If you’d told me a couple of months ago that I’d go to a hotel in the Mediterranean for four days and barely leave its confines I wouldn’t have believed you. It would have seemed so dull – like packages and organised fun. Case in point: I never buy meal deals, I refused to go to my university freshers’ week, and have shunned several 18-30s holidays. I don’t believe in a one size fits all arrangement, you see. Adding condiments and pursuing obscurity, I’d rather tailor my experiences to me.
Until now. ‘Cos I just did go to a hotel in the Mediterranean for four days and barely left its confines. Do I feel dull? No. I feel refreshed and – actually – humbled.
The Almyra hotel in Paphos, Cyprus, is a rosemary-scented oasis in a quiet nook of the island’s Greek side. We passed olive groves lit up by the midday sun as we drove from the airport, feeling our excitement rise at the prospect of pita and pool. (We also found ourselves in the ancestral home of Peter Andre, a fact I loved.)
We were welcomed with syrup-softened walnuts to a reception area that was at once retro and new: clean lines with a nod toward the 70s and a giant window wall overlooking the blue sea. This defines the look of the whole place: simple luxury embellished by surrounding natural beauty.
Four hours didn’t feel like long to fly for this step change from London. It was mid-September and still the sun beat down, but on smaller crowds. We unwittingly avoided the clamour of kids and the very insufferable heat of July and August. Climate-wise, Cyprus is a great spring or autumn retreat, though those seeking winter sun wouldn’t be disappointed either – at Christmas it rarely drops below 20 degrees, apparently.
My grandfather used to say “there’s no such thing for all the family”, though the Almyra would suggest otherwise. The family pool, shaded by white sheets, climbing flowers and with a view over the bay, was as suited to adults as children. But the childless could escape shrieks at the spa, with its infinity pool and a colourful (though steep) bevie menu. This is where we chose to spend our uneventful days, with novels, Kindle and the odd game of ‘spot the silicone’. I have never enjoyed doing nothing (and in one place!) so much.
The Almyra’s kyma suites offer more space and privacy than a standard room, and are a good option for couples. With their own patio, outdoor day beds and private roof terrace (where bespoke barbecues or Japanese Omakase menus are offered) they are quiet and spacious enough for real hibernation – from the sun, other people, and even your partner. Ours was right beside the shoreline, the lapping waves of which sang me to sleep at night.
Our only criticism was that mini bar wasn’t restocked as regularly as we wanted to ravage it. That said, we were far from neglected. Our towels were hastily replaced when we left them strewn by the pool and there were always plenty of staff around to look after our every need. Big shout out to Ivan, the group restaurant manager, who charmed us during a thorough tour of his eateries.
The hotel spa offers a range of treatments at crazy prices, but if you’ve got the money to spare it’s a nice treat. And if your tastes are higher octane, jet skis and banana boats are available to hire off the neighbouring jetty, without interfering with the overall sense of calm. Next door to the Almyra is its sister hotel, Annabelle. Now, if Annabelle were a person, she’d make up for her lesser looks with a bubbly personality, for while this hotel has a more dated quality à la Club Tropicana, its small, connected pools are great for kids, and there’s even a bar fortuitously set in one of them.
And so, to the food. Hotel breakfasts never cease to thrill me, and the Almyra’s was no exception. I kicked off each day with a heap of melon, yoghurt and walnuts – so virtuous! – followed by waffles and crêpes with one or usually all of the following: banana jam, sour cherry marmalade, dulce de leche, mountain honey. Fabulous.
There was more choice for lunch and dinner, including Asian fusion, ‘healthy options’ (aka expensive cucumber) at the pool and traditional Greek. We tried them all. After getting over the incongruity of eating sushi in Cyprus, we enjoyed a platter for two as the sun set over the sea. But it couldn’t compare to the quite brilliant food at Ouzeri, which served mezze and freshly caught sea fare right on the water. I struggled with the notion of returning a second time, but on the fourth visit I was at peace with our decision to stay put. Why wouldn’t we? We ate a different array of dishes each time, and they only got better. Cuttlefish in garlic and lemon, yoghurt and feta dip and tzatziki with hot soft pita, grilled octopus, crunchy battered calamari rings, red snapper in chilli and parsley, halloumi, moussaka, vine leaves stuffed with rice and mince, prawns cooked in ouzo and tomato, spicy chicken skewers… To top it, I’d expected to go to Cyprus and gorge on local beer (Keo) but a Paphos wine called Alina was really drinkable. Sadly, I still struggle to enjoy ouzo.
In light of the above, why would we have left this haven with only four days to enjoy it? Maybe with longer we’d have ventured further afield, but in the time we had the Almyra gave us everything we needed to switch off. I returned not only blissfully relaxed but have tackled a phobia of the all-inclusive. I stayed in one place – and it wasn’t dull! Now I’m off to buy a Whole Foods meal deal for my lunch.