ESCAPING the heat seems a strange concept to us in the UK but in the Med it’s vital in the summer and important too at other times of the year when the sun is beating down.

Hot-spot Cyprus has long been popular with the Brits, but holidaymakers usually just head straight for the beaches near Paphos or Ayia Napa and stay there throughout.

They don’t know what they’re missing.

Driving an hour inland from the airport at Paphos takes you into the Troodos mountains and a very different, slower-paced world of pretty villages, UNESCO world heritage Byzantine churches with amazing frescoes, glorious views and rich vegetation.

The barren arid landscape nearer the coast is replaced here by terraced vineyards, Juniper trees, panoramic views and, at higher altitudes, pine and cedar forests with tracks ideal for walking and mountain biking.

And being cooler makes it much more comfortable to do these activities - or simply travel around seeing the many sights.

We began with an early-morning Easyjet flight from Gatwick and I felt more refreshed than many on the plane thanks to an overnight stay at the Premier Inn, right by North Terminal.

Stepping off the plane at Paphos the heat hits you, even in late October. But what a pleasant change from England’s colder climes.

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En route to our first base at Peloudas, we stopped at Karseras family winery in Doros where on wine tours you can taste the world-famous Commandaria.

This grand dessert wine, popular with Europe’s nobility since ancient times and originally produced for the Knights of St John at Kolossi, is worth trying even if you don’t like sweet wines. Not for nothing is it known as “the king of the wines, and the wine of kings”.

We ate and stayed overnight at Aristoteleio Agro-Tourism in Pedoulas village, a small but beautifully renovated hotel and restaurant with warm, friendly owners.

Next morning just around the corner we paid a visit to the church of Archangelos Michael to see its vivid frescoes.

The Troodos Mountains’ painted churches are remarkable - there is nothing else like them in the Mediterranean.

The original function of the frescoes was to teach the simple, illiterate and often isolated parishioners the lessons of the Gospel, and the astonishing degree of preservation and the beauty of their artwork makes for compulsive viewing.

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Continuing through the Marathasa Valley, we headed toKalopanayiotis to see the Unesco Byzantine church of Ayios Loannis Lambadistis, first looking around the luxurious Casale Panayiotis agrotourism resort which has a state-of-the-art spa.

Each of its 43 guest rooms were once village homes, lovingly restored to retain their original character and showcasing Cypriot style with a luxury finish. Definitely somewhere to go for a special occasion.

In many mountain villages the locals make traditional handicrafts and products, and there are fascinating small manufacturers of lavender products in Platres, rose products in Agros and at Eco Physis at Vavla - where I tried my hand at bee-keeping - all types of honey. The prices here are reasonable, and to show I hadn’t been stung, I bought two jars.

The food in Cyprus is one great reason for visiting the country.

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In a lot of good restaurants it’s worth trying the Meze – a relay of small speciality platters brought to the table at regular intervals, often starting with pita or other homemade bread plus Hummus, Talattouri, Taramosalata, Tahini and an aubergine salad, then followed by a Greek salad with feta, boiled beetroot in olive oil, grilled halloumi, and Keftedes (meatballs).

And just when you think you are full from all these flavoursome small dishes, out comes a huge platter of lamb and succulent chicken!

Both To Katoi tavern in Omodos, and Symposio in Pelendri serve up wonderful lunches, with the freshly-made halloumi at Symposio the best I have ever tasted.

We watched how halloumi is made at Choirokoitia, after a final overnight stay at Tochni Cyprus Villages, closer to the coast. These are a series of abandoned stone-built family homes lovingly restored and retaining the original rustic character. Next to every apartment is a small outdoor swimming pool, ideal for cooling off after a day out, and there are lovely views from the outdoor section of restaurant Tochni Tavern.

Tochni is appealing because it’s a pretty village in the foothills of the Troodos mountains, yet just 15 minutes from Kalymnos - Governor’s Beach - and the crystal-clear blue waters of the Mediterranean.

It was with some sadness that we made our way home, having time though to look at the large archeaological site at Kourion, and stop at Petra tou Romiou, the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, on the way back to Paphos airport.

That’s the thing with Cyprus – as well as everything you could want from a holiday destination, its 10,000 years of history and culture, and the hospitality of its people, is inspiring.

Yes, the sun plays a big part in why we all go there. But try out the agro-tourism projects in the Troodos mountains and you’ll find, as I did, they’re a breath of fresh air.

  • Stay: Aristotelio Boutique Hotel, Pedoulas: double rooms from 110 euros, incl. breakfast.
  • Rodon Mount Hotel & Resort, Agros: rooms from 35 euros per person.
  • Cyprus Villages, Tochni village: rooms from 30 euros per person, in a double room.
  • Flights: easyjet flies to Paphos from London Gatwick with winter prices starting from £20.99 per person, one way -
  • Info: