When I first saw the lush green and chalky white landscape of Cyprus I was not expecting to discover so many hidden gems off the beaten track.

The rural delights of the island’s mountain regions offer a refreshing holiday experience steeped in history away from its habitually visited beaches.

After the island was left divided by the Turkish invasion of the north in 1974, a decline in tourism forced Greek-Cypriots living in the south to find new ways to attract foreign visitors. Their focus has now shifted to offer authentic experiences far from the coastal hotspots.

The real Cyprus can be found deep in the midst of its rocky peaks and valleys, where I was fortunate enough to see how everyday Cypriots live off the land.

Travelling here offers the unique chance to meander through wine villages surrounding the Troodos Mountains and meet locals whose welcome is as generous as the meze platters served in the tavernas of the cobblestoned village squares.

Traditional craftsmen, plying the centuries old trades of the island, hope to inspire the country’s younger generation to follow in their footsteps and keep their culture alive.

Choirokoitia resident Petros Nikolaou is one of those islanders fighting to champion tradition by offering lessons in halloumi-making and basket-weaving, while living a wholly self-sufficient lifestyle.

Staying in a traditional country house - Filokypros Eveleos in the village of Tochni - I received bountiful hospitality from the owners who lovingly whipped up two drinks adored by Cypriots, a brandy sour and Commandaria, a glowing amber-coloured desert wine made from two indigenous grapes that tastes as rich as its history. The name Commandaria can be traced back to the 12th century, when it was served at the wedding of King Richard the Lionheart during the time of the Crusades.

Forgotten communities are uniting to project their cultural identity through a new wave of agrotourism – providing an inspiring insight into their daily lives.

Villages further inland, where houses cling to the slopes of the Troodos Mountains, display an invigorating change in landscape closer to the highest peak in Cyprus, Mount Olympos.

The ancient spa village of Kalopanayiotis, close to the Troodos peaks, offers a peaceful retreat with stunning views of the island’s rugged spines and forested valleys stretching out towards the coast.

Here, a project is working wonders to bring vitality and growth to the area, headed by former villager John Papadouris, who returned after more than 30 years to invest millions of Euros into its restoration.

The passion of Cypriots in the south shines through their food and wine producers, with vineyards such as the Tsiakkas Winery high up in the heart of the mountains finally gaining global recognition for grapes sourced from local vines.

As these villages continue to attract more visitors leading up to summer, the mountains are sure to leave you feeling a genuine connection with the people who call the region home.