The pale pink, lightly scented blossoms of the almond tree are a harbinger of Spring in Cyprus. The tree was brought to the island in antiquity from Western Asia and has since been cultivated for the nut found inside the stone of its fruit. Almond nuts can be eaten raw and are a good source of protein and fibre. In Cyprus, almonds are most frequently encountered in beloved desserts. Daktyla, for example, are made by coating a thin layer of pastry with a paste of chopped almonds, cinnamon, sugar, and rosewater and rolling it into a tube; the tube is fried in oil and drizzled with a syrup made from honey, lemon peel, cinnamon, and cloves. During the fall harvest, treats made from almonds are featured in village grape festivals. White grapes are crushed, heated to form a syrup, and then combined with flour to form a kind of jelly known as palouzes. Though palouzes can be enjoyed on its own, it is also an essential ingredient in soutzoukos, the distinctive sweet in which almonds are threaded on a string and then dunked into the jelly; look for these candle-shaped delicacies in the sweet shops of Geroskipou village near Pafos. Other popular treats that contain almonds include kataifi (nests of phyllo stuffed with nuts and syrup) and glygo amygalo (preserved almonds). To celebrate the arrival of Spring, Almyra commissioned Yiannis Sakelis to paint an almond tree in bloom on its garden wall. It’s a sign of sweet things to come!
Pafos is home to several Christian monasteries founded during the Middle Ages. The two largest, Agios Neofytos and Panagia Chrysorrogiatissa, were formed in the twelfth century. Then, the Byzantine Empire and its capital, Constantinople, were beset with attacks by Seljuk Turks from the east and Latin crusaders from the west; many Byzantines sought communal safety in Cyprus. A growing interest in asceticism also led some believers to set up hermitages. A Christian named Neofytos, for example, carved a set of three connected cells into a cliffside above Pafos. This complex, called the Enkleistra, has domed ceilings with frescoes depicting the final days of Christ and furnishings carved into the stone. After eleven years in seclusion, Neofytos opened his retreat to students and established a cloister that would grow over the centuries into the monastery and museum we can visit today—it is just nine kilometres from the town centre. A bit further afield, the Panagia Chrysorrogiatissa Monastery is situated in the hills about 40 kilometres away. It was founded by Ignatius, a monk who discovered an icon of the Virgin Mary while walking along the Pafos coast. When he removed the icon from the sea, he had a vision of the Virgin Mary, who asked him to build a monastery—which he established in 1152. The complex fittingly includes an important collection of icons along with a winery. You can visit it on 20 April with sister hotel Annabelle’s Monastery and Winery Tour; contact Guest Services for details and reservations.
Traveling with a baby can be a daunting task—parents need to provide constant care while anticipating the baby’s needs throughout the trip. Almyra’s Baby-Go-Lightly programme alleviates the stress by allowing parents to order supplies in advance. Just fill out the online form and the items will be waiting for you in your room! Jars of baby food are available in a variety of sizes and flavours. For beverages, we offer fruit juice (apple or pear) and formula milk (sterilisers and bottle warmers are available, too). Planning to give the baby a bath? We’ll provide a complimentary tub; just tick the boxes to order baby bath gel, shampoo, powder, or lotion. There’s no need to worry about running out of nappies—just pre-order what you need (sizes 1 to 6 are available). We also have all the supplies for nappy changing and potty training. Your active baby will need some special items to enjoy the holiday: order up swim nappies and flotation aids for a dip in the pool or sea. We can provide a baby gym with mat, puzzles, a colouring book with crayons, and storybooks in English and Greek. Also on hand are baby walkers, buggies, bouncy chairs, carrier pouches, and booster seats for cars. Children’s menus and high chairs are available in restaurants that welcome children. When it’s time for bed, we’ll bring warm milk and biscuits to the room. If you want to spend some time alone, just request a babysitter from Guest Services. Traveling with your baby couldn’t be easier!
