Lofou, Cyprus

Photo: Apokryfo
Photo: Apokryfo

The wish list: ancient ruins, tiny villages, groves of citrus and olives, and the Mediterranean sunshine. You’ve narrowed it down to Greece and Turkey, but now can’t decide between the equally beautiful countries. Perhaps a combination of the two?

The Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been fought over by, well, everyone. Though most recently by the Greeks and the Turks. To this day, the north is very Turkish, the south is very Greek, and the country has two official languages. For the government, this may have created confusion at its best and hostility at its worst, but for visitors, the unified island is a traveler’s dream.

Most people head to Cyprus for the gorgeous beaches, but to get a real feel for Cypriot life, head inland. Located in the foothills of Mount Olympus, the rural village of Lofou is exactly what you dreamed about. Steep, narrow cobblestone streets. Stone houses whose owners seem to be competing to see who can grow the most bougainvillea. Someone is strumming a bouzouki inside one of the homes. A single church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. All surrounded by rolling hills of vineyards. Tiny fruit is just starting to develop on the green vines. You could be in Provence or Tuscany. But there are no attractions to check off a list. No buses full of tourists. And few people speak English. Your wish list has become your reality.

Photo: Apokryfo
Photo: Apokryfo

And will even more so when you arrive at Apokryfo, a collection of old stone homes that were renovated and turned into a boutique hotel. The rustic rooms have lime-washed beams, fireplaces, and herringbone throws. Vines climb along balconies that have views of the village with the Troodos Mountains in the background. Eat breakfast by the pool that is shaded by almond trees next to the fragrant herb garden. Locally made bread, homemade fig preserves, yogurt, and halloumi–lots of halloumi–fill you up for the day.

There’s no rush, but eventually you’ll want to explore. Visit two nearby wineries. Vlassides for their red Erythros and dry white Lefkos. Ayia Mavri for their sweet Muscats. Go to the open-air theater at the ancient ruins of Kourion and the Kolossi Crusader Castle. Hike the cool forest trails of the Troodos Mountains, stopping at waterfalls along the way. Or head south to Limassol to relax on the famous beaches or see the shoreline from the sea while sailing. Just return to Apokryfo in time for a candlelit dinner on the rooftop terrace. The set menu changes constantly, though it always features classic Cypriot dishes. Cold cucumber and tomato soup. Smoked eggplant salad. Zucchini fritters. Garlic meatballs. Calamari risotto. Slow-cooked pork with apples and almonds. Plus wine from the underground cellar.

Between the food, the wine, the panoramic views, and the starry sky you’re starting to feel right at home. Maybe another one of the stone houses in the village needs renovating.

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