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Last Updated on 20/03/2021
Famous for its wild, rocky landscape, tall mountains and idyllic villages, Cyprus is so much more than a seaside escape. This island at the bottom of the Mediterranean may be small but it’s packed with ancient history, art, culture, incredible food and stunning natural scenery.
If you’re keen to get off the beaten track, it’s time you discovered the best hidden gems in Cyprus from awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage sites to religious landmarks and rural villages home to generations of halloumi producers and winemakers.
Discovering rural Cyprus is a chance to explore a real and authentic side to the island where hospitality is second to none. These activities support local businesses and agritourism projects that maintain Cypriot heritage and a rural way of life that’s been in place for centuries.
So, step away from the sun loungers and add some of these hidden gems to your itinerary.
1. For a spa day: Casale Panayiotis
The beautiful covered terrace at Casale Panayiotis
Located in the Troodos Mountains, just high enough for cooler temperatures but low enough to still feel the sun’s warmth is Casale Panayiotis in Kalopanayiotis village. This stunning resort and spa feels like a secluded oasis away from the bustle of the busy tourist towns and beaches along the coast.
Casale Panayiotis is part of an agritourism project that revives previously neglected villages in Cyprus. The resort and spa encourages visitors to the village, restores houses and supports local businesses. Visitors can eat, enjoy a treatment and even stay there all while soaking up the picturesque atmosphere of the village.
You won’t easily be able to spot it at first. It’s disguised as multiple buildings within the village, blending seamlessly with the surroundings. Come here for a private couple’s infinite pool, a snow room (dare you to try it), lunch on the terrace and holiday apartments with a view.
You can book it here.
2. For art history: Agios Ioannis Lambadistis
Agios Ioannis Lambadistis is three churches under one roof
Located in the valley of Marathasa, just off Kalopanayiotis village and a stone’s throw away from Casale Panayiotis is a complex of three Byzantine churches (Ioannis Lampadistis, Agios Irakleidios and a Latin chapel) all under one roof.
This UNESCO World Heritage site was originally a monastery although the exact date of its foundations is unknown. Much of it has been reconstructed and renovated over time.
If you’re an art or history lover then this monastery is well worth a visit. In Ioannis Lambadistis you’ll find a saint’s tomb which takes back to the 12th century. In Agios Irakleidios are frescoes dating back to the 13th and 16th centuries and the Latin Chapel houses the most complete series of Ital-Byzantine paintings in all of Cyprus. They’re quite something to behold!
3. For pink roses everywhere: Tsolakis Rose Factory
Photo by Dan Gold
During the months of April and May, thousands of pink Damascus roses cover the sheltered foothills in a vibrant pink blanket. This stunning natural occurrence happens right on the doorsteps of Agros Village.
If your trip coincides with this event, make sure you drop by their annual Rose Festival. If not, you can still get a taste of this celebration by heading to Tsolakis Rose Factory.
Heres, you can learn exactly what happens to the roses after they’re harvested and pick up some heavenly smelling souvenirs on the way. Don’t leave without trying the rose wine and treating yourself to a rose hand cream.
4. For a picturesque wine-tasting: Oenou Yi Winery
Oenou Yi Winery is a striking contemporary estate that exudes elegance, opulence and wedding venue envy. The amphitheatrical estate is close to Omodos village with views out towards Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Cyprus.
Wander through the glass doors and across a floor so polished it reflects the sky until you find an enormous terrace surrounded by vineyards. You can also dine at the restaurant there, take a dip in the photo-worthy jacuzzi or go for a wine tasting in the cellars below.
A fairly new estate on the block, the winery sells a delicious selection of wines from Greece as well as its own.
Read More: How to Visit Greece on a Budget
5. For an alpine escape: Troodos Square
The Troodos Mountains by Milan Seitler
Troodos Square gives you the impression that you’re in the mountains of Central Europe, not an island close to the continent of Africa. Here tall pine trees rise up over the rocky terrain and the air smells fresh and clean.
Temperatures remain cool all year round, making it an ideal respite from the scorching summer heat and a surprising ski season in the winter. Seriously – there’s a ski lift!
I love Troodos Square because it showcases just how diverse this tiny Mediterranean island is. Alpine bars and restaurants line the square with views down towards the valley below.
You can hire a mountain bike here or explore some of the many hiking trails. Remember to bring a few extra layers along with you. Yes, even in summer!
6. For a mountain retreat: Pedoulas Village
The gorgeous frescoes in the Church of Archangelos Michael
Pedoulas Village is another alpine retreat high up in the Troodos Mountains. Temperatures remain a solid 10 degrees below sea level so it’s ideal if you’re not a fan of the heat or want a place to cool off after the beach.
This sleepy village has beautiful stone houses and narrow cobblestone streets to explore. Like many villages on the island, it’s also home to a UNESCO World Heritage site in the form of a church. Tucked away on a slope is the Church of Archangelos Michael. Step inside and admire the Byzantine and post-Byzantine frescoes from the 11th to the 19th Centuries.
