Side-lining stereotypes of Ayia Napa, the Cypriot spot synonymous with 18-30s, my tricenarian pals and I booked up.
After three years of lockdown, we were psyched to escape Scotland.
Choosing the trip was easy enough, but there were some things we learned about traveling to Ayia Napa. Firstly, flights are often at anti-social hours, so it’s best to pre-book your travel and accommodation. Secondly, there are no public buses, trains (or cheap taxis) from Larnaca Airport, so pre-booked transfers are key!
Touching down at 1am local time, we thanked God for our transfer! After bumbling with baggage, we boarded our bus to the hotel.
Ayia Napa accommodation can suit any budget, but after much searching, my partner and I opted for the Vassos Nissi Plage Hotel, famed for its amenities and warm welcome.
Meeting us with smiles and information, the reception team and night porter got us settled.
After a few stolen hours sleep, we were up early for the Flavours of Cyprus Tour, a trip that promised eating, drinking and historical insights from a local guide.
Heading out of Ayia Napa, we took the A3 North West to collect our chaperone, Maria. While our driver Mikael navigated narrow mountain rounds, Maria told us of the island’s hard history.
Passing dry land dotted with Cypresses, Fig trees and shrubs, Maria explained that Cyprus used to be famed for its forests, before war and shifting environmental practices saw it reduced and replanted.
After a short coffee break in mountain village, we headed down the E903 to Argos, for The Rose Factory. Hiding on the hillside, this botanical business offered breathtaking views and produce. Its floral arches led to an information center, where powerful perfume prevailed. Inside we were given rose cordial to sip, as we heard how the blooms were grown, harvested and processed on-site, to be turned into drinks, cosmetics and perfume.
Senses awoken, we continued our trip to a local confectionary, Nikki Sweets. Here we discovered the many ways Carob Syrup was used to make Cypriot candies. In a cushioned canopy, we sampled preserved walnut, pineapple and olive, all soaked in syrup.
Sugar-buzzing, we snapped selfies, before returning to the bus to embrace our next eatery.
After a short drive South West, we reached the town of Pelendri and our restaurant, Symposio Tavern. With an earthern oven and a kitchen garden, the owner’s organic produce wowed us! We devoured Greek salads, omelettes, pittas, dips, and roasted meat, all washed down with watermelon slices.
Full but happy, we returned to the bus for the grand finale, a trip to Tsiakkas Winery. Upon arrival, we went to the terrace, to view the vineyard below. Bright green vines climbed the walls of the valley, in gorgeous contrast to the sandy soil and azure sky.
After a few photos, we continued to the wine cellar, where we heard about the imported and reused oak barrels. These casks were filled with local vintages like Vamvakada, and Xynisteri; as well as European names such as Merlot.
Finally, it came time to taste the wine! Back upstairs we tried white, rose and red, while basking in the vineyard view. Although drier than my usual tipple, the wines were a nice contrast to our earlier sweets.
Bidding goodbye to the winery, we went back to the bus to head home.
Home for us was Nissi Beach, a hot spot for swimming, but a 40- minute trek from nightlife. To find this, we met our pals and walked to Ayia Napa Square.
Hitting the square, the streets were busier than the clubs, as people promenaded with drinks and sparklers. However, after a couple of happy hours, the bars were buzzing.
Over many, many drinks, we voted Senior Frog’s the best bar for frozen cocktails and cheesy pop. However, the real rave was to be found in Encore. With a huge open-air dance floor, an elevated DJ booth, and a laser show, Encore offered classic clubbing.
After a great night, we headed back to the hotel for some R&R.
The following day brought a hellish hangover and I regretted booking the fancy place for dinner.
But, after hours chilling by the pool, I came around to the plan! Drinks drank, and makeup on, my partner and I headed to The Glass House restaurant.
Situated atop Adam’s Beach Hotel, The Glass House is a four-star eatery, serving Nouvelle cuisine, with an uninterrupted view of Nissi Beach. Sitting outside, we watched the sun set over a Sauvignon Blanc from Tsiakkas Winery.
While we relaxed, we were given complimentary nibbles of bread and dips with a tangy taste. Then I enjoyed the Tuna Tataki, followed by Seafood Tagliatelle. Everything we ate had fine-tuned flavours and was served with smiles, so although pricey, it was worth every penny!
Later in the holiday, as the euros dwindled, we found a cheap treat in Mangas Restaurant. Its white-washed walls, mosaics and mood lighting made it an instant roadside romance! Undeterred by the passing traffic, we grabbed a seat and ordered the meat mezze.
We were stunned at the spread that came. Salads, pittas, dips, stews, chunky chips, sausages and kebabs were just some of the ‘small’ plates served. After eating all we could, we walked it off, heading to Parko Paliatso Luna Park.
For big kids, Parko Paliatso is a ‘Napa must-see. The fairground has rides of all sizes, as well as pop-up bars and a Ferris Wheel. From the top of the wheel, we soaked up the stunning cityscape, before immortalising it in photos!
Emboldened by the experience, my friend and I queued for the ‘spinny ride’. This one sat you in a cart that moved up and down, side to side and then backward. A great idea after a massive meat mezze! Narrowly avoiding vomiting, we screamed and laughed, before rejoining my partner, who had wisely sat it out.
Days later, learning from this near miss, I had a light breakfast before our trip to Waterworld. Meeting our pals, we sweated in the 30-degree heat, before catching the 102 bus to the waterpark.
After dumping our stuff, we hot-footed it to the flumes. Soon I decided the half-pipe and steep-drop ones were my favourite. The ‘chariot race’ flume – not so much!
As I lay at the top of the ‘chariot race’, my yoga mat stuck, and I flopped like a walrus, trying to get it to launch. Needless to say, I did not win the race! Eventually, I made it down the slide and was treated to a drink by my friends.
After much hilarity, our trip to Ayia Napa came to an end. But I took Cyprus home with me, as I read The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak. The novel, which jumps back and forth from the 70s to the 00s, tells the tale of two teens, from opposite sides of the border.
After falling in love, war breaks out and the pair have to make tough choices about if and how they will stay connected. Action-packed, with history and humour, the book was great, just like our trip!