Modus Vivendi

Psematismenos, Cyprus Book from Eur70

Our favourite budget option in Cyprus: 6 rustic-chic self-catering suites clustered around a gorgeous pool terrace
We were really excited to stumble upon this collection of charming stone cottages, with their sun-drenched pool and rampant flower beds, in the sleepy hamlet of Psematismenos. Inexplicably absent from guidebooks (so far, at least), it's run by a lovely husband and wife team: Yiannos is a successful architect and passionate potter, Christiana a cultured hotel-school graduate with an eye for contemporary art.

After an all-too-brief stay in end-of-season November sunshine, we're happy to confirm that it is perfect i-escape material: chic yet cheap, under the radar, but way above expectations. The interiors - some single-space suites, others multi-room apartments, all of them self-catering - are homely and unpretentious, but full of character and love. Expect thick stone walls, beam-and-bamboo ceilings, antique wrought-iron four-posters with tip-top mattresses, artfully mismatched furniture alongside modern bathroom fittings. Slotted among them is a small Tetris-shaped pool, shaded by tall cypresses, shocking-pink bougainvillea and fragrant rosemary bushes, where dragonflies flit as you swim. A dream find, and we can't wait to go back for longer.

Highs

  • For a couple seeking sunshine and seclusion, or a discerning family after budget self-catering, there can be few better options in Cyprus
  • Or a group of 8-16 friends could book the whole place for a perfect party hideaway at any time of year
  • We loved the shared poolside terrace: sociable but not over-cosy, with a pair of sun loungers each, and flickering lanterns by night
  • The location - away from the crowds but just 3km from the coast - is a haven of peace; and you're within 30 mins of Larnaca, Limassol and Nicosia too
  • We felt privileged to share a taste of modern Cypriot art from Yiannos' collection, not to mention delicious orange cake and quince jelly from Christiana's kitchen

Lows

  • Service is minimal: after a warm welcome you're left to your own devices, though their son is often in the family house next door, and if not they're only a phone call away
  • You'll need a car, as the village only has 1 shop
  • The beaches along this stretch of coast are not the prettiest
  • No rooms have twin beds (though 3 houses have extra beds)
  • Don't expect lots of mod cons (no TVs or bathroom amenities, for example), nor pristine perfection - chipped crockery and wobbly tables are part of the homely, rustic ambiance

Best time to go

We'd recommend spring (April-May) or autumn (Sept-Oct) - pleasantly warm and not too busy - or even March / November if you don't mind taking a bit of a chance with the weather. We stayed in early November and enjoyed 30-degree sunshine. June-August can be uncomfortably hot (nudging 40 celsius) though with thick stone walls, air-con and a lovely pool, you're pretty well prepared here. Modus Vivendi is open all year, and for an off-season house party it could be great fun.

Our top tips

Bring shampoo and toiletries, as they are not normally provided, and beach mats or towels. (You get plenty of towels for use in the apartments and pool). Don't forget some books and your iPod for poolside lazing, and a laptop if you want to check emails. Having said that, if you forget something, Christiana - being who she is - will usually magic it out of somewhere.

And a word of warning: with so many flowers and trees around, you will inevitably get a few colourful dragonflies and insects by the pool, plus the odd gecko to gobble them up at night. If you're extremely squeamish about that sort of thing, find yourself a hermetically sealed hotel...

Great for...

Beach
Cheap & Chic
Family
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Self-catering suites
  • 6
  • Self-catering (shop nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available
  • Laundry Service
  • Linen change every 3-4 days
  • Books and board games
Room:

Rooms

There are 6 suites or apartments, each with a separate sitting/dining room, bedroom and bathroom - apart from Terra Verte, which is a single-space studio for 2. All have a small kitchen (see Eating) and their own entrance. The original 4 are clustered around the pool courtyard; 2 newer suites are in a separate cottage across the lane, which can also be rented in its entirety for a larger family.

Inside ancient walls you'll find stone-flagged floors, pale-plastered walls, patches of exposed masonry, and a pleasing mishmash of furniture old and new. There's white-draped Habitat sofas and hand-painted taverna chairs, Victorian wrought-iron bedsteads and retro glass chandeliers, timeworn marble basins and Art Deco wardrobes salvaged from junk yards. The overall feel is artful but totally unpretentious, like a Parisian vintage-furniture market transplanted to sunny Cyprus.

Our favourite room for couples is actually the smallest and cheapest: first-floor Terra Verte, which looks over the pool, with pale pine floors and pink bougainvillea cascading over a side balcony. If you want more space, or a more rustic look, go for poolside Ochre, with its spacious sitting room, snug bedroom and unfaced stone walls tickled by jasmine fronds and ripening lemons. Grab either room if it is free.

