We’re in Lofou up in the Troodos Mountains, alongside a grand total of 50 permanent inhabitants and approximately six other tourists that we’ve seen so far. The town has a whole two sentences dedicated to it on Wikipedia, the first of which stating how close it is to another town. Yet, even this early in our trip, I’ve got a feeling it is definitely going to be one of our most memorable places that we’ll stay in.
As can be seen, the town sits on a hill. No surprise then, that its name, Lofou, is derived from the Greek word 'lofos' which means hill. Inhabited since the Bronze Age, it wasn’t until British rule in the late 19th/early 20th century, that Lofou was transformed into an enormous vineyard. These vines are still very much in evidence today, like the rest of the surrounding area.
Unfortunately, hard times fell on the town in the mid to late 20th century and its inhabitants abandoned the town seeking opportunities elsewhere. This nearly turned Lofou into a ghost town, although it has ended up being a blessing in disguise as the village today retains nearly all of its original architectural style. Hopefully this will provide future tourism opportunities for its inhabitants as word gets out about just how insanely beautiful the cobbled streets and stone cottages with terracotta roofs are.
There are still a number of buildings in various states of disrepair, however, financial assistance is given to residents looking to restore buildings, so long as they are rebuilt in traditional style. This will ensure the village is built true to style and ensure that its picturesque nature is retained.
Whilst gorgeous today, it will be fascinating to see what the place looks like in ten or so years when some of the “work in progress” buildings have also been restored.
As beguiling as the narrow cobbled streets, stone cottages and tavernas are, the quality of your accommodation will also make or break a place. We were hoping Xenios Cottages, where we were staying for the next four nights, would match the photos promoting it on booking.com and were amazed at just how lovely the place was.
Matching our lovely courtyard was the wonderfully kitted out house. Even getting into the place was cool, with its massive, old-style key.
The living area inside was definitely something we could get very used to.
We managed to strike pay dirt when it came to our rental accommodation, most especially due to our host, Xenios. He greeted us on our first day with a complimentary bottle of good wine, bread, milk, an assortment of coffee, a meat and cheese platter, a traditional Cypriot sweets platter, home made walnut jam and some marmalade/honey jam thing that was divine. To top it off, he also had a freshly baked lemon cake for us (followed up by another two days later). When I saw all this, I just about kissed him! After we settled in he gave us a ton of information about the house and surrounding area before arranging to catch up with him the next morning.
When Xenios arrived the following day, he took us on a tour of the village. After some historical information on the village we had an impromptu visit to the lovely ladies who looked after the church. Here we were feed with fresh breads, cheeses (halloumi and anari, which we mixed with carob and honey), tomatoes, eggs and cucumbers and of course more cake. We’d only had breakfast an hour or so earlier so were getting quite stuffed before they brought out shots of Zivania, which is produced from the distillation of a mixture of grape pomace and local dry wines made from Xynisteri and Mavro grapes. Somewhere around 50% alcohol content it packed quite a punch, especially at 10.30am in the morning! To round it off, we followed it up with some sort of liqueur which I think was called Koudaria to accompany the thick Cypriot coffee.
After our (second) breakfast and early morning drinking session, we semi rolled out of the house across to the beautiful Panagia Chrysolofitissa Church, which is dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary and constructed in the mid to late 19th century. Xenios had got hold of the keys and opened it especially for us to look around at our leisure. This was Cypriot hospitality at its finest.
Not quite done, Xenios then took us up past the old primary school (best place for sunsets) which had a playground for kids, before heading into the Lofou Taverna run by Costas and his family. Because it was 11.30am, Costas deemed it necessary to have another drink, on the house of course, this time a local Cypriot pomegranate liqueur which also went down very nicely.
Needless to say, the Lofou Tavern and the Agrovino Wine Bar, which is run by Costas’s son, became our home away from home for the next three nights when we ate (and drank) out.
If you haven’t worked it out just yet, we are absolutely loving our time in Lofou. Perfectly situated in the Troodos mountains close to a number of other beautiful mountain villages ,we have been fortunate enough to get an authentic slice of Cypriot village life thanks to Xenios. And if you think Lofou is lovely during the day, just wait until sunset, when the stones have yet to cool and the soft glow radiates out onto the village.
For some reason I had a very different idea about what Cyprus was going to be like. Since arriving these misbeliefs have all been blown away and the Cyprus we’ve experienced has been one full of history, tradition and beauty. We’re about to see some more as we head further up into the Troodos Mountains on a village hunt.