Our explorations of the area surrounding Ammochostos (a.k.a. Famagusta) revealed that it boasts several villages with a compelling history and character. Some places are steeped inmyth and legend and, you might say, are not lacking inlocals with legendary personalities too!A visit to this region with its kaleidoscopic varietywill leave you with a deeper impression of an integral and important part of our island.
You’ll definitely need to set aside a couple of days if you want to cover the sameroute as we did. Alternatively, you can pick out the most interesting points and squeeze them into one action-packed day on the road. As they say, a journey of thousand miles begins with a single step…
Known in Greek as Παραλίμνι, this is the largest village in the free part of Famagusta district (under the control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus) and a temporary administrative centre. In Greek, it is called Ammochostos, whereas in Turkish, it is Mağusa or Gazimağusa. It is on the south-eastern tip of the island some way from the coast ... near a relatively large, shallow lake. This is the origins of the name Paralimni, which means «by a lake». It has a population of about 15 thousand people. Most of the localswork in the tourist industry in Ayia Napa and Protaras, which is a large resort town in the Paralimni district. The otherswork in farming (particularly in the cultivation of early vegetables and melons), retail, secondary agricultural industries, and in traditional crafts.
It is believed that Paralimni’s geographical location means its locals are some of the first to see the sunrise in Europe.
The history of Paralimni starts in the Hellenistic period when the city of Lefkolla (Λεύκολλα) once stood on the site. There were several small settlements in the Byzantine era, the largest of which was next to the church of St. Demetrius. During the Arab raids, the inhabitants of coastal villages sought safety by moving inland away from the sea and settling where modern-day central Paralimni is now. These days, local farmers often find coins and various artefacts when working the land, which point to the existence of ancient settlements in the area.
Since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, Paralimni has seen an influx of Greek refugees from the northern territories and thus grown as a result. With its growing population, its status also increased. In 1986, the village was declared a municipality. Modern day Paralimni blends the benefits of a traditional rural customs with the conveniences of urban life: old churches, houses and taverns coexist in harmony with shopping centres, banks and offices.
Historically, the settlement was built on the bank of a reasonably shallow lake, which only contains water in winter. In the early 20th century, its bottom was dredged for agricultural purposes. Paralimni has not always stood where it is now; the settlement was originally built on the hill closer to Deryneia. However, in the 15th century, the village was moved further inland to prevent it from attack by pirates. It is thought that the first influx of refugees came to Paralimni in 1571 immediately after neighbouring town of Famagusta was captured by the Ottoman Turks. The first settlement was called St. Demetrius and it still bears that name.
The most fascinating part of modern-day Paralimni is its centre where you’ll find unique, preserved ancient monuments and the ruins and fragments of old structures in the buildings. Paralimni is famous for its superb gardens especially when in bloom. The younger generation is investing a lot of money in the construction of modern, attractive houses.
The centre of this modern village is home to a shopping centre and small entertainment outlets, including modern cafes and bars.
The red soil around Paralimni was once a source of its wealth and is still of great importance to this day. There area is renowned for its successful potato farming and its beautiful windmills used to pump water from underground aquifers and irrigate nearby fields.
Upon arrival, it’s best to head straight to the centre to see the main sights. You’ll be able to find several «impromptu» parking spaces nearby. The first think you’ll notice is the local architecture: squat, two or three-storey buildings that are generally built in a traditional urban style (central Paralimni is effectively a small town) with local, unique features. Despite being cut off from the major towns and cities, there is strangely a fair amount of traffic: for some reason, there is a constant flow of beeping cars on the roads and the cafes are always crowded. The central square is very modern and is set up so that the surrounding scenery forms a natural backdrop for the town’s holidays and public events.
Agios Georgios Church, a metropolitan three-nave church dedicated to St. George, the patron saint of the town, dominates over Paralimni’s town square. The church was built in the traditional Byzantine style from 1963 to 1966 and decorated with modern frescoes, and two mosaic icons toboth sides of the main entrance: The Saviour and The Miracle of George of the Dragon. The dome is adorned with an impressive fresco that depicts the Lord Almighty surrounded by archangels, prophets and saints. The Byzantine three-nave church has a stunning interior: wall paintings in the style of modern frescoes, intricate woodwork, and outstanding icons. The most impressive example is on the arch of the dome and is of the Lord Almighty surrounded by archangels, prophets and saints. There is also a tall gilded iconostasis.
