In the Footsteps of a Goddess
If the Ancient Goddess of love and beauty was able to speak, nowhere would her presence be so profound as it is in the archaeological sites dedicated to her cult. Visitors can soak up all her majestic glory with mythology coming to life at every stop along the way. Dig deep through the layers of history and you will learn about her birth, cult, and the many rituals associated with her highly eroticized worship.
Start off at the “Baths of Aphrodite” and then proceed towards “Petra tou Romiou” to catch a glimpse of the goddess majestic birthplace. Continue the journey to Kouklia and the famously elaborate sanctuary of Aphrodite which formed a center of worship for the whole of the ancient Greek world. Pop into the adjacent Kouklia museum housed in the eastern annex of a Lusignan medieval mansion, to get to grips with the extent of Aphrodite’s profound mythological significance.
Proceed towards “Ancient Amathus” in Lemesos; an archaeological site that bears witness to one of the most ancient royal cities of Cyprus and a strong connection to the forever alluring cult of the famous goddess. Have a look at the ruins of the temple of Aphrodite and then head down to the Lemesos (Limassol) District Museum to enrich your knowledge of the celebrated goddess. Last but not least, be sure not to miss Kition in your travels with a stop at the main archaeological site of the ancient city, exploring its links with Aphrodite and the area’s ties to the sea.
Let there be wine
In an island boasting a plethora of treasures, one of its most widely enjoyed is the locally produced wine that goes down a treat at any social occasion, wedding, or family dinner. With the sun-kissed southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains winding between Lemesos and Pafos covered in vines, there are quite a few charming boutique wineries waiting to be discovered, providing a real treat whether you are a connoisseur or a simple lover of the drink that locals once worshipped as the nectar of gods.
The most famous indigenous varieties that you will get to sample are derived from the “mavro” (dark red grapes) and “xynisteri” (white grape) as well as many tantalizing new selections. That’s not to forget the infamous sweet Commandaria, once pronounced by Richard the Lionheart as “the wine of kings and the king of wines”.
The number of wine routes you can take is 7, that stretch across the Troodos Mountain range from the breathtaking Pitsilia to the fascinating trip along the Diarizos river. You might like to top up your knowledge at a Wine Museum, before traveling deeper into the slopes, to sample some choice vintages in the countless enticing villages with a long winemaking tradition.
Historical Marvels at Your Doorstep
With so many paths leading you back to the glorious past, the choice of archaeological sites beckoning to be explored is remarkable. Steeped in a rich history that tells tales of intricate and lively ancient times, the island bears examples of some of the oldest settlements and architectural feats, which leave crowds in absolute awe. Start off on the east coast with the ancient city of Kition in Larnaka, which features temples dating back to the 13th century BC.
Then head for new heights between Larnaka and Lemesos, with an impressive looming hillside standing as the proud home of the Neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia, distinctly marked out by cylindrical stone and mud dwellings that lay claim to the earliest permanent human housing on the island.
Further down to the Southwest coast, the ancient Greco Roman Kourion stands as one of the top ancient highlights, with a theater perched high on a clifftop that commands a tremendous view of the surrounding patchwork land and sea. During the summer months, music and theatrical performances really bring the ancient past to life. Then follow the coastline towards Pafos, the town with no end of world-famous archaeological sites, that stretch out from Paleapafos (Kouklia) to the heart of Kato Pafos.
A Saintly Experience.
Nestled in the Troodos Mountains is a real Byzantine treasure trove that reveals the island’s religious heritage in its very best lights. With Cyprus situated at crucial crossroads of the Eastern Mediterranean, the land is characterized by one of the greatest concentrations of churches and grandiose monasteries of the former Byzantine Empire.
Holy buildings that have remained largely unchanged for centuries are blessed with a highly spiritual aura, as characteristic chunky wooden doors open up onto an array of vivid icons and frescoes depicting saints, apostles, and stories from the Bible in all their colorful glory.
With ten of these beautifully painted churches included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, days out can be spent driving through the area of Pitsilia, Marathasa, and Solea to spot their true beauty.
The story behind the churches is as interesting as the discovery itself, with unique tales of important saints and apostles accentuating a flourishing ecclesiastical mountain life, which lures in curious visitors to this day. Be sure to make the most of the gracefully imposing string of churches dedicated to the Holy Cross which pay tribute to Saint Helen, Mother of Constantine the Great, who passed through Cyprus when returning from the Holy Land.
Where Tradition Defies the Hands of Time
Start off in the far easterly farming villages collectively named Kokkinohoria in the Ammochostos District, to witness where the island’s delicious potatoes are unearthed from and see the mineral-rich soil. Head further towards Larnaca and you will be mesmerized by Stavrovouni: a Greek Orthodox monastery famed as the oldest on the island, perched high on a mountain peak. Perfectly isolated and a real marvel to stare at, it could have easily stepped out of a classic painting, or a medieval film set.
Sit and enjoy the views before heading deeper towards the beguiling Lefkara, with its narrow winding lanes and terracotta-roofed houses, celebrated for its exquisite embroidery, handcrafted in the village since medieval times. As friendly banter about the news of the day resonated through the lanes, the women are often coupled up outside their homes and shops, with an embroidery needle in hand. Never far away are the village men busying themselves making their highly prized silverware.
Enjoy a touch of traditional shopping before stepping into the folklore museum for a journey back in time. While Lefkara was considered one of the most affluent towns during the Renaissance, the adjacent Kato Drys gives visitors the opportunity to see some more beautiful traditional architecture.
Discovering Paths Less Explored
Drive out towards Polis tis Chrysohous to soak up the charisma of a small town that exudes peaceful seaside charm. Just a stone’s throw away is the Latchi fishing village, a favorite holiday destination of locals who love to tuck into a fresh fish meze at the waterfront taverns. A boat trip from Latchi will take you into the heart of the rocky coves of the Akamas peninsula, as you enjoy a delightful plunge into brilliant turquoise waters. And if you fancy catching sight of where an ancient goddess enjoyed a cool dip, make your way towards the nearby Baths of Aphrodite, a grotto surrounded by an idyllic luscious landscape and a walking trail dotted with fragrant flowers and herbs.
Move higher inland to discover a winding labyrinth of villages dotted across the Laona Plateau including Kathikas, Kritou Terra, and Arodes. But if you really want to recharge your batteries, make the most of the sprawling untamed natural beauty, stretching all the way from the dense protected greenery of the Akamas reserve to the blissfully quiet area of Pomos.
Keen explorers of the area are often left in awe of the Avakas Gorge, which etches its way through the rugged countryside. With the whole area also providing plenty of opportunities for a refreshing swim, the untouched beaches are among the cleanest of the island. Drive out towards Pomos in the evening for panoramic views and the sight of the endless twinkle off village lights, while stopping off for a cool drink by the coast to take in what dreams are really made of.
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