On the Trail of Aphrodite: Exploring Cyprus, the Island of Love

Cyprus — By on July 20, 2011 at 1:12 pm

By Edd Morris

It’s easy to fall in love on vacation. Well, when you’re miles away from the drab routine of work, boring colleagues and dinners in front of the TV, it’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement of it all! Of course, some places (and people) are easier to fall in love with than others. Cyprus, the swordfish-shaped Mediterranean island on the eastern edge of Europe, is probably a good candidate for your affections.

What’s so romantic about Cyprus? Well, it’s the self-styled ‘Island of Love’, being the mythical birthplace of love-goddess Aphrodite. The island is one of Europe’s most popular destinations for marriage vacations – thousands of foreigners have Cyprus weddings every year. And, with an annual 340 days of sunshine, you could argue that there’s nothing not to love about the climate.

Whether it’s for a romantic weekend getaway, a rose-petalled honeymoon or even a full-blown wedding overseas, Cyprus has enough romance in the air to satisfy even the soppiest of couples. The influence of Aphrodite is everywhere – and here’s a trail of Aphrodite-inspired activities around Cyprus to help you feel the love.

Visit Petra Tou Romiou – the Birthplace of Aphrodite

Goddess Aphrodite, it’s said, was born out of the ocean beside the sea-lapped rock Petra tou Romiou, on the Cyprus coast. They myth goes that beautiful Aphrodite arose from the foam of the sea, floating majestically on a scallop-shell.

Nowadays, if you’re coming by car rather than by sea-shell, you can reach Aphrodite’s Rock by driving on the B6 between Paphos and Limassol. There’s access to the beach via a little tunnel, and from there you can relax on the pebbly shore, and soak up the peaceful atmosphere of the place.

Swim around Aphrodite’s Rock to gain eternal youth*

If you’re visiting Aphrodite’s Rock and feeling adventurous, you could participate in the legend by swimming out and around the boulder three times. Those who succeed, so the mythology goes, will be blessed with a miracle – although no-one’s yet discovered if you’ll enjoy eternal youth, eternal fertility, or you’ll just fall deeply in love with the next Cypriot you see. Why not try it and find out?!

(*eternal youth cannot be guaranteed).

Make a Pilgrimage to Aphrodite’s Sanctuary

The atmospheric ruins of Aphrodite’s sanctuary are all that’s left of one of the most amazing pilgrimage sites of the Ancient Greek world. The fertility myths of Aphrodite spawned a huge cult of followers – and this sanctuary, in Koulika, was their spiritual base. The cult seemed to believe in sacred prostitution – so reams of girls would be seated in the sanctuary courtyard wearing crowns of rope, waiting for visiting men to choose them to perform the, er, ‘scared act’ with.

Things have been toned down quite a bit over the years, and today it’s not quite the place of excess it once was: all you’ll find is an extensive, well-cared for museum to visit, as well as a little cafe.

Stay in luxury at the Aphrodite Hills Resort

There’s a wealth of luxurious accommodation in Cyprus – and a useful tip is that the search tool at mydestination.com/cyprus handily finds the cheapest price across all the big booking websites. However, the world-class Aphrodite Hills Resort, by Intercontinental, stands head and shoulders above the rest. An infinity pool overlooks the Mediterranean at the spot where Aphrodite was born, and the extensive gardens are carefully filled with the plants and scents of the goddess: the red poppy, the evergreen myrtle, and the fragrant rose.

Edd Morris has been a Londoner since 2005. That hasn’t cured his itchy feet – he still loves traveling the world in search of spicy food and someone to practice Spanish with.