Family Abroad

A Day Trip Through the Troodos Mountain Range: The Heart of Cyprus

 

Introduction

One of favorite memories from Cyprus is when we packed up the car with the kids and with a few snacks and headed out to explore the Troodos Mountain range. This mountain range offers a welcome escape from the heat of the lower, beach areas and makes for the perfect road trip. It is a Cyprus region where you can find adventure, relaxation, history and Cyprus tradition. It is full of wineries, traditional villages, resorts, snow skiing in winter, hiking and biking trails and many authentic, local restaurants and byzantine churches. For us, the starting point of our adventure was in Kathikas, just above Peyia, but you can start anywhere. We did not stop in Paphos only because Paphos easily has enough to see and do by itself. If you are not staying in Paphos, I would encourage you to spend at least one full day here if not a few days to explore.

Here are the places where we stopped or at least planned to stop. We actually were unable to stop at a few villages due to both time and due to concentration issues as we travel with our children, but I went ahead and included them in our list as they are definitely places you should consider when taking your own trip.

Our itinerary for our road trip

Places to Visit During a Trip to the Troodos Mountain Range

Aphrodite’s Rock

The first stop was Petra Tou Romiou, also known as Aphrodite’s Rock. The day was incredibly clear and the waters were incredibly blue. Families were enjoying the pebble beach and a few people were out swimming by the rock. We parked in an overview area before getting to the rock. This gave us the ability to really see the beauty of the area from above. Be sure to check out our drone video and pictures.

Local legend says that the person who swims around the rock three times will find their true love. Even before learning that the tides around the rock can be dangerous for swimming, Bethany forbade Edith and I from swimming as we already had found our true love – each other! We were unable to stop at the beach, but there is a parking area nearby and I would definitely venture back to try swimming at the small beach.

Omodos

Omodos Village is known as a “wine village” as there is a large concentration of wineries in this area. In Omodos, as well as other villages throughout Cyprus, I highly recommend ordering the house wines in any restaurant. I have always found them to be both affordable and flavorful. And every August, the village celebrates their wine heritage with a wine festival.

The streets of Omodos are cobblestone and the houses are traditional stone houses. The streets are full of family-owned restaurants and there are many friendly merchants selling local products. One of our favorite merchants told us about how his family has sold dried fruit for years at the same location, which was right on the main parking lot of Omodos. He was a lot of fun and was great with the kids. And his dried fruits are incredible!

The Monsatery of Timios Stauros (Holy Cross) is also located in Omodos and was a beautiful church. They have clothing that you can borrow just in case you are not wearing the appropriate clothes to enter into the church.

Pano Platres

Located nearby Omodos, on the southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains, Pano Platres in also known as a wine village. Pano Platres has the largest resort in the Troodos Mountains and has quite a bit of activities for families. This village typically only has about 300 full time residents, but over the summer, this area can swell up to 10,000 people. I will say that when we visited in July, we really didn’t see that many people and we never felt crowded.

The area has been used to produce wine and is also known for producing cherries, oranges, pears and peaches. However, more recently, the economy is supported mainly by tourism. This area in Cyprus is rare because it straddles a perennial stream that provides for a lot of green plants which contrasts with the general arid feel of much of the Troodos Mountains.

Several waterfalls can be found in the area, including Caledonia waterfall, which is probably the most popular waterfall in Cyprus. There are many hiking trails and cycling paths known as the Troodos Cycling Routes. The Platres Athletic Sports Center contains a football pitch as well as facilities for tennis, volleyball, basketball, handball and even a bicycle center. Also nearby, you can find adventure areas for families, such as the Sparti Platres Rope Adventure Park. Another “Instagrammable” spots is the medieval Milia Bridge, which can be found nearby. The ancient bridge spans the Kryos rivers and can be found in beautiful, shady spot. I understand that while peaceful during any time of year, Autumn is the best time to visit as the water pools below the bridge.

Mount Olympus

This is not the Mount Olympus known as the home of the Gods. That is in Greece. But, Mount Olympus in Cyprus is the highest place in Cyprus at 6,401 feet. There are two military bases on the mountain, but there are plenty of wonderful nature trails to explore. And in the winter, the Mount Olympus Ski Resort provides 4 ski runs! So, from the beach to snow – Cyprus has you covered.

There were plenty of people parked near several hiking trails. We did not get out to explore as it was nearing mid-day and it was already pretty hot.

Pedoulas

This town was a highlight for me. There was a certain vibe that could be felt in this village and I found it to be a beautiful and peaceful place. The views to the valley were amazing and the winding streets were welcoming. We stopped to eat at Two Flowers Restaurant and Hotel. The food was authentic and plentiful. But, the views are what will stop you mid-chew! From the back of the restaurant, right next to the table, the views go on for miles.

After lunch, I stopped by the local gas station. One hint I would give the traveler is to fill up their gas tank before leaving on this journey. There are gas stations, but they get few and far between the further you travel along our route. In fact, I might even err on the side of caution and stop in Pedoulas or another nearby town just to fill up the tank. When you get near Kykkos Monastery and then drive all the way through Cedar Valley and the Paphos forest, you will not see a gas station. So, keep that in mind as you drive.

We then drove through the narrow streets to Archangels Michael church. This church was quite simple in build, but the frescos found inside the church were stunning. And while other churches were dripping in gold ornamentation, this church was content to be itself. A simple, but powerful statement of belief and peace of mind. The church was built in the 15th century and is one of the few UNESCO “painted” churches found in Cyprus. The entrance was free of charge, the church was empty, and you could take pictures and video. I highly recommend a visit. The Byzantine Museum across the road was closed, but I understand that it contains relics and icons collected from various area churches as old as the 13th century.

