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15.10.11 cyprus Republic is on the right track Business, travel, culture and wine in the eastern mediterranean

Boasting a business-friendly system, strategic location and a modern infrastructure, the island is coping with a series of setbacks. By Justin Keay talks, which started in 2008, continues. President Demetris Christofias insists he remains committed to a just solution, telling Turkey’s Milliyet newspaper earlier this year that he was broadly optimistic. “As far as we are from a solution, we are equally close.” However, Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis says Turkey’s stance, coupled with backtracking by the Turkish Cypriot leadership on key resolutions­– notably UN Security Council Resolution 1251 – has made negotiations hard going. Another heavy blow for Cyprus was the tragic explosion of confiscated Iranian armaments at Mari in July, the worst peacetime disaster since independence. The blast killed 13 people and by devastating the island’s main generator at Vasiliko, knocked out almost half its electricity supply. On the plus side, the impact on growth and tourism has not

cyp rus tou ris m organ isation ; Ch ristofias : getty images


n the first of October the Republic of Cyprus turned 51. Despite undoubted pride in its achievements since independence – the state now has some of the highest living standards in the European Union – celebration was muted. This has been a difficult year. The decision to begin drilling for hydrocarbon reserves in its Exclusive Economic Zone – Noble Energy of the US began work in late summer – precipitated an aggressive response from Turkey, which dispatched its own research vessel to the area, south of the island. Denying the republic’s right to drill before a solution to the long-drawn-out Cyprus Problem is found, Ankara has said it will also start drilling in the area, as well as to the north of Cyprus. Turkey’s actions have prompted calls for restraint from the EU and US. Turkey has now said it will freeze relations with the EU once the republic assumes the rotating presidency next July. Although many observers have given up following the tortuously complex negotiations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots that have continued for so long, the sharp escalation of tensions is a timely wakeup call that solving the Cyprus Problem remains key to regional stability. The latest round of direct

The island’s Mediterranean allure has seem tourism boom this year; President Demetris Christofias, below, has been under fire.

been as bad as initially feared – power cuts were rare over the summer in most resorts – and the Electricity Authority of Cyprus says Vasiliko could be fully functional again within two years. However, much damage has been done to the government’s reputation, with many asking why the confiscated arms were not destroyed or handed over to the UN as requested. The minority Akel government (centre-right party Diko left the coalition after the blast) is now struggling to retain credibility. Cyprus is also grappling with an economic crisis made more worrysome by its unpredictability. Domestic demand, for example, has slowed amid a worsening global picture and an increasingly troubling situation in Greece. For the aver-

age Greek Cypriot, the impact has already been felt in rising unemployment, difficulty in getting credit, and uncertainty within both the public and private sectors. Although these are difficult days, Cyprus – with its business-friendly legal and administrative system, its strategic location between Europe and the Middle East, low taxes and a well-developed, modern infrastructure – is emphatically not Greece. Tourism is performing very well, with many visitors rediscovering Cyprus’s appeal as a safe, value-formoney destination; resorts in Paphos, Ayia Napa and other locations have been near capacity, with visitors from the UK, Europe and, increasingly, Russia, leading the way.

January to August revenues were up 16% on last year. “The Arab Spring has helped us by encouraging many who would before have gone to these countries to come here instead,” says Constantinos Mouzouris, a senior representative of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation. Traditional industries, like private banking and shipping, have also performed strongly. Maritime Cyprus – a leading conference for the shipping industry – packed out Limassol’s hotels for three days earlier this month, while the €350-million Limassol Marina, an ambitious residential and leisure development, is exciting investors. Cypriot entrepreneurs also continue to demonstrate their ingenuity. Earlier this month

news emerged of a concentrated solar-power desalination plant to be developed following research by the Cyprus Institute and MIT which could have major implications for this and other countries’ energy and water supply needs. And if large-scale hydrocarbon deposits are discovered once Noble Energy reports its findings, the potential could be significant for all Cypriots. Next year, Cyprus will have a chance to shine with its presidency of the EU, at which its priorities will include improving food security for poorer nations and boosting relations with the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Little wonder then that although things are tough now, prospects remain positive for a more joyful birthday next year.

