Cyprus is blessed with year round sunshine, fantastic beaches and a rich archaeological heritage. Yet it’s also one of the top ecotourism destinations worldwide. When deciding where to stay in Cyprus, consider combining a beach stay with a trip to Troodos Mountains and Lofou village. Rural tourism is well established here and you’ll be surprised by the variety of accommodation and activities on offer. Take a look at some of the highlights here.
Troodos is the highest range of Cyprus mountains, situated in the centre of the island but within easy reach of the coast. Dotted with cedar and pine trees, it was nominated Best Emerging Rural Destination in Cyprus. Troodos weather can be a bit unpredictable so make sure to pack warm clothes for the evening and a waterproof jacket. In fact, those heading to Mount Olympus, the peak of the Troodos Mountains at 1,952 meters, should even take a ski jacket as there are four ski slopes! If you’re looking for a charming Troodos hotel, then Ambelikos Agro Hotel is a perfect choice. Driving through the scenic forest towards the hotel, we were impressed with the quality of the roads.
Ambelikos Agro Hotel
This traditional agro hotel is located in the heart of Troodos in Potamitissa village. The sense of calm is all-encompassing and the views over the surrounding mountains are stunning. We met the owner of Ambelikos at the hotel reception who checked us in speedily. Our room had a balcony overlooking the valley with a lovely four-poster bed. We dined twice at Ambelikos and the river trout is particularly good so try that if you go. A simple salad of fresh tomatoes and feta cheese was elevated to something special by the quality of the ingredients. Troodos is well established as a wine making region and we sampled Tsiakkas wine with our meals. This family run winery in nearby Pelendri is known for the quality of its organic wine. We also enjoyed a hearty breakfast of local cheese, meat, bread and jam in the courtyard under the vines.
Agros is renowned for its rose water distillation and cultivation of roses. The Tsolakis family chose this region 70 years ago for its nutrient-rich soil, cool climate and high altitude as the ideal location in which to plant its roses. They’re not any old roses though, they’re beautiful pink ones known as Rosa Damascena or damask roses. Since then, The Rose Factory has established a complete range of skin and bodycare products using rose essential oil and organic rosewater, Venus Rose Cosmetics. They also produce rose candles, chocolates, vinegar, jam, tea and liqueur! There’s a Rose Festival in the village in the first half of May which sounds like great fun.
A few minutes away from the Rose Factory on Triantafyllou St. you’ll find Nikis Sweets workshop. Housed in a picturesque stone building adorned with paper roses, it’s a cottage industry that employs many local women. They use only pure ingredients with no added preservatives to make the most delicious spoon sweets and jams including hawthorn, which you only find in Cyprus. We’ve tasted it and it was superb! On our factory tour, we saw the distinctive Cypriot Soutzioukos sweets drying on racks. They’re made with a mix of local white grape juice, rosewater and wholewheat flour, into which strings of almonds or walnuts are dipped. Nikis Sweets are sold all over Cyprus and exported to Asia, the USA and Europe.
Fikardou Rural Museum
Fikardou is a picture perfect village that has been protected by the Cyprus Department of Antiquities and transformed into a Rural Museum. It was deserted in the early 19th century and the traditional Cyprus houses have now been preserved, with two of them being converted into museums. The house of Achilleas Dimitri is now a weaver’s workshop, whilst the House of Katsinioros has many agricultural tools on display. We spent a few hours strolling around, seeing cats basking in the sunshine and people relaxing at a local taverna. It’s open from 8.30 am to 4 pm, Monday to Sunday.
The Painted Churches of Palaichori
The village of Palaichori is fortunate to have 4 surviving Byzantine churches. The Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour is UNESCO listed as one of the painted churches in the Troodos Region. In all, there are 10 painted churches in the Troodos region included in the list. Mr. Kyriakos Lagos kindly showed us around the church and gave us a potted history of this impressive site.From the outside, the building with its steep wooden roof is fairly typical of local churches in the 16th century. Its the interiors that are truly exceptional, with stunning Byzantine wall paintings. On the upper section, the Cycle of Christ is depicted, whilst the lower level comprises paintings of apostles, monks and saints. The identity of the artist is unknown and the exact date is also unclear, although there is an inscription dated 1612 on one of the porticoes. The opening hours are 10 am to 1 pm, Tuesday to Thursday and if you need assistance, you can call: +99 79 33 62 or +99 97 42 30.
In Farmakas village, we met Daniel Anastasis, the owner of Farmakas Living, 5 comfortable guest houses in the village, the Farmakas water factory, Santa Irene Winery and Ierambelos Restaurant. The latter is a very stylish place overlooking the vineyards, known for its fusion cuisine cooked on a Josper grill. Children will love visiting the donkeys nearby who were rescued by Daniel and his wife Theoni. We tucked into a selection of superb hot and cold Cypriot mezze before taking a tour of the winery with Mr. Anastasis.
You can spot the earthwear pots where wine used to be made from a glass peephole in the restaurant floor. These days, they’re used for maturing sherry and the wines are matured in stainless steel vats. Santa Irene winery has won several awards for its wines. The vines have been restored and a modern winery built which now produces up to 50,000 bottles a year. There’s the blanc de noir Daniel wine, a dry white made from the red mavro ambelisimo grape, as well as rosé, shiraz and other red wines. This wine label is designed by the owner’s daughter.
