Pizzas for dinner from a restaurant on the edge of Polis.

Sun. 30th August

On the Sunday, we took a boat trip (on the ?????? [name of boat]) from Latchi.

Above : Enjoying the sun and the spray

The trip included a cruise along the Akama peninsular coast out to the Blue Lagoon, where we moored up and were able to snorkel and swim.

Above : Ryan and Mandy swim in the beautifully clear 'Blue Lagoon'

After a while they served an excellent barbecue lunch (with wine and soft drinks) and then we had more time to enjoy the exceptionally clear water of the lagoon.

Above : Other boats in the Blue Lagoon and Mt. Akamas beyond

Above : Lauren reports a successful fish spotting exercise with the snorkel

Above : Other boats in the Blue Lagoon (Not my photo, but it was just like this!)

Great snorkelling and lovely barbecue lunch. Saw Flying Fish on the return trip - amazing creatures flying clear of the weather for 50 metres or so!

Above : We saw many Flying Fish on our return (again, not my photo - maybe not even a Med Fish, but certainly simiar)

We just ate a snack meal in the evening, back at the hotel.

Mon. 31st August

Lauren and I had decided to do a short Scuba diving course on Monday afternoon, so we spent the morning visiting 'Aphrodities Bath', just a short drive up the coast from our hotel and famous for it's representation in the Pre-Raphalite painting (and having watched the entertaining BBC series on the painters it had an added interest).

It was a peaceful, cool spot, overhung with trees when we arrived (around 10:00), but on our return it was bustling with coach trips, so get their early if you are in the busy season.

Above : Aphroditie's Bath

Unlike the vast majority of visitors, we continued on past the Baths and climbed part way up the mountain on the Akama headland.

Above : Latchi and beyond from Mt. Akamas

Above : A steep climb in 30C+...

It was a tough, exposed climb in the very warm weather and, although the view was pretty good, we were all glad to return to the air conditioning of our hire car!

Above : ...Beautiful views of the coast the reward.

In the afternoon, Lauren and I went scuba diving with the Latchi Watersport centre.

We took a Discover Scuba Diving course, which involved a short video, and run through of some basic safety training (removing and replacing regulator mouthpiece, breathing off a secondary mouthpiece from another diver, clearing a mask, adjusting ear pressure, etc) and then off in the dive boat to dive back in the Blue Lagoon.

I enjoyed doing the James Bond bit back flipping off the boat and then we dived for around 40 minutes swimming around the small island in the lagoon, diving as deep as 6.7m at times and we saw many fish, plus Fire Worms (we didn't touch which was just as well, we found out afterwards!) and a couple of Octupusses hiding in their small lairs.

All the team were friendly (especially our instructor) and we had great fun. Both of use hope to do it again sometimes.

We returned to the Seafare restaurant on the quay in Latchi again on our last evening together, but my meal was a bit disappointing. Everyone else, though, seemed to enjoy theirs and the staff were very friendly, so I guess I was just a bit unlucky in my choice.

Tue. 1st September

Mandy and Lauren went to Charlotte and John's wedding in Aga Nappa, whilst Ryan and I rented a small speedboat and spent 4 hours tottling along the coast, snorkelling, speeding and generally having a good time.

Above : Ryan gives snorkelling his approval

Above : Similar boats bobbing on the med alongside ours

Above : Ryan takes the helm

We walked back to hotel (a couple of miles in the sun) and then after a quick snack lunch, returned to the pool.

In the evening, Ryan and I walked down to the Pizza restaurant I had got the takeaways from earlier in the week and both had a very pleasant meal (Ryan had another Pizza, whilst I had a vast Spaghetti Carbonara).

Tue. 2nd September

Return drive to Lanarca was without incident, but the flight (Monarch) home was as uncomfortable as it had been on the outward leg (very cramped for leg room). Returned to pouring rain (the tail end of a Hurricane the BBC informed us) - quite a difference from the nearly non-stop sun we'd experienced in Cyprus.

Scenery is pretty barren, but sea is wonderful. Wasn't as hot as we'd feared. Polis/Latchi very quiet and not very developed (good and bad). Hotel's public areas and reception staff helpfulness were very good, but the room was a little spartan (for 4 star claim) and level of cleanliness was distinctly disappointing throughout the week.

Not sure I'd rush back to Cyprus, but it was a relaxing holiday and a welcome break - The weather was hot without reaching unbearable and the Med was a delight to be on/in.

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