When in Cyprus, don’t limit yourself to the main cities and coastal resorts. Spread your wings by venturing into the countryside.
From fragrant citrus orchards and olive groves, rolling vineyards, wide open plains carpeted with colourful wild flowers, to cool pine forests and pristine beaches where turtles nest, Cyprus’ nature will delight you at all times of year.
Go on a wine or culinary tour discovering age-old villages cascading down hillsides with shady squares where you can sit at the coffee shop and mix with the locals. Spend a relaxing day at one of the salt lakes where you can observe nature and wildlife to your heart’s content; or visit some of Europe’s most evocative ancient sites, Neolithic settlements and quaint medieval churches. Cyprus offers the full Mediterranean experience in a compact area easy to reach.
The Lefkosia Region
The Lefkosia (Nicosia) region combines a great, diverse cultural wealth with the contemporary everyday life.
At the centre lies the capital, a place that smoothly merges the modern business centre with the historic culture. The only divided capital of the world, steeped in history and culture with a beautiful old city surrounded by massive Venetian walls, and a museum with wonderful collection o artifacts spanning the ages.
In the countryside you’ll find olive groves and orchards leading up into the pine forest of the Machairas mountains, on the peak of which, set in a scenic valley with a superb view over the plains, sits a centuries old monastery.
Along the way lies Tamassos, a rich city-kingdom in antiquity, built near important copper mines for which Cyprus was famous, while to the east lies ancient Idalion, another city kingdom, currently under excavation near the modern village of Dali.
Picturesque villages abound, with their cobbled streets and preserved stone and adobe houses, offering a glimpse of rural life in Cyprus. Worth visiting is the village of Fikardou, which has been declared a national monument and was awarded the Europa Nostra award in 1987.
The Larnaka Region
East meets West in Larnaka (Larnaca) as both Christianity and Islam have revered religious sites here, with the mosque of Hala Sultan, an important Moslem place of pilgrimage, and the church of St Lazarus, Jesus’ friend whom he resurrected from the dead.
The mountainous area of Larnaka (Larnaca) is dotted with charming villages and has the largest concentration of traditional houses available for rent. The listed village of Lefkara, is perhaps the most picturesque, with its narrow streets and stone houses with red-tiled roofs and central courtyards, and a history of producing wonderful handicrafts such as filigree silverware and a traditional kind of lace known the world over as “lefkaritika”. Legend has it that Leonardo da Vinci himself came here and bought an altar cloth, which he donated to Milan cathedral.
Amongst archaeological sites worth visiting, Choirokoitia is one of the best preserved sites of a prehistoric settlement brought to light in the Eastern Mediterranean, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The church of Angeloktisti, in the village of Kiti, has one of the finest examples of Byzantine art of the Justinian period, a rare 6th century mosaic of the Virgin and Child between two archangels, while perched dramatically on a rocky peak with a panoramic view over the surrounding hillsides, sits the solitary monastery of Stavrovouni, one of the oldest monasteries in Cyprus.
The Pafos Region
Feel the romance in the air in the land where Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, once roamed. Swim in the sea by the rocks known as Petra tou Romiou where she was believed to have risen from the waves, make a pilgrimage to her sanctuary at Kouklia, or visit the grotto near Polis where she was supposed to have bathed. The Pafos (Paphos) region is the perfect place to celebrate a wedding or go for your honeymoon.
Pafos (Paphos) town, with its pleasant harbour and medieval fort, combines a cosmopolitan holiday resort, spectacular countryside and historical sites. The region offers the possibility of combining sea and mountains as well as getting a taste of culture with its many archaeological sites.
Admire the view at Maa-Paleokastro, the site on a peninsula near Coral Bay, where the Mycenaean Greeks first landed in Cyprus in the Bronze Age. Explore inland by going on a wine tour of the villages, stopping off at Chrysorrogiatissa monastery with its fine icons where you can get a taste of the locally produced vintage wine from its own winery. Or indulge in one of the many activities available, from playing a round of golf at a premier golf resort, indulging in a sea sport, such as swimming, diving or sailing, or going for the thrill of a water park or karting centre.
Head for the Polis area where you can experience a back-to-basics lifestyle staying in one of the many renovated traditional houses from where you can explore the countryside. The Akamas peninsula is an area of natural wilderness with dramatic coastlines and sandy coves. Visit one of the last Mediterranean nesting grounds for the green and loggerhead turtles on the sandy beaches of Lara. Or walk along one of the many scenic nature trails spotting rare endemic plants that grow there, or watching migrating birds fly by overhead. Or take a boat trip along the spectacular coastline of what forms part of Aphrodite’s playground.
