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27 June 2023

A Week in Cyprus by Car: Part Two

Did you know that Cyprus has its own marsh, although not Grimpen Mire? And did you know that while traveling around the island, you can twice enter the territory of Great Britain and even swim in the maritime possessions of His Majesty Charles III? But let's take things step by step.

So, we're in Limassol. It's a very bright, positive, dynamically developing city drenched in sunlight, with a long promenade and seemingly always awake residents. Limassol is located at the southern tip of Cyprus on the coast of Akrotiri Bay, between the ancient cities of Kourion and Amathus.

Getting to know Limassol is best started with the old town, which surrounds a medieval castle. Despite persistent rumors that the wedding of English King Richard the Lionheart and Berengaria of Navarre took place at Limassol Castle, it's nothing more than a beautiful legend. The castle was built between the 12th and 13th centuries, and Richard lived on Cyprus for a while after the end of the Third Crusade and left the island in 1191, which means the castle didn't even exist at that time. According to archives, Richard and Berengaria's wedding took place at the Church of St. George, which hasn't survived to this day.

The castle is surrounded by numerous charming restored streets with shaded terraces of cafes and restaurants. All these historic streets, houses with wooden shutters, overhanging balconies, remnants of former luxury - colonial-style buildings built by the English at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, and typical Middle Eastern houses with galleries under pointed ceilings, arches, unique mosaic floors, like in a museum.

Crossing the road - and we're by the sea, at the splendid Limassol Marina with yachts on display and modern villas literally built on the water.

If you walk along the Molos promenade in the eastern direction, in 15-20 minutes, you'll reach the Municipal Garden. It's small but very beautiful, shady, and well-kept. Every year at the beginning of autumn, the famous wine festival is held here.

A few more kilometers down the road, you'll come to the coastal Eucalyptus Park called Dasoudi, which translates from Greek as "small forest." Perhaps the best beach within the city limits is here since it's wider than others, and there's no road nearby - a small forest separates it from the noisy highway.

Right after Dasoudi, the density of cafes, bars, restaurants, and hotels per square meter sharply increases - this is the tourist part of Limassol, and further east are the best hotels in the city - Parklane, Amara, Four Seasons.

By the way, the gray volcanic sand in Limassol is why the sea here is not azure turquoise like in Ayia Napa and Protaras, where the sand is mostly made of shells, but rather dark blue, especially in deeper waters.

Further begins the most beautiful road that winds along the sea. On the left side of the road are the ruins of the ancient city of Amathus. The distance from the marina to Amathus is about 10 km. If you intend to cover the entire distance on foot, it's better to do so either early in the morning before the heat sets in or after 4-5 PM. We strongly advise against strolling along the promenade during the scorching August midday. Or at least come prepared with hats, SPF 50 creams, and water for all participants of the walk.

Continuing further, to the west. The Akrotiri Peninsula, located west of Limassol, is truly a unique place. Firstly, it's considered an overseas territory of Great Britain - here is one of the two British sovereign military bases, Akrotiri-Episkopi. In addition to the Royal Air Force base, there's a radio communication station and a military airport here.

Secondly, on this tiny peninsula and around it at a short distance from each other, several interesting places are located. Allocate at least 3-4 hours of your vacation schedule to the Akrotiri Peninsula - it's worth it! There are two excellent diving sites here: Shark Coves and Twin Rocks, where you can encounter various representatives of marine flora and fauna, including turtles, Mediterranean seals, and even moray eels.

It's essential to visit Curium, where the ruins of an ancient city have been preserved, dating back from ancient times to the Middle Ages. Throughout the centuries, it belonged to the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines. Kourion was one of the city-states, so it was built on a 70-meter cliff for the safety of its citizens. Notably, nothing remains of the houses and baths, but the floor mosaics are well-preserved. Here is also the restored amphitheater that offers a splendid view of the coast (Episkopi Bay).

