The Louis Hotel chain recently invited a group of Israeli journalists to stay at several of their Cyprus properties to see what is available for Israeli travelers just an hour’s flight away.
After the pandemic year we have all had, the idea of a relaxing, luxurious getaway has never been so enticing. When you are thinking about where to go, however, there is a nearby, very affordable destination you may not have considered: Cyprus.
The Louis Hotel chain recently invited a group of Israeli journalists to stay at several of their Cyprus properties (the chain also has hotels in Greece) to see what is available for Israeli travelers just an hour’s flight away. Since my idea of an ideal vacation is lying on the beach with frequent swims, I felt I was well qualified to evaluate luxury beachfront hotels.
Cyprus has long been a popular destination for British and Russian tourists, but due to pandemic regulations – particularly quarantine at home for those who have not been vaccinated (mainly children) – few from these countries have been able to make the trip this year.
What this means for Israelis is that resorts in Cyprus are uncrowded and more inviting than ever.Louis Hotels is promoting a number of its finest hotels as getaway destinations for adults, particularly couples. I stayed at three of their hotels – the Ivi Mare in Paphos, the Royal Apollonia in Limassol and the King Jason in Protaras – and visited several others, all of which offered a lovely, soothing experience.
These hotels take pride in service, and everyone – from the front desk clerk to the wait staff and even the cleaners (who took time to direct guests who got a bit lost on the way to their rooms) – were extremely pleasant to deal with.All three facilities feature spas, gyms and elaborate pool areas, complete with poolside bars and even bars inside the pools that you swim up to, alongside the beachfront.
On June 1, Europe’s environmental watchdog, the European Environment Agency, ranked Cyprus first among the European Union’s 27 nations for having the cleanest swimming water. I could sense this as soon as I set foot in the sparkling waters. The sea was refreshingly cool even when the sun was strongest, not bathtub warm as much of the Mediterranean can be.
The five-star Ivi Mare, which opened in late 2019 and has just reopened at full strength after being closed due to the pandemic, was designed with adult guests in mind. It can be reached via a direct flight to Paphos Airport and is located in a quiet area. You won’t see any high-rises or global chains anywhere near the Ivi Mare, and watching the sunset over the Mediterranean is a highlight of the experience.
The hotel features one of the longest pools in Cyprus, which is perfect if you want to swim lengths, or just relax poolside.During the months that COVID shuttered the hotel, it was refurbished and redecorated in a low-key but pleasant style. One detail that exemplifies the hotel’s approach in catering to couples is that the very state-of-the-art showers have ample room for two.
It is also possible to choose a room with a private Jacuzzi.The area around the Ivi Mare provides nightlife, and we enjoyed the sunset at a harbor bar that featured not only the usual cocktails, but smoothies made with locally grown berries.
There were many locally owned restaurants and shops along the waterfront. And while there was music wafting out over the water, it wasn’t an ear-splitting, crowded scene.ON THE SECOND day of the trip, we moved on to Limassol, where the five-star Royal Apollonia Hotel is located.
This hotel is larger and features an interesting collection of pools, along with areas where two people can recline on one outdoor bed under a canopy.The spa at the Royal Apollonia offers all kinds of wellness treatments in a tranquil space with wood and stone decor.
I was able to try their take on a Dead Sea-mud “climatological” treatment, which was much like you would find in Israel. I also enjoyed a gentle massage, just two of more than 100 spa treatments available.The area around the Limassol Harbor is lively, and there are many bars and clubs in the area. You can also stroll along the promenade and watch the sun set over rows of fishing boats moored there.
For those who like to combine shopping with their vacation, there are several malls in the area, as well as stores along the harbor that offer high-end brands that are either not available in Israel or are far more expensive here. For the record, even the most touristy souvenir shops we visited offered items that were very reasonably priced, including local candies, spices and teas.THE THIRD hotel on our trip, the King Jason Protaras, is classified as a four- rather than a five-star hotel, but it seemed every bit as luxurious as the previous two.
It was recently redecorated and features custom-designed furniture in rooms that reflect the blue-and-white scheme so common in Cyprus and Greece.There are a number of pools at the King Jason, some with exercise bikes right in the water, as well as an outdoor jacuzzi.
The hotel is located on Fig Tree Bay, where the sea was particularly inviting. The hotel has a staircase from which you can jump right into the Mediterranean, which is perfect if you want to head back to the pool or a restaurant and do not want to get sandy.
As with all the hotel beachfronts, the water was amazingly clear.The three hotels offer several buffet restaurants, with many dishes, including some local specialties, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options, along with an abundance of fresh seafood and Greek-themed delis that serve “Meze,” which is Greek for appetizer.
The breakfasts are similar to what you would get in an Israeli restaurant, and there was abundant fresh salad and fruit at all meals, much of it locally grown. In addition, at the Ivi Mare and the Royal Apollonia there were Akakiko Asian fusion restaurants, which serve mainly tasty Japanese food, including sushi and noodle dishes. The chef at the Ivi Mare prepared excellent falafel and hummus for us to make us feel at home.
Cyprus traces its history back to around 10,000 BCE, which makes it an ideal destination for those who would like to combine a lazy beach holiday with viewing archaeological treasures. As we headed from Paphos to Limassol, we stopped at a beach that is believed to be the birthplace of the Greek goddess Aphrodite.
There is a castle right on the waterfront in Paphos. It was built in the 13th century to protect the area and has a great view from the roof. The castle is not far from the Paphos mosaics at the Archaeological Park of Kato Paphos. The location has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list since 1980, and features gorgeous mosaic floors that were part of Roman villas found in the area, as well as some mosaics from the Hellenistic period.
There is a forest near Protaras where you can hike if you can pull yourself away from the pool, as well as an outdoor sculpture garden.With enough planning, it is possible to hold an event such as a wedding at the hotels, which will handle every aspect of the celebration, from the gazebo to the cake.Although it seems that Cyprus is moving in the direction of Israel in terms of rolling back COVID regulations, a PCR test is still required for tourists who are there for more than 72 hours before they fly home. These hotels can provide testing right in the lobby.
It was a quick, no-nonsense procedure and I received the results via SMS a few hours later.In addition to our stay at these three hotels, we also got to see some of the family hotels, including the Louis Phaethon Beach in Paphos and the Nausicaa Beach in Protaras. They feature pools for children with all kinds of animal and rainbow statues and have children’s clubs that provide day and evening activities. They do not skimp on lifeguards and at the Louis Phaethon Beach there are at least 10 lifeguards on duty all day.
Louis Hotels offer a number of discounts to those who book through their website and, in some cases, free upgrades to rooms with a sea view.Speaking of the winter months at the hotels, Louis Hotels CEO Jason Perdios said, “Cyprus is one of the few places in the world where you can go skiing in the mountains and swim in the sea that day.”And it is definitely a place where Israelis can find peace and paradise.