I recommend visiting Pedoulas if you’re after an off the beaten track place to unwind. Stay at Aristotelio Boutique Hotel, a gorgeous alpine lodge with cosy beds, modern ensuite bathrooms and delicious food.
7. For literary giants and waterfalls: Pano Platres
Caledonia Waterfall is quite something to see
Pano Platres is one of my favourite hidden gems in Cyprus. Nestled in the Troodos Mountains, this village may be on the small side but it has an impressive legacy of notable visitors including King Farouk of Egypt and the Nobel Prize-winning poet Giorgos Seferis.
The English literary giant, Daphne du Maurier got the idea to write Rebecca (arguably, her most famous work!) here in Platres. If you want to go on your own independent writing retreat then I can think of no better place. I mean, if it’s good enough for Daphne…
Make sure you visit the medieval Milia Bridge nearby and the Caledonia Waterfall with water cascading down from a drop of 12 metres.
8. For food and souvenir shopping: Omodos
Visit To Katoi Tavern in Omodos for delicious meze
The mountain village of Omodos is a little more touristy than the other villages but it’s still no less pretty and absolutely worth a visit. Temperatures are a little higher here and you can wander down whitewashed cobblestone streets admiring the scenery as you go.
The best thing about Omodos is the atmosphere. Shop displays jostle for passerby’ attention, decked out in brightly coloured wares like table cloths, lacework and jars of preserves. You’ll notice heavenly smells of freshly baked bread wafting from bakeries and find yourself stopping to peer at homemade arts and crafts. Cue a spontaneous bout of souvenir shopping.
Head over to the True Cross Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in Cyprus and home to what is believed to be a piece of the True Cross. Afterwards, go for a bite at Katoi Tavern for some truly spectacular meze.
Pop your head around the medieval wine press (Linos tou Charilaou), a small room that houses medieval winemaking paraphernalia, including vats and cauldrons. One of the oldest standing wine presses in Cyprus, it’s thought to be about 700-800 years old.
9. For delicious halloumi: Choirokoitia
Halloumi being made in the traditional way
Eating halloumi in Cyprus should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s where this delicious cheese originated, after all. In my opinion, the best place to eat it is Tochni Tavern in Tochni and they get their cheese from Choirokoitia Village.
Alongside its family-run halloumi producers, Choirokoitia is a fantastic agritourism village in its own right. It has an ancient Neolithic site nearby 7500-5200 BC. This UNESCO World Heritage site is ranked among the nine most ancient sites in the world. Not bad for a hidden gem!
Choirokoitia is a great place to learn about the traditional Cypriot way of life. If you’re looking for slightly more unusual things to do in Cyprus, you can try your hand at basket-weaving or visit the Old Olive Oil Mill with its collection of oil production methods and tools.
Want to know more about how to find ethical activities? You can read my complete guide here.
10. For love: Aphrodite’s Rock
The legendary birthplace of Aphrodite
Have you heard of the legend of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love? The story goes that the goddess was born close to the shores of Cyprus in a place known as Petra tou Romiou – Aphrodite’s Rock. She rose from the waves in 12,00 BCE and began her worldly life on the rock.
You can actually see the rock with your own eyes on the way to Paphos. The rock rises out of the water just off the coast of a pebble beach. It’s a romantic setting to watch the sunset and take in the beautiful views.
It’s not uncommon to see people diving off the rocks here but be careful; the current is very strong.
11. For the oldest named wine: Karseras Winery
Head to Karseras Winery for the oldest named wine in production
Commandaria is believed to be the oldest named wine in the world that’s still in production today. This sweet wine is a proud part of Cyprus’ heritage and where better to taste it than in the foothills where it originated?
Karseras Winery is a small family-owned winery located in Doros Village on the south side of the Troodos Mountains. You can stop for a wine-tasting here and learn about the fascinating history of this ancient tipple that was once named ‘the king of wines’ so no biggie!
You can also buy a few bottles to take home with you which I highly recommend if you plan to. You won’t get a better rate at the airport or back home.
If you’re a bit of a wine connoisseur, there are 14 Commandaria villages you can visit in Cyprus. Make a day of it by doing a Troodos Mountains wine tour with a local and sample the best Cypriot food and wine on offer.
So, those were the hidden gems of Cyprus!
Cyprus is perhaps best known for its seaside towns, beaches and holiday resorts, but in reality, it offers so much more.
The best way to get off the beaten track and away from tourist hotspots is to head inland. Up in the mountains and foothills, you’ll find picturesque spas, sleepy villages, ancient works of art and rural Cyprus at its best.
If you’re wondering how to fit all of these hidden gems into your trip, you can read my suggested itinerary for a long weekend. You can, of course, spread out these activities if you’re planning to stay longer.
For more travel inspiration, here are my favourite villages in Cyprus.
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