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Yesterday I spent the whole day sorting out photographs from previous trips and reading through my scibbled travel notes. I came across some fantastic photos of my son and husband taken in the Troodos mountains. These date back from a trip of the island we did two years ago. My son was living in Athens at the time, it was Christmas, we wanted to travel and see the island so he agreed to meet us in Pathos as it was easy for him to fly from Athens to Limassol and then get a bus to Pathos. Some of the photos I am taking back to the UK as I have to go on Wednesday and I will be seeing family I haven't seen for a long time so I thought it would be nice to show these pics as they are always interested about my travels if sometimes they don't always approve.
Pathos was only a base really, somewhere to sleep. although the town itself and surounding area was very nice. Always having fidgety feet I can never stay put for long so within 24 hours from picking my son up, we hired a car and went into the mountains and here is my review.
Cyprus is the most densely wooded area in the Mediterranean due to the afforestation programme which began during colonial rule. In the woods around Mount Olympus (1,953 metres high), the island's highest mountain, there is a wide range of nature trails from which to choose. In my view, the most beautiful of these paths winds for two hours through various vegetation zones of the mountain, at the same time providing an insight into the geology of the region. It runs from the Troodos forest station along a mountain stream to the idyllic Caledonian Falls and then on to sleepy Platres - a pleasant spot even at the height of summer and the Christmas holiday ( this is a popular time for the locals to visit after Christmas Day). Forest tracks through deserted terrain lead to Kykko, the richest monastery on Cyprus and close to where Achbishop Makarios is buried. Then it is on to to the forest station at Stavros tis Psokas. To cover this route in a hired car will take around two days that is without any long walks. Obviously you can just go out for a ride in the hills and return to your base but once I am on the road I like to keep going until I have surveyed the whole area.
The countryside around the abandoned Turkish villages of Souskiou in the sparsely populated Diarizos valley serves as a reminder of the horrors suffered by the inhabitants during the civil war. In some ways it reminds me of the area travelling by car/bus from Orebic (Croatia) to Mostar. You will see many derelict properties.
The wine village of Omodos is certailnly one of the prettiest places in Cyprus. The white houses with blue doors, shady vine harbours and lovingly tended flowers are reminiscent of the Cyclades Islands. Old women knitting in the shade of the mulberry trees while sleepy cats sprawl on the window ledges. If you fancy yourself as an amateur geologist you will definitely enjoy the two hour walk from Omodos to Kato Platres. The vineyards end above the village where the valley narrows. It is not the climate nor the altitude that limits vine cultivation, but the soil. The light chalk on which vines thrive gives way abruptly to brownish-grey volcanic tuff. Around Kato Platres this changes to volcanic diabase before the primary rocks of the Troodos mountains push their way to the surface.
In winter this area can be very sunny yet cold but it is also pleasantly cool in the summer. Pano Platres (1,128 metres) has been a favourite with the British since colonial times. Like the Indian hill stations, the predominant colours in Platres, a village hidden away amid dense woodland, are green and red. Brooks babble at the verges of the steep roads and a peaceful, almost weary atmosphere prevails. The principal occupation of many holidaymakers seems to be watching the passers-by.
This beautiful monastery stands at 1,424 metres and is hidden away at the head of a fertile valley, under huge walnut and plane trees. Founded over a thousand years ago after an icon of Mary attributed to the evangelist Luke was discovered here, it became the summer residence of the Bishop of Pathos. But it has burnt down on more than one occasion since and the buildings are relatively recent. In the monastery church (1731), young women pilgrims come not only to worship the miracle-working Virgin Mary but also to put on a silver-coated belt which is said to help them to conceive a boy.
I have been to the Troodos in winter and summer but my timing has never coincided with the opening of the monastery so I am sorry but I am unable to comment on the works inside. The monastery is open daily from 9am until noon and from 2-8pm. It certainly is stunning from the outside especially when the cloud is low as it gives it a magical Narnia feel and because of it's setting can be seen from the lower valleys below.
A small holiday resort grew up at the village of Troodos during the British colonial era. Tavernas, hotels, stalls, a post office and a petrol station meet the needs of most visitors. This is not as touristy as you might think and because of it's setting is quite picturesque. The stalls alone are very interesting as most of the goods on sale are home-made foods from the mountains and also hand knitted garments. Four relatively easy nature trails that can be followed wearing trainers start here. Leaflets about the walks should be available in boxes at the start. They show the route and give explanations in English about the sites. Most tourist offices will also supply them.