This supplement has been produced by Archimedia. It did not involve the reporting or editorial staff of The Times and no endorsement is implied. Contact: [email protected]

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Marina project breathes new life into Limassol


Work has already begun on the €350-million Limassol Marina project, giving vital impetus to the city’s regeneration – providing coherence to an urban and waterside environment that was chaotically organised – and more broadly, to the island’s economy. Sophia Paraskeva, public relations manager for the marina, says the first of what what will be 188 apartments and 85 villas will be ready by the end of next year, and the

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investment Ambitious project gives a boost to Cyprus’s reputation for attracting quality investments. By Justin Keay

yprus has many attractions but Limassol seldom figures at the top of visitors’ must-see lists. Overdevelopment after 1974 when thousands of Greek Cypriots from the north fled south, along with a road system ill-equipped to deal with the explosion in car ownership, have undermined the city’s charms. But all this is changing, thanks to the island’s largest-ever investment.

The €350-million Limassol Marina project is giving vital impetus to the city’s regeneration.

643 berths, shops and restaurants will be ready in 2013, with the project scheduled for completion in 2014. The marina will provide a much-needed boost to the city. On the back of it, town authorities are planning a series of public works to improve roads and municipal areas. A walkway is planned to Limassol Castle, while a new beach will replace disused warehouses. The project also provides a further boost to Cyprus’s reputation for attracting quality investment projects, with the shareholders a roll call of the island’s leading companies, including Cybarco, Joannou & Paraskevaides, and CADS Holdings. “As long as we play our cards right, the fundamentals are very good. The underlying investment climate, as well as the rate of capital inflow, demonstrate this,” says Andreas Charalambous, director of economic research at the Ministry of Finance. Last year, hardly a stellar one for foreign direct investment anywhere, Cyprus managed to attract €3.6 billion (£3.15 billion) in FDI, against €4.1 billion in 2009. These figures represent solid increases on previous years: in 2007 and 2008, for example, FDI inflows were €1.6 billion and €2.8 billion. In terms of sectors, financial intermediation (accountancy, consultancy and other business services) leads the way – including capital inflows from Russia estimated last year at around €1.5 billion – followed by trade and repairs and real estate. However, some argue that the composition of FDI and investment

in Cyprus is changing. Efthyvoulos G. Paraskevaides, head of Joannou & Paraskevaides, an international contracting giant, believes it is undergoing a subtle transformation, moving away from its dependence on tourism and associated services. “Cyprus is growing closer to its rightful position strategically in the Eastern Mediterranean by upgrading [its wider economy] on the network and infrastructure of tourism,” he says. Particularly for the services industry, low taxes have played a major role in attracting investors. At a time when competing destinations are raising corporate taxes, Cyprus’s 10% – one of the lowest in the EU – goes a long way towards explaining why at the most recent count more than 237,000 firms are registered here. Location is another magnet. The island’s strategic position between Europe and the Middle East, coupled with a well-developed infrastructure, an entrepreneurial culture and a well-functioning administrative and legal system, look particularly attractive at a time of

global uncertainty. Reputation works as another draw. A maritime industry hub, Cyprus has emerged as a centre for ship management services, aided by an EUapproved tax regime that exempts ship owning as well as ship management activities from income tax. Certainly when they are known – probably by the end of the year – the results of initial drilling by Noble Energy in the waters off southern Cyprus could have profound implications for FDI. Even before, however, energy trading firm Vitol has undertaken to construct a major new energy storage terminal in Vasiliko, on Cyprus’s southern coast. The Netherlands-based company’s initial invest-

Particularly for the services industry, low taxes have played a major role in attracting investors

ment is €100 million. The first phase, due for competion late next year, will comprise 345,000 cubic metres of storage for natural gas, oil and oil products, increasing to 550,000 cubic metres in the second phase, reinforcing the republic’s status as an energy storage and trading hub. The discovery of major offshore hydrocarbon deposits would attract energy companies from around the globe. “Indications are very positive and if large-scale reserves are found then we have a new dimension to the economy,” says Phidias Pilides, head of CIPA, Cyprus’s investment agency. Looking forward, Limassol Marina has encouraged similar projects elsewhere in Cyprus, with marinas now planned or being built in Ayia Napa, Paphos and Larnaca. Success breeds success and Mr Pilides is confident that the positive mood regarding investment will lead to its continuation. “Throughout the financial crisis, Cyprus has shown the ability to continue attracting FDI and we are hopeful that we will be able to maintain this.”

