Anassa in Cyprus is the grand dame of Cypriot getaways.
Hotel insider: Anassa, Cyprus
I know from the moment I walk through the front door, past the delicate fountains and into the corridors with their Roman mosaics, Greek motifs and Venetian frescoes, that I am going to love this place. Some hotels exude a self-confidence that is impossible to define, for it is more ephemeral than physical. Anassa, known as the grand dame of the island, has it in spades. Juice, cold towels and an efficient check-in is followed by a guided tour that ends on the terrace. A 360-degree vista takes in Chrysochou Bay and the mountainous Akamas Peninsula as well as a full view of the property with its white-washed walls, clay roof tiles and wooden shutters.
Anassa sits all on its own on a cliff leading to the island's most beautiful beach. The region is relatively under developed; in the immediate vicinity there is nothing but olive trees and the occasional goat. The nearest village, Latsi, is about four kilometres away. For restaurants, the town of Polis, a 20-minute taxi ride, has a large square full of eateries specialising in tapas and local fish.
The hotel may have the sleepy charm of a Byzantine village, but the service is sharp and delivered with warmth. The lady on the desk for the main buffet restaurant seems to know everyone and greeted them with apparent genuine pleasure. Staff on the beach are particularly helpful and cheerful, quick to set up towels on the sun beds, appear when you want service and disappear when you want to be left alone. Mothers with young children are particularly impressed with their "baby go lightly" service in which every type of baby item can be ordered online before travelling - all they need to bring are clothes.
There are four restaurants all offering different versions of Mediterranean food. Basiliko, housed in a stone cavern, is the signature gourmet restaurant and offers unusual Cypriot cuisine. We had a delicious dinner of sea bass in Helios, although in the dim candlelight it was only the taste that confirmed I had the right order - our neighbours complained so much that more candles were brought in, to little effect. By the pool, Pelagos specialises in handmade pasta, Greek salad and seafood. The largest restaurant is the buffet-style Amphora. Breakfast offers a huge assortment of fresh fruits, breads, eggs, cold fish and meats, pancakes, waffles and sushi. Evening meals are themed - seafood, Italian, Asian, Mediterranean. Sadly, we missed the weekly beach barbecue.
Ours is a room with a view - and what a view. On the same high level as the reception, the Mediterranean and the hotel's impressive gardens spread out in front of us from the balcony. Inside, it is modern, with understated, neutral colours, soft lighting, a TV that shuts away, a desk and a comfy sofa. The bathroom has marble floors, his and hers basins, a powerful shower and an attractive bath.
The hotel has its share of the rich and famous and, indeed, of Middle Eastern royalty. Sir Philip Green, the British businessman who owns Topshopand other high street stores, booked all 175 rooms for his big birthday bash last year. We arrived just a few hours after Sir Paul McCartney departed, his seven-year-old daughter having loved the kids club by all accounts. People come here to holiday and mobile phones get left in the room. A crèche, a club for four- to 11-year-olds and a teen club make it really popular for families. The loyalty factor is huge - a large majority of the guests return every year.
My bedroom and the spa. Recently refurbished, the Roman-style thalassotherapy spa is a fabulous bolt-hole to relax in, and the treatments are first class. I had a superb Organic Pharmacy facial and a body massage.
There is a "no children" rule in the spa in the afternoon that staff don't enforce rigorously enough. There is a heated children's pool, two other outdoor pools and the sea, so it is irritating to have noisy children in the echoey area of the indoor spa pool spoiling the tranquil atmosphere.
With less than four hours travel time from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Cyprus is perfect for a Mediterranean weekend break, and this hotel is one of the world's greats. Like most of its guests, I intend to return.
The bottom line
There are about 30 different rates depending on room and season. A minimum three-night stay in low season for a garden room costs €215 (Dh1,043) per night, including breakfast and taxes. A suite with its own pool costs €800 (Dh3,882) per person, per night; the presidential suite costs €2,600 (Dh12,617).
Anassa (www.anassa.com.cy; 00 357 26 888 000), Baths of Aphrodite Road, 8830 Polis, Cyprus.