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‘This whole project started as an experiment,” says Pawel Sidorski, who swapped his life in the European hotel industry to pursue his vision of sustainable luxury, opening Yurts in Cyprus, near Paphos in west Cyprus, in 2013. “I wanted to pioneer an off-grid lifestyle and create a place for people to connect with nature without sacrificing comfort,” he says.

Pawel’s three handmade Mongolian yurts and log cabin, tucked away in 2.5 acres on a hill overlooking the Stavros tis Psokas valley, offer just that. We stayed in the spacious Qadan (meaning “cliff” in Mongolian), which sits on the edge of the property – hammock, table and chairs ready for sundowners or stargazing. Inside, there’s a super-comfy wrought iron double bed, rugs, stove, coffee-making kit, Bluetooth speaker and wifi – you name your creature comfort and the attentive Pawel has thought of it.

The other two yurts, as well as Koliba, the newly built cabin, are family-friendly. Set several metres apart to afford privacy, all have outside showers and compostable loos that use a combination of sawdust and bokashi to dispose of waste. There is also one conventional loo for “those who want to try being closer to nature,” says Pawel, “but don’t want to compromise their comfort in the name of water conservation and keeping the aquifer clean!”

The luxurious interior of one of Pawel Sidorski’s yurts. Photograph: Gee’s Digital Art

Reached by a long gravel track, Pawel’s eco-retreat is the last inhabited property before entering the forested Troodos mountains 2km to the east. It feels blissfully remote, but the tiny village of Simou is nearby and it is only a 20-minute drive to the small port of Polis Chrysochou and Latchi fishing village. You can take a boat trip from here, some glass-bottomed and offering dips in the celebrated Blue Lagoon, or go for a swim on the beach before a blowout fish meze at Y&P Fish Tavern, part of the Latchi Hotel.

Pawel himself lives in the welcoming Straw House, home also to four cats and Shuki, a 10-year-old pointer cross rescue dog. “His name comes from śukravāsaraḥ, meaning Friday in Sanskrit,” says Pawel, “the day our paths crossed at the local dog shelter.” Pawel will provide guests with a GPS for self-guided hikes or bike rides, but many prefer Shuki as a guide. “He’s well known for accompanying guests,” says Pawel, who hosts yoga and pilates sessions in the pavilion beneath the house and advises on local rock-climbing, water sports and horse riding. For the latter, George’s Ranch offers riding for all levels, but experienced riders can take a 90-minute sunset hack across the clifftops and sandy beaches of the Sea Caves natural caverns, stopping at Agios Georgios, a small, natural harbour in the Akamas Peninsula National Park, home to gorges, hiking trails and stunning bays, including the Blue Lagoon.

Back at the Straw House, breakfast in Pawel’s kitchen includes halloumi, scrambled eggs, olives and endless coffee. He will also cook a vegetarian or vegan supper for guests (€17pp or €10pp for under 12s). Mains might include baked courgette with rosemary and garlic, served with cinnamon rice, warm bread, salad and marinated chilli, or ajapsandali, a Georgian aubergine stew served with bulgur wheat and local sheep yoghurt.

Guests help themselves to local wine or beer, nicely chilled thanks to electricity generated by solar panels and a wind turbine. Only 2-4% of energy use is generated by a back-up diesel generator and, in 2021, Pawel installed a solar-powered well pump. “We are totally independent when it comes to water for our household, guests and our extensive irrigation system,” he says proudly.

One day I joined Pawel on an early-morning mountain bike (four are available to hire), doing a section of a 15km loop that passes through the abandoned Turkish villages of Istinjo, Melandra, Zacharia and Sarama, a legacy of the Turkish invasion of the island. The 1974 partition of Cyprus and the uprooting of residents is brought starkly to life. The landscape takes no sides, and the beauty is uplifting. We pass the medieval stone-built Skarfos Bridge on the Evretou river. It is an ancient Venetian bridge, poppies growing on its banks, and you can spot Skarfos watermill in the near distance. Evretou reservoir, itself home to two abandoned villages, is a birder’s paradise, and a good spot for fishing and foraging. You can see it on the track as you drive up to Pawel’s yurts.

A yurt in the eco retreat, the last inhabited property before entering the forested Troodos mountains. Photograph: Gee’s Digital Art

“I’ve seen mouflon on these trails,” Pawel tells me, referring to an endangered wild sheep famed for its sickle-shaped horns and endemic only to the Troodos mountains. Sadly, we don’t spot any when we visit Omodos, a village in the north-western Troodos with a lovely main square with tavernas and cafés. While it’s a good starting point for hikes, unimpressed children might prefer a visit to the mouflon enclosure in the Troodos forestry station near Stavros, where 30 of these shy, endangered marvels can be seen up close.

For grownups, there are different marvels on offer in the form of the Byzantine churches throughout the Troodos region. For me, the highlight was Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis, or Church of St Nicholas of the Roof, an 11th century Byzantine monastery. This Unesco World Heritage site is 5km from the don’t-miss narrow cobbled village of Kakopetria on the Karkotis river in the Troodos foothills.

This church is distinctive not only for its pitch timber roof and domed cross-in-square structure, but for its magnificent frescoes, dating from the 11th to 17th centuries, that cover every wall. Particularly notable is a rare portrayal of a breastfeeding Madonna, a magnet of which has been on my fridge ever since our visit. In my head, meanwhile, I carry the promise of a return to the hopefulness and warm welcome offered by Pawel, a man who continues to build – and share – his dream of sustainable tourism. “It’s so rewarding,” he tells me. “I am grateful for every visitor.”

Yurts in Cyprus, Paphos: yurtsincyprus.com. Yurts and cabin from €90 to €130 B&B (based on two adults sharing, kids under 12 stay free). For horse riding at George’s Ranch, see georgesranchcyprus.com. For glass-bottomed boat trips from Latchi, see latchiboatcruises.com

#eco #retreat #heart #Cyprus

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