The village of Akrotiri sits on a peninsula of very flat land just west of Limassol. At its core is the Akrotiri Environmental Education Centre, which offers an excellent introduction to the ecology of the area. Inside, you can observe dioramas depicting marshland, the marine environment, dry habitats, and bird and animal life. You can also learn about the local anthropology, as exhibits describe prehistoric hunter-gatherer society and the tradition of soft basketry made with reeds from the wetlands. Pass through the back door to a deck from which you can take in expansive views of the salt lake. Telescopes help you see birds on the lake—including hundreds of flamingos during the winter months. Surrounding the centre is a botanical garden featuring local species. The centre offers extensive educational programming, with a laboratory, a conference room, and a library supporting it. You can also take a self-guided tour of the Akrotiri Marsh, which is just a few minutes away by car. The conservation area is part of the larger wetland complex. Follow the path through high grasses, learning about insects, plants, and birds from signs along the way, and you will reach the raised bird blind; placards illustrate birds you may spot. You can also stroll on the roadway along the perimeter of the marsh. Grazing cattle help maintain a balance among the kinds of grasses growing here. A second bird blind, this one at ground level, sits next to a small pond nearby. Bring a pair of binoculars and some boots and explore the wilds of Akrotiri.
Saint Barnabas is considered the founder of the church of Cyprus. Born in Salamis, Barnabas was raised as a Jew and his given name was Joseph. When, as a young man, he sold his property and donated the proceeds to the apostles in Jerusalem, he was given the name Barnabas, which means ‘man of encouragement’. Indeed, he served as mentor to Saint Paul, who had persecuted the early Christians before converting to Christianity. Bringing his cousin John Mark, Barnabas led Paul on the first missionary trip of the Christian church, sailing from Seleucia to Salamis in 45 CE. Crossing the island while preaching in Jewish synagogues, the group eventually made it to Nea Pafos, the Roman capital of the island near the present-day harbour. There, according to the Acts of the Apostles, they encountered a Jewish magician named Bar-Jesus along with the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul was interested in hearing from the apostles, but Bar-Jesus interfered. Paul then worked a miracle, blinding Bar-Jesus; astonished, Sergius Paulus converted to Christianity—the first high-ranking Roman to do so. After a falling out with Paul, Barnabas made a second missionary trip to Cyprus with his cousin around 60 CE. According to the fifth-century Acts of Barnabas, he again encountered Bar-Jesus near Pafos, worked a miracle of his own, and continued to Salamis. There, legend has it, he was stoned to death for preaching Christianity; his mission work and martyrdom are honoured at his tomb and an adjacent monastery bearing his name.
Late autumn, with its increased rainfall and cooler temperatures, is when wild mushrooms grow in Cyprus, so you will find them in markets and local restaurants. The best known is the red mushroom (or ‘Saffron Milk Cap’), which is usually served baked or sautéed as a side dish. Like many foods, mushrooms can be enhanced by pairing them with wine. The Cyprus red mushroom, for example, goes well with two local varieties of red wine: maratheftiko and yiannoudi. If cooked with tomatoes, mushrooms are enhanced (again) by maratheftiko, but also by chianti and the excellent sangiovese grape with its pronounced acidity. A risotto prepared with porcini mushrooms is complemented by soave and gavi di gavi white wines, barolo red wine, and rosé champagne. A mushroom cream sauce, as is often served with veal, calls for a glass of dry champagne. The savoury ‘umami’ element known as the firth taste in Japanese cooking comes through strongly with its mushroom preparations, which are also well paired with champagne. Oyster mushrooms with soy sauce are nicely accompanied by a pinot noir, merlot, or young rioja. Burgundy, barolo, pinot noir, and cabernet sauvignon are also worthy of consideration with Asian mushroom dishes. If sampling a local preparation of mushrooms with eggs, try local white variety promara because of its strong acidity. Similarly, a quiche with mushrooms calls for an acidic wine like pinot blanc. The earthy taste of a stuffed portobello mushroom benefits from a shiraz or a zinfandel. Pay close attention and you will discover the perfect pairing.