Moutoullas

Like Pedoulas, Moutoullas is a village located in the Marathasa valley. Unfortunately, by the time we left Pedoulas, the kids were running low of energy and patience. Therefore, we elected to skip Moutoullas, which is also a UNESCO site due to its frescoed church. In history, Moutoullas is known for its healing waters, where there is still a path that leads to sulpher waters where Rigena, the Queen of Cyprus, would bathe in the Marathos River. In the summer, the village has outdoor movies and promotes outdoor concerts. If given the opportunity, I would gladly travel back to explore Moutoullas.

Kalopanayiotis

Kalopanayiotis is the second village that we had to save for another day, but I wanted to keep it on our list because it has some beautiful places to visit. The Monastery of Saint John Lampaistis, which is nestled into the peaceful mountain setting. It too is UNESCO protected and its frescoes are incredible. An interesting fact is that the Turks removed the eyes of the saints painted in the frescoes because they were afraid of the saints. There is also a 16th century Venetian bridge nearby that is quite picturesque.

Kykkos Monastery

The Kykkos Monastery (officially the Holy Monastery of the Virgin of Kykkos) was founded in the 11th century under Byzatine rule of Cyprus. This Monastery was an absolute highlight for us. The details, frescoes and architecture were so impressive. Even the setting of the monastery at over 4000 feet is impressive. But, the most impressive part of the Kykkos Monastery are the legends that have grown around the Monastery itself, including the miraculous Virgin Mary icon.

According to legend, a hermit names Esaias lived in a cave on the mountain of Kyykos. At that time, the Governor of the island, under the Byzantine Empire, was named Manuel Boutoumites. Boutoumites likes to escape the summer heat of the capital by escaping up into the mountains. On one of his visits to the Troodos Mountains, he became lost. Boutoumites came across Esaias and asked him for directions, but the hermit refused to speak. The Governor became very offended and verbally berate the hermit. Boutoumites left the hermit and, eventually, found his way back to the capital, Nicosia.

Once home, he became gravely ill. He reflected on his terrible treatment of Esaias and was convinced that his sickness was caused by treating this hermit with such contempt. He asked God to heal him so that he could apologize to the hermit. At the same time, God appeared to Esaias and explained that their meeting was by divine intervention. God told Esaias to heal Boutoumites and, in return, ask Boutoumites to bring the icon of the Virgin Mary, painted by St. Luke, to the island of Cyprus.

This was a HUGE request. The icon was famous for his miraculous powers and was kept in Constantinople at the imperial palace. Boutoumites agreed and was healed, but he never did travel with Esaias to Constantinople to make this request to the emperor. It is thought that he was too scared to make such a request of the Byzantine ruler.

A short time later, the daughter of the emperor fell ill with the same sickness as Boutoumites. Boutoumites went to Emperor Alexios III Angelos and explained that he had been healed by Esaias and that his daughter could be healed as well if the emperor would send the Virgin Mary icon to Cyprus. The emperor felt as if he had few options and reluctantly agreed. His daughter was instantly healed.

That night, the emperor was having second thoughts about sending this cherished icon away to Cyprus. He decided he would have a first-class worker create another icon that was painted to match the real icon. However, as the emperor slept, the Virgin Mary appeared and told the emperor to keep the copy himself because she wanted the icon to go to Cyprus.

The next day, the icon was on the royal ship, heading to Esaias on Cyprus. When she arrived in Cyprus, and during the procession near the Kykkos Monastery, the tree limbs bent down in pious homage to the icon of the Virgin Mary. Emperor Komnenos established the monastery to house the icon.

Since that time, the icon has brought about miracles by providing rain during drought and by stopping the locust infestation. The icon is rarely seen in full as the top half of the icon is kept covered. It is claimed that a common person who sees the icon in full will be blinded.

Before the icon arrived, another legend talks about a bird that flew around, proclaiming in a human voice, that the “golden girl” shall enter in, but shall never leave. Undoubtedly, the “golden girl” is the Virgin Mary icon. And even though the monastery has burned down several times, the icon has always remained untouched.

Finally, the first President of Cyprus, Metochion Kykkou, is buried nearby. He was also a former monk from the Kykkos Monsatery. We drove less than 5 minutes up a steep hill to a beautiful place where not only is Kykkou buried, but where the Virgin Mary icon is brought to her throne during times of trouble (drought) in the hopes that she will provide rain. I have to say the site is worth the time for the views alone.

Cedar Valley

Here is another place I would visit to hike – but not during the heat of summer. Cedar Valley is located in the Paphos forest and is a fairly short drive from Kykkos Monastery. Just head out to E740 and take a left at the sign that says “Cedar Valley”. The name of the street is Cedar Valley Road and its twists and turns through the Cedar Valley. And even during the busy season for Cyprus, we were the only car travelling through the forest.

And while you could see a few cedar trees from the road, the real Cyprus Valley can only be seen by following a 5km round trip trail. By this time, the kids were either car sick or asleep, so we could not get out to explore. However, if I ever return in the spring or autumn, this area would be high on my list to explore.

Closing Thoughts

I highly recommend a day trip through the Troodos Mountain in range. In fact, I would even consider spending a few days exploring those wonderful villages. The people were genuine and friendly, and the views were awe inspiring. So, if you are even thinking about taking a trip like this one, let me push you over the edge and tell you this is a “must do” to see another side of Cyprus that few people ever experience.

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