x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Bright and breezy

Four hours from Abu Dhabi The cooler shores of Cyprus provide a sunny break from the sweltering Gulf summer.

People forget how close Cyprus is to the Middle East: this island in the eastern Mediterranean is just a three-hour flight away. Summers are reliably sunny but sea breezes rarely take the temperature much above 30 degrees, making it the perfect escape from the Gulf. The landscape around Larnaca is arid and dry; the further west you go, the greener and more mountainous it becomes.

Although it is one of the Greek-Cypriot republic's biggest tourist resorts, Larnaca is also the island's oldest town, with a history dating back 6,000 years. The first Phoenician colony on Cyprus, Larnaca used to be known as Kition, or Kittium, and was the birthplace of the Greek philosopher Zeno. It is believed that Zeno founded Stoicism after losing everything he had in a shipwreck. The ancient site of Kition is at the northern end of modern Larnaca.

Larnaca is home to the main international airport in the south, making it a good base from which to explore the rest of the island, including the westerly towns of Limassol and Paphos. Crossing the Green Line into Turkish north Cyprus is relatively straightforward, but travellers need to show their passports at the border and should keep up with the latest developments before setting out. Larnaca is surrounded by 25 kilometres of beaches and the town contains several archaeological sites and museums. Ruins date back to the Mycenaen Age. There are also several important Byzantine monuments, including the ninth-century Basilica of St Lazarus. The seafront boasts a handsome promenade backed by palm trees and is home to most of the island's major summer festivals. Outdoor concerts take place in the courtyard of the medieval fort and at the Pattchion Amphitheatre; there are also performances of dance, theatre and poetry and outdoor film screenings. The Festival of Ancient Greek Drama is held in Limassol in August and September.

Budget The recently-renovated Palm Beach Hotel & Bungalows is a reliable choice for families as it has extensive beachfront grounds and facilities for children including swimming pools, playgrounds, kids' clubs and a good choice of restaurants. Double rooms from Dh700 (@email:www.palmbeachhotel.com). Mid-range Le Meridien Spa and Resort in Limassol, a 30-minute drive from Larnaca, provides an escape from young children. The focus here is on spa treatments - there are 125 to choose from and 64 therapists, plus four outdoor thalassotherapy pools and adults-only freshwater lagoons. There is also a gym, daily timetable of yoga and salsa lessons, a water-sports centre and private beach. Double rooms start at Dh1,700 per night including breakfast (@email:www.lemeridien-cyprus.com).

Luxury Possibly the best hotel in Cyprus, the Anassa offers a good blend of five-star luxury and seclusion, situated two kilometres from the nearest village on the pristine Akamas peninsula on the west coast of the island. Guest rooms are villas with panoramic sea views; some suites have private plunge pools and whirlpools. The newly refurbished Thalassa Spa offers one-off treatments, four- to 10-day retreats or detox programmes and uses Organic Pharmacy products. A private sailing boat is available for charter and the hotel can arrange local hiking and rock-climbing. (@email:www.anassa.com.cy). Double rooms from Dh2,200 per night including breakfast.

Vakhis is a new scheme to promote traditional Cypriot cuisine, named after a chief who lived in ancient Kition. Members include Mesostrato in Kakopetria, an atmospheric village 2,300 feet above sea level in the Troodos mountains, north-west of Larnaca. Main courses cost from Dh50; the 21-course mezze extravaganza costs Dh70 per person (34 Paleas Kakopetrias Str, 00357 22 924 700). Details of other members are available at @email:www.visitcyprus.org.cy.

Emirates (@email:www.emirates.com) flies five times a week from Dubai from Dh3,220 return including taxes.