Daniel also showed us around Eleni’s Homemade Sweets in the village. We watched as soutzioukos were prepared by boiling fruit in sugar and water. Once the syrup had set, the sweets were hung up to dry on racks. As you can see, they also had a tempting selection of spoon sweets!
Kyperounta Adventure Mountain Park
One of the best things about the Troodos Mountains is the huge array of outdoor sports and activities on offer. From hiking to cycling, there’s something for everyone. At the Adventure Mountain Park in Kyperounta, you can try all sorts of things including paintball, laser tag, Tyrolean traverse, ice skating and orienteering. It’s popular with children, adults and also for team building activities. We tried our hand at climbing and archery. Our patient instructor, who is also the owner, first showed us the ropes (pardon the pun) on a beginner’s wall before we progressed to the main wall. Anyone over the age of 8 can sign up for this activity, which we certainly enjoyed although we found it challenging to progress upwards! Archery was easier to get the hang of and Paul was soon hitting the target like a pro! There’s a restaurant with an outdoor terrace which serves up delicious homemade apple pie, in case you fancy a break or would simply rather watch from the sidelines.
The traditional village of Kakopetria has two rivers running through the centre. The old area, known as Palia Kakopetria is a charming place with picturesque little houses, wooden balconies and cobbled streets. Classed as an ancient monument, its under the protection of the Department of Antiquities. The houses and a local wine press have been carefully restored and its a good place to find hand crafted lace and wood souvenirs.
At the entrance to the old town, you’ll find the Stone of the Couple or Petra tou Antrogynou. It used to be a tradition for newly wed couples to walk around the stone and then sit on it. However, according to legend, the stone moved and crushed a newly wed couple. It’s a strange tale but it’s securely fixed in place now, in case you were tempted to walk around it!
The Mill Hotel in Kakopetria is renowned for its warm welcome and award-winning Mylos restaurant. Lunch at The Mill is a gastronomic delight, from the homemade bread, to the locally sourced river trout, the fresh salad and naughty but nice fruit sundae with pomegranate. Our waiter had lived many years in the UK and was extremely knowledgeable and friendly.
A Unique Cyprus Monastery
There are some superb monasteries in the Troodos Mountains including Kykkos which we visited on a previous Cyprus trip. We were keen to see Machairas Monastery, which houses the icon of the Virgin Mary of Machairas. Just outside the monastery itself, we came across this charming little church.
It’s not permitted to take photos inside the monastery itself but you can take a photo of the exterior from a distance. One of the highlights of our rural Cyprus visit was meeting the monks themselves. One of them spoke perfect English and approached us with a smile, explaining that we could stay for the mass if we wished. Machairas Monastery is open daily from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm or for groups by appointment on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 am to 12 noon.
We had a great time exploring the Troodos Mountains but it was time to head to our next destination, Lofou. It’s located less than an hour away and only 30 minutes from Limassol. We passed through some picturesque Cyprus villages on the way. We soon reached Apokryfo, a collection of traditional houses whose Greek name means well kept secret or hidden away. It’s been beautifully restored by the owners, interior designer Diana Hadjikyriacou and her architect husband Vakis and is considered to be one of the top boutique hotels in Cyprus and one of the best hotels in Cyprus, full stop! The Schoolmaster’s House is the largest property in the collection and boasts a huge private courtyard garden with barbecue, double height living area with a stone arch, 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It’s well equipped with complimentary high speed broadband, air conditioning and flat screen TVs. The bathrooms have fluffy monogrammed towels and Korres organic toiletries. There’s even a jacuzzi in the master bathroom.
The decor of Apokryfo is a pleasing combination of traditional and contemporary style. There’s a beautiful swimming pool, rooftop terrace, gym, sauna and steam bath as well as a library with local maps, board games and DVDs.
We hear that Agrino restaurant at Apokryfo is particularly good but didn’t get a chance to try it. Up to 30 guests can stay at Apokryfo, so it’s handy for multi-generational get togethers or holidaying with friends, or you can simply book a room individually.
For dinner in Lofou village, we enjoyed traditional Cypriot food at Lofou Tavern, an atmospheric local eatery. It’s part of the Agrovino Group which also own a farm, hotel and wine bar. The owner greeted all diners and brought us some lovely mezze to sample. It’s quite a family affair with the grandchildren happily assisting and it makes for a very convivial atmosphere.
Car Hire In Cyprus
We arranged our car rental in Cyprus via Manos Cars, and the owner Marios Manoli kindly greeted us upon our arrival at Larnaca International Airport to explain how the car worked.
Getting to the Troodos Mountains and Lofou
There are regular international flights to Larnaca International Airport and it’s then a pleasant 1 and a half hour drive to the Troodos Mountains or 1 hour and 20 minutes to Lofou. However, why not do as we did and combine both the Troodos and Lofou into one visit to see two different sides of rural Cyprus.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into agrotourism in Cyprus. What really stood out for us was the hospitality of the local people, the fantastic food and cultural sights. You can find out more about nature holidays in Cyprus here.
Have you ever been to Cyprus and if so what tips would you give for first time visitors to the island?
Thanks to Cyprus Agrotourism for hosting us