Nearby, on the surrounding square there is a church shop that sells books, icons, incense burners and oil lamps made of coloured glass.
The Gothic Agios Georgios Church is next to the Metropolitan Cathedral (incidentally you’ll also find the Metropolitan Constantine and Ammochostos church here which has flanked the cathedral on the right-hand side since 2007). It is built of limestone and has Neo-Gothic carvings: there is a carved and painted image of St. George in the naive style in the upper part of the portal above the entrance. The inscription on a marble slab states that the church was built in 1859 on the site of an old Byzantine church. The bell tower and colonnade were later included in the structure. There is a fresco covering part of its northern wall which depicts The Miracle of St. George of the Dragon. The construction of the church began in 1859 while services only started in 1891, on April 19th. One of the most important local holidays, celebrated on April 23, is dedicated to the Saint.
The Ayia Anna Church, also known as the old Panagia Chapel, is a two-nave Byzantine domed church built of local limestone (shell limestone) in the 13th century. It is also a small church museum with a collection of 18th century ceramics. It houses a collection of rare decorative porcelain plates. The museum was restored and renovated and was subsequently dedicated to St. Anne. Initially, the chapel was decorated with frescoes, which were later destroyed. Only small fragments have survived which give us a suggestion of how they once looked. These days there is a church museum here with icons from the 16th-19th centuries. There are also ancient decorative caps of stone gutters and dormer windows, which have been preserved. The church is down from the main square.
Something to look out for: when you approach the church, you will pass by the town square in the ensemble and the house’s elegantly in-keeping stone wall with a doorway in the form of an arch, a symbol of a bygone era. The metal frame work above shows the date of its construction as 1930.
There is a monument to Tasos Markou (born 1936), the hero, major general, regional EOKA leader, underground nationalist Greek Cypriot liberation movement fighting against British rule (1955-1959) and native of Paralimni. Nearby, there is a stand with information about his military achievements: despite the fact that the British deported Markou from Cyprus to Greece, he went away, built up his knowledge of how to conduct warfare, returned and took up an active role in the fightto the chagrin of the incumbent powers.
At the end of the fight, when Cyprus had earned its long-awaited independence, Markou joined the ranks and was involved in the establishment of the Cypriot National Guard in 1961. His part in the fight for liberation did not end there and when the Turkish invaders came to the island in July 1974, he once again joined the defending forces: on August 14 Tasos Markouwas with the detachment at the front advancing from the Pentadaktylos mountain as they desperately tried to resist the huge and powerful Turkish army despite not having the necessary weapons ... That's the kind of people Ammochostos produces and we’ll come across numerous more examples along the way.
When leaving the square, I happened to notice a touching moment: the locals who pass the monument to their special fellow villager either on foot, on scooters, or in cars have the habit of discretely crossing themselves — the people's love for him is still strong.
We are now moving on to one of the more interesting sights near Paralimni: its seasonal lake.
It is out west between Paralimni and Sotira and has been a protected natural habitat under the Natura-2000 project since 2009. The lake is in a natural dip in the terrain and is filled with rainwater that flows in from Paralimni and the neighbouring hills during winter. It is the natural habitat of the Cypriot grass snake (Natrix Natrix Cypriaca, as non-venomous amphibian snake that preys on fish and amphibians). The dense sedge woods that lineits banks are where many migrating birds find shelter.
Its territory coversan area of the bay on the eastern tip of Cyprus near the ancient and once cosmopolitan city of Salamis (6-4th centuries BC). This large village is just 2km from Varosha. It is still unclear why this region was given the name Deryneia. It probably stems from the name of the ancient settlement of Therymio, which was between modern-day Deryneia and the coast.
