Cyprus is one of the few destinations I’ve returned to again (and again) for a holiday and I have a – slightly biased – affection for it. It’s got a glorious year round climate and all the gems you’d expect from a choice European sun holiday, but it’s the ambience that’s always got me, and it’s pretty hard to describe. It’s got a welcoming and friendly warmth that’s nothing to do with the sun. My step has always been a bit lighter, my heart fuller, my mind quieter and my laughter louder when I’m there.
From lively and historic Paphos on the west coast, beach-lovers’ Protaras in the east and tranquil Argaka in the north-west, Cyprus is famed for its rugged, sun-kissed coastline. That’s not what I want to talk about, however. It’s time to look away from the coast, to the heart of Cyprus. In its centre you’ll find the Troodos Mountains, with Mount Olympus towering overhead. This region is home to some of the island’s most delicious wines, charming villages and natural beauties. It’s time to explore the Troodos Mountains…
How to explore
A leisurely drive into the mountains is a great way to explore and take in all the sights that you want to see. Cars drive on the left in Cyprus so you’ll feel right at home on the roads, and you’ll have the freedom to spend as long as you like in the many beautiful sights you’ll come across. With signposted walking and hiking trails aplenty, park up, hop out and leave the world behind in minutes. There are also plenty of guided Troodos tours. You’ll follow their itinerary and schedule, but get a good guide and you’ll have a wealth of interesting knowledge on the best of the region right there. Jeep safaris are also a popular and exciting way to get about – and get about they do! Off-roading is adrenaline pumping at times, but lots of fun.
Here are just some of the fantastic places you could discover.
With a wonderful year-round climate, the Troodos Mountains have been producing incredible wines for the best part of 5,000 years. The southern slopes – the Commandaria region – are home to countless wineries, some of which you can tour and some making the world-famous Commandaria wine (the oldest named wine in the world). Wineries aside, it’s just a stunning region that invites exploration, and there are clearly-marked pathways through the forests ideally situated to take it all in.
You can also get a taste of traditional Cyprus in the charming villages scattered through the mountains. The Pitsilia wine route is home to about a dozen villages, as well as two vineyards, which produce uniquely rich wines. The taste is strengthened by the altitude of the vineyards, so when strolling through these parts, look out for the ancient red wine – Maratheftiko – at the villages’ eateries.
Perhaps one of the most famous and iconic attractions of the Troodos Mountains is the Kykkos Monastery, although there are several others scattered through the region, each with its own unique charm. Kykkos however is a stand-out favourite and its incredible mountain top views only set the scene for its ornately decorated and immaculately kept interior.
While the monastery was first built in the 11th century, most of its original features have been lost to time. Many beautiful icons and priceless antiquities remain however, the most famous and intriguing is – ironically – the one you can’t see. There lies a shade of mystery over the Icon of the Virgin Mary. It’s claimed that whoever lays eyes upon it will turn blind, which is why it’s kept concealed behind a veil, but it’s still a fascinating thing to witness and the whole site will give you a glimpse into local history.
Equally beautiful in its own right, Trooditissa monastery can be found near to the village of Platres. Built in 1731, if you visit in August you might catch the religious celebration to mark the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Taking place on 15 August, it’s very moving to see locals praying to the icon and there’s a great atmosphere to be shared.
Millomeris and Caledonia Waterfalls
What is it about waterfalls that are so spectacular? There’s something about one of nature’s finest creations that’s somehow really pure. With the sound of the water and the uncharacteristic coolness from the Cypriot sun, the falls in the Troodos Mountains simply must be experienced. Check out the falls of Millomeris in particular – the highest waterfall is 15 metres. You don’t have to trek for long to see it – simply take a short walk following the signs from the church at Platres and you’re there. Surrounded by rocky cliffs, the falls are incredibly peaceful. And what is a trip to a waterfall without getting your feet wet? Appropriate shoes are definitely in order!
Slightly more tricky to visit – but by many considered more beautiful – are the Caledonia Falls. You do have to trek for a few kilometres to reach these waterfalls, but they’re well worth it. Following a sign-posted path through the woods and over sweet little streams, you’ll eventually reach the falls, which are surrounded by lush greenery. If you keep following the trail to the top of the hill, you’ll be greeted by stunning views of the Troodos Mountains…
Take a break from the beach and explore the Troodos Mountains – you won’t regret it. Start planning your next escape to Cyprus with James Villas.
Villa Mariam sits within a leafy banana plantation in an excellent location, just a short distance from Coral Bay. It’s a large, spacious property with a lovely shaded terrace - a great spot for alfresco dining overlooking the pool.