Jeannine Williamson finds Cyprus's party capital has calmed down
Cocktails in goldfish bowls, booze cruises and noisy nightclubs – all of these, and more, have been linked with Ayia Napa, the so-called party capital of Cyprus.
Reputations can be hard to shake off, however there’s much more to this resort on the eastern coast of the third-largest island in the Med.
While agents might err on the safe side and point families, couples and mature clients in the direction of Larnaca, Paphos and Limassol, in recent years Ayia Napa has ‘grown up’ with a host of boutique hotel openings, spas and restaurants serving authentic Cypriot cuisine.
“The young crowd that come in July and August make up less than 10% of clients,” says Lakis Avraamides, director of the Ayia Napa – Protaras Tourism Board. “While there are budget hotel apartments in the centre that appeal to teenagers, in the last five years nearly all the hotels have been renovated and the majority of properties are four-star. We also have six five-star hotels and villa accommodation. There really is something for everyone here.”
Olympic Holidays’ commercial director, Photis Lambrianides, adds: “There’s so much more to Ayia Napa than the lively nightlife. The resort, which was once a fishing village, still has character around the pretty harbour and the monastery.
“We market different areas and different properties, from the family-friendly Macronissos Village Club on one side of the resort to prestigious hotels such as the Grecian Park Hotel on the Protaras side of Ayia Napa, which is ideal for couples. So depending on where you stay, and when you travel, Ayia Napa can deliver a fantastic holiday experience for virtually any client profile.”
The charter season runs from May to October, but Cyprus is a year-round destination and agents should consider dynamically packaged winter holidays with carriers including Cyprus Airways and easyJet.
Set in a crescent-shaped bay a 20-minute walk or five-minute taxi ride from the centre of Ayia Napa, the 270-room, four-star Nissi Beach Resort is a tranquil oasis.
The vast lush gardens leading down to the beach, which include an aromatic sensory flower bed, are the property’s standout feature and form a picturesque backdrop for around 300 weddings hosted at the hotel each year. The property – the first hotel built in the 1970s – also includes attractive beach bungalows.
The five-star Grecian Park Hotel is perched on a cliff top at Cape Greco overlooking Konnos Bay. This 239-room property, with a spa and romantic open-air bar, is a good recommendation for couples. Steps lead down to the beach and privately owned Mike’s Watersports centre that offers parasailing, snorkelling, inflatable rides and jet ski hire.
Among the up-and-coming generation of boutique properties is the ultra-cool and newly rebuilt Napa Mermaid Hotel & Suites, 1km from the centre of Ayia Napa. Sophisticated rooms include 16 pool-side sea view rooms with small enclosed gardens complete with a shady palm tree.
Planet Holidays has introduced the luxury sister properties So Nice & So White Boutique Suites on the beach of Makronissos near Ayia Napa. So Nice includes a new Beach Club and recently opened Nozomi Japanese restaurant, similar to London’s award-winning restaurant of the same name.
Mathilde Robert, managing director of Planet Holidays, says: “These two properties are so different to what other hotels in Cyprus offer, including a stunning swimming pool with floating sunbeds at So White. Both properties have a great laid-back feeling and an amazing location.”
It might be hard to believe Ayia Napa grew out of a small fishing village flanked by forests, but step away from the main shopping strip and you’re quickly transported back to bygone times.
A place of pilgrimage since the 11th century, Ayia Napa monastery is a world away from the nearby neon-lit bars. Its small church was built around a cave, still visible today, where a hunter is said to have discovered an icon of the Virgin Mary.
Also in the centre of town is the Thalassa Museum of the Sea, which will enthral youngsters and culture vultures alike. Opened in 2005, the centrepiece is a full-size replica of a 400BC sailing ship that sank off the coast. Visitors will also be surprised to find the remains, and cute models, of pygmy hippos and dwarf elephants that once roamed the island.
A short drive around the Cape Greco headland is the resort of Protaras where it’s well worth climbing the 153 steps to the tiny chapel of Prophet Elias. Although it was only built in the 1980s the interior is pretty and outside there are spectacular coastal views.
ACTION & RELAXATION
Take a cruise to explore the coast and see the sea caves around Cape Greco. Trips on Agia Trias III from the harbour are suitable for children and include the chance to snorkel, make a stop for watersports or, on the barbecue trips, try scuba diving for free.
The E4 European long distance walking path crosses Cyprus and a particularly scenic stretch, and an easy walk for all abilities, is the Agioi Anargyroi-Konnos which stretches for nearly one mile along Cape Greco.
Chill out in the spa at the Sunrise Pearl Hotel, which opened last year. The extensive spa menu includes an ‘aqua thermal journey’ through different heat and water experiences, including a snow-filled chamber
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