Cyprus: The Island of Venus
According to Homer, Venus (or Aphrodite) the goddess of love and beauty was born on the coast of Paphos. Cyprus is also known as The Island of Venus. In this case it would be true to say “beauty by name, beauty by nature”.
Also known as Megalonissos (big island) Cyprus is considered to be the largest island of the Eastern Mediterranean. Due to its geographical location it appealed to people with expansionist tendencies. Persians, Egyptians, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, English and Turks have all passed through and settled there. The results of having to keep pace with these changes are visible in the island’s culture today. Opulent temples and mosques have been erected, castles have been built and fortified, their cuisine abounds with delicious ingredients and combinations. The impressive towns strike a perfect balance between East and West allowing both sides to develop.
Cyprus, though divided, is gradually developing into one of the most enchanting destinations in all of Europe. Its beaches, its natural beauty, its tourist resorts, archaeological sites and its liveliness class it as a top holiday choice!
Mapping Cyprus’s history
The island is a place of enormous archaeological interest. In every district historical mosaics catch the eye, small and large examples of cultures which have influenced the islanders.
In the district of Paphos, more specifically Old Paphos (Palaepaphos); The Tomb of the Kings, a necropolis from the Hellenistic period which was used until the first years after the birth of Christ, the Sanctuary of Venus, the House of Leda, are just a few of the most famous sights on the island.
New Paphos, or nowadays Lower Paphos was founded in the 4th century BC and was glorified as the capital of the island, although around the 7th century AD it began to decline, some impressive sights remain such as the Roman Agora, the ancient theatre, the Odeon and the Houses of Theseus and Orpheas with their magnificent mosaics.
In the district of Larnaca you will see the “Khirokitia”, a Neolithic settlement with peculiar circular structures and the Neolithic site of Tenta where the first evidence of settlers on the island was observed.
In the district of Limassol, Kourion stands out, a settlement which was affected by the coming of the Achaeans in the 13th century. Excavations have brought to light, among other things, the now restored ancient theatre, the Roman Agora, the House of the Gladiators, the House of Achilles, the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, The Stadium and the Coastal Basilica.
In the district of Nicosia, the kingdom of Idalion flourished until the 5th century BC. Excavations in the amazing archaeological sites have brought to light sculptures, ceramics, objects of everyday use, inscriptions, all evidence of the glory of the kingdom which are now kept in the local Archaeological Museum
An island for the devout
In the lengthy catalogue of magnificent churches to be found in Cyprus, you will find as many community abbeys as small monasteries. The monastery of the Holy Virgin Mary of Kykkos, the Virgin Mary of Machaira and the monastery of St. Neophytos have an important feature; they belong to the royal category and as such are under the control and protection of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. However, their architecture, impressive iconography, the beautiful Byzantine icons and many other features distinguish them from other monasteries. At the monastery of St. Neophytos you will observe the retreat of the Saint where he lived as a hermit in a cave hewn out of the mountain. The monastery of Kykkos also houses a museum of the same name with a rich exhibition of church artefacts. Finally, at the monastery of Machairas, you will have the chance to worship at the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Machairas which is said to have been created by the Apostle Luke. ragment.
Endless beaches, Mediterranean waters, tourist organization…
Who hasn’t heard of the famous beaches of Ayia Napa? Nissi Beach is a worldwide tourist attraction winning visitors over with its golden sands, crystal clear waters and perpetual entertainment, plenty of booze and beach parties. This is followed by Makronissos beach of Ayia Napa which has a hard-won blue flag for its golden sand, clean water and excellent organization. Protaras and Fig Tree Bay in particular at Ammochostou are among the most famous beaches on the island, ideal for families. In Paphos, the most popular beaches are Coral Bay and the Blue Lagoon which is only accessible by boat. In Larnaca, Castella has been awarded with a blue flag, while Finikoudes boasts, among other things, major tourist development with shops, restaurants and cafes all along the beach. If you find yourself in Limassol you should know that the beach Amathounda attracts a large chunk of the area’s youth, while Governor’s beach meets the stringent requirements regarding peace and quiet, though it is family friendly, and offers good food.
Activities for the whole family
Marine parks promise fun and relaxation for the whole family. In Ayia Napa Waterworld, and Fasouri Water Mania in Limassol await you with huge swimming pools and waterslides for unforgettable fun in the water. Alternatively, you can visit the zoo in Limassol or Camel Park in the village of Mazotos which will impress younger visitors, bringing them into contact with rare species, reptiles, birds and even camels which can be ridden around Camel Park’s grounds.
The highly esteemed halloumi is the most famous Cypriot cheese. An equally important place in Cypriot cuisine is occupied by “sheftalia”, “afelia” (marinated pork) and “souvla”, chunks of lamb or goat baked for two or three hours on a spit. A speciality on festive occasions are stuffed vine leaves. From the traditional sweets of the island, “soutzoukos” made from grape must is worth trying. Alcoholic drinks include “Zivania” which resembles raki, a sweet red wine “commandaria” and the white “xinisteri”