*Itinerary order and inclusions are subject to change.
(Breakfast = B, Lunch = L, Dinner = D)
Day 1: LARNACA/ FAMAGUSTA / AYIA NAPA
Welcome to Larnaca! Begin your tour of Cyprus with a visit to the 11th century Byzantine Church of Panayia Angeloktisti, whose name means “built by angels,” which was erected over the ruins of an early Christian basilica in Kition. The original apse has survived together with one of the finest pieces of Byzantine art from the Justinian period, a rare 6th century mosaic of the Virgin and Child between two archangels. Continue to the Church and Tomb of St. Lazarus, situated in the center of Larnaca. This magnificent early 10th century stone church of Saint Lazaros is one of the most important surviving Byzantine monuments in Cyprus. It was built by Byzantine Emperor Leo VI in exchange for the transfer of the Saint’s relics to Constantinople. The church lays over the tomb of Saint Lazaros, the resurrected friend of Jesus Christ who came to ancient Kition in 33 AD and was its first Bishop and Patron Saint. The tomb, along with other marble sarcophagi, can be seen inside the church crypt.
After lunch on your own, visit the men’s Monastery of Saint Georgios tou Mavrovouniou (Saint George of the Black Hill) near Troulloi Village in the Provence of Larnaca. No one knows the origins of the monastery but according to R. Gunnis (1936), it dates back to Byzantine times. What is known for sure is that the Monastery is very old because Saint Neophytos, the Egleistros, (1134-1214) refers to it in his writings. According to traditions of the region, the monastery was once an important religious center. During the Medieval period, it may have been a women’s monastery because one of the hills in the area is still known as the hill of the nuns.
Afterwards, proceed to Derynia and the Cultural Center of Famagusta, built in 1998 and host to the anti-occupation events of the Famagusta Municipality. Climb to the observation tower where you can see from afar the occupied city of Famagusta (the “ghost town”). Informative and enlightening literature on the Cyprus problem and on the Turkish invasion is available in different languages and it is free to all visitors. The final stop will be the hotel in Ayia Napa where you will enjoy dinner and overnight at hotel. (B, D)
Day 2: AYIA NAPA / SALAMINA / FAMAGUSTA / NICOSIA / AYIA NAPA
After breakfast, begin your tour to the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus (since 1974). Begin with Salamina (Salamis), the first stop of St. Paul in his first missionary journey, located north of Famagusta. It is a wonderful ancient site with an amphitheater, mosaics, columns and ancient statues. The remains of a Roman villa, baths, gymnasium Temple of Zeus, an aqueduct and a Roman agora are all still evident. Unfortunately, the site has an air of neglect yet deserves to be considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and be preserved with professional care. Ancient Salamis was for many centuries the main city of Cyprus. Severe earthquakes in AD 76 and 77 caused much damage. In the 4th C. AD, more earthquakes and tidal waves left much of the site in ruins and, gradually, Paphos in the west emerged as the main city on the island.
We now continue to the Monastery of Apostolos Varnavas (St. Barnabas). St Barnabas of Cyprus was born in Salamis, and joined the Apostle Paul to spread the Gospel throughout Cyprus and Asia Minor. However, the two men parted company over the objection to Barnabas’ cousin, Mark, joining them. In AD 75, the Jewish community in Salamis objected to his missionary work and had Barnabas stoned to death. Mark later rescued his cousin’s body and buried it at a secret location, which was miraculously revealed centuries later and lies nearby his monastery. Lunch boxes will be provided by the hotel for us to bring along with us.
Proceed to Marathovounos, which was built on a hilltop called Vounos (Greek for “hill”) on the northern edge of the Messaoria plain. It is named after the Greek word for fennel or “Marathos”, an aromatic and flavorful herb used in cooking and folk medicine and is located south of the Turkish village of Tziaos and about 25 miles from its provincial capital Famagusta, to the east. Evidence of mid to late Bronze Age inhabitants were discovered here. There’s also an ancient Basilica at nearby Petrera. There is speculation that an earlier Christian village with a small church existed at Vounos since the 1700s. The newer bigger church (now ruined by the Turks) was built on the location of the smaller one around the year 1900.
Our itinerary now takes us to the Old Archbishop’s Palace in the heart of Nicosia which is an 18th century religious, national and political monument and closely associated with modern Cypriot history. Adjacent is the new Archbishop’s Palace, a two-story stone building built in Neo-Byzantine style which houses the offices of the Archdiocese and the residence of the Archbishop. It was built by Archbishop Makarios III between 1956 and 1960 and also houses the Byzantine Icon Museum and the Library of the Archbishopric. Since the completion of the new Archbishopric, the Old Archbishop’s Palace has housed the Folk Art Museum and the National Struggle Museum.
