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Mighty Aphrodite

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1 June 2008

Ever since the days of Aphrodite, Cyprus has been a home to beauty, love and laughter. Yet one empire or another dominated this third-largest Mediterranean island until 1960,when the British finally ceded control. Tensions between the island’s Orthodox Christian Greek and Muslim Turkish communities soon flared, until the island was divided in 1974.Today, calm has returned, and with it, those old qualities of beauty, love and laughter are more prominent than ever.

Of the southern, Greek-controlled, portion of the island, it’s the north coast that has most recently been developed for tourism. Here the Anassa Hotel perches on a hillside, just outside of Latchi, moments from the water’s edge. From afar, the complex looks like a traditional Greek village - all whitewashed villas and terracotta-tiled roofs, complete with its own Byzantine-style church.

Opened in 1999,the hotel, for all its traditional styling, is awash with modernity. The cool, airy rooms are filled with all the usual mod-cons and king-sized beds, while each has its own private balcony looking over the fragrant gardens or out across the infinity pools to the sea and an unblemished horizon.

The marble bathrooms are a generous size, with space for a bath and walk-in shower. Some rooms allow the bather to look out of their windows to the sea beyond, while others have small whirlpools on their private terraces, perfect for that late-evening romantic dip. Unsurprisingly, these rooms are known as the Aphrodite and the Adonis.

Off the marble-floored main stairway are a choice of restaurants and bars, offering everything from silver service to a buffet selection. A quieter, more secluded restaurant, limited to 20 or so diners, offers the full gourmet experience.

Away from the main building are a number of low-lying small villas. Guests staying here are welcome to visit the bars and restaurants of the main building, and to mingle with the other guests around the infinity pools, but these villas are totally self-contained should they wish not to - and some even include their own private infinity pool.

For a five star and award-winning hotel however, the spa at Anassa is not quite up to standard. While it’s always pleasant to spend time in a hotel spa, this one is just a little rough around the edges - with a concrete, rather than tiled, surround to the pool, a rather small sauna with a pokey changing area, and an uncomfortable jet pool.

Elsewhere in the Thanos Hotels stable is the Almyra, in Paphos on the south coast. This smaller hotel has recently been refurbished and its spa facilities are still under construction - though this does not impact on guests.

The Almyra features a much more minimalist and modern feel, offering simple rooms with bespoke furnishings and an emphasis on making the most of the stunning view. Some rooms have private terraces just a stone’s throw from the water, others a small balcony, and those that can’t have either do benefit from floor-to-ceiling windows that slide fully open, making the room itself feel like a balcony.

Those rooms in a separate complex offer private roof terraces, from which you can survey, the hotel grounds - eight acres of landscaped garden, the freshwater pool and views across the bay towards the harbour of Paphos.

Like Paphos itself, this ultra-chic modernist hotel comes with personality. This is the hotel that Blofeld would build, should he ever give up being a criminal mastermind to become an hotelier.

But I do believe he’d have chosen to make some changes to the immediate surroundings. Because this hotel is not quite as all encompassing as the Anassa, guests may well want to go exploring. But just across the road is a strip of tacky bars and restaurants, the first of which advertises itself in big bold letters as a topless bar - which is not perhaps the first thing you want to see when leaving a family hotel.

That aside, both hotels do offer fantastic facilities for families with small children. Their Baby Go Lightly service means that guests can leave home unencumbered, having requested the hotel staff to supply them with nappies, pushchairs, monitors, bottles and colouring books as necessary. Furthermore, swimming and tennis lessons can also be booked for older children, to give the parents some welcome respite.

For they too will find, at these sister hotels, plenty of the beauty, love and laughter that Cyprus has hung onto during its often-difficult history. Paphos is after all, the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite.

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