Historian Simos Menardos and the famous Sir J. Goodwin (An Historical Toponymy of Cyprus, third edition, 1978) maintain that the first settlers came here after the Trojan War. They had previously founded another city, Gerineia, near Pylos (in the Peloponnese), which was the capital of the kingdom of the semi-mythical king Nestor, which Homer calls Gerinion.
In turn, the Cypriot historian, Nearchos Clerides, expresses a different theory of the origin of the name in his book on the villages of Cyprus, which states it was named on behalf of one of the foreign generals that once set up camp on the local hills.
It was the local community here that was one of the first to establish several creative groups in their village: for dance, theatre and music.
You can clearly see the town of Varosha (Βαρώσια), popular with tourists in the early 1970s, as well as traces of shells left behind from the so-called Operation Attila (July 20-21, 1974, on August 15, Famagusta fell under occupation) from the roof of the local cultural centre and cafes (admission to the viewing platformcosts 2 euros, cafe visitors get a discountand you’ll be given strong binoculars for your custom).
Incidentally, after the Turkish invasion, about 75% of the area surrounding the village became part of Northern Cyprus.
The village has a population of about 6 thousand people and has been its own municipality since 1994. The current mayor is Andros Karayiannis. The village has fertile soil and is famed for its strawberry crop and its biennial Strawberry Festival. The strawberry was introducedas a commercial crop here 55 years ago by the farmer, Mitsio Giannoukou, and now makes up 60% of the total strawberry harvest on the island. The first PancyprianStrawberry Festival was organised here by the municipality in 1999 and since then has gone on to be a fun (and tasty!) event that involves strawberry fairsas well as strawberry-based products (jams, juice, liqueurs, sweets and ice-cream), and an entertaining creative program, It is held in mid-May in cooperation with the impressively named Cyprus Strawberry Farmers and is attended by thousands of visitors...
What’s more, another agricultural festival is held here every year in May, where participants and guests have the chance to try the first honey, ice cream and there is a demonstration of traditional halva production.
Deryneia is also a proud sporting village. The Anagennisi (Renaissance) sports association was founded in 1920 and is one of the oldest clubs in Cyprus. It includes men's and women's football and volleyball teams. Deryneia’s athletes have had great successboth at the national level and worldwide in track and field athletics and shooting.
Deryneia is also home to a few sights and monuments that are a must-see.
Three churches: Agios Georgios (the smallest, a domed church from the 17th century.); Ayia Marina (15th century) and the Church of the Virgin Mary (Panagias Deryneias, from the turn of the 15th - 16th centuries) with a bell tower and a catechetical school in the courtyard. It is famous for its magnificent 17th century icons and carved iconostasis (1911). They are in the centre of the village. Nearby, there is a traditional old fountain (1953) in the street. There is a modern playground and a garden where you can sit and relax near the entrance to the Museum.
The Deryneia Folk Art Museum
The museum was founded on February 5, 2013 with the support of the European Agricultural Fund. The first part of the complex is linked by its theme as well as a small area, which was built quite recently: a cultural centre with a permanent exhibition, which regularly holds educational and entertainment events for both tourists and the younger local population. Its goal is to revive local arts, folk arts and crafts, and teach the general public about them in authentically reconstructed craft workshops.
Each of the common local arts and crafts has a separate room connected to the othersby a covered gallery: carpentry and wood-carving; traditional domestic female needlework and housekeeping (spinning, weaving, including silk, embroidery, baking and cooking, as well as making decorative panels from silkworm cocoons); a shoemaker/cobbler’s workshop; tailor's and seamstress's studio, an fisherman’s room, a blacksmith’s forge, a hairdresser/barber’s shop. Each skillhas been recorded in the paintings of local artist, Yorgos Soukas, in which he captures his fellow villagers who have made a name for themselves in one of the crafts.
There is an open-air exhibition of local agricultural tools over the years in the courtyard garden. A range of tools used in local agriculture are on display as well as a fishing boat and an ancient well. It is of particular note that it is the Ammochostos region, Famagusta, starting in Ayia Napa, where we often find wooden forks in the local museums. They were presumably used togather and dry hay. There is a cafeteria in the Museum. On Saturdays, there are master classes held by modern-day artisans in the village ...