For a couple with 1 child, Red and Lefko come with an extra bed in the sitting room; the former has an unexpected downstairs bathroom with sunken tub in cobbled floors (though we found the vermillion bedroom a little too vivid), the latter has vast living quarters and a cosy downstairs bedroom (slightly gloomy in winter, though).

Ten steps across the lane in a separate cottage, the 2 Loullaki apartments (1 up, 1 down) feel more contemporary, with pastel walls and huge artworks. Each sleeps 2-3; or take them both (they communicate) as a family house on 2 levels, with a small patio garden to boot.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Fridge
  • Hairdryer (on request)
  • Heated towel rail
  • Hob stove
  • Iron (on request)
  • Kitchenette
  • Oven
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • WiFi

Eating

Each apartment has its own kitchenette, with enough to make lunch or a simple dinner: electric 2-ring hob, oven, toaster, kettle, fridge and plenty of pots, pans and assorted implements. There's a dining table with 3 or 4 chairs (or you could take your breakfast outside), and a mini-market in the village for basic supplies. You're best off doing a big shop in Larnaca or Limassol on your way in - or if you're arriving late, ask Christiana for a breakfast hamper (at extra cost). She might leave you one of her fresh-baked orange cakes if you're lucky, as well as a jar of homemade jam as a thankyou for booking through i-escape.

If you're feeling lazy, the lovely Giorgoula can (with a day or two's notice) cook superb Cypriot cuisine for you while you grab the last rays or a sunset dip. Just choose meat- or veg-based, and she rustles up whatever specialties are in season - okra or bourgouri, poules (a local yam-like root) or koupepkia (stuffed vine leaves), maybe afelia (marinated pork with coriander seeds and red wine), followed by ricotta parcels dusted with cinnamon sugar and blossom-water. Mmmmm.

Otherwise it's a 5-minute drive down to the village of Zygi, whose seafront is famously lined with fish restaurants. Koumbaris is a safe bet, though we preferred Xefotos, a block inland, for its superb catch-of-the-day platter (assuming Louis has been out that day), served with local wines and juicy salads at knockdown prices.

Yiannos and Christiana will also share some of their favourite finds: Koursaros, tucked away in the hamlet of Parekklisia, was without doubt our best meal in Cyprus, though you'll need their help finding it.

Features include:

  • Chef on request
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Fridge
  • Hob stove
  • Kitchenette
  • Oven
  • Toaster
  • Breakfast hamper on request
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Modus Vivendi is a magical spot for doing very little, and Psematismenos is one of the island's loveliest villages. But if you want to explore, the coast is only a couple of miles away; it isn't the prettiest stretch on the island, but there are some interesting wind-sculpted coves at Governor's Beach (5km; if you can mentally blot out Vasilikos power station on the horizon); or a sandy, shallow sickle near Alaminos (turn right after Hotel Aldiana, signed "Secret Paradise")
  • A little further afield (20 mins' drive), Mazotos Camel Park makes a good family outing: after a lurching 15-minute ride, there's a pool and play area, or drive to the empty beach near Akroyiali fish restaurant (no parasols or amenities)
  • Heading inland, the handsome town of Lefkara is famous for its lace and its silverwork (on sale everywhere); but even if you don't fancy a new tablecloth, it's fun to wander along narrow lanes between balconied stone houses, then stop for a coffee looking out to pine-specked hills
  • The cities of Limassol and Larnaca are both 20 mins' drive along the motorway, the former boasting a medieval castle, modern marina and Miami-esque tourist strip, the latter a palm-shaded sea promenade and a remarkable 9th-century Byzantine cathedral
  • Beyond that are the white beaches and crazy nightlife of Ayia Napa, and the border to northern (Turkish) Cyprus
  • Heading the other way, it's less than an hour to the Troodos Mountains, for scenic hikes or mountain-bike rides through pine and fir forests to waterfalls and monasteries

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Camel rides
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Mountain biking
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

This is a great option for more adventurous families - except perhaps toddlers, given the many steps, uneven cobbles and unfenced pool. One highchair is available (book it early); other than that you'll have to bring your own toys and baby equipment.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

All the apartments bar Terra Verte can take a cot (supplied, but without bedding) or an extra bed. Red and Lefko have a proper iron single bed in the sitting room, and Lefko has space for a 4th bed if required. Or you can book both Loullaki apartments to sleep 4-6 (2 double rooms, and up to 2 extra beds).

Kids Activities on site:

There are some books and games to borrow.

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Mazotos Camel Park - camel rides, pool, play area, nice beach nearby
  • Santa Marina Retreat, Parekklisia - archery, sky trail, horse rides, climbing, golf
  • Fassouri Watermania, near Limassol - kamikaze slides, wave pools etc
  • Paliasto Amusement Park, Ayia Napa - bumper cars, carousels, ghost trains etc

Families Should Know:

There are lots of steps and only a low parapet around the raised pool terrace.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
8/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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