Tombs of the Kings: A UNESCO world heritage list monument
Petra tou Romiou – Aphrodite Rock: a legendary landscape
The Lemesos Region
The island’s second largest city, Lemesos (Limassol) is the island’s main port, the centre of the wine industry and a bustling holiday resort.
The city fans out between two of the most spectacular archaeological sites in Cyprus built on cliff tops with spectacular views overlooking the sea – the ancient city-kingdoms of Amathous to the east and Kourion to the west. Finds from these sites have made their way abroad, such as an enormous stone vase, one of the largest ever found, unearthed at Amathous is now at the Louvre Museum in Paris, while objects from Kourion are displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The sun-kissed southern slopes of the Troodos mountains with their vineyards form a pleasant green backdrop to the city, dotted with delightful hillside villages known collectively as the 'Krassochoria' (or wine villages). The old forms of viticulture are still kept alive here producing the island’s best dry red wines.
The most famous of all the wines is Commandaria, one of the oldest named wines in the world, having had the same name for eight centuries. It was originally produced and exported by the Hospitallers, the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, from Kolossi castle, where they had their headquarters (Grand Commandery), and which can still be seen today on the outskirts of the city.
Germasogeia dam and Akrotiri salt lake are unique wetlands ideal for observing nature and wildlife and peaceful places to relax, go for a walk or indulge in some angling. Bird watching enthusiasts may see herons, ducks, chaffinches, cormorants and kestrels, or even the Greater Flamingo which winters at Akrotiri in the thousands.
In the southern foothills of the Troodos Mountains and only a few minutes away from the main hotel area of Lemesos, there is a different kind of Cyprus, the Cyprus off the beaten track, a rural retreat and a place of peace and tranquility. There, you can enjoy beautiful unspoilt countryside at any time of year, villages that time forgot.
Kourion Archaeological site: The most impressive archeological sites on the island
Kolossi Medieval Castle: An impressive 15th century castle
The Troodos Region
Take a trip into the mountains to discover an alternate view of the island. Rising to almost 2,000 metres above sea level, the Troodos peaks provide panoramic scenes to all corners of the island, a cool retreat from the heat of the coast and popular for taking in the healthy mountain air and enjoying nature in all its majesty.
Charming villages, some with cobbled streets and preserved folk architecture, nestle on terraced slopes amongst the pines or amid vineyards and orchards.
Wander through the village roads in the Solea Valley, known as the “apple valley” and Marathasa, known as “valley with cherry trees”. Those areas are renowned for their traditional architecture and their Byzantine churches and monasteries. Explore the traditional character of the villages of Pitsilia area, the picturesque of the area, the interesting churches and the hospitality of their inhabitants and also the Wine Villages (Krasochoria), renowned for their vineyards and wine. A number of small wineries welcome visitors on wine tasting tours.
Burbling mountain streams and nightingale’s songs are often the only sounds to fill the air in a region that poets have waxed lyrical over. The Troodos Mountains are where the painted churches of Cyprus can be found, superb examples of Byzantine art, ten of which have been put on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
There’s much you can do from mountain biking, to playing tennis, angling in one of the dams, or even skiing in winter. A series of nature trails will take you through areas of exceptional beauty among scented pines, running streams and the occasional waterfall, stopping at a shady picnic site. Some of these form part of the European path E4, an international network of long-distance walking routes crossing the whole of Europe.
Known scientifically as the Troodos ophiolite complex, the area was created about 80 million years ago and rose from the sea about 20 million years ago to create the island. It is one of the most widely studied geological formations in the world and has shed much light on the birth of the earth’s crust.
The specific climatic conditions created by the high altitudes and the peculiar geological substratum may have contributed to the unique flora found on Troodos with nearly 800 different plant species, 72 endemics, 12 of which found nowhere else in the world. Occasionally, if one is lucky, one may spot a Cyprus mouflon, a kind of wild sheep peculiar to the island, which roams free in the extensive forests and has been used as the symbol for the island’s national carrier. Birdwatchers may spot the rare and protected eagles or the colourful hoopoe with pink body, black and white crest and a call which can be heard from miles around.
Kykkos Monastery: The Most impressive of monasteries of Cyprus.
Machairas Monastery: One of the most important monasteries in Cyprus.