My Cyprus Road Trip
The day started early, and by that I mean 7am, so that’s fairly civilised in my book! The journey began in gorgeous Cape Greco, the south-western tip of Cyprus. The aim was to get on the open road and drive. The aim was to explore and see the amazing beauty of this island. I am happy to say that I successfully achieved my aims.
First stop – Kolossi
Kolossi Castle is located to the west of the coastal city of Limassol. Kolossi is a magnificent medieval castle, with its original construction dating back to the 13th century. Numerous battle attacks and earthquakes rendered the original castle to ruins (some of which are still clearly visible within the castle’s grounds). The castle we see today was reconstructed by the Hospitallers c.1450
The castle has a long, important history and holds great significance in Cyprus’ history. The island has always been deemed to be strategic to most powers. Moreover, the land on which Kolossi was built, is extremely fertile. The castle once controlled vast olive groves, carob groves, cotton plantations, cereal crops, sugar plantations and of course huge vineyards. The famous sweet Cypriot wine Commandaria hails from this region and takes its name from the Commanderie who once resided at Kolossi, their residence and HQ.
Kolossi is beautiful. The castle is amazing. The views from the rooftop battlements are breathtaking. The entry fee is surprisingly very small; at €1,70 per person, Kolossi Castle is definitely worth visiting.
Second stop – Kourion
The drive from Kolossi to Kourion is delightful and does not take longer than fifteen minutes. Ancient Kourion is amazing! I am genuinely in awe of the site. This was not my first visit to Kourion. I have been several times in fact, but each visit is different. Archaeologists are continually discovering new treasures and the Kourion site is both growing in perimeter and in content. The Greco-Roman theatre is the natural focal point of Ancient Kourion however there are so many other components to this ancient city kingdom to be seen. Kourion is also home to private villas, an early Christian Basilica, an Agora, Public Baths, House of Gladiators, House of Achilles, to name a few. Words cannot really describe the magnitude of Kourion. The mosaics are inspiring and it is wonderful to experience the archaeological site in such great condition. When walking around Kourion, even in the searing heat of the summer, it is not difficult to let your imagination wander, allowing you to day-dream and wonder what life may have been like on the large hill where Kourion lies. The view from the city is exceptional. The previous residents had a great vantage point… close to the gods.
I feel extremely lucky that I was able to return to Ancient Kourion a few days later to watch a wonderful production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at the theatre. To be honest, I would not have missed the opportunity for anything. I have always wanted to experience a theatrical or musical performance at Kourion, but have never managed to be in Cyprus at the right time. This particular production was organised by British expats living at Akrotiri (Sovereign Base Area) with 100% of the total proceeds being shared amongst a number of local Cypriot charities. Knowing what it takes to put a production on of this size (for 3 consecutive nights!), I still cannot believe the kind generosity of the event organisers.
Watching the performance of “Twelfth Night” at Kourion just after sunset, on a balmy summer evening, is something I will never forget. The experience was magical. The theatre at Kourion is famous for its impressive acoustics and the play was certainly enhanced by this. It is intriguing to hear the different sounds and effects created by the theatre itself. Even more alluring though is the natural environment surrounding Kourion which enhances the enchantment of the event. The background sounds of chirping crickets, sea waves gently breaking on the beach below (which by the way is not that close…!!) and the blanket of stars above you, plus the supermoon which was in the night sky at the time – I felt like the moon was sitting on my shoulder watching the play and adding a spotlight on the brilliant actors, it was simply bewitching. I am so glad that I made the effort to return back to Kourion that evening.
Third stop – Pissouri… lunch time
Pissouri is a small village located in between Limassol and Paphos. A somewhat perfect stop over on this road trip. We stopped at a small taverna on the beach and sampled various vegetarian dishes. Cypriot cuisine is often famed for its meat, but I have a particular soft spot for the vegetarian options. Lunch consisted of delicious dolmadakia (small stuffed vine leaves), aubergines filled with ratatouille consisting of fresh local produce, a traditional Village Salad, and my obligatory watermelon to finish. Perfect!
Fourth stop – Baths of Aphrodite
I love the Baths of Aphrodite (Loutra tis Aphrodites). This is identified as a “beauty spot” on visitor maps but frankly, that is an understatement. My visit to the loutra was on this particular road trip, but I love the baths so much that I decided to write a whole post in dedication to it (see previous). The journey up through the mountains, through the Akamas nature reserve, to the north-western tip of the island is peaceful. Once you leave the motorway near Paphos, you need to take the smaller roads, meandering through sleepy villages, lush with vegetation and traditional houses. Small coffee shops are few and far between, but they do exist and make a welcome stop for a cold bottle of water or a nice Cypriot coffee.
Fifth stop – Akamas
After reaching the tip of the Akamas peninsula (Baths of Aphrodite, Chrysochou Bay), it is time to swing round and head south. It was my aim to head back south in order to drive along the coastal road within the nature reserve. This becomes extremely rugged the further you go in. The land becomes rocky and the sea transforms into a deep blue and more ferocious at points. This is something that you do not really see in other parts of the country.
My favourite part about this portion of the journey though was the vast banana plantations we drove through. Cyprus bananas, almost exclusively grown in Paphos are small, sweet and delicious!
Sixth stop – Petra tou Romiou
Petra tou Romiou, the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. This is most probably the single most iconic location in the whole of Cyprus. Great legend surrounds the large rock as not only is it here that Aphrodite was born out of the waves of the Mediterranean Sea, but as the story goes, the rock was thrown into the sea from a cliff above, in order to provide protection to the island from an oncoming attack.
The shore at Petra tou Romiou is pebbly and simple. You will not find any sun loungers or umbrellas, but you are definitely able to come to the beach and swim in the sea here. Beware, the currents around the rocks are strong, so swimming here is not for the faint hearted… Aphrodite must have been a strong swimmer! I have done it several times and it is a fun experience. I can never really pinpoint what makes the experience so enjoyable… is it the legend, the history, the view, the rocks, the iconography?
This is a great place to watch a sunset… in fact people often come to Petra tou Romiou specifically to swim at sunset.
This road trip was action packed but it was peaceful and relaxed. There was no agenda other than to get in the car, drive, explore and have fun. We drove 530km (331 miles) from one corner of the island to the opposite corner of the island and I loved it! Adventurous road trips are always my most memorable trips and this one was no exception. Any of you visiting Cyprus need to have a keen sense of adventure too. The island is small, but you can easily rack up the miles. The country is beautiful, diverse and friendly. I recommend that you hire a car for at least some of your trip to Cyprus as it will give you the independence necessary to discover this wonderful island.
Happy adventures to you all!
Until next time…