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Sun-soaked Cyprus is a little slice of paradise in the Mediterranean

Aerial view of Latchi port, Akamas peninsula, Polis Chrysochous, Paphos, Cyprus.
Aerial view of Latchi port, Akamas peninsula, Polis Chrysochous, Paphos, Cyprus.

By Chris Cairns

My geography degree at Queen's taught me many things but when I planned a family holiday to Cyprus, I realised I knew very little about the third largest island in the Mediterranean.

Like how it was situated less than 70 miles away from Syria and Lebanon. And that the two official languages are Greek and Turkish.

But having spent a glorious week there this summer with my family, I'm pleased to say that I'm now a little more knowledgeable about this country, a country well worth visiting.

We flew to Paphos on the south-west of the island and then hired a car to head up to the coastal town of Latchi, about an hour's drive north from the airport.

Our base for the week was Villa Mandarine, one of about 10 villas in a quiet development set in the countryside, five minutes drive from Latchi. With fantastic views overlooking the sea, mountains and countryside, it's the ideal spot for some relaxation.

The villa was spacious with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a brand new kitchen and huge living/dining area with sliding doors out to the back of the house.

All mod-cons are there including the must-have air conditioning and wifi, as well as an excellent range of terrestrial television channels if you wanted to catch up with your favourite programme from back home, or alternatively Netflix.

Villa Mandarine in Latchi, Cyprus
Villa Mandarine in Latchi, Cyprus

Outside there was a built-in barbecue, comfortable chairs to relax in the shade, or enjoy a dip in the pool which had a good-sized shallow area for our four-year-old son Scott.

A word for Lisa, the rep from James Villas. Not only had she provided us with an ample food basket plus several children's pool floats for our arrival late on Sunday night, but she also then came round on Monday to make sure we had settled in and gave us a number of maps and ideas for places to visit as well as local restaurants to try. The village of Latchi is small and unspoilt with a number of restaurants and bars along the beach, as well as the marina where various boat trips sail from. It's on the promenade where Latchi Watersports (www.latchiwatersportscentre.com) are based, offering everything from sailing and windsurfing to jet ski hire and scuba diving lessons.

We opted to hire a six-seater self-drive powerboat for two hours at a cost of just over €100. After a quick debriefing with one of the staff, we filled our coolbox (which is provided) with food and drink and went on our merry way down the coast towards the Akamas Peninsula where there is several good snorkelling areas to drop anchor at.

Moustakallis restaurant
Moustakallis restaurant

Our kids loved it and don't worry if you're not an experienced sailor, one of the staff manoeuvres the boat in and out of the harbour.

There's a wide variety of restaurants along the marina and the beach which are busy throughout the day. Faros is ideal for lunch and has a good children's menu but in the evening, I recommend No 9 Latchi Beach.

Here the food is more fine dining than casual (children are still well catered for). It's right on the beach and you will need to book at night so make sure you get a table outside so you can enjoy the superb sunsets.

Chris and his son Scott in their self-drive boat
Chris and his son Scott in their self-drive boat

For a more authentic meal then there's only one place to go, the town of Polis which is a five-minute drive from Latchi.

The restaurant in question is Moustakallis, owned and run by three generations of the family. Traditional food is the order of the day here - my wife and I enjoyed the Cypriot dishes of Kleftiko (marinated lamb) and Mousaka.

The service was excellent and it's where the locals come to enjoy an evening out. Members of the family came over to talk to us throughout our evening and made us feel very welcome.

Paphos Waterpark. Pictures: Paphos Waterpark Facebook page.
Paphos Waterpark. Pictures: Paphos Waterpark Facebook page.

If you fancy a day out, it's worth a trip to Pafos Zoo. Here you can feed the giraffes, see the elephants and marvel at one of the largest collections of venomous snakes. However, the highlight is an indoor show featuring some very clever macaws and owls doing various tricks in the amphitheatre.

And make sure you stay to the end as there's a special surprise animal brought out which you can have your picture with.

Our family holiday is never complete without a trip to a waterpark and this one was no different. Before our flight home, we spent the day at Paphos Waterpark.

Pafos Zoo, Cyprus. Pictures:Pafos Zoo on Facebook
Pafos Zoo, Cyprus. Pictures:Pafos Zoo on Facebook

There was a multitude of slides and rides to go on for our 10-year-old daughter Eva to enjoy while Scott spent the day in the children's pool with several smaller slides. Booking online before you go is cheaper and a family day pass for two adults and two children is €99.

Because the flight time from Belfast is over five hours, I had never really considered holidaying in Cyprus. Yet, why wouldn't you - the people are so friendly, it's not expensive when you are there and a place like Latchi is still unspoiled and off the beaten track. I don't think it will be too long before I go back again.

Travel factfile

Chris and his family stayed in Villa Mandarine, courtesy of James Villas. For more information, visit www.jamesvillas.co.uk.

They flew with Jet2 from Belfast International to Paphos, visit www.jet2.com for more details.

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