Two weeks in enchanting Cyprus made my children forget about TikTok and Wi-Fi

Benedict and his wife, Lenka, with their three children: Natalya (16), Freddie (13) and Beatrice (8)
Benedict and his wife, Lenka, with their three children: Natalya (16), Freddie (13) and Beatrice (8)

It’s not that I’m world-weary, you understand. It’s just that, well, for all that our planet is an amazing place, I have seen rather a lot of it, and hardly anything in this age of cheap flights and online connectivity quite surprises anymore.

That said, it can’t be easy being married to someone who’s so often away in the jungle and I thought my long-suffering wife Lenka would appreciate a holiday in the sunshine. Cyprus, say. I remember loving the place as a child – the mad plunge into blue waters, the picnics amid crusader castles – and surely my two teenagers would too.

Or perhaps not. “Just as long as there’s a Starbucks,” muttered Natalya, my 16-year-old, turning up the volume of her AirPods as we drove along in the hired car towards the villa. It was up near Polis, towards the Akamas forests of the northwest coast.

“Bet there isn’t even Wi-Fi,” added Freddie, eventually (for he was 13 and fast approaching the grunting, monosyllabic stage).

Fortunately, it didn't take long for Freddie to forget about the Wi-Fi
Fortunately, it didn't take long for Freddie to forget about the Wi-Fi - Benedict Allen

“Maybe we’ll see a dear little sea-horse!” exclaimed eight-year-old Beatrice, not to be put off. “And then daddy will get lost again,” she continued excitedly, “taking us to an ancient ruin. I expect it will be that sort of holiday.”

Lenka, a nurse by profession, and just off a 12-hour shift, said firmly, without opening her eyes: “Lying on the beach each day, is what it’ll be.”

“Great,” Natalya said, bitterly. “We literally could’ve just hired a sun-tan bed.” And a terrible gloom settled over her, only made worse by the relentlessly cheery tone of Beatrice. “The sea, I think I can see the sea!”

She couldn’t, at least not yet. It was just the endless blue sky. But that didn’t dampen her enthusiasm either. “Oh! They even have oranges growing on their trees!”

And then, after we had sped along the highway from Larnaca, finally arriving at the tucked-away little villa, something rather odd happened. We got out of the car, looked around at the ripening figs and pomegranates, then up to the lotus trees of the dusty hills beyond, and suddenly we all found ourselves simply breathing in the air and listening to the crickets.

“Right, straight down to the beach,” declared Lenka, after a moment, and headed off, towel under her arm. There was nothing to do but put on our flip-flops and follow.

Beatrice and Lenka enjoying the sun
Beatrice and Lenka enjoying the sun - Benedict Allen

This we did, and even Freddie and Natalya found themselves dipping a toe in. “This water is literally see-through,” said Natalya, inspecting the turquoise sea closer, then taking a selfie. Next thing, she was somehow forgetting herself, splashing her brother and putting on her childhood snorkelling gear. Afterwards, she even agreed to come with me and Freddie on a little walk up through the maquis scrubland to the plateau above. It didn’t look very far.

“Dad, this is the best holiday ever!” said Freddie as we strode through the gorse and myrtle.

Our route took us by a lovely shaded spring – the traditional bathing spot of Aphrodite – and even as we began a steep climb all was going surprisingly well. “This is literally amazing!” said Natalya. We breathed in the resin odours of the pines, the thyme and oregano below our feet, and below us spread the deserted bays where Lenka and Beatrice might even now be searching for cowrie shells, as I did as a child. We peeled a fresh mango, watched studiously by mountain goats, and looked down from the glorious crags.

Benedict on holiday with his children Freddie and Natalya
Benedict exploring with Freddie and Natalya - Benedict Allen

We were still looking down from those glorious crags a couple of hours later. I blame the little marker arrows. They were like something from one of those alarming Greek myths, designed to encourage the unwary ever onwards towards a tragic end.

“Bear Grylls wouldn’t let us suffer in this way,” said Freddie, as the sun dipped and Natalya was asking if there were wolves out here (which there aren’t, just those amazing wild sheep called mouflon).

Then a horrible figure loomed out of the shrubbery. He appeared to be left over from the Second World War. Wearing a wild glint in his eye and what looked like a German helmet, he scuttled by without a word, madly clutching his shotgun cartridges.

“Take me back now!” shrieked Natalya. “I’m literally done with this.”

“Worst holiday ever,” Freddie said. By now, the moon had appeared; I was using any white stones on the “path” to discern a way forward.

In the end, of course, all was fine. And, strangely, “daddy’s death march”, as it became known, was not just the talking point of the holiday but the making of it. The villa did have Wi-Fi, but it mattered not a jot anymore because we’d settled to the island’s relaxed and enchanting ways.

The family quickly settled into the relaxed pace of life on the island
The family quickly settled into the relaxed pace of life on the island - Benedict Allen

The next morning, Natalya didn’t lie in bed as was her accustomed manner, scrolling through TikTok until 10am. Instead she watched the sunrise over the olive groves, then walked with me through the soft early light to the bakery. We bought baklava, we dribbled local honey on our yogurt.

There are other things I suppose we’ll look back on – the mosaics of Paphos, the sea bream we baked over charcoal, the buggy ride through the cedar forests – but the best of them stemmed from the childlike delight that Beatrice still possessed but that the rest of us had to regain.

On the last day, Freddie and I elected to spend time alone together, kayaking to the promising-sounding Blue Lagoon. As it happened, though, Stavros the kayak man had gone off fishing, so we just walked. And we were happy to walk. We helped each other from rock to rock, and it was only as we were attempting a tricky cliff descent that we saw her. Through the waters just below she slid like a silver torpedo – a huge monk seal, one of the rarest of the world’s marine mammals, and accompanied by her pup. And again I was reminded of the sheer joy to be found in the simplest of life’s adventures.


Sunvil (020 8568 4499; offers a stay at the Amaranta Villa in Prodromi from £962 per person (based on eight guests staying at the property). This price is based on travel on June 22 and includes return flights from London Gatwick, 23kg hold luggage per person, seven nights’ villa rental and two hire cars.