15.10.11 3

High-end homes draw a global audience property In a buyer’s market, builders are moving upmarket with top-end developments. Demand at the top stays firm. By Graham Norwood


Larnaca, and easy driving make it a highly accessible destination for British buyers,” says Rebecca Gill of Savills, the researcher behind the survey. According to Ms Gill, Cyprus is considered to be a safe and stable destination for buying property. More than 80% of UK-owned properties in Cyprus are coastal, and traditionally Paphos has led the market, she says. “Properties on golf resorts close to a city and beach are popular. The climate permits year-round golfing and consistent rental potential. From a resale perspective, however, the delay in release of title deeds from the [Cypriot] Land Registry can slow down the secondhome purchasing process. Newly built properties are therefore becoming more attractive,” says Maribeth Davies, international sales manager at Hamptons International. British property purchases are down currently in response to the global recession and a weak pound against the euro. Sustained interest in Cyprus from Russia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe — despite volatile values and fears of overdevelopment — is hardly surprising given the fiscal advantages for high-networth investors. Corporation tax is 10%,

Pafilia’s Minthis Hills development

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lthough the global downturn has affected the Cyprus holiday home market, some resorts and sectors are defying the trend, nurturing new international demand as developers go distinctly upmarket with their latest villas, townhouses and apartments. Research by the London-based Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors suggests that while prices for Cyprus holiday homes roughly doubled between 2002 and 2008, their values have subsequently dipped. The recent RICS European housing market survey reports that since 2008 holiday-home values are down 20% for the best homes in the most soughtafter locations and are up to 40% off for poorerquality homes in estates in peripheral locations. Yet despite these difficulties, the island remains stubbornly popular and now seeks to reinvent itself for the future. It remains in the top 10 overseas locations favoured by Britons to buy holiday homes, according to a survey by Savills, the estate agency, and holiday lettings website www. “Despite the distance, the excellent flight connections to Paphos and

“Transactions for top-end properties are 40% up on last year and come from all over the world.”

one of the lowest in the European Union, while recently initiated double taxation treaties have encouraged substantial international investment. This means the top end of the housing market, especially the exclusive holiday home sector, is performing significantly better than lower down. In response, more top-end developments are now being built. One example is Limassol Marina, under construction by developer Cybarco with 274 apartments and villas and 650 berths, including space for some mega-yachts. Next year there will be

an even more spectacular development in Limassol – the Landmark Tower, a residential project by luxury developer Pafilia to a design by the architects behind Dubai’s Burj Al Arab. It is unsurprising to discover the Landmark is set to be the tallest building in Cyprus. Residential golf resorts are also being constructed, notably Minthis Hills, Pafilia’s flagship development near Paphos. It boasts 600 units with strong environmental credentials — local dry stack stone and timber will be used on homes ranging from four-bedroom villas to townhouses, conform-

ing to a strict master plan and design code. Minthis Hills is part of what some see as a new breed of upmarket developments in Cyprus. It will have a concierge service, a clubhouse with the facilities of a five-star hotel and an extensive leisure and shopping infrastructure, all in 1,200 acres of landscaped parkland – the equivalent of three times the size of London’s Hyde Park. The homes are designed by Australian architects in a modern, international style with large windows, private courtyards and water features.

Pafilia’s founder, Elias Eliades, insists Minthis Hills bears no relation to the low-quality over-development characterising other parts of Cyprus in recent years. “The future of Cyprus is to be a destination [for the discerning] and to avoid the mistakes of 2000 to 2008. Cyprus [should] not be a destination for cheap tourism.” Trends suggest this is likely to be the route that will see the island prosper. “Transactions for top-end properties are 40% up on last year and come from all over the world. This is comforting for new owners who may eventually want to sell; they will have a global audience of prospective buyers,” explains Tony Nathanael, Pafilia’s commercial director. “Minthis Hills and Landmark emphasise quality, luxury and service,” says Mr Nathanael. “Cyprus has never seen this before, but it is the future for the island.”