If you're lucky enough to attend a theater performance, you'll be seated on sun-warmed stone steps carved over two thousand years ago, breathing in the warm sea breeze with the scent of wild herbs and hearing the sound of waves crashing against the cliffs. The setting sun and ancient tragedies on a stage that might have witnessed the great ancient Greek playwrights. Touching the warm stones of the amphitheater, you feel like a grain of sand on an ocean shore and inevitably contemplate how fleeting human life is.

The second interesting place is a beach with a sunken ship, which divers also love. A very "Instagrammable" landscape. It's worth seeing at least once.

If you have a soft spot for cats, you should definitely visit the Holy Monastery of St Nicholas of the Cats - it's also called the "Cat Monastery." Several hundred cats live here. It would be wonderful if you bring a couple of bags of dry food or a few cans of pâté - there are so many cats, and the volunteers and monastery resources are always insufficient. Both the nuns and the cats will be very grateful to you!

Right there is the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates - the ruins of a temple west of Kourion, which was one of the most important sanctuaries of Ancient Cyprus. The most famous mention of this sanctuary in ancient sources is the story by the Greek historian and geographer Strabo in Book XIV of his work "Geography." Strabo mentions the sanctuary in the following context: "In any case, the beginning of the western sea route to Rhodes is Kourion; then immediately there's a cape, from which sacrilegious persons are thrown off who have touched the altar of Apollo." In other words, had we been in ancient times, any touch of the altar, even accidental, would have led us to be thrown off the cliff into the turbulent waves of the bay. Brr, luckily we're not in ancient times.

If you decide to take a break here, you can settle on Ladies Mile Beach (by the way, to the left of the last restaurant, there's a shower, which is very convenient - after the swim, you can wash off the salt and continue your journey at your own pace). And what can compare to a dinner at a seafood restaurant at sunset right by the edge of the sea, with waves literally lapping at your feet!

Right behind Ladies Mile Beach, there are salt lakes and those marshes with reeds and mangrove vegetation. About 200 different species of birds, animals, and reptiles inhabit here, and around 300 different plant species grow, some of which are endemics. However, there's no Hound of the Baskervilles here, but no one seems to be complaining.

And now, we're moving further to the west - to Paphos. On the southwest coast of Cyprus, between Limassol and Paphos, lies the famous Aphrodite's Rock, also known as Petra tou Romiou, which translates to "Rock of the Roman." This place is considered one of the main must-see attractions in Cyprus, as according to legend, the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, emerged from the sea foam here, and her name literally means "born from the foam." It's believed that swimming at the base of the rock bestows undying beauty, eternal youth, passionate love, enhances fertility, and helps with having healthy offspring. Hence, many come here specifically to swim in the magical sea and tie a knot "for happiness" on a tree. About youth and all the rest, we can't guarantee, but taking a break here on a hot day, swimming, having lunch, and taking a few photos for memory would be an excellent idea.

This place is an amazing combination of beautiful Mediterranean nature, a magical atmosphere, and ancient mythology. Magic, legends, and nature merge here.

Paphos, this charming picturesque seaside town, is entirely a historical monument and is under the protection of UNESCO. Did you know that ancient Paphos was located seventeen kilometers from the present, where the village of Kouklia is now located?

Modern Paphos is an open-air museum. There's so much beauty and landmarks per square meter that it's better to leave your car at the parking lot and explore the city on foot. Amazing "Tombs of the Kings," the archaeological park in Kato Paphos, ancient Roman mosaics, numerous Byzantine and more modern churches - these are just a few of the things you'll see while wandering through the city. A separate pleasure is a stroll along the restored Paphos waterfront, where you'll find a port and a medieval castle at the end. Opposite the castle, there's a pavilion with souvenirs, handmade lace, and local delicacies: jams, honey, nuts.

In the times when Cyprus was part of the Byzantine Empire, at the place where the medieval Paphos castle is now located, a fortress was built to protect the port from invaders. Throughout its long history, the castle served as a defensive fortification, garrison, prison, and in the late 19th century, the British stored bags of salt there. In 1935, the castle was declared a historical monument of antiquity and has since become one of the main symbols of Paphos (the first, of course, being Aphrodite).