The Caledonian Trail
This trail follows a shady path down to Platres. It runs alongside a stream that flows even in summer and lower down tumbles noisily over a waterfall. Nature lovers particularly will be interested in this trail with its changing range of vegetation. Troodos pines and the rare black poplars thrive higher up, while more typical for the medium altitudes are golden oaks, Aleppo pines and the bright reddish brown strawberry trees that stand out through the thicket.
The Artemis or Chionistra Trail
This trail circles Mount Olympus (1,953 metres) without any steep gradients. Cypriots call their highest mountain Chionistra, meaning 'frost bite.' The Royal Air Force maintains a radio and listening station on the summit. The huge spherical structures could be seen as one of the giant Digenis's golf balls. From December to the end of February the Cyprus Ski Club operates ski lifts up the slopes.
In the winter the Marathassa valley is covered with snow and the winter we were there it was absolutely stunning. Nearly every photograph I have is of this valley. I was fascinated because the soft, white, winter clouds were so fluffy and low in the sky that they actually met the snow on the mountain top and the trails that circled it. The whole area was a blanket of white with like a misty but glassy glow.
In the spring when I visited the pevious year, the valley was covered with a veil of white cherry blossom. Quince, plums and pears also grow on the terraces that were painstakingly carved out of the hillsides by earlier generations. Many of the gardens have grown wild, reverting to their natural state which is how I prefer it.
A modest spa has been established in Kalopanayiotis around a spring of sulphurous water. Modern pilgrims also come to visit the Ioannis Lambadistis monastery. The 11th century basilica is adorned with some fine frescoes. The Roman Catholic Chapel was added in the 15th century and the murals here betray clearly western influences. In the 18th century another church roofed with barrel vaulting was added and the silver coated skull of the town's patron saint is kept here. Olive and grape presses are displayed in the east wing of the monastery.
This is definitely off the beaten track but worth a visit because nestled in a remote spot surrounded by pine trees lies Cyprus's richest and most powerful monastery. The abbey formerly owned two estates as far away as the Black Sea coast and it is still the biggest landowner on Cyprus. When the Turks plundered the monastery in 1821, they are said to have made off with 16 camel loads of gold and silver. More pilgrims visit Kykko that any other monastery on the island. Many of the visitors come to express their thanks for a miracle attributed to Kykko and give presents or declare that the monastery will benefit from their inheritance. They no doubt hope that when the Day of Judgement comes, such acts of generosity will act in their favour.
The most important holy object is the icon of the Virgin Mary painted by St Luke which was presented to the monastery by the Byzantine Emperor Alexis Commenus in 1100. He was giving thanks to Isaiah, the monk who founded the monastery and who miraculously cured his daughter of gout. A silver mounting specially made in 1795 masks the icon, thought to be too sacred to gaze upon. No one has set eyes on it since that date.
On Throni tis Panayia or St Mary's throne, half an hour away to the west of the monastery, lies the grave of Archbishop Makarios. This senior religious dignitary and first president of Cyprus started his career as a novice in Kykko and for all his life had a close affinity with its religious community. A wishing tree hung with rags stands near his grave, testifying to the fact that even today Cypriots accord him almost saint like status.
If you wish to venture further into the woods beyond Kykko then I suggest you walk ( not in trainers but in full hiking gear) or drive carefully. Mountain bikes would be fun but with a small car you may get stuck in some of the stoney, mountainous roads. A four wheel drive would do the job but to hire one of those will probably work out expensive. We have got lost on the odd occasion and got stuck in the mud so watch out!
Some of the last surviving Troodos cedars grow in the Valley of the Cedars. These fine trees, larger and more beautiful than their Lebanese counterparts, can live for over 600 years. The rare and timid moufflons also live in the valley. Just as the species was on the point of extinction, succesful attempts were made to breed it in captivity, and the national airline, Cyprus Airways, has adopted it as its emblem. Without binoculars, it may be necessary to wait a long time for a glimpse of this sheep-like creature in the wild.
The forest station at the idyllically located village of Stavros tis Psokas further up the Cedar Valley keep a herd of about 60 moufflons in a reserve. If you like sheep then give this reserve a visit. They are quite nervous critters but have very pretty faces.
