Best and Worst of Aphrodite's Love Island; in the First of a Series of Guides to Help You Make the Most of Your Summer Holiday, We Tell You Where - and Where Not - to Go to Find the Real Cyprus

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The Reputation Best known in recent years for its Euroclub scene, with Ayia Napa taking centre stage, the "quid-a-pint" crowd is never far away. Teen-chavs gagging to lose their virginity at foam parties and plastic-coated tablecloths set the scene.

In some areas, this isn't far from the truth, but it does the island as a whole a great disservice.

The Reality The third-largest island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus is geographically closer to the Middle East and North Africa than it is to Europe. It is also Europe's last divided country. Since 1974, the south has been controlled by Greece, the north by Turkey.

It is dissected by two mountain ranges - the undulating Troodos and the tall banks of the Kyrenia. It is scattered with blue-flag beaches ranging from pretty to pretty awful, and caters largely to the package-holiday industry.

Most Cypriot men have an Adonis complex, which is irritating though sadly not illegal. In general, the country boasts an incredibly low crime rate.

The Breakdown Paphos and West Once a backwater, Paphos is a victim of rapid development but has somehow managed to maintain a certain dignity.

The ancient town is now a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is built on a hill and tumbles down to a picture-postcard harbour lined with tavernas and fishing boats (and a surprising number of private and charter yachts). This is a place for couples and families who are looking for more culture than simply the stuff you find in a Greek yoghurt.

The Draw: Byzantine frescoes of the 12th century, walking in the hills and stumbling across the old citadels.

Swimming in Coral Bay, which is the prettiest beach on the whole island.

Staying at the swanky Almyra (see box, right).

The Drawback: lots of leopard-print bikinis and gaudy expat Brits who live in new villas in the rural areas outside the town.

Limassol and South Easily the least attractive and most developed area.

Off-peak, the naff tavernas and big, tasteless hotel lobbies are a sea of blue rinse. During the summer melt, the area caters mainly for families in tracksuits. The congested seven-mile coastline is fringed with vulgar, low-rise hotels, Burger King and McDonald's. The beaches offer dark pebbly sand and a horizon speckled with tankers going to and from the island's largest port.

The Draw: Kourion, Cyprus's ancient theatre, hosts an annual Shakespeare production in June/July. Le Spa at Le Meridien offers a welcome sanctuary from the dire fake palms of the main drag.

The Drawback: the Potamos Yermasoyias area is crammed full of discos, bars and tavernas for Burberry enthusiasts singing YMCA and vomiting on each other.

Larnaca, Ayia Napa and Protaras If you keep a party whistle in your fake Louis Vuitton, you may be overcome by the desire to visit the Larnaca district's main attraction - Ayia Napa. Larnaca itself has little in the way of traditional Cypriot charm and a few too many oil refineries lead the way east to Voroklini where most of the hotels are. During the day, the clubbers sleep it off and the older holidaymakers dominate the palmtreelined promenade. Protaras is an unremarkable town catering for a more family-oriented nightlife (think karaoke).

The Draw: hire a car and drive up to the Stavrovouni monastery (no women allowed) and visit the huge Neolithic excavation of Khirokitia.

Stay in Kalavassos - sunk into a ravine in the western district - in a converted village house. If you're stuck in town, have a drink at 1900 Art Cafe. There are great beaches across the region for swimming. …


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