CRUISING slowly along the gorgeous Akamas coastline of south-west Cyprus, we passed a giant chalky rock climbing out of the ocean.
This is where the mythical Aphrodite was born out of the sea foam, our boat guide tells us.
The goddess of love, pleasure and beauty is revered here and we were certainly all feeling her love on a trip to this island that is so popular with Brits.
I was on my way to the Blue Lagoon in the Paphos region, sailing aboard the Nafsika II alongside other sunseekers who were basking in the music and the laidback atmosphere — helped along by free drinks and wonderfully warm weather.
With waters so clear and inviting, the lagoon is a must-see for anyone visiting this area. And a boat trip with Cyprus Mini Cruises is the way to do it.
Back on board, and with more booze adding to our mellow mood, we set sail for Latchi harbour where an amazing lunch at the Y&P Fish Tavern awaited us.
Everything there is fresh and tasty, with spreads of salads, fish and meat dishes that just keep coming.
It’s the classic meze-style menu you’ll find across the island and, better still, all at a very reasonable price.
A trip to the Blue Lagoon was just one adventure on my two-centre break.
I was splitting my time between the family-friendly Royal Apollonia Hotel in Limassol and adults-only Ivi Mare, a little farther west in Paphos.
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Both hotels are in prime positions, right on the edge of the Med.
But if you can tear yourself away from the delights of the luxury spas, high-quality restaurants and cocktail bars, you’ll unearth thousands of years of turbulent history on your doorstep.
In just half a day we were able to explore some of the island’s most celebrated cultural sights — beginning with the ruins of royal city, Amathus, six miles east of Limassol.
Simply wandering around in the ruins will transport you to life before 300BC, with tall stone pillars still standing proud and ancient masonry scattered across the grassland.
For another step back in time, farther along the coastal road is 13th-century Kolossi Castle, a former Crusader stronghold.
Or there is Kourion, a Greco-Roman amphitheatre overlooking the stunning Episkopi Bay.
It’s breathtaking to behold and still used today for musical and theatrical performances.
Art fans might prefer the excavations of Eustolios House, though, with its impressive mosaics which date back to the 10th century BC.
When you’re feeling peckish, head into the mountains to Lofou village, where the charming family-run Agrovino Lofou Tavern serves authentic cuisine in a tranquil setting.
Competing for a place on our table were typical meze dishes such as taramasalata, tzatziki, potato salad, grilled halloumi, pita bread and olives — teamed with sausages and bacon ribs scorched on an open grill.
And what about the drinks? Not far from here, and also in the Troodos Mountains, is the Vassiliades vineyard in Omodos — set in a stunning location overlooking Mount Olympus, the highest peak on the island.
Packed a punch
Its dry reds and fruity whites went down all too easily on a sunny afternoon in the hills — although if it’s booze you’re after, you won’t be short of it at either of the hotels.
The Royal Apollonia, one of Louis Hotels’ Elegant Collection of five-star offerings, has a friendly and laid-back feel.
And having my own private Jacuzzi and even a 1970s-style hanging basket seat on the large balcony made sunny evenings with a glass of wine only more serene.
On days when you’re not exploring the nearby historic towns, venture to the Royal Spa which has a Dead Sea Climatological Room with a natural salt and mud bath that smoothes the skin.
It’s not just the spa that’s top-notch, either. The award-winning breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet is one of the best I’ve ever experienced.
Try the pork carvery, available every day, paired with one of the many salad options.
But it was Japanese restaurant, Akakiko, at the sister hotel, that really won us over.
One evening, we enjoyed an outdoor demonstration by the sushi chef, who created delicacies in front of our eyes while a saxophonist serenaded us.
The Ivi Mare, which opened in 2019, is more glitz and glamour — think white leather sofas and beautiful artwork.
The hotel’s Mirrors Bar is the place to go for cocktails, with a long list of both classic and speciality drinks — and at six or seven euros each they are very reasonable.
For something a little different, try the Blue Horizon cocktail, with rum, coconut, blue curacao liqueur, apple juice and cream.
Or there’s the Limassol Sunset, made with gin, triple sec, orange and grenadine — our favourite choice.
As we sipped, we admired the spectacular Limassol sunset, which bathed the surrounding trees and ocean in a deep, orange glow.
The only thing that could make it better was watching it with a cocktail in hand — and we had plenty to pick from.
Seven nights’ half-board at the 5H Royal Apollonia (theroyalapollonia.com) is from £1,015pp, including flights from Gatwick and transfers on September 11, 2023.
See easyjet.com/en/holidays or call 0330 365 5005.
BEFORE YOU FLY: Gatwick’s North Terminal Plaza Premium Lounge is available from £32pp. See holidayextras.com or call 0800 316 5678.
OUT & ABOUT: A half-day (two to three hour) mini-cruise to the Blue Lagoon is from £17.50 per adult. See cyprusminicruises.com.
MORE INFO: See visitcyprus.com.