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Sights, Cyprus

The sights in Cyprus are like no other, due to the islands’ beautiful coastline, historic past and naturally green backdrop. Home to the impressive igneous rock, Troodos Massif makes for an astounding day out sightseeing, thanks to its blankets of forestry, fresh pine-scented air and impacting scenery, filled with tall mountain views.

Agios Georgios Church

The Agios Georgios Church is located in the area of Ha-Potami which is southeast of the Kouklia village. The chapel was built outside the village, on the ruins of Saint Catherine monastery in 1930 (approximately) and is a Christian Orthodox chapel with a semi-circle roof. It is a small, simple building which can accommodate a hundred people, built from local stone, left natural on the outside but whitewashed inside.

It has many beautiful icons but no hagiographies (writings about saints) as some churches do. It is built low down on a hill and on the slopes down to the church are carved graves that make up the necropolis of an ancient Greek-Roman settlement.

A lovely place to visit, there is also a little craft shop with some pretty handmade pottery and there is usually an ice cream van selling the most delicious ice cream just outside.

Amathus Ruins

The Amathus Ruins are located 11km east of Limassol centre and the site is considered to be one of the most important ancient and historical sites of Cyprus. Based on mythology, the King Kiniras was the founder of the ancient city and it was where Theseus left the pregnant Ariadne to be cared for after the battle with the Minotaur.

Visitors can walk around the ancient site and see rare and stunning treasures which were buried for centuries as well as the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite and the Tombs dating back to the early Iron Age period of Graeco-Phoenician.

Excavations have revealed part of the acropolis and agora areas as well as part of the upper and lower city. It is in Amathus that the world’s largest stone vase was found which is now displayed in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Archbishop’s Palace

The Archbishop’s Palace is the official residence and office of the archbishop of Cyprus located in Nicosia. The palace was built next to the “Old Archbishop’s Palace”, between 1956 and 1960; in neo-Byzantine style by Archbishop Makarios III and also houses the Byzantine Museum and the Library of the Archbishopric.

Since the completion of the new palace, the Old Archbishop’s Palace has housed the Folk-Art Museum and the National Struggle Museum. Although the Archbishop’s Palace is not open to the public; the Byzantine Museum, Library of the Archbishopric, Folk Art Museum and the National Struggle Museum located on its grounds are open to the public all year round.

It is a wonderfully attractive building, styled using many pastel colours and is different from many of the other sandstone style architectural buildings. Worth going to look at even if you can’t go inside.

Cape Greco National Park

Cape Greco was designated as a National Forest Park in 1993. It is a comparatively unspoiled area with a great natural beauty which changes with the seasons. A haven of serenity nestled midway between the busy resorts of Ayia Napa and Protaras where you can explore the many fascinating nature trails and stop to take in the spectacular views from the sea cliffs looking down to the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. There are many trails to choose from including one that leads to the ‘Cyclops’ cave.

You will also see foxes, hares, hedgehogs, lizards and, over 80 species of birds and a large variety of butterflies.

Various flowers including orchids and other rare species are also found here and it is a sight to behold in spring when many are in flower.

At the headland of Cape Greco are a lighthouse and ruined foundations of an ancient temple devoted to Aphrodite.

Hala Sultan Tekke

The historic mosque, Hala Sultan Tekke is located 3km west of Larnaka on the road to Kiti, on the main Salt Lake and today stands as one of the most important holy places of worship for Muslims. It was built in 648 AD on the spot where Umm Haram died when she fell off her mule, during one of the first Arab raids on the island. The mosque was first renovated in 1816 and more recently in 2002 by UNOPS, when archaeological excavations also revealed that the place had been inhabited since Neolithic times.

Inside the Mosque itself is peaceful but quite basic. It is open all year round except for Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Easter Sunday (Greek Orthodox). Entrance is free but a donation is appreciated and only some areas are wheelchair accessible.