We arrived in the evening and, although it was still out of tourist season, young local resident and café owner Achilleas kindly opened the exhibition for us and told us all about the area, for which we are truly grateful!
He started his story with a rarity: an old green car belonging to a local independence fighter, a young member of EOKA, Dimitrakis Christodoulou (1936-1957), who died in battle with the British military. He had managed to buy a car, which was rare in those days. The car was used by him and his friends, local heroes Ilias Papakiriak and Alekos Konstantin, during several liberation and sabotage missions against the colonial forces. Later, he even joined the partisan detachment under the leadership of Grigoris Afxentiouin Palaichori. On February 17, 1957, the detachment where Christodoulou was serving was betrayed and ambushed, and he died in the crossfire. His car was soon confiscated by the British and was even «under arrest» for three years ...
As you may have already gathered, heroism and the independence movementare deeply ingrainedthe villages in the region: their image, and the design of local memorials, museums and other cultural heritage sights bear their strong influence.
The Museum has a lounge-café where they make great coffee!
Address: 3 Dimitri Liberty Street, Deryneia
Monday – Saturday (Summer, except national holidays), 9:00 – 13:00 and 15:00 – 18:00;
Monday – Saturday (Winter, except national holidays), 9:00 – 13:00 and 15:00 – 17:00.
Admission: 2 euros (for groups — 1 euro per person)
If you walk just across the square, you’ll see a traditional one-storey farmhouse with a lush green courtyard. This is where the second part of the exhibition, the Folk Art Museum, can be found.
Here, there are a wide range of different tools, carved wooden furniture, porcelain, clothing and home textiles. Each mini hall is dedicated to an individual theme, i.e. a separate aspect of the villagers’ life: the part of the house where women traditionally worked, the living room, the craft workshop with a display dedicated to shepherds, and the laundry and kitchen. There is an extensive list of benefactors at the entrance.
Address: 2 Dimitri Liberty Street, Deryneia
Admission is free, although donations are welcome in both parts of the museum. You can buy a book about the Museum and its collections in the farmhouse side for 5 euros.
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10:00 – 17:00
FaceBook page: Deryneia Town Cyprus
This village is 75m above sea level to the west of Paralimni and was first recorded in the Byzantine era. There was a royal estate here during the time of the Franks. The area is known for its Kokkinochorya, i.e. red soil villages. It is thus named for the colour of its highly fertile soils which Ammochostos is famous for — author’s note E.K-T.].
The population of Sotira in 2011 was 5,474 people. That same year, it became its own municipality (currently in operation, it re-elected its mayor, Giorgos Takkas). The village’s name comes from its main church, the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ (Sotiras in Greek means Saviour). The church houses beautiful examples of late Byzantine art (a.k.a. the Palaeologus Renaissance, 1261-1453). The Church of Agios Mamas is near the village’s eastern entrance;it was originally built in the 12th century and later rebuilt in the 16th century.In fact, its walls are covered with 16th century frescoes. If you travel 25km to the west, you’llcome across another architectural monument of note: the cross-shaped church of Panagia Chordakiotissa (15th century), whose dome was recently restored.
Sotira’s third church is named after St. George the Victorious and is early Christian, has three-naves and is an example of a Syrian basilica. Typically, they have short naves and the churches are relatively small in general. There is also a small church museum, which is worth a visit.
The village used to have its own football club, Kentro Neon Onisilos Sotira, which was founded in 1978 and named after Onesilus, the renowned past king of Salamis and leader of the rebels during the Ionian revolt. The club played in the Cypriot First Division in the 2003 – 2004 season but by July 16, 2014 it hadclosed down due to financial problems.
In August 2016, Sotira was officially recognised as the «historical origins» (more precisely, the protected designation of origin) of Cyprus’ very popular root, kolokasi (taro). Therefore, it comes as no surprise that it is here that the kolokasi harvest festivals are held!
