Places of interest in Cyprus
There are many attractions in Cyprus such as the medieval buildings, churches and museums which illustrate and explain the history and struggles of the island.
The Museum in Nicosia
The museum has a top archaeological collection with every era from the Stone Age to Byzantine represented. Situated in Lefkosia (Nicosia), this is the main archaeological Museum of Cyprus and traces the long history of civilization on the island from prehistoric times to the early Christian period. Extensive excavations throughout the island have enriched the collections of the museum considerably and brought Cypriot archaeology to the fore front of international archaeological research. Here the cultural heritage of Cyprus, such as pottery, jewelery, sculpture and coins from the Neolithic period to the Bronze Age, Iron Age and the Greco-Roman period, is cherished and displayed for everyone to enjoy. Star exhibits include the statue of Aphrodite of Soloi, a gold jewelry collection and relics from the royal tombs of Salamis. The museum is a stop on the Aphrodite Cultural route.
Pyli Ammochostou (Famagusta Gate) Lefkosia Municipal Cultural Centre
The Famagusta Gate is one of the most interesting attractions. The Venetian walls which completely encircle the old city have eleven heart-shaped bastions (which gives them the shape of a hand grenade). There were only three gates to the city in the north, south and east and one of these gates, the Porta Giuliana called Famagusta Gate, has been restored and is now the Lefkosia Municipal Cultural Centre.
The vaulted passage and two side rooms are used for exhibitions, conferences, lectures and various performances, with the passage leading to the moat. One of the most typical quarters of the town close to Famagusta gate is also being rehabilitated.
Leventis Municipal Museum Nicosia
The Leventis Municipal Museum presents the history and social development of the city of Nicosia from the Chalcolithic period (3.000 B.C.) to the present day. The Museum was founded in 1984 after the initiative of the Mayor of Nicosia.
The Museum is named after its donor Anastasios G. Leventis Foundation which bought and restored the building and it’s administered by the Municipality of Nicosia. On April 20, 1989, the Municipality of Nicosia and the Anastasios G. Leventis Foundation opened the Museum to the public, the first historical museum in Cyprus. The collections displayed in its permanent galleries represent over 5.000 years of the capital’s history. The collections are of a wide range and include archaeological artic rafts, costumes, photographs, medieval pottery, maps and engravings, jewels and furniture.
The emblem of the Leventeio .The Leventis Municipal Museum’s emblem presents the outline of the city’s Venetian Walls -star shaped with 11 bastions. Inside the walls one can observe the outline of the gate at the Museum’s entrance, also symbolising the gate one opens in order to gain entrance to the city’s history.
The Museum is stone-made neo-classical mansion in the Trypiotis parish, one of the most significant parishes of the old city.
Laiki Geitonia, the traditional neighbourhood, just inside the city walls opposite the D’Avila bastion, is a pedestrianised area of narrow winding streets, combining residential houses with craft shops and tavernas. It is a very popular area for both locals and tourists to browse among its many shops.
Until the 1980s, the area was known as a home for various “dens of iniquity”. Since then, however, it has been an excellent example of urban renewal, designed to evoke the atmosphere of old Nicosia.
Laiki Geitonia has been the restoration of houses that are typical examples of traditional Cypriot urban architecture. The buildings date from the end of the 18th Century, with building materials being mainly wood, sandstone and mudbrick.
The Monastery of Kykkos, the richest and most lavish of the monasteries of Cyprus, is found in the region of Marathasa. It is situated on a mountain peak, at an altitude of 1318 metres northwest of Troodos. Dedicated to Panagia, it possesses one of three icons attributed to Agios Loukas the Evangelist. The icon, covered in silver gilt, is in a shrine made of tortoise shell and mother – of – pearl that stands in front of the iconostasis.
Unfortunately the monastery burned down several times and nothing remains of the original structure. Blessed with divine grace, Cypriot hermit Isaiah miraculously cured the emperor’s daughter of an incurable illness. As a reward, he asked for the icon of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) kept at the imperial palace at Constantinople. Though grieved at the prospect of losing his precious treasure, the emperorsent it to Cyprus with fitting honours together with funds to pay for the construction of a monastery where the sacred relic would be kept. At the hermit’s request, the emperor’s representative in Cyprus Manuel Vutomites also endowed the monastery with three villages. As the gift was later confirmed by imperial charter, the monastery is considered to have been established by imperial decree. The first President of the Republic of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III, served here as a novice. At his own wish he was buried on the summit of Throni, 3 kilometres west of the monastery, and not far from his native village of Panayia.
Church of Ayios Lazarus
The Church of Saint Lazarus is a late-9th century church in Larnaca, Cyprus.
