MANY lists of ways to save money have been written over the years – but 2023 is surely the first time one of the suggestions might be to . . . go on holiday.
With inflation soaring here and the cost of heating our homes hitting record levels, it’s getting to the point where this might soon become a viable plan.
And if you were looking for places where this might work, you’d find Cyprus close to the top of the list.
It’s only beaten for winter sun in Europe by places like the Canaries and Madeira which aren’t really in Europe at all in any geographical sense — but off the coast of West Africa.
Cyprus locals don’t even think about touching the heating until it’s nearly Christmas.
They’re still eating outdoors in late November.
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So it was with delight that we found ourselves, just a few hours after leaving rain-lashed Gatwick, drinking wine while looking down on the birthplace of one of the great characters of Greek mythology, goddess of love Aphrodite, bathed in sun.
This is a collection of rocks on the coast between two of the island’s biggest towns, Paphos which we’d flown into, and Limassol where we’d booked to stay.
As well as having that favourable climate, Cyprus is pretty CHEAP too — especially if you go to the right places.
Even at a tourist hotspot like the Aphrodite Rocks we enjoyed a lunch of grilled fish and homemade fries for less than the cost of the full English at Wetherspoons, Gatwick — and a bottle of wine for barely more than two glasses would have set us back there.
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And whereas at home people had been scurrying around under umbrellas, here they were swimming and sunbathing.
Because even though it’s part of Greece, Cyprus, is so much farther south and east than any other of the country’s many islands that it’s much nearer Egypt and Israel than Athens.
You will see much that you associate with the tropics, like palm trees and banana plantations.
But for all its exotic notes it’s also very British.
We first invaded here in 1191 when Richard the Lionheart got a bit miffed about being held captive — and it was very much part of the British Empire until as late as 1960.
The most obvious legacy of that is that, unlike in the rest of Greece, they still drive on the left and the road signs have the same typeface and colour scheme as ours.
When you’re on the dual carriageway to Limassol, if you squint it could be the A127 to Southend.
And there are still British military bases, with streets named things like Isle of Wight Road and Worcestershire Lane.
When we arrived in Limassol, following that break for lunch, we checked into our hotel, the fabulous adults-only Atlantica Bay.
Its hilltop setting right on the coast, means spectacular sea views to enjoy as well as the two pools, three restaurants and three bars.
While there are shops and restaurants near the hotel, on the outskirts of Limassol, it’s definitely worth jumping in a cab for the 20-minute journey to the centre.
The old town is charming, with its castle, cathedral, modernised harbour and numerous restaurants and bars.
Here another British-like aspect was revealed — unlike in much of the rest of Greece there’s the kind of international food scene you might expect at home: Indian, Chinese, Thai as well as the usual souvlaki and Greek salad.
Sid James sitcom
After two days we headed back to Paphos and the Athena Beach hotel.
Just like the Atlantica Bay, it features views over the Med — with spectacular sunsets nightly, and pools and beaches aplenty.
But tempting as it was to just recharge and soak up the sun, we wanted to see something of the island’s history and culture.
This stretches back to the days of Greek myth. Cyprus was reputedly first settled by Greek soldiers returning from the Trojan wars.
Must-see sights in Paphos include the Tombs of the Kings — eerie underground burial chambers dating to the Roman period 2,000 years ago — and the incredible mosaics of the same period at the House of Dionysus, discovered by a farmer in 1960 and preserved in stunning detail.
I particularly liked the section reading “Bless This House”, anticipating the Sid James Seventies sitcom by two millennia.
There are numerous small family-run museums in the mountains that run right across the island — great for wine-tasting and the exploration of traditional crafts like halloumi-making.
For pure relaxation, though, take a boat trip to the Blue Lagoon — more a picturesque cove, really, where the sea-swimming was delightful.
Of course, you can’t save much money compared with back home if you take just a five-day break.
You’d have to stay several weeks, in winter, to do that.
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But that is what an increasing number of Brits already do, particularly those of Cypriot heritage — and there are no rules stopping them staying year-round.
But for us, for now, a holiday would have to do — and at least I didn’t touch the heating control once.
GETTING/STAYING THERE: Seven nights’ all-inclusive at the 4H Atlantica Bay Hotel is from £597pp including Gatwick flights on April 19 and transfers.
Seven nights’ B&B at the 4H Athena Beach Hotel is from £855pp including Gatwick flights on May 16 and transfers.
To book, go to tui.co.uk or download the app.
MORE INFO: See visitcyprus.com or call 020 7321 4170.
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