4 cyprus

Republic acts to provide uplift for the economy economy Political parties pull together to produce a package of measures fostering stability. By Justin Keay


“The government must strike a balance between putting public finances on a sustainable path and not damaging future growth prospects,” says Mr Charalambous. It must also ensure it doesn’t raise corporate taxes or do anything else to reduce a still-strong appeal to foreign investors, who have invested some €7.7 billion over the past two years. The big concern for Cyprus is the extent to which the crisis in Greece and the EU impacts upon its economy. Cyprus’s banking sector is equivalent to 700% of GDP, which means serious problems within the sector would have great impact on the broader economy. Fears have grown as it becomes increasingly clear that owners of Greek debt will have to accept some losses on their

retirement Fortune Health Resort is planning a major project for visitors and permanent residents. By Helen Jones

T getty images

ou don’t have to probably need EU support. look far for evidence Amid growing concerns of the slowdown in about its economy, leading Cyprus. Along most credit-rating agencies downmain roads, advertising hoardgraded the republic at the end ings shout discounts of as much of July: Standard & Poor’s to as 30% on newly built properBBB+ from A- and Moody’s to ties. Although some markets Baa1 from A2. have held steadier than others, Optimists point to the fact the fear remains that the real estate market is set for bumpy times. Much the same could be said of the broader economy. After years of respectable growth, Cyprus is now encountering a slowdown akin to other EU countries. GDP growth was 1.7% in 2009 and 1% last year, but the government acknowledges that it could be zero, or at best 0.5%, this year. “As an open economy facing a difficult external Despite the problems, Cypriot banks continue to operate profitably. environment because of problems in Greece and the that political parties have holdings. The Bank of Cyprus eurozone, there is no doubt pulled together in the face of and Marfin Popular Bank have Cyprus is facing challenging the economic crisis. A package already been downgraded times,” says Andreas Charalamof austerity measures – inby Moody’s and Standard & bous, director of economic recluding public spending and Poor’s, which both emphasearch at the Finance Ministry. public-sector wage cuts – was sise the extent of local banks’ Problems have been made agreed in mid-August, although exposure to Greek debt, around worse by the need to service in passing the 2012 budget, 40% of their total. some €1.4 billion in loans at parliament rejected a proposal Mr Charalambous maintains higher-than-expected rates of to increase the value-added tax that it is important to keep perinterest and long-term yields 2% to 17% for fear this might spective. “Despite the problems, on Cyprus bonds have risen further depress the economy. all banks operate profitably well above 10%, against just After a budget deficit of around even within Greece and have a 4.5% earlier this year. Cyprus 6% this year, the figure for strong capital position,” he says, must also make good the dam2012 is now expected to be at pointing also to central bank age to the Vasiliko power stabest 2.3%, although the IMF measures aimed at reinforcing tion (estimated at some €600says 4.5% is possible without regulation and strengthening €700 million) for which it will further spending cuts. the resilience of the sector.

Refuge for retirees, seekers of wellness he world’s population is ageing rapidly. By 2050, the number of people over the age of 60 will grow from 500 million today to two billion, and older people are expected to outnumber younger ones for the first time in history. To meet changing demands for housing and health care, a growing number of upmarket retirement communities have been springing up across the US and Asia and are now gradually making their way to Europe. Equipped with houses and apartments, health spas, social clubs, sports facilities, shops and restaurants, they attract fit, active, affluent baby boomers who want to enjoy their retirement but also need the reassurance that medical facilities and long-term care are available when needed. Cypriot entrepreneur Andreas Kaisis, who has interests in tourism, finance, property and technology, is tapping into this demographic trend with the development of the Fortune Health Resort in an area of outstanding natural beauty in the hills near Limassol. With the motto “live younger, longer,” the resort, which is expected to open

