In Cyprus, love is never on the rocks
We follow the trail of Greek goddess Aphrodite.
Legend has it that Aphrodite, goddess of love, was born on the Rock of Romios
Love is one thing, and passion quite another. And when both are present, life can seem like a honeymoon. Alas, it's inevitable that the time will come in a couple's relationship when passions wane and the dimming embers need to be fanned into life. I suggest you find somewhere romantic to do this and I believe that I found the perfect place.
Seduced by the ancient cult history of godly love of Cyprus, we flew to Lanarka airport. From there, we taxied to Pissouri about an hour away - a peaceful but burgeoning hill-top village perched half way between Limassol (Lemesos) and Paphos.
The coastal road to our accommodation, Columbia Beach Resort, a 5-star resort overlooking the Mediterranean, took us through rocky, hilly landscapes dotted with low white limestone houses topped with pretty red roofs.
This was our introduction to a ruggedly handsome birthplace of love. We hired a 4x4 - quite simply the only way to traverse the undulating landscape of Paphos, to get to the famous Petra tou Romiou - Rock of Romios. Geologically, the Rock should not be there, but what makes it really special is that this is where Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, was believed in mythology, to have been born.
Cyplon are offering 7 nights at the Columbia Beach Resort for £1143 per person. The price includes a twin double room in a junior suite with a garden view, return flights from London Heathrow to Cyprus and all taxes. Also includes is a private taxi transfers to and from the Hotel. The deal is for travel on May 1st. For reservations please call reservation freephone 0800 074 8888
According to the poet Hesiod in his 4th century BC poem Theogony this was no easy birth. We dipped our toes a little in the deep water that surrounded that rock and enjoyed a romantic moment under the warming sun rays, imagining that the sea was in some way potent.
Aphrodite made her way to Kouklia (Palaepafos) and so did we. The settlement stands on the ruins of Old Paphos. Its Grand Temple or Sanctuary of Aphrodite served the locals for four hundred years until Christianity took hold. Inside, the sanctuary is a black conical stone - the symbolic cult idol.
The Frankish manor house displays ceramic, swords, statuettes, clay lamps and Mycenean stone instruments from the dynasty of Kinyrades and the sensuous "Afrodiasia" ceremonies. All very interesting but it was the provenance of the place that caught our attention.
Just before the village of Polis to the left of the beautifully forested Akamas peninsula is the Bath of Aphrodite. A narrow path leads to the naturally formed "bath" beautified by dense vegetation, and especially the broad leaves of the fig trees, creating an intimate shadowy environment. Water falls "from a thousand silver threads to the pool below", evoking a sense of magic. The semi-circular pool is only five metres long and only half a metre deep, but according to mythology, bathers were blessed with eternal youth. Today, bathers will receive only a sharp reprimand.
Eight kilometres into the Akamas Peninsula leads to the Fountain of Love or Fontana Amorosa and a walk along this trail is rewarded with spectacular views of unspoilt nature. We continued our journey onto the twisty route of the B7 hopefully heading towards Lara.
Driving along this route winding through mountainous, hilly terrain while listening to Cypriot love songs on LovePik FM was enchanting.
The surrounding landscape was pretty yet unkempt, punctuated with vineyards on every slope. Narrow mountain roads through valleys and forests opened up to remote tiny villages, herds of goats crossing the road to rise higher into the mountains and scented orange and lemon orchards and abundant olive groves.
Eventually, we found a sign pointing to the Avakas Gorge. It was natural, spectacular, rich in fauna and flora and just two kilometres in length and had to be seen to be believed. It is a natural creation of the combined deepening of the valley through running water on the limestone rocks and the rising of land above sea level.
Climbing back into the car, exhausted from negotiating the vagrancies of the gorge, and sodden due to failed negotiations, we continued to the coastal town of Lara, hoping to find a more hospitable road to Pissouri.
The way home was steeped with temptations. We succumbed to just three. We took a detour to Coral Bay, a horseshoe-shaped cliff-edged beach with fine grainy sand bordered by coral limestone.
An ancient settlement of Maa-Palaiokastro dating back to the 13th century BC has been unearthed at Coral Bay and there is a Museum of Mycenean Settlement. The area of Coral Bay is rather developed now, with flashing lights, vibrant nightlife and restaurants galore. But it still retains some pretty views.
On the road to Agios Georgios is the Spring of Pegeia and Pegeia's juniper and pine tree-covered forest and isle as well as the spectacular Pegeia Sea Caves. Further along the Lempa Village is where excavations unveiled an important settlement of the Chalcolithic period. Replica dwellings have been recreated for posterity.
We stopped at the erroneously named Tombs of the Kings at Kato Pafos. The tombs, some decorated with Doric pillars, were used for high ranking officials but the construction was considered so magnificent it seemed an appropriate name.
We slept well that night, waking early the next day to relax in Paphos. We had views over the town's picturesque harbour from a nearby taverna while we drank sweet Cyrpiot wine to wash down a Meza (a variety of meat or fish dishes) followed by strong, black Cypriot coffee.
It seemed apt that the final stop was to the House of Aion where Roman mosaics relay the compelling stories of love antics of the various Greek gods.