Nine Byzantine churches in the Troodos mountains, are included in the oficial UNESCO list of cultural treasures of the World’s heritage – Stavros tou Ayiasmati, Panayia tou Araka, Timiou Stavrou at Pelendri, Ayios Nikolaos tis Stegis, Panayia Podithou, Assinou, Ayios loannis Lampadistis, Panayia tou Moutoula, and Archangel Michael at Pedhoulas.
The impressive Troodos mountain range stretches across most of the western side of Cyprus. This is an idyllic area where you can take long walks in scented pine forests in summer and partake in winter sports and ski-ing in winter.
The area has been known since ancient times for its mines, and in the Byzantine period it became a great centre of Byzantine art, as churches and monasteries were built in the mountains, away from the threatened coastline.
In the Troodos mountain range, besides Machairas to the east and the actual Troodos district around Mount Olympus, there are four other districts. These districts are Pitsillia to the east of Mount Olympus, the Solea Valley and the Marathassa Valley to the north of Mount Olympus, and the Krassochoria (the Wine Villages) to the south (north-west of the Limassol district).
These districts are easy to reach from either Limassol or Nicosia.
The Pitsillia area lies on the eastern slopes of the Troodos mountain range. Picturesque villages cling to the mountain side amid vineyards, orchards of almond and hazelnut trees, and an amazing array of wild flowers.
Places to visit
LOUVARAS – 28 kms north of Limassol on the south of the Troodos range, off the Limassol-Agros road. In the middle of the village is the small church of Ayios Mamas built in 1455 with wall paintings some signed by Philip Goul.
AGROS – 45 kms north of Limassol through Ayios Theodoros. Agros is the centre of the district. It has a good dry climate, gardens of roses, cool springs and hotels. A 19th century church in Byzantine style now stands on the site of a 9th century monastery of Panayia Eleousa Agrou, founded by monks from Constantinople.
PALAICHORI – 45 km south of Nicosia on the Nicosia-Agros-Limassol road, and 15 km from Agros. The Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour (tou Sotiros) is an early 16th century chapel on the hill overlooking the beautiful old village. Its interior is completely painted with one of the most accomplished series of murals, of the post-Byzantine period in Cyprus. The church of Panayia Chrysopantanassa was built in the 16th century and is the main church of the upper village. It also has four cycles of wall paintings.
STAVROS TOU AYIASMATI AT PLATANISTASSA – Platanistassa village, 15 km from Agros, 30 km off the Nicosia-Astromeritis road, turning left before Peristerona village. A 15th century church, lying about 3kms outside this old village, retains the most complete cycles of mural paintings of the second half of the 15th century in Cyprus.
PANAYIA TOU ARAKA AT LAGOUDHERA – Lagoudhera village, is 15 kms from Agros, off the Kakopetria-Troodos-Limassol road (Karvounas crossroad). A 12th century church stands just outside the village with some of the finest frescoes of the late Comnenian style (1192), prevailing throughout Greece, the Balkans and Russia. Together with Assinou church and that of Ayios Nikolaos tis Steghis, it is considered to be one of the most important Byzantine churches on the island.
KOURDHALI – 7kms off the Kakopetria-Troodos road, after Spilia village. The village’s early 16th century church, containing frescoes of the same period, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Panayia).
PELENDRI – 3kms below Kato Amiandos, off the Karvouna-Limassol road, 32kms from Limassol. Once the property of Jean de Lusignan, son of the Lusignan King of Cyprus, Hugh IV. There are two interesting churches, the 14th century church of Timiou Stavrou with beautiful wall paintings and the church of Panayia Katholiki in the middle of the old village which dates to the early 16th century with paintings of the Italo-Byzantine style.
On the main Nicosia-Troodos road, 56kms from Nicosia and 56kms from Limassol (via Kato Amiantos and Saittas). The picturesque mountain villages of Galata and Kakopetria, situated in the Solea valley (the apple valley), are popular hill resorts with a good range of hotels and restaurants, but also retaining much of the old folk architecture. Both villages are famous for their Byzantine churches. Other important villages in the area are Evrikhou, Flassou and Korakou.
Places to visit
KAKOPETRIA – The church of Ayios Nikolaos tis Stegis (St. Nicholas of the Roof) stands about 5kms above the village and once belonged to a monastery. It is completely painted with murals dating from the 11th to the 17th century and is considered one of the most interesting Byzantine churches on the island. The small 16th century church of Panayia Theotokos, off the main road, retains about half of its murals and the church of Ayios Georghios Perachoritis, on the east of the village, has most of its wall paintings belonging to the first quarter of the 16th century. The old quarter of the village has been declared protected and old houses have been restored.