Just a few kilometres northwest from Pafos is the archaeological site of Maa-Palaiokastro and the adjacent Museum of the Mycenaean Colonisation of Cyprus. A thin peninsula high on cliffs overlooking the sea, the site enabled its inhabitants to see approaching ships and protected them from invaders. Excavations reveal protective stone walls at both the landward and seaward sides of the peninsula. The outlines of the settlement can be traced by exploring the foundations of numerous stone houses and larger public buildings. The architectural features of these structures, along with objects found within them made of clay, stone, and metal, bear characteristics of Mycenaean Greece. During the 13th century BCE, the Peloponnese was in economic decline and many Greeks moved eastward in search of more favourable circumstances. During this period groups of migrants arrived on Cyprus and joined existing settlements or created new ones; Maa-Palaiokastro was one of the latter. The museum here tells the story of the Mycenaean colonisation and the growth of Cyprus during the Late Bronze Age (1230-1050 BCE). Due to its rich deposits of copper, the island emerged as a key trading partner in the region. Maps show settlements and trade flows in the Mediterranean during the era, while texts with illustrations explore language, writing, religion, and material culture. The museum structure, built in 1996, is itself of interest: set underground and capped by a bronze dome, it blends in with the surrounding landscape. The archaeological site and museum work together to explain the history of the island’s hellenisation.
There’s so much to do at Annabelle’s Ouranos Wellbeing Spa that you could easily spend a day there. Indeed, if you book a treatment, you will receive access to the spa’s facilities for the entire day. On arrival, the receptionist will provide you with a robe and slippers and escort you to our well-appointed changing room. You could spend your morning at our indoor pool, alternating between the water and a poolside lounger as you sip our complimentary herbal tea and rosemary-infused water. Or check out our weekly schedule for group activities—you might practice yoga or take an aqua tone class, for example. The facilities include a gym replete with exercise equipment and a sauna. Our spa menu offers a wide range of therapeutic treatments. One option is the Heavenly Relaxing Wellbeing Massage by Codage; over sixty minutes, the therapist will apply essential oils (orange, lavender, geranium) and body milk in a treatment that relieves muscle tension and soothes the skin. Visiting with another? Consider one of our treatments for two, such as the Couple’s Hot Stone Harmony; this massage begins with the placement of heated basalt lava stones on the body’s vital energy points. After your treatment, perhaps you’d like to spiff up in our salon—we offer an array of nail, make-up, and hair styling services. Then take afternoon tea at the adjacent rooftop lounge as you enjoy panoramic views of the harbour. You’ll emerge from your day with a sense of serenity and rejuvenation.
Since its opening in 2018, Ouranos rooftop lounge and bar has featured entertainment by the island’s top musical talent, drawing enthusiastic local crowds and wowing Annabelle’s guests as well. One of the regular musicians is Efthivoulos Theocharous. Thrice weekly, Efthivoulos accompanies a notable singer on piano as they perform beloved Greek songs and familiar standards. A native of Cyprus, Efthivoulos has enjoyed a distinguished career as a performer and composer both here and abroad. Although his first instrument was the bouzouki, he started the piano at the age of 15 and went on to complete diplomas in piano, flute, and music theory at the Royal Academy of Music in Cyprus. In 1998, he matriculated at Five Towns College in New York to study music, composition, and production and in the process produced two albums. After graduation, he moved to Athens and produced more albums—including gold and platinum records. Among his many successful compositions is ‘One Last Breath’, which was the 2015 Eurovision entry for Greece. Efthivoulos returned to Cyprus in 2013 and established a recording studio here; he joined Thanos Hotels as a performer and producer in 2016. Described by a mentor as ‘the Greek Chopin’, he plays from the heart in a style that is emotionally sensitive and technically vigorous. Every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday evening, Efthivoulos and his partners regale you with Greek hits. Take in the lively atmosphere as you sip a cocktail, nibble on shared plates, and enjoy the panoramic view of the harbour.