Kolossi Castle

Kolossi castle was initially constructed in the 13th century and it was then rebuilt in its present form during the mid-15th century. Situated 14km west of Limassol the castle is very well maintained and is open to the public all year round. It can be accessed by a short drawbridge and then you will see two large chambers, one with a large fireplace and a spiral staircase which leads to another two chambers on the upper level. The last level is the roof and used to be the “house” of the commander and from which you now have lovely views of the surrounding area.

In the 14th century, it came under the domain of the Knights Templar who produced and exported a sweet wine, which became known as the ‘vin de Commanderie’ which is now one of the island’s traditional wines.

Kourion

The archaeological remains of Kourion are among the most impressive on the island, and excavations have unearthed many significant finds, which can be viewed at the site. The city-kingdom was built on the hills of the area and overlooked and controlled the fertile valley of the river Kouris. The site’s fantastic showpiece, the Greco-Roman theatre was built in the 2nd century BC and extended in the 2nd century AD. The theatre has been restored and is now used for open-air musical and theatrical performances usually during the summer months.

East of the theatre are the remains of the ‘House of Eustolios’, housing beautiful mosaic floors and a roof structure allowing visitors to enjoy the site all year round, and explore its remnants.

There is so much to see here, including the baths, the stadium and the house of the Gladiators that a visit is a must.

Larnaca Salt Lake

Larnaca Salt Lake is the second largest salt-lake in Cyprus and measures 2.2 square kilometres. In 1997 it was declared a protected area under Cypriot Law for the Protection and Management of Nature and Wildlife and under the European Habitats Directive.

During the winter, the lake fills with water and is home to migrating birds, including thousands of flamingos that stay between November and March, along with wild ducks and other water or shore fowl.

While there, the birds eat the small brine shrimp Artemia but when they are unable to find the shrimp, they desert the salt lakes and continue their journey to seek another source of food.

After the hot summer months, the salt-lake is typically completely dry. While the salt is no longer used commercially, the lake continues to play an important role as a resting place and winter home for migratory birds.

Limassol Castle

Limassol Castle dates back to the Medieval Period and is located in the centre of Limassol, close to the Limassol harbour.

In 1538 the Ottomans captured the city of Limassol and ruled the castle, but it was recaptured by the governor of Cyprus and destroyed to ensure it was not seized again. The Ottomans, however, returned and conquered Cyprus in 1576 and in 1590 they decided to rebuild it using the remains and parts of the demolished castle, it was then used as a garrison and jail. During British rule, it was used as a police station and a prison.

The Cyprus Medieval Museum is housed in the castle with exhibits that include Medieval pottery, tombstones, superb silver Byzantine era plates, weapons, crosses, and coins. You can climb inside the castle between the basement and the roof, which gives a beautiful view of the whole city and the surrounding area.

Paphos Castle

Paphos Castle is located at the Kato Paphos harbour and was originally a Byzantine fortress which was built to protect the port. It was rebuilt during the 13th century by the Louzinians but was destroyed during the Ottoman invasion when they took over the island during the 16th century. The Ottomans then restored, expanded and reinforced it.

Built of large, resilient stones, the castle is connected to the harbour by an arched bridge. There are very few windows but the view from the top is breathtaking. The fort is noted in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites and is fully protected.

Now, many festivals and functions take place in front of the castle, such as the Aphrodite Festival during September. If you are nearby in the evening you will be able to see how beautifully it is lit up, quite a sight.

Shacolas Tower Observatory

Shacolas Tower Observatory combines a modern museum with a clear and stunning view of Nicosia showing the dividing line between the Turkish and Greek occupied territory. The eleven-storey tower, owned by multi-millionaire Nicos Shacolas, is the tallest building in Lefkosia.

The first five floors are occupied by H & M, while on the sixth floor is the Venue Cafeteria, a good place to have a coffee while continuing to enjoy the views. You can take the stairs or the lift to the eleventh floor to the viewing area where there are fantastic views from several large windows. Screens in front of you to help you focus on points of interest. In the distance, you can see the gigantic and inflammatory TRNC flag painted on the hillside to the north of the city. There is also a central booth which recounts the story of Cypriot history.