20 March 2022

The group I work with is associated with a chain of hotels in Cyprus, owned by the Constantinou Brothers. One of the pros is that I get to experience the hotels for myself on an educational trip – of course a four-day break in the sunshine with no children or husband to look after? I booked onto the first date available in 2022!

The flight into Paphos is between four and five hours from the UK. We flew from Leeds and the effects of the pandemic are finally starting to wear-off. No masks are required now in Leeds Bradford Airport, nor are they a requirement on the plane (we flew with Jet 2). The only negative was that the security queue was as bad as recent reports suggest. Only two security lanes were open due to staff shortages sustained from the pandemic, which mean over an hour to get through. We arrived at the airport two hours before we were due to depart, and we didn’t even have chance to finish a coffee before our gate was closing. If you like to peruse the duty-free or grab breakfast before you fly then you should aim for a three-hour check in until airports are able to recruit and train staff and overcome their current issues.

Cyprus no longer requests a negative test for full-vaccinated arrivals. The only requirement was to complete the Cyprus Flight Pass within forty-eight hours of our flight. When we landed, we had to show our NHS Covid Pass to prove we were vaccinated and then we were free to explore.

Masks are still mandatory everywhere indoors (March 2022) – you can remove them whenever you are seated at a table, and nobody wears them outside. It was hard to remember a mask every time I left the hotel room after becoming used to not wearing one at home!

The taxi from Paphos Airport to the hotel was only fifteen minutes – it makes it an ideal spot for anyone travelling with young children wanting to keep a short transfer. We were allocated rooms at the Athena Beach Hotel, the largest of the four properties managed by Constantinou Bros. It’s also the only family hotel in their portfolio – the Athena Royal, next door, is a smaller adult-only property, the Pioneer further along the coast is another smaller adult-only, exclusive to TUI, and the Asimina Suites is a five-star luxury all-suite hotel, again for adults only.

We were allocated Superior Sea View Rooms on the fourth floor, which are part of the Elite Class selection with added benefits, the first of which is a VIP check-in with bubbly to set the tone! The hotel is styled traditionally with marble floors and walls in the lobby and restaurants, dramatic chandeliers, and elegant furnishings. Corridors are carpeted in a royal blue and bedrooms have recently been updated to light wood-style flooring to compliment the traditional panelling and furnishings. Bathrooms are all light marble with walk-in showers (some have baths available on request and other room types feature both showers and baths). The spacious south-facing balcony overlooked the large central pool, splash-park, and Mediterranean Sea.

After unpacking and refreshing we had dinner in the Zephyr a la carte – I had the lemon and butter sole and over-ambitiously selected two types of baklava for dessert – one of my favourites!

After breakfast on day two we were taken on an orientation tour of Paphos and the surrounding area by the lovely and hospitable Aristos! We headed along the coast to see the new beach bars commissioned by the local authority, back past Aphrodite Waterpark – a huge attraction for families with an abundant choice of garish slides, less than a mile from the hotel, and then onto Paphos town before heading north out into the hills and traditional Cypriot villages nearby. Cyprus is a great place to hire a car for a few days – since they also drive on the left-hand side and roads are maintained to a very high standard there is really no concern that should put you off. We visited a small independent winery call ‘Kolios’ and enjoyed a wine-tasting and tour of the production. They serve food and wine in a large dining room with huge windows opening out onto a beautiful view of the green hills and vineyards below.

Onward we stopped off briefly to visit a stunning, newly developed golf course called Minthis, which is just a twenty-minute drive from the hotel. For any keen golfers the course offers a challenging terrain winding around a twelfth-century monastery and incredible views up to the Trodos Mountains.

Looping back towards Paphos we parked at the harbour and stopped for an incredible lunch at Theo’s on the harbour front. Greek salad with the creamiest feta, delicately grilled calamari, prawns big enough to trick you into believing they could be lobsters, and fresh fish, all washed down with way too much white wine.

