From Israel, we flew across the Mediterranean Sea to the small island nation of Cyprus which lies south of Turkey. The political climate of Cyprus is interesting due to this proximity to Turkey which actually controls part of the island, splitting it into North Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus. While in Cyprus, we stayed at an all-inclusive resort and only had five days so we did not venture to the northern side of the island and instead just explored the southern and western regions of Limassol and Paphos where we stayed.
Our first two days were spent exactly how every stay in an all-inclusive resort should be spent, hanging out in the pool and sipping on some free cocktails. However, we eventually got afraid of missing out on the chance to explore Cyprus so we decided to rent a car to drive to some of the island’s sights, most of which were archaeological in nature.
For our first excursion out of the resort, we followed the coast south and east to the city of Limassol before making our way back to Paphos, stopping at several sights along the way back. Our first stop was the tiny Limassol Castle, the only place not in England which has hosted a royal wedding (Richard the Lionheart to Berengaria of Navarre in 1191). That fact, however, may be the only remarkable thing about the castle. The castle sits on the southern coastline of the city amongst taller modern day buildings which render it nearly invisible and if we hadn’t been looking for it, we would have missed it. Either way, the castle is about as far away from being interesting as a castle can be and we quickly took off to the next castle on our list, though being parked illegally and scared to get towed definitely didn’t help matters.
We left the winding streets on Limassol toward Kolossi Castle which sits just outside the city. Kolossi is not much different in size or shape than Limassol but there was enough space to park wherever we wanted so I paid the two and a half euros to go inside while the less than impressed Lauren stayed in the air-conditioned car rather than braving the 100-degree heat. The former Crusader castle is immaculately well preserved for being over 700 years old and was completely absent from tourists. It was mildly interesting to walk through if only because I had it all to myself but it was almost totally unadorned and utterly unimpressive. It says a lot about our trip to Europe that something so old could be not worth seeing, but let’s just say I’m glad we didn’t go too far out of our way to visit it.
The two main archaeological sights we saw in Cyprus was Kourion Archaeological Site and the Tomb of the Kings, both of which are more interesting than either of the castles we visited. Kourion was one of the most important city-kingdoms in Cyprus and was built on top of a hill overlooking one of the country’s most fertile valleys and has beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea off into the distance. The site comprises several monuments, many of which date from the Roman period (0 to 400 AD), the most extraordinary of which is the well-preserved Greeco-Roman theatre. There are also several majestic villas with beautiful mosaic floors littered across the site that are definitely worth seeing.
Later, we visited the Tomb of the Kings which despite its majestic name was never actually the burial place of any kings. Littered throughout the site are tombs cut from the rocks where high officials and rich citizens were buried. There are several larger tombs in the complex which you can walk underground and inside of that are pretty grand. Unfortunately for us, we had just gotten back from seeing the incredible tombs of Petra so it was difficult for us to be too amazed, but like many of the sights in Cyprus, it was affordable and still really worth visiting.
Throughout the island are many sights associated with Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty who in Greek mythology was born from the sea foam at Petra tou Romiou, or Aphrodite’s Rock, a geological formation that sits along one of Cyrus’s most beautiful coastlines.
As the sun was at is peak during out 1st day of our sightseeing, we went to the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, the most famous of the Ancient Greek Goddess’ sanctuaries. The ruins are much older than many we saw in Cyprus with its ancient remains dating all the way back to the 12th century BC, though it remained a place of worship until the 4th century AD. Unfortunately, time has rendered the ruins derelict with many former buildings no higher than a foot or two off the ground. In a strange twist, we pulled into the parking lot to find that the wild area next to the sight was on fire due to the sweltering hot sun! Luckily it was not too close to the ruins, but it definitely signaled to us that it was time to go back to the resort and jump in the pool to cool off!
The next day we drove our car Inland to go to the Adonis Baths where according to Greek mythology, Aphrodite and Adonis spent most of their time and had children. The car ride through the twisting rocky road was way more difficult than we expected as we learned that “Road Suitable for All Cars” signs in Cyprus are more of a warning sign that says, “it may look impossible to drive this road, but we believe in you.” The “baths” are little more than a secluded pool fed by a waterfall, though it was admittedly a really beautiful locale in which to swim. Unfortunately, the water covered by the surrounding trees was way too cold to do more than wade up to our waists. Naked male statues decorated the area with signs telling you to touch their penises if you are looking to get pregnant which was peculiar, but amusing. Overall, while undoubtedly an interesting place, the price of entry was a little steep and the road to get there far too difficult to make it worthwhile.
Our favorite Aphrodite based place in Cyprus, though, had to be Aphrodite’s Rock Brewery where we cooled off with a flight of beer and some ciders to quench our thirst. I had the unique experience of being there while the Royal Wedding was on and watching as women throughout the brewery watched it on their phones like a bunch of dudes watching a football game. It was an interesting and funny change of perspectives to go along with some surprisingly great food.
I can’t help but compare Cyprus with Malta with all of their similarities, especially when it comes to their climates. Overall though, Cyprus has better, more abundant beaches to go with a slightly better party scene, but the history is less interesting, and I feel that the country overall has less character, though it really depends on your priorities when looking to choose between the two. Regardless, I had a lot of fun in Cyprus, though I may have had more fun if I had had the same company I did in Malta and hadn’t just experienced some of the most impressive ruins in the world in Jordan/Petra.
Next, we mark another European country off of our ever-shortening list and head off to Thessaloniki, Greece!