lead to the natural conclusion that British investors will participate in this pioneering project – a project that is at the forefront of trends in international tourism, in a country with a [business] environment, tax and legal regimes that are very similar to the UK,” says Mr Kaisis. Health and wellness tourism – which includes everything from visiting a spa for a week of pampering to a trip to a medical centre for cosmetic surgery – is a booming industry estimated to be growing by 15% a year in Europe and America. While health tourism is still in its infancy in Cyprus, the government is encouraging investment in the industry and sees it as an increasingly important sector and one that could develop the island’s tourism potential beyond yearround sunshine and beautiful beaches. Mr Kaisis says guests at the Fortune Health Resort are expected to stay anything from a week for a relaxing break to permanent residency. “Our guests may just want to relax, play some golf and enjoy some beauty treatments for a week or so, or they may wish to have some cosmetic or dentistry treatment, or they may be long-term residents who want to enjoy the facilities and feel “We are seeing the rapid growth of comforted that medical world-class retirement communities care is available close to their retirement in the US and elsewhere due to an home,” he says. ageing population.” Permanent residents will have in the second half of 2015 (master plans will access to a range of activities and classes be presented to the Cypriot authorities this from ancient history to sport and can take month), aims to promote good health and a advantage of the site’s cinema and theatre sense of well-being among its guests. It will and other leisure facilities. As well as medical include a five-star hotel for short-term visiand nursing care, housekeeping, laundry and tors, a health spa, medical and rehabilitation property maintenance will be included. clinics, restaurants and bars, an organic farm Cyprus, with its great climate, easy flight to provide fresh produce for the resort and a connections, well-developed infrastrucvillage of villas, apartments and “assisted livture and widely spoken English, is already ing” bungalows for permanent residents. popular with the British. It is estimated that Mr Kaisis has been working on the planaround 100,000 Britons either have holiday ning of the project with Florida-based Buena homes or have retired to the island to take Vista Hospitality Group, which has expertise advantage of low taxes (on pensions, bank in health resorts and residential communideposits and shareholdings, and no inherities in the US. tance tax) and better weather. “We are seeing the rapid growth of world“The close ties make it particularly attracclass retirement communities in the US and tive to British retirees,” Mr Kaisis agrees. elsewhere due to an ageing population. We He expects that the resort will attract have examined similar resorts overseas and guests and permanent residents not just discussed what works with their operators. from other parts of Europe but also from Cyprus could definitely be at the forefront Russia and the Middle East. “The combiof this type of development in Europe,” Mr nation of facilities and services at Fortune Kaisis says. Health Resort will provide an environThe project, which is budgeted at more ment and an experience that is different than €700 million, has already attracted from anything currently found anywhere interest from Middle Eastern investors and in Europe and will meet demand for new is expected to bring in British investors, too. ways of enjoying a healthy, active retire“The close ties between the UK and Cyprus ment,” he says.

15.10.11 5

Online pioneer provides a novel product Business services Entrepreneur creates virtual trade shows, helping businesses to access clients, partners, manufacturers and suppliers.


desks. exporting Cypriot products Through a strategic of the Mediterranean region. includes a business directory, to over 40 markets, leading a partnership with H.E. Sheikh Together they have created extensive reports on doing very diversified business with Jabor Bin Hamad Bin Jassim – a business and investing in each interests in almost every area Al-Thani, a member of Qatar’s regional portal. of the countries of the network, of the economy, and extenruling family, it has created The company recently and virtual forum and library sive international business Gulf Expo Online, which is launched UK Expo Online. support services. “UK subscribMr Kaisis starters have started ed his own business coming in and the when he was just indications are 16. From humble that the UK will beginnings he develop into one created a business of our strongest empire covering markets in the international trade, next five years,” tourism, technolsays Mr Kaisis. So ogy, investment, fifar British exhibinance and property. tors from a range In 1996, he set up of sectors have the International signed up, includMerchandising ing engineering, Centre, a €40 mil- Lobby of UK Expo Online. Its backers anticipate strong demand from UK businesses. travel and tourlion international ism, consumer exhibition centre and wholetravel,” he says. developing all nine portals for products and medical supplies. sale trade facility in Nicosia The business is already well the Gulf countries, including Mr Kaisis expects the UK and it was this experience that established in China, India, Saudi Arabia and Qatar which portal to cover more than 30 convinced him that there was Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turare already operational. It has different industry sectors over room for an online version. key, but ExpoGlobalOnline. also formed links with the the next five years. “The idea came from a com continues to establish EU organization Euro-Med Online exhibitions offer blend of my own experiences partnerships with regional TDS, which aims to promote several advantages in tough and a deep knowledge of organisations and businesses trade between EU member economic times – they elimiinternational trade through worldwide. and non-member countries nate travel and