I really can't recommend The Troodos mountains enough. It is a special mountain area; green, beautiful, tranquil and when the mist falls has a dreamlike quality. As you make your decline down the mountain region as the sun is setting it is like you are all alone in an imaginary land.
Out of all the places I have visited I was pleasantly surprised with Cyprus and the Troodos. The island was more beautiful than I expected and the mountains left a lasting impression. The people of Cyprus are warm, friendly and extremely laid back which are admirable qualities. Highly Recommended.
I will also say that it is very cheap and easy to rent a small car in Cyprus. You just go and pick up the keys and drive off - no paperwork or interrogation or fuss over credit cards. You don't even have to take it back to where you hired the car from - you leave it at your hotel/ accommodation or at the airport. They do the rest. Talk about being laid back - Brilliant.
Having now visited Cyprus twice I can thoroughly advise a trip to the Troodos mountains is well worth it.
Troodos village itself is a little bit of a let down, as it seemed to be full of stalls selling touristy bits, and hoardes of coaches. So hire a car and take a drive up from the coast. Platres is an idea place to stay, would thoroughly reccomend hotel Minerva run by a botantist. stayed in a lovely room with 4 poster for 30.00 a night for 2. Johns cafe does wonderful food, the Meze had so many courses I couldn't begin to finish it all. Go in June, and enjoy the most tasty cherries ever. There are b=various walks from Troodos. we did the Caledonia trail that follows a babbling brook down to Platres, it was really stunning, and we saw Crimean orchids.
The whole area is visually stunning, so get off the beach and visit
We live in Larnaca Cyprus and every time we go there we anderstand that is onother world. I made some photos in January 2007 : http://www.cypruspictures.net/TRODOS/TRODOS/index.html The area is magical and suitable for a variety of activities such as hiking, skiing, mountain cycling, nature study and picnics.
Troodos in Cyprus can mean any of three related but different places. Firstly it's a tiny village high in the mountains. Secondly, as one guide book tells me, it's the area within about 5km encircling that village. And thirdly, as it's most often understood, it's an entire range of mountains reaching almost from Paphos in the West of the island to East of Limassol, which is about 50km away.
The village itself is easily dealt with. It contains a few tourist shops, a few food shops, a post office which is closed more often than it's open, a tourist information centre, and an outdoor market. In the past few years there have been major road works going on - nobody ever knows quite what road works are for in Cyprus, but it's probably something to do with drains. Or electricity. Or resurfacing due to sun damage. Whatever the reason, they make it rather difficult to get through Troodos village: the one-way signs direct traffic through an extremely bumpy car park, and even in the height of summer there don't seem to be many visitors.
At the other extreme, the broadest sense of Troodos - the entire mountain range - is too big a topic for a single review. There are forests, rivers, and nature trails, mostly unspoilt. See http://www.cosmosnet.net/cyprus/trails/nt4.htm for some suggestions, although the local tourist offices generally have up-to-date guides.
The Troodos mountains also, I'm told, have a unique geology. They rose from the ocean crust, and so provide vital information to those researching this topic. It would take many years to explore the entire area and to become familiar with it; suffice it to say that these mountains are an important part of Cyprus as well as being attractive, since the main water of the island is sourced there. Although in recent years de-salination plants have enabled households to have constant mains water, we still rely on spring water from the mountains, and on melting snow to fill the reservoirs during the spring.
We have, however visited several times the smaller Troodos area within a few kilometres of Troodos village. Cyprus at sea-level (where we live) becomes hot and humid during the summer months, and many of the locals will spend weekends at holiday homes or staying with relatives in the mountains. The air is clear and fresh, the humidity is much lower, and there's even a chance of some rain.
In the Winter people go there for snow. This is something we never see at sea-level, but which sometimes falls to a depth of several feet in the mountains. There are a few small ski centres, although they don't tend to attract many tourists since the amount and timing of the snow is unpredictable. In the worst years of the recent drought in the island, there was almost no snow at all. But when it's thick, some of the locals will make their way up the mountains to ski. We had visitors in February one year who found it quite startling to be able to sun-bathe near our house one day, and then after only an hour and a half's driving could build a snow-man in the mountains the following day!