The village’s architectural style comprisesone-storeyed, P- or L-shaped houses with a large arched veranda and a colonnade façade, which, as we have already seen, is typical of the designs over the last decades and can be widely found in the villages of the Famagusta area. As a rule, residential buildings are built deep ina garden, not on the roadside as was common later in modern designs.
There are two main village churches. The Transfiguration of Christ (Anastasios tu Sotiros Christus) is the main village church and gave the village its name: Sotira means Saviour. Also on the square, there is another church, the old chapel of St. George, which has a church museum.
The Meletion Historical Museum (which is nearby) is a traditional one-storey house with a colonnade facade and four rooms. Even if you are short on time and can’t go inside, some of the artefacts are outside. They are presented under the theme, Cyprus through the Centuries, and form an informative display of the past and cast light on the ancient history of the region. One of the stands offers information about St. Meletios, one of the Holy Fathers of the Church, the bishop and archbishop of Antioch, linked with Constantius, who was born in 310 in Melitine in Armenia, and was held in high regard among Christians. The museum also holds themed events. There is also a small display case with the archaeological remains found during the digs at the site of the ancient village of Stravon (Stroni), which was south of modern-day Sotira. Its is thought to have flourished in the 4th–2nd centuries BC. There are also large vertical display caseswith festive folk costumes, daily items and tools, and works of decorative and applied art, from approximately the 1950-60s.
Incidentally, it was here that I first saw a variation on the designs of the famous and exceedingly popular silkworm cocoon panels. Unlike the large, highly-decorated versions I’d seen, the local examples here were the opposite — miniatures in round or oval frames edged with fine lacework, which is also famous in the region. You can buy souvenirs or have a cup of Cypriot coffee in the museum shop and cafe.
It was particularly interesting to learn about historical names given to Cyprus: Khettiim – Kerastis – Aspelia – Kryptos – Kolinia – Chalkidis – Amathousia – Akamantis – Paphia – Sfikia – Salamina – Makaria – Iousiniani – the Saint Island – Kypros – Cyprus.
Address: 26GrivaDigeni Street, Sotira(Famagusta)
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10:30 – 13:00 and 16:00 – 20:00 (Summer) and 16:00 – 18:00 (Winter)
Admission: 2 euros (concessions — 1 euro)
Telephone: +357 23743311, +357 99628437 (Panikos)
Sotira and its residents have plans to dramatically develop their village over the next few years and the local authorities have already put together plans to modernise the village, develop tourism and sports, and promote the region’s historical monuments and local treasures.
Like Paralimni, Sotira has access to Lake Limni along Stadiou Street.
This village is 10 km from Famagusta — Ammochostos and is also in the Republic of Cyprus. It is thought that the villagewas named in the Lusignan era after the brotherhood of monks called Fremenors who lived in the Panayia of Hortanion monastery.
Inside the church of Ayia Marina, there are preserved frescoes, which, judging by the painting style, were executed by different artists.
There are also two small Byzantine churches in the village: Agios Andronikos and Archangel Michael (both 7th century). Just like in Paralimni and in some other villages in the region, there are ancient and modern churches side by side. The modern churches are actually the main churches of the villages. They were once built outside the village but over the years the villages’ constant growth enveloped the churches and today they are in fact a central focal point. The reason for this is simple: as the centuries passed, the old churches were no longer big enough to hold all the parishioners of the sprawling villages and towns. The older church of Archangel Michael is a medieval, one-nave domed church and an example of magnificent ancient church architecture. It has structural adornments dating from the period of the Franks (1192-1489). It previously served as a Catholic church.
Nextdoor, you’ll find the new church of Archangel Michael, which was built in 1969 and holds up to 250 churchgoers for a service. It is home to an icon of the Our Lady of Saidnaya (named after the monastery in Syria), an example of Byzantine art (14th century). In Cyprus, this icon is known as the Most Holy Mother of the Hunt. At the very bottom of this incredible icon there are three human figures, probably the pilgrims who ordered this icon painted after a miracle that occurred during their pilgrimage to the monastery of Saidnaya.