aking part in international trade fairs is time-consuming, expensive and often involves a lot of travel, which is why Cypriot entrepreneur Andreas Kaisis developed – a pioneering company that runs online, permanent, interactive, virtual trade shows that enable businesses to access potential clients, partners, distributors and suppliers worldwide and around the clock. His aim was to recreate the experience of a world-class trade show via the Internet. Following the success of the platform, Mr Kaisis has now launched, a network of national expo portals. Through this online “expo park” concept, online visitors will be able to access permanent trade shows in 180+ countries and 60 industry sectors from agriculture to wellness, energy, construction and health and fitness, among others, without leaving their

tion costs for exhibitors and visitors and there is no need to ship exhibition material or construct physical stands. In addition, a virtual trade show can be accessed 24 hours a day, year-round and isn’t constrained by time zones. “It took tremendous efforts to educate our clients about the benefits,” Mr Kaisis says. “But they now see that our virtual events can make their businesses global and at a fraction of the cost of participating in a physical exhibition.” So far, €20 million has been invested into the ExpoGlobalOnline platform, and by the end of 2012, when all 180+ national expo online portals will be up and running, that figure is expected to rise to €40 million. Mr Kaisis says that his aim is to build the largest global network of virtual exhibitions and business support services that will offer companies a way of expanding their businesses despite a difficult economic climate. —HJ

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Rural Cyprus offers an undisturbed beauty


or many first-time visitors to Cyprus the island’s appeal lies in its offer of an uncomplicated sunny escape from colder climes. However, for those who know it better, it is another, rather different Cyprus that holds them in thrall. Just over 40 years ago, a young British artist stepped ashore in Limassol. With no preconceptions of where he wanted to go, he eventually found himself in the village of Laneia, in the Troodos Mountains, in a house that has remained his home ever since. Today, he has Cypriot citizenship and travels regularly around the island for inspiration. Michael Owen is now one of the island’s best known painters and this July, his 40th anniversary here, was marked by an exhibition attended by President Demetris Christofias. His works speak of his love for the landscape, where colours and light work together to remarkable effect. From the attic window of the house he shares with his wife Jacqueline you can see the majestic Mount Olympus, while beyond is the mountain resort of Platres, a haven for hikers and those wanting quiet and undisturbed beauty. “Look at those colours – at this time of year they change so fast it is spectacular. There is a strong atmospheric beauty about this island that makes it unique,” Mr Owen says. Fortunately for travellers, you don’t have to be an artist to experience this other Cyprus. Laneia is a good place to start, with its immaculate cobbled streets, wooden balconies and strong blues evoking the Cyprus sky. One can see aged olive and wine presses here, evidence of the agroindustries that continue to define villages across the High Troodos. Lunch in one of the tavernas offers a range of local dishes and wine at modest prices. Beyond Laneia, driving higher into the Troodos, this other Cyprus opens itself up. The Cyprus Tourism Organisation offers publications devoted to agro-tourism, listing rustic bed and breakfasts, houses and small hotels where you can experience local traditions and where nightlife

is a game of backgammon accompanied by a glass of the powerful local spirit, zivania. Platres and the so-called Troodos Square have the largest number of accomodations – the latter has hotels with great views across the mountains and down to the coast. Omodos, in the heart of the Commandaria wine region, is a hub of activity and an ideal place to buy local handicrafts and foodstuffs and visit the “open homes” of the residents. Also worth visiting is Kakopetria, perhaps the only village to have a river running through it, and famous for its cobbled streets, wooden-balconied stone houses and delicious fresh trout. Try it with garlic butter at the Mill Hotel and Restaurant, which has great views, or at the Lindos Inn, an atmospheric cosy hotel created by knocking several stone houses together. If time permits, a drive up to the Akamas penisula in the far northwest reveals an even more remote Cyprus, much of it accessible only by 4X4s, or hiking. This is a wilderness of rugged hills inter-