Also in Nicosia, visit Saint John’s Cathedral located next to the Archbishop’s Palace. It was built on the site of the 14th century chapel of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint John the Evangelist. Archbishop Nikiforos rebuilt the monastery chapel from its foundations in 1662. Dedicated to Saint John the Theologian, it is small, single-aisle and barrel-vaulted in the Franco-Byzantine style, with external buttresses and a west portico. In contrast to the deliberately modest exterior that was required by Ottoman rule, the gilded woodwork and bright interior illuminated by crystal chandeliers can take the unsuspecting visitor by surprise. Covered in gold leaf, the woodcarving is in the best tradition of 18th century Cypriot craftsmanship. The four large icons are the work of Cretan master John Kornaros and were painted between 1795 and 1797. The 18th century wall paintings depict scenes from the Bible and the discovery of the tomb of Apostle Varnavas near Salamis.
Next, we continue our exploration of Nicosia with a visit to Laiki Yitonia, a restored area in the heart of the walled city. It covers an area of about 1.25 square miles and forms a world of its own, away from the hustle of modern life and yet only 100 yards from the capital’s main Eleftheria Square. The area was restored by the Municipality of Nicosia resulting in a revived picturesque corner of the city that attracts locals and visitors to its shops and restaurants. Many of the buildings have been restored using the typical elements of traditional Cypriot folk architecture which has been preserved through the centuries. Tonight enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. After dinner transfer back to the hotel in Ayia Napa for overnight. (B, L, D)
Day 3: AYIA NAPA / BOAT RIDE / AYIA NAPA
After breakfast, visit the charming medieval Monastery of Ayia Napa dedicated to ”Our Lady of the Forests”, it stands in the middle of the village of Ayia Napa surrounded by a high wall. Both the village and the monastery take their name from the ancient Greek word for wooded valley “Napa”– a reference to the morphology of the area in the past. Built like a medieval castle around 1500 AD, the Ayia Napa Monastery is the best known landmark in the village and the surrounding area. The church of the monastery is partially built underground and cut into the rock. It was restored in 1950 and again in1978. It became an Ecumenical Conference Centre serving the churches in Cyprus and the Middle East. A new church was built in 1994, southwest of the monastery, which is also dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
After our visit to the monastery, we board our tour to sail around the south eastern coast of the island. We will visit numerous bays and beaches including the Ayia Napa caves, Palatia cliff diving site, Cape Greco, Pirates’ caves, Witches Cave, Church cliff diving site, Konnos Bay, Fig Tree Bay and Famagusta Ghost Town. Lunch will be served on board.
The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. This would be a good opportunity to join the traditional local festivities for the Feast of Pentecost. This evening, choose from any of the plentiful nearby local restaurants to enjoy dinner on your own. (B, L)(Attire: Casual but appropriate for AM Liturgy/Bring a bathing suit/flip flops, sunglasses and sunscreen)
Day 4: AYIA NAPA / MACHAIRA MONASTERY / ST. IRAKLIDIOS / OMODOS VILLAGE / CHOIROKITIA/AYIA NAPA
After breakfast, we start our touring with a visit to Machairas Monastery. This is the “Monastery of Panayia” (Monastery of the Virgin Mary) referred to in the book “The Mountain of Silence”. Situated at an altitude of about a half a mile on the slopes of Mount Kionia in a picturesque valley of the Machairas Mountains, it houses the miraculous icon of Panagia of Machairas. The monastery has extensive estates of land acquired from donations dating to the Frankish era. The three-nave church of the monastery was built between 1892 and 1900. Its wood-carved iconostasis was made between 1919 and 1921 by Georgios Kyriakou from the village of Chrysida. The bell tower is 19 meters high and dates to 1900.
Next, we stop at the Monastery of Saint Iraklidios, located in Politiko village, about 20 km from Nicosia. This convent was named for the saint who was baptized and consecrated first Bishop of Tamassos by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas during their trip to Cyprus. Saint Iraklidios, one of the most important saints in Cyprus, was martyred at the age of 60 and buried in the cave where he lived and preached. In 400 AD, a church and monastery were built over his grave. The monastery was destroyed and rebuilt several times until it was fully renovated in 1773. The relics of the saint are kept in a silver gilded case. Today the Church is part of a convent. This location is important as it represents the presence of Christianity in Cyprus for almost 2000 years.
