Cyprus has long been an enthralling destination for generations of wanderers globally. With a rich history, compelling culture, tantalising cuisine, captivating art scene, and extraordinary sights, Cyprus has something special in store for anyone regardless of age, interest or budget.
The island country notably features a perfect pairing of the ancient and modern. On one hand, the birthplace of Aphrodite is known for its legendary historic gems. Remnants of the past are preserved in archaeological sites, multifaceted museums, Roman ruins, catacombs, as well as ancient Greek temples. On another hand, it is home to vividly modern towns and cities.
The alluring promise of sand, sun, and sea all year long may make it seem like the Jewel of the Mediterranean is just a beach destination.
But Cyprus has a lot more to offer. Its long, winding and tumultuous history provide the gift of discovery and wonderment. And its endless stretches of fine golden sand, turquoise waters, secluded bays, and magnificent mountains offer an exquisite escape from the demands of everyday life.
If you are truly looking to uncover the heart of the island—its people, culture and traditions—a trip to the villages is in order.
Time seems to stand still in these villages. Here, the Cypriot people still design elaborate silverware, weave lace with their bare hands, make traditional Halloumi cheese, and maintain wineries tucked on the sides of picturesque rocky hills.
In the foothills of Troodos Mountain, the largest mountain range in Cyprus, is the Omodos village.
The charming traditional village is situated in the region of Limassol District some 80 kilometres from the capital city Nicosia. Well known for its tradition and heritage, it is home to one of the most significant religious structures in the region.
The village is also popular for its wineries where Zivania, the strong spirit made from grape skin and Commandaria, a sweet dessert wine hail from. During the month of August, the locals hold an annual wine festival to celebrate the wine production in the region.
The Monastery of the Holy Cross is a meaningful part of the Cypriot people’s cultural heritage. The ancient cobbled church houses notable of relics including the Great Cross with the Holy Rope, The Cross of the “Panateros”, and a fragment of a stone from the horrid Golgotha, to name a few.
The striking 17-century monastery is easily accessible by strolling through the main street of Omodos. The setting is peaceful and quiet, a perfect spot if you are looking for a slice of solitude.
The Holy Cross monastery bears great significance to the history of Cyprus. With this in mind, dressing appropriately is a must to show a sign of respect.
The picturesque plaza is the heart and soul of the wine-producing village. Walking through the plaza is the most idyllic way to acquaint yourself with Omodos and its people.
Among the largest plazas in Cyprus, the Omodos plaza, which dates back to 1910, ranges around 3000 square meters. It is right in front of the majestic monastery. Alongside are beautiful traditional houses where locals reside.
There is beauty in the way locals go about their daily life and how it intertwines with the exploring travellers. Here, you may find residents playing backgammon, bridge or chess in the hospitable coffee houses as you stroll about the village.
There are traditional cafés, souvenir shops, recreational centres, small taverns and restaurants where travellers can while away their time.
Wherever you are, museums are a great way to find out more about what matters most to its people. Omodos has a number of museums.
The Struggle Museum represents the national liberation struggle of Cyprus against the British colony. The people of Omodos decide to build the museum as a reminder for the younger generation to honour and remember the national struggles.
Meanwhile, the Byzantine Icons Museum, which was established in 1960 to preserve the monastery’s ancient icons from different eras. Both museums are at the monastery.
The Centre for the Preservation of Narrow-Knit Lacing underscores the preserving Omodos traditional folkloric craft. Here, one can learn about the process of making narrow knit lace. The art deeply embedded in the souls of the women of Omodos is passed on from one generation to another. While the exhibit is simple, its significance to the locals is immeasurable.
Those who are keen on visiting the quaint village will find the weather and crowd much friendlier in months of April to May. It is a generally great time to explore Cyprus. The sun is forgiving, the nights are pleasantly cool, the hills are a vibrant green, and wildflowers are blooming.
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Charles is a world traveler having lived in 44 states and 11 countries and traveled to dozens more. He and his wife spend time between London, Ireland, Canada, and the Philippines.