We also visited the stone church of Agios Anastasios (2003), whose interior walls are covered with modern frescoes. The style and iconography (especially in the faces of the saints and images of scenes from the New Testament) suggest that it was the same artistthat was invited to paint the Church of Profitis Elias ON a Rock at Protaras. Inside, there are thehand painted icons of St. Anastasia the Miracle-worker (Feast Day — 17 September), St. Xenophon, Mary and sons John (later known as St. John of the Ladder) and Arcadius. There are also hand painted icons in a simple,small (two-tier) iconostasis. One of them depicts the symbolic image of Jesus as the Saviour of the Great Hierarchas he is portrayed in a mitreand priestly vestments, which is rather rare for Cypriot church iconography. During a service, the church can hold about 80 worshippers.
In 2011, the population of Frenaros was 4,898. It is also home to the young actress and pop singer, Eleftheria Eleftheriou (born in 1989), who enjoys fame both in Cyprus and abroad. In 2009, she came fifth in the Greek X Factor. Later in 2012, she represented Greece at Eurovision with her song, Aphrodisiac, and came 17th. She released her first album, Teleiosame, in 2014.
This village is in the southern part of the region, near Frenaros, Sotira and Xylofagou (a village in Larnaca district).Goodwin also believes its name is related to the rocky landscape and comes from the Latin for stones, which then underwent changes owing to the local Greek dialect (in Greek, li(g)o petri means several stones).
On September 2, 1958 there was a battle here between the British and four EOKA fighters, Fotis Pittas, Andreas Karyos, Elias Papakyriakou, and Christos Samaras, all natives of Liopetri who died heroically in the struggle. The stone barn there, which was one of the places where the fight for Cyprus’ independence took place, has now been repurposed as the Akhyronas National Memorial and Museum.
It is a known fact that up to the events of 1974, the village’s population was mixed (Greek and Turkish Cypriot). What’s more, according to the census conducted by the Ottomans in 1831, the overwhelming majority of the population were Turks (80%). The «British» census in 1881 illustrated a reverse trend with the Christian population being predominant.
The village has long been hailed for its baskets and vine wickerwork in general. These days, there are only a few elderly craft artists still working in these arts. According to the census, the village population in 2011 was 4591 people.
The church also possesses beautiful, unique examples of church architecture: namely the medieval churches of Panagia and Agios Andronikos (both dating back to the 15th century).
Agios Andronikos has an octagonal dome and fragments of a fresco in the apse and has been both a Catholic chapel and later a mosque.
The medieval Ayia Panagia chapel is in the very centre of Liopetri and it is living testimony of the past eras in which the village was founded and developed. The stone structure with itsposterior columns and arches of the portico (the covered gallery, which was built onalongside the bell tower in 1901in the Gothic style) is decorated with carvings in the limestone and has a faceted apse. The church still holds services.However, it only takes place once a year on one of the holidays dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In the evenings, the whole village comes outto the square to listen to musicians, watch traditional dances, and just chat with their fellow villagers just as it was years ago.
We went onwards, parking in the big car park near Liopetri’s main modern working cathedral. The church is made of grey limestone and has decorative white half-columns and other elements, and is covered in traditional red tiles.
There is a memorial complex nearby: a stele lined with white marble and pedestals either side with rather crude (bronze) busts of the five soldiers from Liopetri that were heroically killed in July and August 1974 in conflicts with Turkish invaders. The stele also displays photos and names of three local men that went missing at that time. Behind the complex, there is an open-air municipal theatre (a modern semicircular amphitheatre painted white and blue).
Not far from the village, you’ll find the fisherman's harbour of Potamos Liopetriu, which is called a «river» (hence the «ποταμός»), which has the two best fish restaurants in the area. Nearby you can also see the ruins of a Venetian tower that was visited by the French poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) in the 1880s.
This village is one of the largest in the region. It neighbours Frenaros, Sotira, Liopetri and Ormideia, and is 40m above sea level. This region boasts the darkest red earth, which means the local soils are highly fertile. The main agricultural crops grown in Avgorou are: potatoes and other root vegetables, as well as olives, hops, locust beans, and various fruits. The local population is 5,000 people, of whom 3,500 are native to the area, the rest are involuntary settlers (Greeks who fled from the north of the island after the 1974 Turkish occupation), and foreigners (mostly British).