Now we continue to Omodos village with a stop for lunch on our own. After lunch we visit the pride and joy of Omodos – the Monastery of the Holy and Life-Giving Cross. Built at the heart of the community, it rises majestically and with its imposing presence, it is one of the oldest and most historic monasteries on the island and a significant part of Cyprus’ cultural heritage. According to tradition it was established before St. Helen’s arrival in Cyprus in 327 AD, but the exact date of its establishment is unknown. It possibly existed before the village was founded. The theory is that the village was established around the monastery. Historians such as Neofytos Rodinos, the Russian monk and traveler Barsky, the Dean Kyprianos and others, refer to St. Helen’s visit to Cyprus noting that she left a part of the Holy Rope in the Monastery. This rope, with which Christ was bound to the Cross, is described as red colored and “stained by the blood of Christ”. The Bishop of Paphos, Chrysanthos, did a full renovation of the Monastery in the second decade of the 19th century, in collaboration with the Steward of the Monastery, Dositheos, who served as a church Steward from 1810 until 1821. The monastery also holds a piece of the original Cross of Christ and other holy relics.
Our last visit of the day will be to the ancient site of Choirokoitia which dates back to the 6th millennium BC. It lies in the domain of the village from which it takes its name in the Larnaca district on the west bank of the Maroni River overlooking the south coast. Included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list since 1988, Choirokoitia is one of the best preserved settlements of this early period in Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean. Return to the hotel and enjoy dinner at a local taverna in Ayia Napa (B, D)
Day 5: AYIA NAPA / LIMASSOL / PAPHOS / AYIA NAPA
After breakfast, we start our full-day sightseeing with a visit to the ancient site of Curium and its museum. Considered one of the most spectacular archaeological sites on the island, Curium was an important city kingdom where excavations continue to reveal impressive new treasures. Noted particularly for its magnificent Greco – Roman theatre, it is also home to stately villas with exquisite mosaic floors and an early Christian Basilica among other treasures. Originally built in the 2nd century B.C., Curium’s awe-inspiring theatre is now fully restored and used for musical and theatrical performances. The House of Eustolios, consisting of a complex of baths and a number of rooms with superb 5th century A.D. mosaic floors, was once a private Roman villa before it became a public recreation center during the early Christian period. The early Christian Basilica dates to the 5th century and was probably the Cathedral of Curium, with a baptistery attached to the north face. The House of Achilles and the House of the Gladiators also have beautiful mosaic floors.
We continue on to visit Saint Kyriaki Church, a Byzantine-era Church in Kato Paphos, also known as St Paul’s Pillar, because it is the alleged location where St. Paul was tied and whipped. It was built around the 13th century on the site of an earlier Basillica. If you walk around the grounds you can still see the remains of older churches underneath Saint Kyriaki. The church is surrounded by ancient roman ruins and mosaics. Break for lunch on your own.
Following lunch, we set out for Saint Neophytos Monastery just outside Paphos, near Tala village. The monastery was founded by Saint Neophytos in 1159, who died here in 1219 at the age of 85. The main church of the monastery was built around 200 years after his death and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The famous painter, Theodoros Apsevdis, painted the frescos in the Enkleistra, and Byzantine icons of exceptional artistic quality can be seen in the monastery church. The monastery museum has exhibits from both the ancient and Byzantine periods. Other points of interest are the cave with the cell of Saint Neophytos (the Enkleistra). The Enkleistra, an enclosure carved out of the mountain by the hermit, contains some of the finest Byzantine frescos dating from the 12th to 15th century. His rock-table and the stone platform on which he slept are still preserved in his cell, as is his grave.
Next, we proceed to see Petra tou Romiou an interesting geological formation of huge rocks off the southwest coast in the Paphos district and one of the most impressive natural sites in Cyprus. It is associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. According to legend, this strikingly beautiful spot is where Aphrodite rose from the sea foam and floated ashore on a scallop shell to the rocks known as ‘Rock of Aphrodite’ or ‘Petra tou Romiou’ in Greek. The Greek name, Petra tou Romiou, “the Rock of the Greek”, is associated with the legendary Byzantine hero, Digenis Akritas, who kept the marauding Saracens at bay with his amazing strength. It is said that he heaved a huge rock into the sea, destroying the enemy’s ships. Return to the hotel in Ayia Napa followed by dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)
Day 6: AYIA NAPA / LARNACA / ONWARDS
Transfer to the airport for your flight. (B)