The Church of Saint Lazarus is named for New Testament figure Lazarus of Bethany, the subject of a miracle recounted in the Gospel of John, in which Jesus raises him from the dead. According to Orthodox tradition, sometime after the Resurrection of Christ, Lazarus was forced to flee Judea because of rumoured plots on his life and came to Cyprus. There he was appointed by Paul and Barnabas as the first Bishop of Kittim (present-day Larnaca). He is said to have lived for thirty more years and on his death was buried there for the second and last time. The Church of Ayios Lazaros was built over the reputed tomb of Lazarus.
The impressive interior consists of a central nave, two aisles, and three domes that are now boarded in. The roof is supported by twin piers topped by reused Byzantine capitals. In one of the piers, steps ascend to an elaborate, 300-year-old Rococo pulpit.
Hala Sultan Tekke
Hala Sultan Tekke or the Mosque of Umm Haram (Turkish: Hala Sultan Tekkesi) is a very prominent Muslim shrine near Larnaca, on the island of Cyprus. Umm Haram (Hala Sultan in the Turkish language) was the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s wet nurse and the wife of Ubada bin al-Samit. Most accounts establish a connection between the site and the death of Umm Haram during the first Arab raids on Cyprus under the Caliph Muawiyah between 647 and 649, which were later pursued throughout the Umayyad and the Abbasid periods. According to these accounts, Umm Haram, being of very old age, had fallen from her mule and had died during a siege of Larnaca. She was buried near the salt lake and her grave became a sacred shrine. The shrine, and later the mosque and the whole complex were named after her. According to Shia belief, her grave lies within Jannatul Baqi cemetery in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
The tomb of Umm Haram is considered a sacred place by both Muslims and Christians and has, historically, attracted Christian travellers and pilgrims.
Salt Lake of Larnaka
Situated nearby the Hala Sultan Tekken is the Salt Lake. Salt Lake is a popular sight in Larnaca, home to nearly 85 species of migratory water birds like flamingos. About 10,000 flamingos visit the lake every year around Jan-Feb. In July-Aug, the lake dries up leaving a thick crust of salt measuring up to 10cm deep. In The Middle Ages, the lake was used to mine salt for commercial purposes, but now it is just a tourist attraction.
The Castle of Larnaka
The Castle of Larnaka is situated on the southern point of the coastal avenue known as “Foinikoudes” (palm trees). Abbot Giovanni Mariti, who lived in Larnaka during the first half of the 18th century, records that the Castle of Larnaka was built by the Turks but that it was already in a semi-ruinous state at the time, even though a garrison was still kept there.
Today the Castle houses a small museum consisting of three rooms situated on the upper floor of the main building, directly above the entrance. Antiquities from Early Christian, Byzantine and Post-Byzantine monuments of Cyprus (4th-16th centuries A.D.) are exhibited in the western room. Photographs of Byzantine Wall-paintings dated from 11th-16th centuries A.D. are exhibited in the central room. In the large eastern room representative examples of medieval glazed pottery (Sgraffito ware) (12th –18th centuries), metal cooking utensils and guns (18th-19th centuries) as well as helmets and swords (15th-16th centuries) are on display. The objects’ exhibition is enriched with photographs of defensive structures (11th-17th centuries) and Gothic and Renaissance architecture styles of Cyprus (13th-16th centuries).
Kolossi Castle is a crusader stronghold a few kilometres outside the city of Limassol. It held great strategic importance and contained production of sugar, one of Cyprus’ main exports in the Middle Ages. The original castle was probably built in 1210 by Frankish military when the land of Kolossi was given by King Hugh III to the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, and the present castle was built in 1454 by the Hospitallers. Dwellers in the castle include the Templars and the already mentioned Hospitallers.
After the fall of Acre in 1291, it served the guard of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem whilst in Cyprus.In the 14th century it came for a time under the domain of the Knights Templar.The castle and grounds evoke a peaceful feeling, even though the building itself is pretty austere. The stonework is in fine condition considering the structures age, children in particular seem to love exploring the staircases and battlements as well as the grounds, in which if you concentrate you can be whisked back hundreds of years and imagine life in and around this splendid building.
Limassol Medieval Museum (Limassol Castle)
The Medieval Castle of Lemesos is situated near the old harbour in the heart of the historical centre of the city of Lemesos. Although there existed earlier architectural phases of an older and larger structure, the present edifice dates to the period of Ottoman rule.
Archaeological investigation within the castle revealed that it was built over an Early Christian basilica (4th-7th century A.D.) and a Middle Byzantine monument (10th-11th century A.D.). Other finds beneath the Castle witness the existence of an important church, possibly the city’s first cathedral. According to Etienne Lusignan, the original castle was erected by Guy de Lusignian in 1193. From its erection until the beginning of the 16th century, damages were caused by the continuous attacks of the town by the Genoese and the Mameluks as well as by earthquakes alternating with restorations and reconstructions.