Want a souvenir from your trip to Cyprus? Instead of an object, consider bringing back the skills to make a meal from the local cuisine. At Almyra, chef de partie Elpida Kyriacou teaches a master class in cooking meze—the small dishes that make up a meal in the traditional taverna. Guests are invited to the live cooking station in Mosaics, where they can learn how to make four or five dishes. Start with an easy dip like tzatziki by mixing shredded cucumbers, Greek yoghurt, chopped mint, crushed garlic, and salt and pepper. Then try your hand at dolmades: Elpida will teach you how to blanch the grape vine leaves and refresh them in ice water, prepare the stuffing of minced lamb, white onion, tomato, rice, and chicken stock, season the mixture with lemon juice, cinnamon, and herbs, and stuff the leaves before finishing the dish in the oven. The secret to serving grilled halloumi cheese successfully rests in creating the proper salsa; you will learn how to combine the right proportions of olive oil, tomato, red onion, parsley, and fresh mint leaves. Preparing prawns with ouzo takes some skill. Elpida will help you peel and de-vein the prawns before you sauté them halfway. After removing the prawns from the pan, you will add garlic, onion, and tomato before deglazing the pan with ouzo. Then you return the prawns for cooking and seasoning. Instruction is not limited to these dishes: you can work out a bespoke programme. Take home her recipes and memories you can savour again and again.
Pafos plays host this weekend to the Logicom Cyprus Marathon. Now in its twenty-first year, the event draws about half its participants from overseas; Almyra is hosting many runners as a hospitality partner. Although the main races occur on Sunday, 17 March, programming is planned throughout the weekend. On Friday, runners can warm up with the first ever Cyprus Wine Run, a five-kilometre jaunt through the vineyards near Vasilikon Winery. Saturday’s Cyprus Marathon Symposium runs from 9:00 at sister hotel Annabelle. Later Saturday, Almyra hosts the Pasta Dinner, where runners enjoy a delicious meal and load up on carbohydrates. Sunday sees four races running on separate routes. The full marathon begins by Petra Tou Romiou (the rock formation in the sea known as the birthplace of Aphrodite) and follows a forty-metre course along the coast to the finish line at the castle. The other three races start and end at the castle. Runners in the half-marathon skirt the edge of the harbour and wend their way through the town. The ten-kilometre run follows Poseidonos Avenue, while the five-kilometre fun run circumnavigates the archaeological park. Almyra is sponsoring a corporate team of 130 staff members raising funds for the Pancyprian Association of Cancer Patients and Friends; the company covers their entrance fees and offers a complimentary post-race lunch for runners and their families. The hotel is cheering on all the runners with a DJ station offering lemonade and olive branches. Come out and show your support!
The island of Cyprus has a rich vinicultural history—the world’s oldest named wine, Commandaria, is produced only here. The island’s mineral-rich soils and diverse micro-climates are conducive to growing a wide range of grape varieties. A list of wines currently produced in Cyprus reveals some familiar ones, such as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and shiraz, that yield very worthy wines. Yet there will be some varieties on the list that are unfamiliar to many—indigenous grapes you can’t find anywhere else. The best-known white variety, for example, is xynisteri. It produces dry or medium dry wines with flavours of green grass, herbs, citrus, and minerals; a xynisteri is a good companion for fried calamari and a village salad. Lesser grown white varieties include the lively and herbaceous spourtiko, aromatic and well-balanced promara, and crisp, light morokanela. Of the reds, the most popular indigenous variety is maratheftiko. It yields a full-bodied, deep red wine with berry flavours that perfectly complements lamb kleftiko and pasta dishes. Another notable local red, yiannoudi, is medium-bodied and gives spicy notes of anise, vanilla, and pepper; sip it with grilled meats or pizza with sausage topping. The most-grown red grape variety, mavro, is featured (with xynisteri) in Commandaria; try the dessert wine with dried fruits and blue cheeses. Cyprus wineries also produce some very good rosés through blends. Almyra’s restaurants offer a good sampling of local wines. Identify your favourite and then head to the source: the seven Cyprus Wine Routes take you to forty-one local producers.