By Amrita Evans – The Mediterranean island of Cyprus is a mass of contradictions: Ancient or Modern? European or Asian? Greek or Turkish? Resort tourism hotspot or land of enduring mystery? Well, you’ll probably think the former if you spend a week in Agia Napa, sunning yourself by the pool, but a much better bet is to hire a car and take a road trip to explore the island more fully.
The earliest evidence of humans in Cyprus dates back to 10,000 BC – for context, that’s roughly when the woolly mammoths went extinct – so there is no shortage of ancient ruins amongst the landscape which has nourished people for 12 millennia.
A car hire in Paphos, on the south west coast, is a good place to start since a lot of flights arrive here. Head east out of the city, to the picturesque medieval town of Skarinou; at 190 metres above sea level, this is the perfect place from which to start an exploration of the hills and mountains of the interior. There are also some excellent agritourism apartments where you can spend the night.
Waking up refreshed, you’ll be ready to take on the winding mountain roads that make the island of Cyprus a favourite rally driving destination. Head up into the Troodos mountains, which rise to a height of 1,952 metres and provide what in winter is Europe’s most southerly ski destination. The whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the scenery is truly breath-taking, dotted with Byzantine-era painted churches. Whether snowing or bathed in sunshine, the gorgeous old villages of the Troodos range are excellent for overnight stops, rich with local restaurants, drinking holes and a range of accommodation.
Next, reward yourself with incredible ocean views as you descend out of the high mountains, down to the village of Potamiou. This gem of traditional Cypriot architecture seems to be suspended on the hillside, amidst the vineyards of a famous wine growing area – and it’s not far from popular seaside resort town Limassol, where you can watch the sun set over the clear sea while enjoying a cold beer or glass of local wine.
The next morning, you can meander your way from this beautiful and unspoilt corner of Cyprus, taking in other villages like Mallia and Kissousa on the way. As you finally head back down the main road towards Paphos, your eye will be constantly drawn towards the sparkling blue Mediterranean: a reminder of the sea and sand that most people come to Cyprus for, without ever setting eyes on the splendours of the interior.