We finished lunch after three in the afternoon, then headed back to prepare for dinner at the Athena Royal. We were hardly starving, nevertheless, we were treated to a delicious four-course affair with soup, buttery scallops, the softest juicy tenderloin steak, and traditional Cypriot sweets.

On our third day Aristos graced us with a full tour of the four hotels and their facilities. Athena Beach offers the widest choice of room categories, ranging from Classic Land View Rooms overlooking the fields behind the hotel, right up to interconnecting and even triple interconnecting family rooms with swim-up pools, ideal for accommodating larger families or several generations travelling together. There are several pools, including an indoor heated pool and spa, air-conditioned gym with a great choice of equipment and machines, two waterslides for the kids (and big kids), a splash-park for the littlest ones, a kid’s club from four years old, playground, games room, and a world-class selection of Bowls facilities including well over a dozen rinks on-site. They also have excellent cycling facilities including secure storage and partnership with an external cycling company, adding to the abundant list of sporting facilities on offer.

Next door at the Athena Royal we viewed rooms ranging from Superior Sea Views and Junior Suites up to executive One Bedroom Suites, before heading up to see what will be the brand-new rooftop bar – honestly it’s going to be spectacular when it officially opens in May!

A two-minute drive or a ten-minute walk brings you to the Pioneer, which is currently exclusive to TUI and marketed as one of their BLUE FOR TWO properties, and the Asimina Suites, which is one of the leading hotels in Cyprus. It is the only property belonging to Constantinou Bros that is only open during the summer months, so work was being carried out in preparation for opening in early-April. We viewed the Executive Suite with Private Pool, which is a real wow-factor room, perfect for honeymooners or anyone looking for something extra special.

Another lavish lunch ensued at the Pioneer, and then we managed to sneak in an hour of sunbathing back the Athena Beach. Disappointingly this was the only few hours that reached above sixteen degrees! Very unusually for Paphos the weather was around fourteen degrees most of the time with a cool wind and lots of cloud – it was the coldest week they have had for years (January was twenty-three degrees!), and in Nicosia, the Capital, they had even had snow earlier in the week! Aristos even asked if we would like to go skiing in the Trodos mountains, and after establishing that he was not joking we had to assert that we did not bring any ski gear!

We had traditional Cypriot Mezze for dinner on our final evening in an authentic taverna in Pahos Old Town. The town was awarded ‘European Capital of Culture’ in 2017 and has been carefully restored and upgraded recently with a new pedestrianised area and meticulously maintained buildings and streets. The Cypriots are very proud and welcoming people, and it is with excellent reason – they have a beautiful country with excellent infrastructure. Crime levels are extremely low and it’s a very safe place to visit. Of course, year-round sunshine(usually!) and some of the best food in the world is another bonus.

On our final morning we decided to stroll along the coastal boardwalk – a long pathway that stretches up to the harbour and beyond to the Tomb of the Kings. A stroll to the harbour takes around thirty minutes and leads past some other popular hotels in Paphos, such as the hugely popular Olympic Lagoon, newly opened and contemporary adult-only Amavi, Cypriot classic Alexander the Great, and five-star luxury sister properties Almyra and Annabelle, right next to the harbour.

A quick stop for coffee and souvenirs, then a brisk walk back along the boardwalk. The wind had really picked up and we enjoyed watching the curling waves break over the rocky beaches, spraying water high into the air. If you are looking for a sandy beach then Paphos is not ideal. Most of its coastline is very rocky, but I loved that the Constantinou hotels make up for this with spacious lawns and pools, a selling point that not many of the other hotels have.

One final lunch in the hotel – we tried the buffet, which offered a huge choice of dishes, from beef curry to creamy chicken, pizza and chips to salad and cheese! For those on All Inclusive or Half Board the quality and choice of food is endless.

A final goodbye to Aristos, who made us feel incredibly welcome, as we saw all staff do to all guests and is evident in the huge return-rate of guests, before our flight home. Hopefully, it will not be long before we see each other again as we will be ‘repeaters’ for sure.

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