Villages like Ikos offer another view of Cyprus. Above: the pristine wilderness of the Akamas peninsula.

spersed with stunning coastal views. Be sure to visit the idyllic Baths of Aphrodite, complete with eucalpytus trees bought by the British from Australia in the early colonial period. Stay in one of the traditional houses restored under the awardwinning Laona Project, sustainable eco-tourism at its best. Michael Owen is still a regular visitor to Akamas. “It’s like nowhere else I’ve been.” —JK

explore Discerning travellers can have a taste of luxury and sample ancient culture, a colorful history amid great natural beauty. By Debbie Ward


yprus is one of those destinations that feels forever familiar. Many Britons know it for its reliable year-round sun, splendid beaches and fine resorts and remember that the friendly locals speak English and drive on the left. If you haven’t visited Cyprus in a while, however, it may surprise you. Sure, you can still find all-day English breakfasts on some Limassol menus and all-night clubbing in Ayia Napa, but Cyprus has evolved to offer plenty for the more discerning holidaymaker. The island is now considered one of the best places in Europe for luxury accommodation and spas. It’s also the top overseas destination for British couples wanting to marry abroad. Cyprus has, of course, always been more than just a beach holiday. It’s a varied island with a rich culture and 10,000-year history, the mythical

birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of love, and a gateway from which Christianity was spread. What’s more, you need not stray far from the beaches to see its cultural highlights. From lively Limassol you can reach the Greco-Roman amphitheatre at Kourion, or the wine village region of Krassochoria, or visit a medieval castle. Within 20 miles of Larnaca you can be in the pretty village of Lefkara where women sit in the street creating lace on their laps. Paphos, popular with romantics and retirees, boasts strikingly wellpreserved mosaics dating back to the 2nd century and depicting scenes from Greek mythology. Nearby are the Tombs of the Kings, 300 BC burial chambers with Doric columns carved from solid rock. Regular open-air concerts and operas are staged in the harbour. Inland is Nicosia, Europe’s last divided capital, and the island’s heart for the past 1,000 years. The Green Line, a UN-patrolled schism across the city, separates

the Greek south and Turkish-occupied north. It is often overlooked by tourists but has a wonderful old city with narrow streets and ornate balconies, surrounded by Venetian sandstone walls. There are craft shops here, modern malls and excellent restaurants. Also worth a visit is the Cyprus Museum which has the island’s most important collection of archaeological finds from the Neolithic age to Roman times. Cyprus’s contrasting topography means you can swiftly pass through arid, Mars-like landscapes to fragrant vineyards or forests. Walkers are drawn to the valleys, gorges, rare flowers and sea views of the undeveloped Akamas peninsula at the island’s northwestern tip. In the central southwest, the pine-tree-covered Troodos Mountains have hike and bike trails leading to UNESCO-listed Byzantine churches featuring fine frescoes. It’s even possible to ski here between January and March.

Although beyond its beaches much of its appeal lies in history and nature, Cyprus is keeping its modern tourism assets fresh. A new airport opened in Larnaca in 2009, and more recently the city’s waterfront has had a makeover including a new promenade. A state-of-the-art port will see Larnaca become the main cruise terminal by 2015. In Limassol a spectacular new marina will welcome its first yachts next year. There’s also good news for golfers with two internationalstandard courses being added to the existing four. “Limassol now looks better than it has ever done. Along the coast what you’re getting is the smartening up of the island,” says Noel Josephides, managing director of specialist tour operator Sunvil. Small scale, luxurious and inland has meanwhile been the trend of recent accommodation developments. “In the last three to four years boutique hotels have come onto the market,” says Mr Josephides.