GALATA – There are four painted churches in and around the village. The church of Ayios Sozomenos dates to the early 16th century and retains a complete series of frescoes in the post-Byzantine style and stands in the middle of the old village. The church of the Archangel Michael or Panayia Theotokos is a timber-roofed chapel and is completely painted in the post-Byzantine style of the early 16th century. The larger church of Panayia Podithou, which once belonged to a monastery, was erected in 1502 and its paintings are of the Italo-Byzantine style, which appeared on the island towards the end of the 15th century. The small church of Ayia Paraskevi on the old Kakopetria-Galata road has paintings of 1514. The old Inn which has been restored “the Hani Kalliana” is also very interesting.
ASSINOU CHURCH – 5kms from Nikitari village, off the main Nicosia-Troodos-Limassol road, around 20 km north of Kakopetria. Early 12th century church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, with frescoes of the 12th century and later periods, considered to be among the finest examples of Byzantine mural painting in the island.
This fertile valley, well-known for its cherries on the north side of the Troodos range, offers an alternative route to Troodos, through the lovely mountain villages, such as Kalopanayiotis, Moutoullas, Pedhoulas and then up to Prodhromos and Kykko. The road is signposted to Kykko, and turns off the main Nicosia-Troodos road just below Evrykhou. Marathassa is also reached from Limassol-Platres-Prodhromos road (about 65 kms from Limassol).
Places to visit
KALOPANAYIOTIS – The village is famous for its sulphur springs and the famous church of Ayios loannis Lampadistis. Originally a monastery, it is a complex of several buildings of various dates and contains excellent frescoes of the 13th and 15th centuries. One of the biggest religious fairs in the valley is held here on St. John’s day, 4 October.
MOUTOULLAS – About 1km from Kalopanayiotis is Moutoullas village with its tiny 13th century chapel of Panayia tou Moutoulla, one of the earliest dated examples of the steep-pitched wooden roof type with frescoes dating to 1280.
PEDHOULAS – The third village up the mountain is Pedhoulas, a summer resort famous for its cherries. The painted church of Archangel Michael stands in the lower part of the village and dates from 1474.
KYKKO MONASTERY – 20kms west of Pedhoulas village. The most famous and richest monastery in Cyprus. Founded in 1100 and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it possesses one of the three surviving icons ascribed to St. Luke. The icon, covered in silver gilt and enclosed in a shrine of tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl, stands at the front of the iconostasis. The first President of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III served as a novice here. He was buried at Throni, 3kms west of the Monastery, not far from his native village of Panayia. Religious fairs are held at Kykko on 15 August and 8 September.
TROODHITISSA MONASTERY – 5kms north west of Platres, 40kms from Limassol), on the Platres-Prodhromos road. A beautiful monastery standing amid pine trees, it was originally founded in the 13th century, but the present church dates from 731. The church contains a priceless icon of the Virgin Mary brought from Asia Minor, plated with silver-gilt and many other valuable icons. A large religious fair is held in the grounds on 15 August.
MESA POTAMOS MONASTERY – Deserted monastery near Platres in an idyllic setting, which includes a nearby waterfall.
KRASSOCHORIA (The Wine Villages)
The area, known as the ‘Krassohoria’ (the wine Villages) is found on the south side of the Troodos range. Old traditions are kept alive in these villages, where the cultivation the vineyards, and wine-making are still the main occupation of most of the inhabitants. This is the area which produces famous local red dry wine. Main villages in the area are Omodhos, Arsos, Pachna.
Places to visit
OMODHOS – 11kms south west of Platres. A wine producing village, once the property Sir John de Brie, Prince of Galilee, with the Monastery of Stavros (Holy Cross), standing in the centre of the village. The monastery contains old icons, excellent wood carving and other ecclesiastical objects of interest, as well as a small National struggle museum. An old House, with a wine-press known as Linos, is being restored and can also be visited. A wine festival is held in the village every August, and there is a large religious fair on 14 September.
PHINI – 4kms west of Platres. Famous for its pottery and as the birthplace of Archbishop Sophronios II. Visitors can see the Pilavakion private pottery collection.
KILANI – South-west of Perapedhi, off the Limassol-Troodos road. An attractive wine-producing village with the single-aisled vaulted church of Ayia Mavri, typical of 12th century architecture with murals of the late 15th century.