Cypriot Mario Theodorou discusses the pick of his island’s villages. If sitting down for a glass of Commandaria and a game of blackgammon with the locals sounds good, then keep reading…
It is true that to many holidaying in Cyprus is best known for its glittering beaches, fresh food and warm climate. You may even go as far as to say that Cyprus is a country of multi-cultural treasures due to its long list of conquerors from all over Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North Africa. But to me, the Jewel in the Cypriot crown is undoubtedly its villages. They are the heartbeat of the country and the keeper of traditions that date as far back to antiquity.
It is in these villages that the Cypriot people still make their traditional Halloumi cheese, weave lace by hand, design intricate silverware of all kinds, work their wineries hidden away on the sides of rocky hills and even host Neolithic Settlements that date as far back as 7000 BC.
Here is a selection of villages that are a must for any visitor hoping to discover the heart of this beautiful island and its people.
The village of Omodos is situated on the slope of the Trodos Mountains and is well known for its multiple wineries and authentic Cypriot stone houses. Its beauty is well documented, as is the Zivania (strong spirit made from the skin of the grape) and Commandaria (sweet dessert wine) that is produced here. Also situated in Omodos is the Church of the Holy Cross. Located in the middle of the village’s narrow alleyways and inlets, the old cobbled church allegedly holds a piece of the original crucifixion cross. A stroll through Omodos is like strolling through old Cyprus where you can’t help but breathe in some of the ancient island’s charm of yesteryear.
Not far from Omodos and located midway between Limassol and Trodos is the village of Lania. Named after Lania, the daughter of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and pleasure, people claim it is the prettiest village in all of Cyprus. Known as the ‘Painter’s Village’ for its population of artists and old galleries, Lania is a cultural mecca for the Cypriot people. Comprised of old stone houses and cobbled alleyways that date back to ancient times, Lania represents everything that the Cypriot people hold dear and this is reflected in the many festivals held year round in celebration of the country’s vast heritage.
Another village of outstanding beauty but with a unique story is Lefkara. Close to the city of Laranaka, Lefkara is famous for its handmade lace know as ‘Lefkaritika’. It is said that Leonardo Di Vinci once travelled to Lefkara to purchase lace for the altar of a Milanese Cathedral. It’s certainly an experience to see all the old Cypriot ladies, sitting in their doorways making lace by hand as they have done for centuries. This is a must for any traveller looking to experience what Cyprus villages are all about.
Last, but by no means least is the village of Oroklini. Situated close to Laranaka, Oroklini is known for its many coffee shops and tavernas. It’s not so much the history of this village or the old white wash houses with their green window shutters that give this small village its charm. It’s actually more the cultural customs of its people. There is something innately Cypriot about finishing work and heading to the tavernas for a small coffee and a game of backgammon. It’s not uncommon to see tables out on the street where the Cypriots and visitors engage in conversation and backgammon in genuine camaraderie. It’s Greek tradition to welcome travellers to their land and in villages like Oroklini friendships and multi cultural relationships are forged.
Writer and native Greek Cypriot, Mario is a keen traveller and commentator on local traditions, culture, heritage and history.