Paphos Castle is located on the edge of Paphos harbour. It was originally built as a Byzantine fort to protect the harbour. It was then rebuilt by the Lusignans in the thirteenth century after being destroyed in the earthquake of 1222. In 1570 it was dismantled by the Venetians. After capturing the island, the Ottomans restored and strengthened it. Throughout the ages it has seen many uses. It has served as a fortress, a prison and even a warehouse for salt during the British occupation of the island. More recently the castle serves as a backdrop to the annual open air Paphos cultural festival which takes place in September. It was declared a listed building in 1935 and represents one of the most distinctive landmarks of the city of Paphos. Several archaeological excavations have taken place to investigate its past.
The castle itself is a stunning stone walled castle built on the harbour. There is an arched battle way bridge that connects the castle to the harbour itself. There are very few windows in this castle but the view from the top platform is magnificent and from here you can see Kato Paphos in all its glory. It really is a site worth seeing and for those interested in culture; Paphos Castle is listed in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites and is fully protected.
Baths of Aphrodite
According to the Greek poet Hesiod, Aphrodite was born when Ouranos was castrated by his son Cronus. After Cronus had castrated him, legend suggests he threw the severed genitals into the sea. From the aphros (sea foam) arose Aphrodite. She was born adult and floated into land on a scallop shell. Her legendary birthplace is said to be at the Rock of Romiou near Paphos. She was married to Hephaestus; she also had a lover Adonis, who she was previously a surrogate mother to. Her sons included Eros, Anteros, Hymenaios and Aeneas.
The baths of Aphrodite are just along the coast from Latchi. According to myth, the goddess Aphrodite used to bathe in the pool of the nearby grotto which is shaded by a fig tree and has a continuous run of water from the overhead rocks. The baths are considered a source of fertility.
The Goddess of Love used to take her bath in a cool pond near Polis. The place is known as “Baths of Aphrodite” and provides a magnificent view of the Bay of Polis. According to legend, after swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Bay, Aphrodite used to bathe in this pond, surrounded by idyllic landscape with the sweet smelling wild flowers. It is here that she met her beloved Adonis for the first time. Adonis was hunting in the Akamas forest when stopped over the wonderful spring to quench his thirst. He was struck by the sight of the naked goddess bathing in the crystal waters. Aphrodite and Adonis were instantly bewitched by each other’s extraordinary beauty.
The Adonis Baths
Adonis, the God of beauty, was born after Aphrodite turned his mother Myrrha into a myrrh tree. Eventually, the tree burst open and Adonis emerged from within it. Once Adonis was born, Aphrodite was so moved by his beauty that she sheltered him and entrusted him to Persephone. She was also taken by his beauty and refused to give him back. The dispute was eventually settled by Zeus, who decided Adonis would spend one third of each year with each goddess and the last third wherever he wanted. Adonis always chose to spend 2 thirds of the year with Aphrodite.
The Adonis baths are located in Kili, Paphos 1 km from Coral Bay. It is a steep climb, but worth it! Legend has it, that Adonis tended to his horses at the site of the baths and he hunted in the nearby Akamas forest. According to Greek Mythology, Aphrodite and Adonis spent a great deal of time here as it was their favourite place, and also here it was where many of their children were born. It is rumoured that the citizens of Paphos are descendants of the two lovers.
Tombs of The Kings
Imagine yourself surrounded by ancient tombs in a desert-like landscape where the only sounds are waves crashing on rocks. The Tombs of the Kings, a Unesco World Heritage Site, contains a set of well-preserved underground tombs and chambers used by residents of Nea Pafos during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD. Despite the name, the tombs were not actually used by royalty; they earned the title from their grand appearance.
Located 2km north of Kato Paphos, the tombs are unique in Cyprus, being heavily influenced by ancient Egyptian tradition, when it was believed that tombs for the dead should resemble houses for the living.
The seven excavated tombs are scattered over a wide area; the most impressive is No 3, which has an open atrium below ground level, surrounded by columns. Other tombs have niches built into the walls where bodies were tored. Most of the tombs’ treasures have long since been spirited away by grave robbers.
Brief History of the Monastery of Agia Napa
The monastery of Agia Napa is located in the homonymous village in Ammochostos District. The village got its name from the “Icon of Virgin Mary of Napes”, which means “the Saint of the woods” and thus, she was named “Agia Napa”. This is how the village got its name, Agia Napa, “Holy Forest”.
There is not sufficient evidence as to when the Monastery was originally founded. The cave, the hiding place and the well, all testify to the existence of the Christian community, from the time of the Byzantine era. Agia Napa was given its name before 1366. The Monastery though, as it is today, is a building of the 15th century, when Cyprus was under the sovereignty of the Venetians.
According to local tradition, in the cave that has now become a church, the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary was found by a hunter. The hunter’s dog was first to see the glowing icon and began barking, insistently calling over his master. A considerable number of believers started visiting the holy place of the cave, as soon as they heard about the discovery of the icon. The icon had probably been placed in the cave during the period of iconoclasm (7th-8th century) and thus, it was rescued. In the 14th century, the remaining half of the cave was built into a church.