In mid-February I flew from Riyadh via Doha, Qatar to Larnaca in Cyprus. Thankfully, I was heavily medicated and the flight was uneventful!! My Kiwi travel mate and I had booked a rental car, so after a short shuttle to a nearby parking lot we were on our way. Limassol bound. I love the way the name of this city rolls off my tongue. I never tire of saying it. It sounds like a flavour of gelato or an exotic dance move. Anyways, it takes about an hour to drive from Larnaca to Limassol. The roads are good, but they do drive on the left hand side so I left the driving to my Kiwi sidekick. The last time I drove on the left hand side was in Scotland and my pops has very vivid memories of me removing the passenger side mirror by rubbing up against a narrow bridge. In my defense, a large truck crossed the center line so moving over was my only option. Pops thinks I should’ve stopped on the bridge and waited. We still have a difference of opinions on this matter. Regardless, I wasn’t feeling up to testing my luck on Cyprus roads.
Limassol is larger than I had envisioned and the old town is chaotic to drive in, with all the one way and blocked off streets. We stayed 5 nights at an Airbnb rental that was perfect. The owner Pandora was lovely. Such a kind sweet lady. It was just a couple blocks from the castle and had parking out front. Not to mention that the place was beautifully restored. On the first night we were there we walked down to the main square and found 110 euros on the street. This made me especially love Limassol. That entire night we joked that “our benefactor” was picking up the tab!
Most of the main tourist things in Limassol can be seen in a day. There’s the Limassol Castle which has a pretty cool museum and great views from the top. There’s a Grand Mosque although it was pretty small and not very ornate compared to mosques in the Middle East. My Kiwi sidekick was required to wear a cloak to cover her arms and seeing her looking like a Harry Potter character was well worth the visit. There are a couple oldish churches, and a central market that was less impressive than I was imagining. Then there is the beach area and the harbour.
Limassol makes a great base to day trip from. There are many monasteries close by and wineries to tour. We were there off-season so not all the wineries were open. I was unaware that Cyprus was know for its wine, but it makes a sweet desert wine called Commandaria which is well worth trying. Cyprus wines are also great if you don’t know much about wines. You can literally order wines by saying you want “a medium sweet white, or a medium dry red” and you’ll get a bottle with that exact label.
The mountain area of Troodos also makes a good day trip, if the weather cooperates. We were there in what is still considered winter and the roads are considered high mountain roads and are very windy. This area apparently has a ski hill although we never saw it, or any skiers for that matter either. Fortunately, we encountered loads of rain but it never snowed which would’ve made this area difficult to see. There are wineries in this area also, and ten Byzantine churches that are classified as UNESCO heritage sites. They are quite a distance apart so it would be very difficult to fit them all into a day. We managed to see 3 of them and they really are quite incredible. Since it was off season many of the churches are locked, so in order to see the inside you have to find the “key-holder” or as in our case with the first church the “key-holder” found us. Outside of the first church an old man came walking down the lane gangling a ring of keys moments after we walked up. We were super excited as we figured that getting the church unlocked would pose more of a problem. So we’re inside this amazing church and we’re looking at the beautiful paintings on the walls and ceilings and this old man is getting a little close. At first I think he’s just being helpful, pointing out this and that, and next thing you know he’s got his arm around me and he’s rubbing my back and working his way down to my ass. And he wreaks of alcohol. So I step away. And now he tries to make a go at it with my Kiwi pal. Needless to say we were out of there lickity-split because Grandpa tried to get to first base. The other 2 churches we saw were also very cool, and thankfully no one tried to molest us. One of the them had an interesting painted image of Mary breastfeeding Jesus, and the other one had an image in which Mary appeared pregnant. Kykkos monastery is well worth a visit also, if only to take in its opulence. It is still a functioning monastery so you might see some Orthodox monks whilst there.
Another easy day trip from Limassol is to drive towards Pafos and stop off at Aphrodite’s Rock named after the mythical goddess’s supposed birthplace. It is utterly beautiful. From there you can head back towards Limassol and stop off at Old Kourion an ancient city from the Byzantine period. Much of the site is in varying states of decay with some of it being an actual archaeological site. The coastal views from here are amazing. Then you can head to Kolossi Castle which reminded me of an old Scottish castle. It was built in the 12 century and you can climb the winding staircase to the roof for panoramic views. For some strange reason I got a really creeped out vibe at this castle and found the narrow spiral staircase really claustrophobic. Not the usual reaction I have to visiting ancient sites, but I honestly couldn’t get out of the main castle fast enough and out into the fresh outside air. Odd.
We spent a lot of time eating and drinking wine during our stay in Limassol. Sadly, we never really got onto the locals eating schedule of having dinner at 10pm. We ate early, and they always thought we were having our lunch when in fact it was our dinner. It was hard to stay motivated to stay up late while consuming a couple bottles of wine over a drawn out dinner. One of the favourite places we ate at was Il Castello. It has both indoor and outdoor seating in an open plaza facing the Castle in Limassol. We ate here a few times and the staff were super friendly. On our last morning there the kind owner gave us free coffees and tiny bottles of Commandaria wine. It’s well worth a visit. The other place we loved (mostly because of the darling elderly waiter) was Megaro restaurant- also located in Old Town. One night we ate here and tried Cyprus meze. I had the seafood meze and it was phenomenal. There were easily 20+ small plates including Greek salad, toasted bread, hummus, seafood spread, olives, calamari, beet salad, fires, fried fish, pasta, ink fish, mussels, prawns, a rice dish and a few other small plates that have escaped my memory. Meze is a must when in Cyprus, just make sure you come hungry, because the food will pile up in front of you. From Limassol we headed west towards Pafos. More on that soon…..