The darlings of Cypriot package holidays never fail to draw the hordes — think Paphos, Larnaca, Limassol and Ayia Napa. But head east to Protaras and it’s a completely different story.
Truly secret it is just not — Fig Tree Bay, a golden beach with translucent waters sheltered by a rocky islet from seaborne gusts, features recurrently in ‘best beaches’ lists. Yet there’s quiet available, especially in case you’re pondering of taking a visit outside the height season.
From my balcony on the King Jason Hotel, one of the best positioned on Protaras, there are sweeping views of each the eye-soothing expanse of the Mediterranean within the east and the necklace of beaches stretching to the north.
Come on in: John Malathronas heads to Protaras on the eastern side of Cyrpus and finds that its ‘low-profile charm creeps up on you’. Pictured is Konnos Bay to the south of the tranquil town
After the British, who are available in some numbers, the opposite major contingent was, until recently, the Russians. But they’re out of this picture for now, and there’s no sign of them returning soon.
Protaras’s low-profile charm creeps up on you. Not one of the hotels would win architectural prizes, but there’s a boardwalk that runs parallel to the shore for about 4 miles, which keeps the marine vistas unhindered.
The beaches are wonderful. My initial favourite seems to be man-made: Kalamies, a curvaceous swirl of demerara-coloured sand on the northern tip of Protaras, named after the seafood taverna that overlooks it. Sitting here with fresh-fried calamari, Greek salad and homemade taramosalata is a special treat.
Mr Andreas Zachariades, who founded the restaurant in 1976, comes over for a chat.
‘We took sand from other places and tipped it on to the beach,’ he says. ‘We also built those breakers, rock by rock, over a long time, since the sea takes within the sand and deposits it elsewhere.
‘Originally, this was all watermelon fields that belonged to my wife.’
John says that Protaras is a quieter alternative to the ‘darlings of Cypriot package holidays’ – equivalent to Ayia Napa (pictured)
Protaras’ Fig Tree Bay (above), a golden beach with translucent waters sheltered by a rocky islet from seaborne gusts, features recurrently in ‘best beaches’ lists
John dines on Greek salad as he takes in sea views (file photo)
In Greece, it was once customary for sons to inherit the great farming areas up-country, while the poor-soil coastal land can be bequeathed to daughters. But when tourism exploded, those seaside plots became useful land on which to construct hotels.
One morning, Konstantinos, a barman on the hotel who’s keen to point out off lesser-trodden beaches, drives me to Agia Triada, a Blue Flag classic; cutesy Sirena, a gilded arc flanked by cliffs; rocky Malama; and azure Konnos Bay, on the road to the Cape Greco National Park.
But he leaves one of the best until last. About five miles north of Protaras is Dog Beach, a sandy stretch for canines and their owners.
One morning, a barman at John’s hotel who’s keen to point out off ‘lesser-trodden beaches’, drives him to Agia Triada (pictured), ‘a Blue Flag classic’ beach
The closest airport to Protaras is Larnaca, served by BA, easyJet, TUI, Jet2 and Wizz Air. Flights from Luton in April with Wizz Air cost from £87 return (wizzair.com). You possibly can reach Protaras from Larnaca by taxi (50 minutes, €55). TUI offers seven days on the King Jason Hotel in April from £813 pp all-inclusive (tui.co.uk).
‘Now, let me show you the opposite side,’ says Konstantinos.
And there it’s, past the headland: a stunning curl of sand with no deckchairs, no facilities, no shade and no people or pets.
There are said to be 45 beaches on the east coast — and this one seems as if it’s there only for you.
Fellow hotel guests Mark and Sarah, a retired couple from Berkshire, are Protaras regulars. They are saying they enjoy swimming at Fig Tree Bay in addition to walks along the coast for the ‘solitude’.
Of the latter, the palm tree-lined trail south is among the finest, soon coming to a slew of tiny coves.
Out on the water in a single, an anchored party boat from Ayia Napa bobs, yet one way or the other the music seems wrapped around it, respectful of the encompassing stillness.
Let other resorts draw the crowds; long may Protaras keep its subtle secrets.