Where fragrant forests unfold
The Troodos Mountain Range with its refreshing, crisp heights, showcases the greener side of Cyprus, in paradox to the hot sun, sand and sea below. Here, a different world, where nature and tradition prevail, is found in the myriad of tiny villages, protected nature parks, valleys, orchards and emerald forests, where impressive waterfalls, ancient Venetian bridges and chapels nestle. In the coldest months snowfall dresses the mountain peaks in pure white and both locals and visitors alike head for the hills to ski and play in the novelty of the snow.
Discovering the heights of Troodos
Chionistra is the pinnacle of the range, sitting at 1,952 metres above sea level. Starting from the foot of the range heading to the top, the geological secrets of its formation 92 million years ago quietly take in the breathtakingly beautiful natural oasis and its shy inhabitants, including the island’s national animal – the horned mountain sheep Moufflon. The unspoiled, rugged landscape is interspersed with small, tranquil communities full of heart and tradition; wine routes; nature trails; camping sites, botanical parks and other attractions along the way, including folk art and ecclesiastical museums, the island’s only and now defunct railway – and even exciting adventure parks that blend into the natural fabric of the area.
The hub of Cyprus winemaking is found in the valleys and vineyards of the 20 ‘Krasochoria’ (wine villages); the richly fertile land of the 11 Pitsilia region villages, and the 14 Commandaria Villages of Limassol’s mountainous villages, which continue to harvest grapes and produce the sweet dessert wine Commandaria, that has the distinction of being the world’s oldest named wine still in production. Designated wine routes reveal the history and methods of both boutique and larger wineries.
The religiously priceless 10 Painted Churches – on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list – constitute some of the most significant on the island and are also presented in a self-guided religious route that takes in their rich adornments and murals.
Traditional gastronomy flourishes in the mountain villages, from cured meats and pastries, to grape must desserts and sticky spoon sweets. The most potent herbs and spices grow in the unpolluted and untouched areas of the mountains, prized for their superior quality, along with the roses of Agros village that are renowned for their heady perfume and precious oil. Pedoulas produces the best cherries and Kyperounda the best apples on the island, and all the mountain’s bounties can be enjoyed at various street stalls and at annual festivals and celebrations.
An alternative form of accommodation is found in the mountains; absent of the luxury resorts and modern boutique establishments on the coast. The vibe here is more rustic and traditional, with agroutouristic accommodation in old, family homes that have been retained with pride, and some of the island’s longest-standing classic hotels that are perched high up, amidst the trees and in total harmony with their serene environs.
WHERE TO STAY
Cyprus has a large array of accommodation types to suit all travellers, tastes and budgets.
Whether you are looking for an opulent five-star resort; a city hotel that offers independence to explore; a simple hotel apartment as a base, or a rustic agrotouristic retreat, the following are my personal recommendations!