Duration: 8 hours
Aphrodite Tours have a comprehensive list of places to see in Cyprus, from the smallest to the largest and from the nearest to the farthest. We, at Aphrodite Tours know the legacy of this wonderful island nation and its heritage in total detail and spare no pains in planning our tours around this country. The island is so beautifully laid out geographically that many aims can be achieved in our excursions in Cyprus, perhaps none more so than the trip to its two major cities of Nicosia and Limassol.
This particular trip can be considered a tour around Cyprus, as we first travel West to East to see Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, a status it has enjoyed for a millenium since the 10th century, though its beginnings date back 5000 years to the Bronze Age. It lies roughly in the centre of the island, in the Mesaoria Plain, flanked by the beautiful northern range of Kyrenia mountains with its distinctive 'Pentadaktylos’ - the five finger mountain. There are various suggestions as to the origin of the name Nicosia − Lefkosia In Greek. One is linked to the popular tree, the tall 'Lefki ' which once adorned the city; another links it to Lefkos, son of Ptolemy I of Egypt, who rebuilt the city in 280 BC. When Cyprus came under Latin rule it was renamed Nicosia. The Crusaders conquerors probably could not pronounce the name Kallinikesis, as the city was called at that time; instead, they tended to call the city Nicosia. However the Greeks continued referring to the city as Lefkosia.
The most quaint theory has its roots in mythology. Its rocky mountainous zone was created from the ancient oceanic bark that started rising from the sea 10 million years ago. First to emerge from the sea was the Troodos massif; the last the Pendadactylos range to the north of the Troodos massif. Nicosia emerged from the sea 2-5 million years ago. Thus the geological birth of Cyprus is linked to the myth of the birth of Aphrodite, emerging through the foam of the sea waves. At Aphrodite Tours, we favour the last mentioned version.
The peaceful coexistence of people from differing backgrounds was tragically shattered when Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 to form a separate State called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is recognized only by Turkey and no other country in the world. The United Nations’ military contingent maintains the buffer or demilitarised zone in Cyprus along what is called the ‘Green Line’, which runs for more than 180.5 kilometres (112.2 mi) from the western part of near Kato Pyrgos to the east just south of Famagusta and cuts through the centre of the old town of Nicosia. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nicosia is currently the only divided capital city across the world, with the southern (Greek) and northern (occupied Turkish territory) portions divided by the Green Line.
Today, Nicosia blends its brilliant historic past with the bustle of a modern city. The nucleus of the city, enclosed by the Venetian walls, includes plenty of museums, ancient churches and medieval buildings, all of which are tourist attractions in Cyprus. Some of these include the Cyprus Museum; the Byzantine Museum and Art Galleries; the Ayios Ioannis Cathedral; the Famagusta Gate, one of only three gates to/from the walled city and known earlier as Porta Giuliana; the Chrysaliniotissa Church dedicated to the patroness of the Golden Flax; the Archbishopric, built in 1960, containing the private suite of the late Archbishop Makarios, often called the palace of Archbishop Makarios III; and more. Time permitting, these are the places to see in Cyprus’ capital city Nicosia.
The central Eleftheria Square links old Nicosia with the elegant modern city that has grown up outside the walls to become a modern business and cultural centre. According to the latest figures, the population of the part of Nicosia under the control of the Republic of Cyprus is 315,000. Since this is definitely one of the places to see in Cyprus, Aphrodite Tours has factored in sufficient time for you to walk along the picturesque streets of the divided city, part of your sightseeing in Cyprus.
Our next halt will be at Kakopetria village, as we return from the East to the Southwest. Kakopetria is located 55 kilometers southwest of the capital, Nicosia, on the north-facing foothills of the Troodos Mountains. It is at an altitude of 667 metres and is the highest village in the Solea Valley. There are about 1,200 permanent inhabitants and a few hundred more, who either have a summer house or are originally from Kakopetria, but work in Nicosia. It is surrounded by thick forestland and is built on the banks of the Kargotis and Garillis Rivers. The two rivers join within the village itself and form the river Klarios, which crosses the Solea Valley and empties into Morphou Bay. Almost all tours in Cyprus come to this beautiful and beautifully maintained village.
Kakopetria, because of its healthy and cool climate, picturesque landscape, wonderful natural environment, rich vegetation, cool and gargling waters, folkloric heritage and the relatively small distance from Nicosia and Limassol naturally drew the attention of many rich families for vacations during the summer. This village is renowned for the warm hospitality that characterises its inhabitants, their proper behaviour, impeccable service, conscious effort for cleanliness, and the correct development of construction undertaken by many of the village's inhabitants, as well as a number of other comforts that its inhabitants offer to local and foreign tourists with great joy and satisfaction. It has been included in the list of global cultural heritages by UNESCO. There will be enough time for a small hike around this model village, another must see place in Cyprus.