When we arrived, we headed straight to the well-known botanical park Cyherbia in order to make the most of our free time. It’s easy to find: there are signposts all over the village. Having navigated around several neighbourhood farms, we ended up at the gates of the park, stopping by to enjoy the plethora of aromas, the peace and quiet, and the long-awaited restorative shadecast by various indigenous trees and shrubs that grow here. There is a small car park inside there are signs directing you to the ticket office. This place has plenty to do and see with a cafeteria, a viewing platform, a souvenir shop, a shop that sells unique, eco-friendly products made on the farm, and a distillery.
All information about the Park (which, incidentally,is widely praised and has been bestowed with various awards) is available in four languages, including Russian and German. All visitors are asked to not to litter and not stray from the trails during their walks. The vast territory of the park is divided into several different zones and themed gardens. Of the gardens on offer (we’ll go into this in detail a little later), the highlights that will tempt you inside for a pleasant stroll include the real green maze, nature reserve, and «Tour of Cyprus» which covers the most iconic sights and offers further information about the plantlife you encounter as well as the history of the towns and points of interest on the island: Larnaca (St. Lazarus Church), Limassol (Kourion), Paphos (the Tombs of the Kings), and Famagusta (Salamis).
Check this out: the owner and founder of the park, Miranda, (a professional biologist and herbalist) and her staff hold a huge number of holiday-centred, educational, recreational, and game-based activities for families and groups here both independently and in conjunction with other organisations and farms.
On the day we visited, Mrs. Tringis met us and kindly showed us around the grounds. In total, there are nine different themed gardens, which are circular in shape. This is clearly visible from the viewing platform. There is a garden for relaxation, where guests can take a leisurely stroll with a «lavender» meditation. In the middle of the garden there is a gazebo surrounded by lavender bushes which have been planted in concentric circles to form a labyrinth. We also recommend enjoying a strollthrough the Pharmacy, Bathhouse, Aromatic, and Ladies’ gardens and pop in to take a lookat Potpourri, the Cypriot Garden as well as the others!
Opening hours: May – October, daily 9:30 – 19:00; November – April, daily 9:30 – 17:00.
Admission: 5 euros, children — 3 euros
Telephone: +357 99915443
After visiting the park, we headed to the centre of Avgorou and came across the large square near the central church.
The Church of the Apostles Peter and Paul. It is interesting to note that despite the fact that the church, which has a fascinating architectural design and beautiful stone carved decoration was built long ago, there are still works being undertaken on its exterior: it is in the process of being decorated with modern mosaics. What’s more, the artist is none other than our old friend Constantinos Christou (we’ve written about him here). His first mosaic, the Apostle Peter, was completed quite recently, in 2017.
The monument. As in many villages in this region, there is a monument near the church dedicated to villagers executed by the British authorities in 1958 for participating in the EOCA liberation organisation, and those that went missing during the invasion of the Turkish troops in 1974. Here, an allegorical female figure is crossing herself over a laurel wreath with the names of the victims carved into white marble ...
The Church of Agios Georgios Teratsiotis is on the outskirts of the village (more precisely, between Avgorou and Achna). In the shade of large trees behind a stone wall, the one-nave mid-Byzantine church, stands alone as if frozen in time as a solitary hermit darkened over time. Building started in the 10th-12th centuries and finally completed in the 16th century. Its grounds contain an ancient necropolis from the Cypro-archaic era (750-600 BC).
The church has an octagonal dome and there is a Maltese crosscarved in stone above the entrance. Upon entering, you can find information in Greek and Russian about the church’s history. There are two legends about how it goes its name: the first talks of a young woman who drops and loses her precious gold necklace during a religious holiday. Unable to find it, she prayed for the help of St. George and was able to miraculously find it in the hollow of the «teratsies» tree (a.k.a carob tree). The second legend talks of an event that happened to a holy man who was passing through the neighbourhood. A demon appeared to him and snatched the Bible out of his hands. The holy man simply laughed and told the demon that if he wanted to display his strength, he shoulduproot all the carob trees from the surrounding area ... the demon was perplexed and the holy man took this opportunity to escape. Later, he returned and built the church to honour the event and dedicated it to St. George.