Getting to Troodos is easiest by car. The roads are reasonable, and it's not a huge distance from anywhere in South Cyprus. It's about an hour's drive from Paphos, or Nicosia, or forty-five minutes from Limassol. There are buses which run once per day between each of the main cities and Troodos village, but although buses in Cyprus have a surprisingly good safety record, most visitors who use them find themselves terrified by the erratic driving, particularly up the winding mountain roads! Car rental is fairly inexpensive and for a family is probably cheaper than paying bus fares, besides being quicker and more convenient.
Although there are few towns and villages in this district, there are a smattering of restaurants and hotels offering local foods at reasonable prices. One of my teenage sons ate at a Troodos restaurant about a year ago; for a large plate of spaghetti and tomato sauce, a soft drink and a generous ice cream, he paid about CY £3.50, which is approximately £4 sterling. Don't expect a wide choice on the menu, particularly if you're a vegetarian, but most reasonable requests can be met if you ask politely. http://www.cyprushotelsguide.net/troodos.shtml is a good place to start when looking for a hotel, but it's only a rough guide. Prices vary hugely by season, and also by how prepared you are to bargain!
We don't personally know anyone living in Troodos, and the hotels are rather out of our price range as well as being crowded in the summer, so our stays have been limited to a campsite, of which there are several. The one we stay in is owned by a missionary agency, and has tents already set up and equipped with basic kitchen utensils and beds. Most of the big camp sites, however, are fairly primitive, intended for people to take their own tents or caravans. Camping tends to appeal most to foreigners like ourselves, although Cubs and Scouts make use of the camp-grounds, as do some of the schools. But to many Cypriots, camping is considered an activity for children only.
There are several official trails that can be followed in this region: again, information is readily available at the tourist office. One of the best-known is the Caledonia Falls trail, following a stream to a dramatic waterfall and then returning via a large forest. One of my sons walked that with some friends one summer, and we decided to follow it as a family a few days later; unfortunately we didn't get all the way as it was a little precarious in places and I wasn't keen on balancing my way over streams. Not that they were deep, but I preferred to sit quietly and enjoy the scenery than walk a long distance and risk getting my feet wet!
Troodos is generally recommended to tourists for a day trip, or at most a weekend. I've never heard of anybody visiting Cyprus and spending all their time in the mountains, but many people enjoy the drive and like to spend at least one or two days of their holidays in Troodos. There are several peaceful Byzantine monasteries and Greek Orthodox churches which are open to visitors; the only requirement is that you dress respectfully (no shorts, no bare arms) and talk quietly. Some of them don't allow photographs inside, particularly if there are ancient icons or other paintings, but there are plenty of postcards depicting the most attractive of the religious artefacts. Some monasteries only allow men to visit; others are more relaxed and welcome anyone. See http://www.cyprusexplorer.com/Monasteries.htm for more information.
Of course there's no point going to Troodos if you're into night-life and loud music, nor if you simply want a beach holiday. We go there to relax and unwind. Some people take lengthy hikes, but we find that with the air being thinner we have less energy for a day or two, and easily get out of breath. However it's quite possible to take gentle walks, to breathe in the scent of the pine trees, and to be refreshed by the stunning views.
For more information see:
Platres is a lovely village on the southern slopes of the Troodos mountains.
Most popular with walkers, as a number of nature trails begin from the village and many more are near by. Mountain bicycling is also a popular activity.
It is centrally located for excursions to the wonderful churches and monasteries of the island and the other traditional villages of Omodhos, Lofou, Lania, Pera Pedhi, Phini. The nearest beach is a 45 min drive away to either Curium or Pissouri. One can easily visit Paphos or Limassol.
In the village there is a selection of hotels, restaurants and services.
Troodos is the biggest mountain range of Cyprus, located in the center of the island. Troodos' highest peak is Mount Olympus at 1,952 meters. Troodos mountain range stretches across most of the western side of Cyprus, offering cool sanctuary and idyllic hours spent in long walks in its scented pine forests in summer and winter sports and skiing in winter. There are many famous mountain resorts, Byzantine monasteries and churches on mountain peaks, and nestling in its valleys and picturesque mountain villages clinging to terraced hill slopes. There are 9 churches in Troodos that are counted among Unesco's World Heritage Sites and several monasteries, of which the Kykkos monastery is the most famous and rich.