Holidays can be expensive. I for one am incredibly fussy when it comes to hotels, others are picky about location. Not only does finding the perfect holiday become an endless chore of scouring dozens of holiday websites to compare deals and conduct research, but as you narrow down what you want from your break, the price can often start to hike up and fall out of your budget. Eventually, we found our perfect budget holiday with Cyprus Paradise through a site called Travel Zoo (a great place to find some amazing deals...you just have to do a lot of sifting!). As the name suggests, we ended up spending one beautiful half-board week in the relaxing Malpas Hotel, situated in Kyrenia, North Cyprus...and all for £350 each!
If this isn't proof that you can buy a budget holiday without compromising on style then I don't what is. North Cyprus is the Turkish part of the country, meaning the local currency is Turkish Lira. Leaving before the Brexit referendum, we got a great exchange rate, but either way it works out a lot cheaper that going to a European country. You get so much for your money here; although it seems a lot, it isn't at all (120 TL for a meal for two seems like a lot, but works out at around £30!), and the quality you get for it is incredible. With the above example, although dinner was included in our stay, Stewart and I decided to take a 20 minute taxi ride to the local Bellapais monastery.
These old ruins are neighboured by a restaurant that is almost 'in-built'; the scenery is utterly breath-taking with the historical building lit up like a perfect romantic setting. Now, this restaurant was quite fancy. The food was superbly presented and tasted absolutely exquisite; Stewart chose a most giant steak I have ever seen in my life whilst I chose a creamy chicken dish partnered with a cocktail. This, plus starters and water, came to the British equivalent of just under £30! If you're looking for somewhere to stay on a budget, definitely look at exchange rates- it's all good getting a cheap holiday, but it doesn't mean much if you are going to end up spending a fair amount whilst you're there!
Kyrenia itself is a cute little seaside town which is home to a majestic castle and beautiful harbour. The Malpas hotel was situated about a 10-15 minute taxi ride away; close enough to pop into the centre and explore, but far away enough to enjoy the peace and quiet of the resort. The perfect location! Stewart and I did visit the castle (obviously, I can't keep away from historical excursions) which only cost 12 TL to enter (a few quid). It was beautiful and the views were second to none, plus the history itself was fascinating- so many eras come together in one proud building. Unfortunately, we made the grave mistake of going in the middle of the day; the lack of breeze and peak heat meant that what could've been a lovely day out ended in us sweating an insane amount and rushing around the castle so that we could leave and find some shade! In pursuit of some breeze, we stopped off at a lovely little restaurant by the harbour (the road is just restaurant after restaurant, so there's no trouble finding a place to eat!) and placed ourselves in front of a huge fan.
Whilst there isn't a great deal to do in Kyrenia, apart from exploring what the town has to offer or visiting the Bellapais monastery, the Malpas hotel kept us entertained. I get a bit restless when I don't have enough to do, and hate holidays where I'm just sat doing nothing. Although it is usually my idea of hell (I love exploring new places and absorbing the culture), we spent the majority of our time at the hotel, mainly because there was water there to cool us down! After breakfast, we meandered down to the pool, plonked ourselves on a sun-lounger and soaked up the sun with a good book in our hands. Sometimes, this is all you need; a bit of chill-out time with the option to do a few things if you so wish. The pool was quite large and we did spend a lot of our time in there, just because the heat was just too much! There weren't many young children around either (we went during the last week of June- before the school holidays) so it was perfect in the sense that our little bubble of serenity wasn't spoilt by squawking and screaming.
The Malpas hotel also features a spa which houses a small gym, an indoor swimming pool (which is freezing cold), a jacuzzi (which is equally as chilly), a Turkish bath (which wasn't in use when we visited), a sauna and a steam room. This is on top of the huge array of massages and beauty treatments available. Treatments cost around 160 TL from what I can remember, but this works out as £40-ish so it's not too bad. I had a classic massage whilst Stewart had a sport's massage; it was honestly the best massage I have ever had and would totally recommend booking here if you do visit the Malpas hotel! There is also a casino which we didn't get round to visiting as it opened too late (yes, we are an old couple and go to bed ridiculously early). Travel is easy here; just get the hotel to call you a taxi or use their shuttle buses into town (one at 10am is free, the 11.30am one costs 2 TL). The only thing I wouldn't recommend is going to the beach, mainly because it isn't a beach. It's a platform with a few sun loungers on it by some rocks which drops into the sea. We got the shuttle bus there one day and went home disappointed 5 minutes later! There's a nice turtle beach nearby (which we didn't get round to going to) which is a nice sandy place to relax, but this isn't a great place to holiday if you like your beaches.
The food was perfectly adequate here, with the Malpas offering buffets for both breakfast and dinner, with lunch available poolside or in the Jazz bar. It was a bit of luck if something you enjoyed was served, but generally we had no complaints- just be aware that you do have to pay for all drinks, despite being half-board etc. The hotel is lovely and modern, with all staff being friendly and helpful (we broke the safe three times before giving up...sorry Malpas!). The reception looks snazzy and the rooms are equally as nice. One thing I am super fussy about is the state of the hotel rooms. Our room on the 3rd floor of the Diamond Court was absolutely gorgeous; the queen-sized bed was so comfy, the room was spacious and the bathroom had a modern design (there was a TV in the shower!). The sea-view from the balcony was also a wonderful thing to wake up to every morning. I saw on TripAdvisor that some people were worried about the Diamond Court being separate from the hotel; it's not too far away at all. The pool sits in-between the Diamond Court and reception/rest of the hotel, so it really isn't a far walk at all.
The Cyprus Paradise deal included transfers in our price which arrived on time and were excellent. I really can't fault their service at all! One thing I did stress about was that you can only check in 24 hours before your flight with Turkish Airlines, but this worked out fine (on the way back, we just used the hotel WiFi to check in). The flight was quite long (4 hours to Istanbul, waiting time, before a 2 hour flight to Ercan) but in-flight food, naps and films available kept us occupied. Overall, I would recommend booking with this company if you are looking for a budget holiday, and it does just go to prove that you can still get relatively fancy and luxurious holidays on a strict budget. I'm still amazed by the fact that this only cost us £350, with an extra £175 spending money which worked out just the right amount! If only I could be there right now instead of going to work....
Where do you love going for a budget holiday? Do you have any tips for thrifty travelling? Have you ever been to North Cyprus?