The Troodos Mountains has an astounding array of stunningly beautiful villages waiting to be explored. We’ve lost count of the number of villages that we’ve driven through and that we could easily have spent half a day in. There are a number that we have managed to spend some time in, albeit never enough, which we’ve laid out below. Let the wars commence for Cyprus’s most prettiest village.
The first village we visited outside of Lofou happened to be having its annual Rose Festival. The lower part of the Troodos Mountains provides the ideal growing conditions for the Damascus Rose which enables the light pink flowers to blossom in April and May. The festival celebrates this beautiful rose with morning collections/picking and other festivities such as traditional dancing, folk music and food competitions put on for visitors.
After checking out some of the dancing and food stalls we made our way down to the Rose Factory which illustrated the myriad ways in which this beautiful flower has been utilised from rose oil to rose water, candles, traditional sweets, and liqueurs.
Unfortunately the Rose Festival distracted us from exploring the village properly but that didn’t stop us from admiring the plentiful roses that both were cultivated and that grow wild at just about every turn.
Often cited as one of the prettiest villages in the Troodos Mountains, Omodos is firmly ensconced on the well-established Wine Route (Krasochoria Lemesou or the Wine Villages of Lemesou Region), and had a number of wineries tempting us with free wine tasting.
Similar to Lofou, Omodos also has lovingly crafted cobblestone pathways and beautiful buildings.
For us, while the village had more abundant colours and was probably prettier than Lofou which resulted in a lot more tourists, if definitely didn’t have the same authentic and traditional feel.
The highlight of Omodos is a visit to the Monastery of The Holy and Life-giving Cross, also known as The Holy Cross (Timios Stavros) Church. One of the oldest and most historic monasteries on Cyprus, it is believed the Monastery was established in the early 4th century, although there is some conjecture as to the exact date. Saint Helen is said to have visited Cyprus sometime around then and left a part of the Holy Rope which was used to bind Jesus to the Cross (the only existing piece in existence today), and the Holy Rood in the Monastery, although we didn’t get to see those.
Also of interest of a slightly macabre nature inside the church, is the skull of the Apostle Philip, which is kept in a gold and silver-plated case that is shaped like a pyramid. Philip was crucified upside down at Hierapolis (modern-day Pamukkale) in Turkey, which happens to be a place which we want to visit in four months or so time. Unfortunately, photo’s aren’t allowed to be taken inside the church, nor of the wide range of other iconography on site, so you’ll have to take my word that it was extremely impressive.
In the Troodos Mountains Village Wars, the prettiest village award definitely goes to Lania/Laneia. Pretty much the whole village is decorated with blooming flowers and ripe fruit hangs abundantly from every second tree. Featuring the same narrow cobbled laneways as Lofou, it has the added advantage of being much more gaily decorated by well tended flower beds and trees.
With this much beauty on show, we didn’t even get round to checking out the inside of the Greek Orthodox Church dedicated to Saint Mary and which houses one of the oldest paintings in the world, the Icon of Saint Mary of Valanas. That’ll have to wait for when we come back another day.
If Lania wins the prettiest village award, Kalopanagiotis wins the best all-rounder award. Well known as a summer resort, the village is situated on the northern slopes of the Troodos Mountains, in contrast with the other villages which reside on the southern slopes. Kalopanagiotis is best known for its sulphur springs and accompanying Venetian Bridge, UNESCO World Heritage site church and the dam which provides a great place for anyone with the foresight to bring food for a picnic.
Spread out over a number of layers, this extremely attractive village has a unique glass elevator which can be taken (1 Euro per adult) from the top down to the modern bridge which takes you across to the Monastery on the lower level of the village.
Built in the Byzantine period, Kalopanagiotis’s Monastery of Agios Ioannis (Saint John) tou Lampadisti, really steals the show. As one of ten churches comprising the Painted Churches in the Troodos Region, it was included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1985 due to it having such significant historical and artistic value.
Inside the church are some of the most amazing paintings you’ll ever see which date back to the 13th century and floor to ceiling murals provide an overview of Byzantine painting in Cyprus. Its hard to put into words (photos once again not allowed) just how rich and mind blowing the paintings are. Letting you know just how good the inside was, both Veronica and I were contemplating whether this was the best church we’d ever been in. Certainly in Cyprus, but possibly even across all our travels.
Just in case one magnificient church isn’t enough then there’s also the adjacent chapel of Theoskepasti located a few meters east of Agios Ioannis the Lampadistis. Built as an ascetic lodge in the 12th century, its name means “covered by God” due to the 700 year old oak tree which afforded it protection. We were given an interesting and extremely enthusiastic tour inside the chapel which now houses close to 50 priceless paintings on wood or stone. OK, they weren’t priceless as the church had gone to considerable length to buy back some of these which had been stolen in the past, but certainly the value of these retches way beyond simple monetary value. The tour cost us a mere 1 Euro each and it’s only when you listen to someone who knows exactly what it is that you’re looking at that you realise just how much you miss when you don’t avail of these types of services. A mental note, then, to make sure we do this more often.
While we’ve only written about the four villages we spent a reasonable amount of time in, we also briefly visited half a dozen others and drove through quite a number more. There’s a great link here which provides an overview of 28 of Troodos’s villages well worth checking out.
The thought of leaving the Troodos Mountains was actually quite saddening. We’ve loved our time up here and would recommend anybody visiting Cyprus to spend time up here and if possible to stay at least one night. Away from the hustle of bustle of the beach towns that most people associate Cyprus with, it was a perfect four day retreat.