Charming villages, some with cobbled streets and preserved folk architecture, nestle on terraced slopes amongst the pines or amid vineyards and orchards.
Wander through the village roads in the Solea Valley, known as the “apple valley” and Marathasa, known as “valley with cherry trees”. These areas are renowned for their traditional architecture and their Byzantine churches and monasteries. Explore the traditional character of the villages of Pitsilia area, the interesting churches and the hospitality of their inhabitants.
One village you should visit is Kakopetria, a beautiful village whose old quarter is a protected area. You can see local Cyprus chairs being made from wood and straw or wander around the old part of the village which has preserved much of its traditional architectural character. In the middle of the village is a large square where you can relax at one of the tavernas or restaurants. There are several churches around here to visit including the famous Agios Nickólaos tis Stegis which has some amazing murals dating from the 11th-17th century. The church of Agios Georgios Perachoritis also has some original 16th century wall paintings for you to enjoy.
Platres is one of the most popular resorts on the Troodos range. It is a favourite spot for Cypriot holiday makers who are looking for a respite from the heat of the local summers. The village is distinctive for having a permanent stream flowing through it.
The village is divided in two, Kato (lower) and Pano (upper) Platres. Kato Platres is quiet. The upper part caters to tourists; with numerous tavernas, restaurants, night spots and a Cyprus Tourism Office.
The Kaledonian Falls are just upstream, and are accessible on foot from the trout farm at the top of the village.
The Troodos mountains are where the painted churches of Cyprus can be found, superb examples of Byzantine art, ten of which have been put on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
There’s much you can do in the Troodos Mountains, all from mountain biking, playing tennis, angling in one of the dams, or even skiing in winter. A series of nature trails will take you through areas of unbelievable beauty among scented pines, running streams and the occasional waterfall.
Known scientifically as the Troodos ophiolite complex, the area was created about 80 million years ago and rose from the sea about 20 million years ago to create the island of Cyprus. It is one of the most widely studied geological formations in the world and has shed much light on the birth of the earth’s crust.
The specific climatic conditions may have contributed to the unique flora found on Troodos with nearly 800 different plant species, 72 endemics, 12 of which are found nowhere else in the world.
Occasionally, if one is lucky, one may spot a Cyprus mouflon, a kind of wild sheep particular to the island, which roams free in the extensive forests.
Birdwatchers may spot the rare and protected eagles or the colourful hoopoe with pink body, black and white crest and a call which can be heard from miles around.
The Monastery of Kykkos, the richest and most lavish of the monasteries of Cyprus, is found in the region of Marathasa. It is situated on a mountain peak, at an altitude of 1318 metres northwest of Troodos. Dedicated to Panagia, it possesses one of three icons attributed to Agios Loukas the Evangelist. The icon, covered in silver gilt, is in a shrine made of tortoise shell and mother – of – pearl that stands in front of the iconostasis.
The monastery was founded sometime between the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the12th century, during the reign of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118 AD). Unfortunately the monastery burned down several times and nothing remains of the original structure.
Blessed with divine grace, Cypriot hermit Isaiah miraculously cured the emperor’s daughter of an incurable illness. As a reward, he asked for the icon of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) kept at the imperial palace at Constantinople. Though grieved at the prospect of losing his precious treasure, the emperor sent it to Cyprus with fitting honours together with funds to pay for the construction of a monastery where the sacred relic would be kept. At the hermit’s request, the emperor’s representative in Cyprus Manuel Vutomites also endowed the monastery with three villages. As the gift was later confirmed by imperial charter, the monastery is considered to have been established by imperial decree.
The first President of the Republic of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III, served here as a novice. At his own wish he was buried on the summit of Throni, 3 kilometres west of the monastery, and not far from his native village of Panayia. The monastery produces zivania and a variety of other alcoholic drinks and holds religious fairs on September 8th (Birth of the Virgin) and August 15th (Dormition of the Virgin).