But these are also other significant and impressive religious monuments to be found in the Troodos Mountain Range – here are the three monasteries I find most impressive!
The wealthiest monastery on the island – and a huge tourist attraction- is Kykkos Monastery. Perched up high, the monastery was founded around the end of the 11th century but was burnt down several times, and so, the original does not remain in the present-day structure. The views here are breathtaking. Even the entrance is a sight to behold and there are many gold-leaf frescoes in the corridors, and a particularly noteworthy rare and precious icon painted by Apostle Luke the Evangelist. The monks here are salaried and there is an entry fee of €5 (at time of writing), but the monastery is involved in many philanthropic activities. The grounds incorporate a nice museum (and gift shop), and the tomb of Cyprus’ first president – Makarios III – who served as a monk at Kykkos is located 3km from the monastery. The Deputy Ministry of Tourism has a free, downloadable audio guide.
Monastery of Panagia tou Machaira
On the slopes of Machairas mountains sits the Monastery of Panagia tou Machaira, overlooking stunning valley views – even the drive to reach it is beautifully scenic! As the monastery was constructed by an Emperor in the 12th century, it is considered a ‘royal monastery’ (as is Kykkos) and is the second richest after Kykkos. Entrance to the monastery is free and discretion and respect is required as the monks here follow a very strict oath (and are not salaried). Notable sights include the rare icon of the Virgin Mary – which is believed by the faithful to grant miracles, the ornate frescoes and grand chandeliers. A free, downloadable audio guide is also available.
Agios Iraklidios Convent
Far more low-key (which is why I like it) is Agios Iraklidios Convent (also spelt Herakleidios), which makes my list as it was originally a monastery! Located in Politiko village – at the lower part of the Troodos Mountain Range, rich in copper – it is believed to be the first place where Christianity flourished on the island over 2000 years ago, something that I can personally feel in the calm atmosphere of the grounds. The site is notable for housing the relics of Saint Iraklidios – the first bishop of the island (Bishop of Tamassos – ordained by Apostles Paul and Barnabas). The nuns here are renowned for the almond sweets they sell, as well as other local delicacies available in the shop. All in all, it is a very serene and quiet place to visit and to contemplate, but it should be noted that suitable attire is required along with discretion and respect. If you are lucky, the nuns may sit with you for a while over a drink or snack.