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Winemakers strive to please any palate


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“They use local ingredients in their restaurants and concentrate on the history and culture of the area.” Among the newcomers is Ayii Anargyri Natural Healing Spa Resort housed in a former monastery near Polis. It utilises the same sulphur springs monks used to treat ailments as far back as the 17th century. The boutique Library Hotel & Wellness Resort in Kalavasos near Limassol also occupies a heritage building. Each room is named after a famous writer and boasts a marble bathroom, while the cosy library lounge is stocked with novels, music and classic films. Big family hotels, too, are upping the standards. At Ayia Napa, Kanika Hotels’ Olympic Lagoon Resort has expanded this year from 259 to 340 rooms and added

cyprus has always been more than just a beach holiday. It’s a varied island with a rich culture and 10,000 year history.

extensive leisure facilities. “We have invested close to 15 million [euros] in order to convert the hotel into a destination resort,” says Spyros Karaolis, Kanika Group executive chairman. “You have seven swimming pools and five restaurants to choose from. It’s an all-inclusive, but it’s a high quality all-inclusive, you are invited to dine in each of our restaurants.” The tourist office website is Choose a Kanika Hotel in Cyprus and take advantage of a 20% discount on terms booked. The offer is valid for stays between 01.11.2011 and 31.10.2012, booked by the 31st of October 2011 with a minimum duration of 3 nights and is not cumulative to any other offer. Book Now at Enter Club Code for Times Readers: 1414


Clockwise from left: Kourion Theatre near Limassol; the church of Agia Aikaterini in Kritou Terra; Ayia Napa beach; Cyprus is a destination for sports tourism; the Agia Paraskevi Byzantine church in Geroskipou.

’ll have a glass of xinisteri, she’ll tion has just produced a booklet promoting six have some spourtico and we’ll delineated wine trails, all supported by signs follow with a bottle of your finest along the way. maratheftiko.” So where to start? The Limassol Wine FesThis isn’t something you hear often in tival, held early September, has become an anCyprus restaurants – the names of the island’s nual fixture in the tourist calender and is well best indigenous grape varieties are hard to worth visiting. If time permits, get into a car pronounce, even before you’ve tasted them, – preferably with someone else driving – and and many restaurants are still relatively ignofollow a route. If not, start tasting some wine. rant about wine – but if you want to taste the Producers use international grape varieties, best Cyprus’s fast-improving wine industry many of which do well under the hot Cyprus has to offer, start practising now. sun. But to get a proper feel for what makes Not long ago, Cyprus wine meant one of Cyprus wine distinct, stick with the indigenous the adequate but rather dull mass-produced varieties: kanella, ophtalmo, promara and offerings of the four big producers: Loel, mavro, a high-yielding, rather average-quality Etko, Sodap and Keo (whose red Othello and red grape, are all used. However, qualitywhite Aphrodite were probably the best of the conscious producers are increasingly turning bunch), or a glass of the sweet dessert wine to maratheftiko, Cyprus’s red answer to malbec. Commandaria, whose fame dates back to the Crusades. However, things have moved on and Cyprus winemakers have woken up to the potential that lies in their grapes, and in their soil. The big four all now make boutique wines, many of them excellent (Keo’s cabernet sauvignon and its Heritage Maratheftiko, made by its Ktima Mallia winery in Limassol, are good examples). There are now some 60 wineries in Cyprus, including tiny producers who There are some 60 wineries in Cyprus, many are family concerns. make wine from free-run juice out of their own farm Fine examples are made by Fikardos, or house, though most larger producers of although its current 2008 vintage is still too quality wines are based near Paphos and young; Zambartas, whose 2009 was among Limassol. Many – notably the Vouni Panayia the best I tasted; Ezousa Winery’s Eros, a rose winery, located just down from Panayia, made from 100% maratheftiko; and Vouni hometown of the late Archbishop Makarios, Panayia’s Baba Yiannis 2004, grown at 1,000 first president of the republic, and near metres and superbly full bodied. the must-see Chrysorrogiatissa Monastery Xinisteri, a white grape which produces (which also makes wine) – do tastings, with wines akin to a semillon-sauvignon blend, is lunch and snacks on offer. easier to find, and many wineries make good Others operate from more modest surexamples. Again, Fikardos and Vouni Panayia roundings: the Fikardos Winery – which do well, the former with its market-leading produces a range of some 15 wines – is based Amalthia, blended with 15% semillon, the latin an industrial park in Paphos, whilst the Anter with Alina. toniades Winery in Mandria operates out of Cyprus wines remain good value, with detiny premises in the lower Troodos. Not one cent bottles retailing at around €10. —JK to miss a trick, the Cyprus Tourism Organisa-

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