Visit some of the Splendours of Cyprus
Cyprus is steeped in history and legend, dating back to the days of the Ancient gods and godesses and a litany of invasions, wars and struggle has shaped the character of the island. Cyprus is littered with places of archeaological and historical interest which chronicle world events, such as the Byzantine Empire, the birth of Christianity and the rise and fall of the Roman and Greek Empires. The long-running dispute between the Turks and the Greeks is now being resolved, and yet more treasures are accessible to visitors as border controls are relaxed. Visitors to the tourist destinations of southern Cyprus can now enjoy organised coach excursions to the Turkish northern part of the island, which is home to many of the treasures of Cyprus.
Aphrodite's Rock - the history of Cyprus is built on ancient myth and legend.
Here are just a few of the innumerable places of interest in Cyprus.
Until the 16th century, the city of Paphos was protected by two fortresses rising majestically above the harbour, The stunning fortress that still stands today has served and survived the many invaders and rulers of the island since it originally built by the Byzantines. The Lusignans rebuilt it in the 13th century only for the Venetians to dismantle it again in 1570. Finally, the existing structure was built by the Ottomans, and its sister demolished, when they captured the island in the 16th century. More recently it was used as a prison and storehouse for salt during British rule.
Paphos Castle in the Old Harbour.
Villa of Dionysos
Some of the most superb examples of mosaic tiling in the Mediterranean lie amongst the splendours of the Villa of Dionysos. Depicting scenes from Greek mythology, the mosaics were accidentally discovered by a farmer ploughing his field.
Acropolis and Odeon
Allow the ambience of a balmy Greek summer evening to transport you back to the days of the Ancients as you enjoy one of the many musical and theatre performances staged in the splendid Paphos Odeon. Built entirely of limestone, the Odeon was severely damaged in an earthquake in the 7th century but has now been partially restored. Nearby are the ruins of the Agora, built in the second century and used as a bustling marketplace, the hub of trade and commerce. Little remains of the Acropolis.
The Mosaics of Paphos
Dating from the days of Roman rule of Cyprus, these stunning mosaics were only discovered and excavated in 1962 and are some of the best preserved and most beautiful Roman mosaics discovered to date. Aside from their beauty, as witnesses to history their claim is indisputable; these are the mosaics that St Paul walked across after he “turned the other cheek” after his public flogging by the Romans.
The Mosaics are signposted by a UNESCO signpost in the Harbour opposite the fortress.
One of the Paphos Mosaics
With its impenetrable three metre thick outer walls surrounded by a deep moat, this seventh century Byzantine castle was originally built to protect the city from Arab raiders. In the 13th century the Lusigans built the columns that are still standing today. Although most of the castle now lies in ruins, the dungeons and cellars are still open to explorers, although care should be taken by those with small children.
Rock of Aphrodite
A few miles from Paphos, near the village of Pissouri, is the Rock of Aphrodite, known locally as Petra tou Romiou. Legend has it that this is the spot at which the goddess of beauty and love, Aphrodite, rose from the seas on a scallop shell in a scene immortalised in Botticelli’s famous 15th century painting, The Birth of Aphrodite.
Aphrodite's Rock - the history of Cyprus is built on myth and legend.
The Birth of Aphrodite - Botticelli's famous 15th century masterpiece.
Baths of Aphrodite
The world famous Baths of Aphrodite are said to be the place where Aphrodite bathed in the shade of fig tree before her marriage. 8km from the coastal town of Polis on the Akamas Peninsula, the Baths are located in some of the most outstanding natural beauty on the island. An 8km trail leads walkers to the Fontana Amarosa, at the end of the Peninsula - one of the most stunning locations on Cyprus.
Where Aphrodite bathed before her marriage.
The Tombs of the Kings
The magnificence of the Tombs of the Kings is impressive, carved out of the rock of the island and adorned in a manner befitting their name with frescos and Doric columns. Dating back to the 4th century BC, approximately 100 chambers house the remains of the local noblemen and dignitaries of the time. Visitors are recommended to wear strong walking shoes, as the steps into the tombs are steep.
A castle has stood on this site since the time of the Byzantines, who built the original Limassol Castle and, according to legend, the chapel in which Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre on his way to the Holy Land during the Crusades, in around 1000AD. In 1426 the Castle was conquered by the Mamelukes and was surrendered to the Knights of the Order of St John, eventually leading to its demolition by the Venetians who used the stones to build the city walls. The Turks later began to construct the Castle as we see it today, using it to defend the city from attack and as a prison.
A relatively modern example of Cypriot architecture, Kolossi Castle was originally built in the 13th century when it served various functions such as the Grand Commandery of the Knights Templar and the headquarters of the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem after the fall of Acre in 1291. It was rebuilt as it stands now in the 15th century, and stands 14km west of Limassol on the Paphos road.