When we visited, the church was open and when I stepped inside its dim interior, I was hit by unusually strong smell of incense ... which was a surprise because there was no one there and there was just one small lamp aflame. There are almost no frescos in the church except in small niches. The faces of the saints are chipped and have been damaged. There are preserved fragments of a large fresco of The Virgin Hodegetria and Child behind the gilded carved iconostasis in the altar of the apse. To the left and right of the altar window, there is an icon that displays the Saints most revered in Cyprus: Apostle Barnabas — the founder of the Church on the island, Lazarus of the Four Days — Bishop of Kition, Aristobulus — one of the 70 apostles, Titus — a disciple of the Apostle Paul, Sergius Paulus — a Roman proconsul, Spyridon of Trimiphunt — Bishop, Epiphanius — Bishop of Cyprus and religious writer. This is a unique image where the Apostles and the Saints of Cyprus are depicted together in onemural.
Leaving Avgorou, you also have the chance to visit nearby Achna.
After the occupation of 1974, the local population (which today is around 2.5 thousand people) moved a couple of kilometres from the village’s former location to the town of Dasaki-Akhnas. The football club Ethnikos, founded in 1968, is based here.
Alternatively, you can bypass Achna and can go and see the dam located between the villages and a donkey farm.
The Achna dam is on the road from Avgoru to Larnaca: the smooth surface of its lake-like water glistens in the sun enlivening the surrounding landscape. Construction of the dam with a capacity of 6,000,000m3 of water and a height of 6m was completed in 1988. Its water is used mainly for agricultural purposes. The dam is a unique natural habitat for migratory birds.
The donkey farm and amusement park is near the reservoir. It was founded based on the principle of other similar projects such as the famous Oleastro park in Anogyra.
The surrounding area stretches out in picturesque fields and groves. When we arrived, the donkeys were grazing but soon enough the most curious and sociable one approached us to say hello.
The park and farm has been designed with the whole family in mind: there are lots of interesting things to see besides the baby and adult donkeys. You can wander around the zoo and get to know the animals there: they are all curious to meet new guests. The zoo has it all: from monkeys and micropigs, to lambs and goats and their young. The female goats and sheep are kept apart from their male counterparts in separate enclosures. The males will occasionally get into fights. There are also various birds, both wild and domestic. There is a playground in the middle of the green park with a pond and paths, a large restaurantset above the surrounding fields with a view of the reservoir, with a piano and a small exhibition of household items and folk costumes, and a souvenir shop.
Visitors have the chance to go on a night safari, A Taste of Cyprus, which starts off on the east coast. The program runs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday: 17:00-22:00. The safari begins with a tour of the Red Soil Villages (see above) and ends up at the local amusement park with its small zoo and donkey farm on the picturesque bank of the reservoir. You’ll also be able to taste traditional Cypriot food: the local dishes and drinks, bread and sweets.
Then, after a pleasant rest, you’ll take a donkey ride through local plantations to the church of Agios Georgios Teratsiotis. Then, upon returning to the Park, there’ll be a barbecue with wine (for the adults of the group). After the meal, there will be a Cypriot folk dance and music presentation where you are encouraged to join in!
Children are also welcome to meet and play with the zoo animals under the supervision of qualified employees. There areyoung donkeys, dogs, rabbits, tortoises, lambs and goat kids. The younger members of the family can also enjoy a dance class, the playground and there is even face-painting on offer.
We visited one of the best regions in Cyprus: famous not only for its mild climate, beautiful beaches and history (ancient cultural monuments) but also an abundance of crafts, traditions, and the heroic deeds of the local people in recent history.
The 714 bus runs between the villages in the region.
We wish you a pleasant adventure and look forward to seeing you soon!