There are plenty of hotels that offer the earth – not to mention heaven – to the extent that they even give themselves the name. But can they ever live up to it? Well, the Elysium in Paphos does seem to have some advantages that hint of divine intervention. For a start, there’s the setting. Facing west out over the sea it is set in beautiful gardens that drop down to the Eastern Mediterranean. Sunsets here are an event and guests congregate on the terrace at the appropriate time, drinks in hand and phones and cameras at the ready.
The climate is beatific – in mid-April, we were out on our loungers round the vast series of pools and even looking for a parasol. The hotel itself is built of Cyprus’s golden stone – think of the Cotswolds in perpetual sunshine. As the concierge rushed out to meet us and pick up our bags, he said, ”Welcome to paradise.” Clearly, he’s said it before but the staff are genuinely proud of the place and happy to work here – and that’s always a good sign.
So, what’s not to like? The only caution I’d give is probably the height of summer is not the best time to go – that’s a Middle Eastern sun up there and it’s beyond hot. Out of season, though, and when you’re unlikely to be guaranteed sunshine elsewhere, this is a perfect place to head.
Elysium has just reopened after four months of refurbishment and the rooms still smell new. They all have balconies overlooking the sea, the pools and the gardens, the beds are huge and comfortable and there are lots of pleasing little extras – such as when you open up the desk to find a dressing table complete with mirror and hair dryer. There are condo-style rooms for families and beautiful double-floor suites with their own private pools and gardens. And in this section is the Royal Pool (adults only) where surprise treats are delivered to your lounger. Make mine a strawberry smoothie.
And it’s not just the smoothies. The wines, too, come as a bit of a surprise. Cyprus has a unique grape – maratheftiko. Not only is this a grape you will find only on Cyprus, it is believed to be a particularly ancient one. For a while it was touch and go whether it would survive but it is now undergoing a revival in small boutique vineyards in the area. The red I tried had travelled just 30km from the Kolios Winery and it went perfectly with everything at dinner: shrimps and scallops for the Major, the most extraordinary “calamari” for me that were really huge chunks of octopus, then veal, a sublime Angus steak and a pudding called “Frozen berries in white chocolate soup” that convinced the Major he really had arrived in heaven.
Bacco is one of the hotel’s fine dining restaurants and a perfect spot for a quiet dinner but so atmospherically dark I couldn’t read the menu. The Maitre d’ rushed over with a pair of glasses and suddenly all became clear. They keep a set of different prescriptions – really, they do think of everything.
The Mediterraneo restaurant – outdoors overlooking the gardens and the sea – is a great place to linger over lunch and features very local produce. In my case I picked out a red snapper that was grilled to perfection. I never got around to trying O’Shin – this is not an Irish bar but an oriental restaurant – and there are six restaurants in all so no shortage of choice.
It’s not all about eating and lounging around, though. Oh no. There’s a big gym and some classes definitely worth trying in a lovely airy studio. (My favourite was dance aerobics.) And then, of course, there’s the spa.
The spa is called Opium and aside from the indoor pool, steam and sauna, this is a place that’s really all about its E’Spa treatments. Now these are some of my favourite products and E’Spa therapists tend to be some of the very best so I was looking forward to spending two and a half hours in the company of Nelli who was going to start with a massage called “Total Holistic Body Care” and go on to a personalised facial. That all sounded pretty good to me.
So we started with body brushing and then moved on to an exfoliating body polish with a powerfully minty smell. Then after a quick shower to wash all this off, Nelli assured me that my work was done and all I had to do from now on was lie down and enjoy the massage. I’d already chosen my oils by scent and Nelli blended geranium with the restorative body oil for the ultimate anti-stress effects. It was a long gentle massage with particular attention not just on the obvious areas that hold stress but those where you don’t even notice it: feet, knees (honestly), arms and hands, the collarbone, the very tops of the shoulders. The room was dark, Nelli moved silently and expertly. I almost fell asleep – most unusual for me, but evidence if needed of just how relaxing this was.
Then we moved seamlessly on to the facial. And not just any old facial. All E’Spa products are pretty special but the Lifestage range is one they’ve got really excited about. Nelli scrutinised my skin under a particularly bright light and made a quick change to some of the ingredients – it turned out the toner I’d chosen by its smell was actually too intense for my skin and it was replaced by a spray-on version, very floral that was enriched with oils to help my skin’s pH balance.
So we began with a cleanse, an exfoliation and another cleanse. My skin was absolutely spotless before the main events began. First the regenerating face treatment oil was massaged in using techniques designed both to make the active ingredients penetrate the skin and manually to lift and firm it. Then came the Liftstage Serum, masks, moisturisers, lotions and lip balms. And while the mask was doing its stuff, there was yet more massage with Pink Hair and Scalp Mud going into my hair and more oils into my shoulders and décolleté. Afterwards when I washed off the mud, my hair looked super-healthy and my skin was glowing. And I had that fab dinner in Bacco still to come.
So all pretty heavenly really.
Cox & Kings (020 3642 0861 coxandkings.co.uk) has a 7-night stay at the Elysium Hotel priced from £2,570 per couple (£1,285 per person). Price includes easyJet flights from London Luton, private airport transfers and breakfast daily. For more information about the hotel, visit www.elysium.com.cy.