Exploring Cyprus from Past to PresentCyprus, Destinations — By Julie F on May 26, 2011 at 7:00 am
Lost Girl Julie Falconer recently took a trip to Cyprus and spent two days exploring the historical highlights of the country. Read on for a selection of her personal essays of her trip experiences. See Julie’s London travel blog and Europe travel website for more stories.
When most people think of Cyprus, they think of Greece. In fact, many think that this island in the Mediterranean is part of Greece. But Cyprus is its own country. While many of its southern inhabitants are Greek, the island is divided, with the northern part being predominantly Turkish.
But the Greeks and the Turks are not the only ones to have played a role in making Cyprus the country it is today. The island’s history dates back thousands of years. Some of the highlights of visiting the country are the many ancient Greek and Roman ruins that dot the land from the coast to the mountains.
I had the opportunity to visit some of these places recently when I took a weekend trip to Paphos, a coastal city in western Cyprus. The city was home to the open-air Paphos Archaeological Park, where Roman villas with exquisite mosaic floors were on display. The sheer size of the park and the quality of the mosaics were enough to earn the site UNESCO World Heritage status. I spent several hours there exploring the Roman ruins and admiring their intricate artistic details.
Outside of Paphos, there were still more historical sites. Just down the coast I went to a beach with a large rock that was fabled to be Aphrodite’s birthplace. The rock was a pilgrimage site for couples young and old, many of which were taking stones from the beach to make hearts in the sand in honor of the goddess of love.
Further east, the archaeological site of Kourion held more excellent examples of Roman architecture. From villas to amphitheaters, houses to temples, the site was expansive and the restorations were impressive. Here, too, were beautiful Roman mosaics with human and animal depictions, as well as a large agora, or market. There were public baths, a Nymphaeum, and a necropolis as well. Because Kourion developed over the centuries, from the Hellenistic period right up through the early Christian period, the site had the ruins of a large Christian basilica.
Just down the road from Kourion was the impressive Sanctuary of Apollo. There I saw elegant Corinthian columns that were part of the temple of this god. The site also had the remnants of a place of worship dedicated to a deity dating back to 6,000 B.C. As I walked among the ruins, I was amazed at how much history there was on the island.
Back in the present, Cyprus offered a variety of other entertainment as well. I stayed in a seaside hotel in Paphos, the Almyra, where I had a room right on the brilliant blue water. There was a whole range of activities taking place, from jet-skiing to boating, and the shore was lined with lounge chairs and umbrellas in every color.
Away from the shore, I visited the Almyra’s spa for an exfoliating scrub and back massage, and enjoyed late afternoon walks along the waterfront. I had dinners at restaurants along the port, and enjoyed some time relaxing in the sun on the roof deck of my hotel room.
When I wasn’t sitting in the sun or exploring Cyprus’ historical attractions, I took a trip up to the Troodos Mountains in the center of the island. The winding roads went through beautiful villages full of white buildings with blue shutters and orange-tiled roofs. The hills were also home to a plethora of wineries, hiking trails, picnic spots, and vista points with views out over the Mediterranean.
Unfortunately, my time in Cyprus came to an end long before I was finished exploring the country. In fact, I didn’t even make it up to the northern part of the island to see Turkish Cyprus. It’s a good thing, though. It’s always nice to leave something for next time. And with a country as beautiful as Cyprus, there will definitely be a next time.
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