We will then continue southwest through the woods and villages of Troodos. We will stop at certain villages en route to taste Cypriot wine and how its taste changes as we come down lower and lower, away from the virginal mountain streams of water. 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. The wine industry contributes significantly to the Cypriot economy through cultivation, production, employment, export and tourism. It is best known for Commandaria wine. Most wine production is based on a few varieties of local grapes such as Mavro and Xynisteri, although international varieties are also cultivated.
As we close in on Limassol, we will stop at Platres, a mountainous village on the southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains and is one of the Krasochoria, or wine villages. Platres is the largest Troodos resort, situated about 25 kilometers (16 mi) north-west of Limassol and 45 kilometers (28 mi) south-west of Nicosia. Platres is a very old village and is mentioned among the 119 villages of the Limassol district that existed during the Lusignan Era (1192-1489 AD). Platres straddles a perennial stream, the Krios River from Mount Olympus, providing a reliable source of drinking water, while allowing dense foliage not normally seen on the island. Platres has many hotels and bars today, offering a cooler alternative to the major coastal resorts during the summer, a skiing base during the winter for the nearby ski slopes of Mount Olympus and the starting point for many nature trails as well as the Troodos Cycling Routes. We will dine there at a well known Restaurant Bar and Pool; the pleasant and cool restaurant has a pool in which swimming is permitted.
This tour around Cyprus ends at Limassol. Limassol is a city on the southern coast of Cyprus and capital of the eponymous district. Limassol is the second largest city in Cyprus, with an urban population of 180,000 in 2012. The Port of Limassol is one of the busiest ports in the Mediterranean transit trade and the largest active port in Cyprus. It has also become one of the most important tourism, trade, and service-providing centres in the area. Limassol is renowned for its extensive cultural traditions, and hosts Cyprus University of Technology. A wide spectrum of activities and a number of museums and archaeological digs are available to those interested. It is always included in Aphrodites Tours in Cyprus, as its reputation as a superb tourist spot makes it an inviolable part of what to do and see in Cyprus.
Limassol's historical centre is located around its medieval Limassol Castle and the port. Today the city spreads along the Mediterranean coast and has extended much farther than the castle and port, with its suburbs stretching along the coast to Amathus. Limassol has a subtropical-Mediterranean climate with warm to hot and dry summers and very mild winters, which are separated by short springs and autumns which are gently warm and pleasant. Limassol has a lot of beaches, suitable for sunbathing and swimming. It is a leading tourist attraction in Cyprus.
The development of tourism in Limassol began by default after 1974 when the Turks occupied both Famagusta and Kyrenia, the principal tourist resorts of Cyprus. Its new port became the major sea port of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974, since Famagusta was shut down. The old port accommodated only fishermen’s vessels. The town of Limassol is the biggest industrial centre of the province. There are about 350 industrial units with 90 odd industry wares, like dressmaking, furniture, shoes, drinks, food, prints, metal industry, electric devices, plastic wares as well as many others.
Limassol traditionally had a mixed population of Greek, Turkish Cypriots and Armenian Cypriots. Today, it is home to a large community of Pontic Greeks, who settled in Cyprus after the collapse of Soviet Union. In recent years, the city has also become increasingly popular with Russian or other post-Soviet nationals and expatriates. Currently, some 3% of the population of Limassol are Russian-speaking, and 2% of the population are Russian citizens. There is a saying that ‘Limassol has the largest Russian Community outside of Russia’.
Among its many landmarks, the medieval castle, one of the nine castles of Cyprus, takes prime spot. It was built by the Byzantines circa 1000 AD. Around the same period, a chapel was also built there. Richard the Lionheart supposedly married his fiancée Princess Berengaria of Navarre on this site after her ship was grounded nearby in 1191 as she accompanied him to the Third Crusade, on his way to Holy Land. The Castle was used as a prison between 1790 and 1940; The Britishers saw no reason to change its status but today, it is a medieval museum covering exhibits between the era of 400 – 1870 AD. A visitor can see numerous exhibits: cannons, wood carvings of the 17th and 18th century, paintings and tombstones, statues, suits of armour, coins, terracotta, metalware and pottery, glass and marble artifacts. This is a befitting answer to the perennial question of what to see in Cyprus.
Note: Dinner is not included in the cost of this excursion. The fortress may be visited at an extra charge on request. Do carry your bathing suits and towels, if you plan to swim anywhere.
My hubby and I had read a recommendation of Aphrodite Tours special jeep trip called the Grand Tour− Jeep Safari, touching Lefkara, Laneia, a drive through the Troodos mountain range with wine tasting, Kykkos Monastery, Astromeritis, Larnaca, Ayia Napa and Protaras. We took up Aphrodite Tours offer and had a high speed ball, with the different wines stimulating our appetite for more. A really Grand Show! We second the recommendation.
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.