Cyprus lures tourists with beaches and golf
Cyprus' coastline is one of its major tourist attractions. Picture: The West Australian

On nights with a full moon, the area around Aphrodite's Rock resembles public swimming baths.

Dozens of young couples frolic in the waters around the stone stack on the southern coast of Cyprus. Those who swim around the much-photographed landmark three times are rewarded with eternal love, or at least good luck - so the Cypriots say.

According to legend, the goddess Aphrodite emerged from the waves east of Paphos. To this day she is still revered as a kind of Cypriot national goddess and those who journey to the southwest of the island will find her ever-present.

Above the mythical rocks the spacious, manicured lawns of an upmarket golf course stand out in the sun-scorched landscape.

Aphrodite Hills is one of the most celebrated places to tee-off in the Mediterranean.

Golfers aiming for hole seven have to whack the ball across an impressive chasm. The feat calls for nerves of steel and a generous supply of balls. The next hole offers a completely different experience, falling away steeply, seemingly into the sea itself.

Next to water sports, golf is the most popular sporting pastime in Cyprus. The island is a former British colony and Britons love playing golf.

Russian tourists have increasingly been making a beeline for Cyprus in recent years, but most of the visitors still come from central Europe. They come to sample the golf courses, the pristine beaches, the near-perfect weather and because of Aphrodite.

After a dip at the Aphrodite's Rock, they journey to the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite in Kouklia and Baths of Aphrodite at Latchi.

Limassol with its fascinating Roman amphitheatre on the seafront and the tourist centres of the southwest are further attractions. The ocean promenades are often heavily-built up with large hotel complexes. For those who want to avoid these concrete edifices, the hinterland offers comfortable boutique hostelries.

Miliou lies on the way to Aphrodite's Baths, on the unspoiled Akamas isthmus, which begins behind the fishing village of Latchi.

The local harbour is filled with excursion boats and yachts and a few diving schools offer trips from the promenade. The water is clear and visibility is usually anything up to 40m. Along the seafront is an attractive mixture of taverns with plenty of fish on the menu, hotels and souvenir shops. Naturally, there is a large selection of Aphrodite statues in all sizes.

Latchi does not have a fancy marina like many a resort along the French Riviera, and it is not particularly picturesque. It makes up for this with the robust conviviality of its down-to-earth fish taverns. Regardless of which establishment tourists end up in, they will always be able to treat themselves to properly grilled fish.

It is only a few kilometres from Latchi to the Aphrodite baths. The road is lined with white off-road vehicles.

They do not belong to United Nations peacekeeping forces working to keep the peace at potential flashpoints along the border that divides the island into Greek and Turkish territory.

Rather, the vehicles bring tourists through the barren Macchia landscape. Those with more stamina are welcome to explore the protected nature zone on foot using marked paths, such as the Adonis Trail. The spot where - according to legend - the goddess of love once consorted with Adonis, is an unspectacular place of pilgrimage for tourists and Aphrodite fans.

The bathing spot said to have been frequented by the goddess is a small stream tucked away between rocks, trees and dense undergrowth.

Tens of thousands of tourists come here to visit it every year, using a narrow path through a garden in order to do so. Eternal youth is promised to those who bathe here, but unfortunately bathing is not officially allowed.

In spring, red roses compete for attention with the snowy blossoms of the almond trees. Legend has it that the roses arose from the blood of Adonis, who pricked himself on a thorn bush in pursuit of Aphrodite.

In summer and autumn, the area - like the rest of the island - seems to lie baking in the sun. The stone-strewn, steppe-like landscape is dotted with individual olive trees that shimmer in the sun.

The sun's rays dry out this landscape for 320 days a year - a blessing for the tourist trade and countless sun-seeking central and northern Europeans who flock here. They enjoy the beaches in late season too and many will doze in afternoon heat, sleeping and maybe dreaming of Aphrodite.

The West Australian

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