The starting point for your walking tour can be the large municipal parking lot located near the waterfront behind the medieval castle, where you'll easily find a place for your car. First, you'll see the Column of Paul - the ruins of the largest early Byzantine basilica on the island. If you go up the street, you'll reach the ruins of a Roman bath. Climbing the hill, you'll get closer to the upper point of the partially destroyed ancient amphitheater and be able to wander through hand-carved caves, which were initially quarries and later became a shelter for early Christians facing persecution. In 15-20 minutes from there, you can reach the Tombs of the Kings and, on the way, visit the catacombs of St. Solomon.

Further on the course - the Tombs of the Kings Archaeological Site. Underground tombs dating back to the 4th century BCE, carved out of solid rock. They were created as burial places for Paphos nobility. The construction is impressive - you can't help but wonder how people in those times, using only primitive tools, managed to create this?!

The most interesting thing is that archaeologists, who spent decades trying to find anything indicating burials, never managed to find artifacts related to the buried bodies or items that were put in graves in ancient times for the deceased's afterlife needs in the realm of Hades.

In the vicinity of Paphos, there's also a lot of interesting things to see: children will be delighted with the water park and Paphos Zoo, and everyone, without exception, will enjoy finding themselves in the cool shade of a forested gorge (Avakas Gorge or Aphrodite's Baths) on a hot summer day. Sometimes, mouflons - mountain sheep, symbolizing Cyprus, wander there. If you're lucky, you might encounter these amazing animals (by the way, they're listed in the Red Book). Unforgettable impressions from the encounter! For history and archaeology enthusiasts, a visit to the Paphos Ethnographic Museum is recommended.

The Paphos Archaeological Park is an open-air museum. Here, you can enter four ancient Roman villas, the residence of Dionysus, the Agora (marketplace), the ancient Odeon amphitheater, the residence of Theseus (likely the residence of the Roman proconsul - the governor of Cyprus), as well as the ruins of the "Forty Columns" Castle (Saranda Kolones Castle). All this magnificence was discovered quite by accident. In 1962, a local farmer, plowing the field with a tractor, struck a mosaic tile with the shovel. Starting excavations, archaeologists discovered the ruins of Roman villas, which, unfortunately, are almost completely destroyed, but unique floor mosaics have survived. Over time, archaeologists uncovered the remains of an ancient settlement, and if you make it to Paphos, don't miss the chance to visit the park and once again be amazed by the skill of ancient artists.

What else is worth seeing in Paphos and its surroundings? There are so many interesting places here that you probably won't have a whole week to see them all, but who knows, you might manage. So, you should definitely visit the church of St. Paraskevi, the Sanctuary of Aphrodite (Aphrodite's Temple), the authentic "first" Paphos, where the village of Kouklia is located, as well as the beautiful village with expensive villas, the Aphrodite Hills Hotel, and Golf Club.

The natural beauties will undoubtedly leave you in awe - Cape Drepanum and its surroundings, unique sea caves, a ship stranded ashore, the Akamas Peninsula, the Blue Lagoon, Lara Beach, where turtles nest, and also the 33 delights in the Troodos Cypriot mountains - taverns, wineries, waterfalls, shady pine forests, reservoirs, plane tree groves, ripe oranges falling at your feet, cozy houses in mountain villages, and much more.

What are your favorite places on the island? Share your stories and photos in the comments!

To be continued...

Interested in real estate on the island? Visit the #1 real estate agency in Cyprus - DOM! The agency's website features the largest property database in the country - more than 30,000 residential and commercial properties all over the island. Choose and consult with professional brokers who will help you make the right choice!

Also Read:

  1. Fire Safety in High-Rise Buildings in Cyprus
  2. A Week's Trip around Cyprus by Car. Part One
  3. Why IT Specialists Are Moving to Cyprus
  4. Differences Between Long-Term and Short-Term Rentals in Ayia Napa in 2023
  5. Top 10 Historical Buildings in Limassol
  6. How to Build Your Dream Home in Cyprus?
Source: DOM
Photos: Pixabay
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