Duration: 8 hours
Location: Lefkara, Troodos and Kykkos Monstery
One of Aphrodite Tours in and around Cyprus has been nominated a Grand Tour as it takes you into the very heartland of the country, bypassing major cities and visiting villages that are a remnant of Cyprus’ variegated history, yet demonstrate a unique and fiercely Cypriot independence.
In this excursion in Cyprus, we shall visit two small yet dominating villages, Lefkara and Laneia and one of Cyprus’ major and richest monasteries, the Kykkos Monastery. Lefkara is a village famous for its lace, known as lefkaritika, as well as silver handicraft. The village takes its name from the whiteness of its silica and limestone chalky ground: Lefkara is derived from a combination of the Greek words ‘lefka’ (Greek for white) and ‘ori’ (Greek for mountains and hills). Sightseeing in Cyprus would pale into insignificance were Lefkara left out of your itinerary. It is a complete answer to the prosaic query of what to see in Cyprus.
It is located on the southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains in the Larnaca District of Cyprus, off the main Nicosia-Limassol highway. It features ancient cobbled streets and picturesque architecture, and for a village with only 1,100 inhabitants, it is surprisingly split into two administrative regions: upper and lower Lefkara. The first thing that strikes you as you drive in the cobbled streets is the number of small cluster of women who sit in the narrow village streets working on their fine embroidery, as they have for centuries. The village is also known for its skilled silversmiths who produce fine filigree work.
Apparently this village was the largest town in Cyprus in the 16th century. Why it regressed into the haze of distant anonymity is not known. A folklore museum in the town shows visitors what life was like in Cyprus a hundred years ago. The almost contemporaneous museum is located in a restored house and exhibits the furniture and effects of a wealthy family, local costumes and examples of the Lefkara lacework. The lefkaritika style was probably imported to the village from antiquity from Assyria, gaining prominence once a local lace school was opened in 1889. Legend has it that Leonardo da Vinci visited the village in 1481 to purchase a lace cloth for the main altar of the Duomo di Milano in Italy. World War II forced an abrupt end to the sale of embroidery, which never recovered fully, though the budding tourist factor brought some of its artisans back to resume lefkaritika and silver filigree work.
Continuing our excursion, we shall stop next in the small traditional village of Laneia, in the hills of the wine making region of Limasol. The village probably got its name from Lana, the daughter of Dionysos, the God of wine. Another possibility is that the name was derived from the acorn tree ‘ba lania’. The former seems more likely as this village is well known for its wine. The village is about 25 km north of Limasol on the road to the Troodos Mountains, at an altitude of 575 metres above sea level. Its altitude provides great views for tourists. On a downslope facing south, its white chalky soil offers ideal conditions for growing grapes for producing top quality wines.
Another historical fact about Laneia is that Henry de Champagne of France had visited the village during the middle of the 12th century in search of a new breed of grape vines to replace his own due to a disease that destroyed his entire crop. Laneia and the neighboring areas provided him with a suitable replacement. That variety of grape still exists, contributing to the production of Champagne in France. Archeological artifacts dated circa 1050 –750 BC show this village to be at least 3,000 years old.
Moreover, there are indications Laneia was an important settlement for the miners during the peak of copper production in Cyprus around 1600 BC.
This village has a rich religious background and forms part of religious tours as well. An important legacy of Laneia is its church, built during the 17th century in honour of Panagia Chrysospiliotissa. The 12th century Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary of Valana in the Church is believed to have miraculous powers. A pair of wooden carved boards depicting the scene of Adam and Eve with the serpent offering the forbidden fruit is also kept there, reportedly dating back to the 12th century. Apart from wine making, the locals also produce olive oil. Laneia has an olive press next to the church with large traditional circular stones. In recent times oil making has become mechanized, and the press is utilised to make soutziouko. Soutziouko is ‘a grape syrup stick with or without almonds’.
We will then continue through the woods and villages of Troodos. We will stop at certain villages en route to taste Cypriot wine. The Cypriot wine industry ranks 37th in the world in terms of total production quantity (37,500 tonnes) and much higher on a per capita basis. It is best known for Commandaria wine, as well as wines made from local grapes such as Mavro and Xynisteri. Whenever an opportunity for a snapshot arises, we will stop for a photoshoot. It will serve as a reminder of the places to see in Cyprus.
We will then visit the famous Monastery of Kykkos, the richest and most lavish of the monasteries of Cyprus, which is in the Marathasa region. It is situated on a mountain peak, at an altitude of 1318 metres, northwest of Troodos. That peak is known by the name Throni or Throni of Panagia. The monastery was built by Alexios I Comnenus (Byzantine emperor) about the 11th century and has great historical value. Dedicated to Panagia, it possesses a miraculous icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, painted by Apostle Luke the Evangelist. The icon, covered in silver gilt, is in a shrine made of tortoise shell and mother - of - pearl that stands in front of the iconostasis.
There is a wonderful story about how the icon came here. Blessed with divine grace, Cypriot hermit Esaias miraculously cured the emperor of an incurable illness in the 12th century. As a reward, he asked for the icon of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) that was kept at the imperial palace at Constantinople. The emperor reluctantly sent it to Cyprus with fitting honours together with funds to pay for the construction of a monastery where the sacred relic would be kept. At the hermit's request, the emperor’s representative in Cyprus endowed the monastery with three villages. It is one the places to see in Cyprus, and Aphrodite Tours recognises this fact.
The monastery was ravaged four times by fires and raided by looters, but each time the icon was miraculously saved. Today, the monastery is a museum. The first President of the Republic of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III, served in the monastery as a novice. He lies interred on the summit of Throni, 3 kilometres west of the monastery/museum, and not far from his native village of Panayia. This monastery /museum is a major tourist attraction in Cyprus.
Note: Dinner is not included in the cost of the excursion. While visiting churches and monasteries, open shoulders and elbows are not allowed! Kykkos museum may be visited at an extra charge and only on request. Wine tasting is included in the cost of this excursion.
Excellent traditional food! We were introduced to this pub by Aphrodite Tours on a stopover during a daylong trip in December 2012. Had a great experience! This time too, we chose Aphrodite Tours for our excursions in Cyprus and fortunately, we were lucky to find this pub unchanged. The food was amazing, the place was great; it is also a non smoking zone inside. Cozy table next to the fire place. Fair prices, value for money, traditional home made wine; my husband went for delicious steaks but I recommend the traditional cuisine. The service was excellent both times. We must thank Aphrodite Tours for this trip.
I chose the Larnaca-Nicosia & St. Thekla Monastery trip offered by Aphrodite Tours. A practising Christian, I was amazed to hear about and see the resurrection of Lazarus as related with a personal touch by the guide. The Church of St. Lazarus was marvellous; part of the sacred relics of the Saint were discovered just forty odd years ago! Stavrovouni was breathtaking as was the small village of Meniko, where the remnants of the tomb of St.Thekla were kept. The story of Church Panagia Chrysospiliotissa in a natural cave consecrated in honour of Virgin Chrysospiliotissa was very moving. I’m glad I took this tour and I am grateful to Aphrodite Tours for this edifying trip.
My husband and I opted for Aphrodite’s Tours excursion to the Donkey Farm at Kelokedara Paphos. The concept is noble and the entire package wonderful. The local delicacies like sushukko washed down with Zivania warmed us up for the ride which was most enjoyable. The meal on return was delicious. The whole package was invigorating and exciting. I’ve framed my Diploma! Thank you, Aphrodite Tours, for suggesting this diversion.