Although a small country, the Island of Cyprus offers vast resources of historic and modern value for tourists. It’s the holder of 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites with a high ranking for historical treasures. Some of the most attention getting attractions rest in the foothills of Limassol, or in the capital city of Nicosia and I found that with the generally excellent motorways and minor roads, all were within convenient reach.
Paphos and the Troodos mountains
The Island of Cyprus and ancient history are as one and with this in mind; I discovered a particular historical treasure not to be missed. This was a visit to the complete and ancient city of Paphos, renowned for its sites of ancient villas, palaces, fortresses, Roman mosaics and a lot more. Continuing this journey into the ancient past, the Troodos Mountains gave me the experience of incomparable Byzantine Painted Churches, with their decorations of rich toned murals. The third adventure and yet another step-back into ancient Cyprus, was a visit to the Choirokoitia Neolithic Settlement.
Continuing with this quest to discover more about the ancient past of this incredible and fascinating Island of Cyprus, I travelled about 11 miles (17.7 Kilometres) to the west of Limassol, whereby lays majestic Kourion (Curium). This ancient part of history is regally situated on a steep cliff, as though surveying the ocean it commands. Although most of the city was destroyed by an earthquake in AD365, excavation and restorations have been conducted on the ground level, focused on the floor mosaics and are regarded as being some of most superb, apart from Paphos.
Even the preservations that are necessary don’t detract from the striking inscriptions related to Odysseus, Achilles and gladiators in combat. Viewing Kourion creates the sensation for some, of being transported back, into those ancient times.
Limassol and its Wineries
Changing the tone of my travels when staying on the Island of Cyprus, the next stops were three wineries near the old fishing port in Limassol. Naturally, these are popular venues for locals and tourists alike and provided an interesting tour, as well as some excellent wine sampling!
If you prefer a less restricted wine excursion, try driving into the vine-terraced vineyards around Limassol and visit the wine villages, know as the “Krassohgoriá.” During August 30 and September 9, there is the annual Limassol Wine Festival, where you can sample wines to your heart’s content, relaxing with traditional folk music and dancing.
Larnarca and wreck diving
For a seagoing adventure, apart from sailing around in a pleasure boat, it’s worth taking a drive to Larnarca. This is the third largest city on the Island of Cyprus, after Nicosia and Limassol. It’s where you’ll find the wreck of the Zenobia, sunk on its maiden voyage in 1980, waiting for your visit.
This is one of the main wreck dives in the Mediterranean Sea and is located 1,500 meters offshore. Depending on your diving experience to a depth of about 42 meters, you can see trucks still chained to the decks, as well as an abundance of sea-life. If this is outside your diving range, there are other, more shallow shipwrecks, reefs and caves in the area.
The Gateway to the Island of Cyprus
I can’t end this experience without mentioning Larnarca, known as the “Gateway to the Republic of Cyprus”. The Larnarca of today, with the palm-lined Phinikoudes Boulevard, is recognized by many as the main tourist attraction. During the summer months, volumes of tourists and visitors from other parts of the island descend on the city, creating an amazing vibe that resounds through the cafes, bars, clubs and restaurants, lining the beach.
What a great way to say goodbye, or αντίο to this island home of the ancient and the modern, called Cyprus!