Kourion is one of the most spectacular archaeological sites on the island and rightly takes its place as one of the most noted in the Mediterranean. The ancient kingdom of Kourion was one of the most important and powerful of its day, as is seen by architectural gems such as the Graeco-Roman Theatre, originally built in the 2nd century BC, enlarged in the 2nd century AD and now fully restored and used as a venue for musical and theatrical performances. Other treasures, such as the House of Eustolios, originally a private villa richly adorned with baths and mosaics, the Early Christian Basilica dating back to the 5th century, the House of the Gladiators and the House of Achilles are fascinating glimpses of a long-ago age, whose secrets are still being uncovered as the site is excavated. Kourion is 19km west of Limassol on the Paphos road.
The mosaics of Kourion are some of the most spectacular in the Mediterranean
The Ruins of Kourion
The Theatre at Kourion
Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates
The partially restored Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates (God of the Woodland and protector of the city of Kourion) was a centre for the celebration of the god Apollo from the 8th century BC to 4th century AD. Parts of the site, 3km west of Kourion on the road to Paphos, has been partially restored to its former glory.
An important centre of the cult of Aphrodite-Astarte, excavations are still on-going where Theseus is said to have left the pregnant Ariadne after his battle with the Minotaur. The site is situated 11km east of Limassol town centre, close to the Amathus Hotel.
Paphos Byzantine Museum
This small museum houses a collection of treasures dating from the 12th to the 18th centuries. Icons, religious artefacts and carvings adorn the walls, and behind the museum are the arched cloisters of the courtyard of the Bishopric and a modern church.
Paphos District Archeological Museum
Home to a collection of Cypriot antiquities dating from the Neolithic period to 1700AD, the Archeolgical Museum is the place to see many of the most recent archeological finds on the island. Although there are exhibits from medieval times, most of the exhibits date to the classical period and range from a Hellenistic sarcophagus to coins, pottery and everyday items such as ancient Greek hot water bottles! The collection gives both a fascinating insight of the day-to-day life of the ancient Greeks, and the majesty and splendour of one of the most respected and influential societies in the history of world.
Paphos Ethnographical Museum
Representing the lifework of collector George Eliades, this small museum is a glimpse into the workings of everyday life in Ancient Greece. Featuring a reconstructed bridal chamber, complete with traditional costumes and furniture, there is also a collection of pottery, coins, axeheads and kitchen equipment dating from the Neolithic Age to the present day. Outside in the garden are two tombs dating back to the third century BC as well as traditional items such as an olive press and a “kleftiko” oven.
Cyprus Medieval Museum in Limassol
Housed in the grounds of Limassol Castle (see above), the Medieval Museum is rich in artefacts dating from the period 400 – 1870AD. As befitting its location, many of the exhibits have a military theme, such as cannons (dating from the 17th and 18the centuries) and suits of armour, but there is also an extensive collection of paintings, terracotta, marbles, pottery, wood carvings and glass.
Limassol District Archaeological Museum
Home to a fascinating collection of local artefacts and antiquities, the Limassol District Archaeological Museum is an interesting and informative day out. Tools, pottery, jewellery, statues and bronzes dating from the Neolithic to Roman periods are exhibited next to statues of Egyptian gods in a fascinating portrayal of local history over more than 4000 years. The Museum is on the corner of Kaningos and Vyronos Streets, near the Public Garden.
Folk Art Museum in Limassol
More than 500 handmade artefacts and exhibits grace the rooms of this beautifully preserved house, which was restored and opened as the Folk Art Museum in 1985. Situated on Ayiou Andreou Street, the Museum has a fine collection of Cypriot folk art which includes national costumes, tools, embroidery, pottery and tapestries dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
4km east of Kourion, on the Paphos road, is Kourion Museum, originally a traditional Cypriot house and now home to many of the fascinating archaeological relics that have been found in the area.
Limassol Municipal Art Gallery
A celebration of Cypriot art, the Gallery was recently opened on 28th October St and features a permanent display of the works of prominent local artists such as Kashalos and Diamandis.
Museum of Marion-Arsinoe in Polis
Opened in 1998, the Museum of Marion-Arsinoe charts the development of the town from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic ages to Medieval times.
Polis Culture Centre
A modern cultural centre opened in 2001, the Polis Culture Centre houses a 400 capacity theatre and an exhibition area.
Premier Holidays offers a wide range of villas in Cyprus, including the areas of Paphos, the Argaka Coast, Coral Bay, Polis and Limassol.
Article written by Elizabeth Fox on behalf of Premier Holidays (Canaries) Ltd.