Text: Charalampos Nikolopoulos
Increasingly, when the question of holiday experiences comes to the fore, the answer that effortlessly comes to mind is “agrotourism.” Fueling this concept is Cyprus’ raw, natural beauty – picturesque villages, historic mansions, stunning walks in nature, accommodation in well-tended, traditional guesthouses, wineries, farming, and cooperatives facilitating active participation in agriculture. Compliments to these are folk-art museums, historical archives, farmer’s markets, flea markets, cycling, hiking, bird watching, as well as botany – all incentives for the traveller to gain a deeper knowledge of the land, its people and the life Cyprus offers.
In recent years, agrotourism in Cyprus has been developing on increasingly solid ground thanks to the Cyprus Agrotourism Company. A network of accommodations has been created in approximately 60 villages. These have been renovated to include modern comforts, but maintain their rugged authenticity. Εlements such as culture, the local community, gastronomy, rural countryside, nature, and tradition are combined into a year-round package offering escape into idyllic settings. Some of these are located just a few kilometres from the shores of Larnaka and Pafos. Others are further inland in regions of Limassol and Nicosia, and more are nestled back into the Troodos mountains in the heart of Cyprus.
Photos: Deputy Ministry of Tourism
In the province of Nicosia, one can find the village of Aska, with its unique flora and the rare tree Apania, as well as various agroaccommodations in splendid surroundings. In the famous, green- covered village of Kakopetria, where the element of water is dominant, await folk art museums housing works from a bygone era. Kalopanayiotis is suitable for hiking, mountain biking, and fishing around the dam. Next to Kakopetria, in a green valley lined with watermills and medieval churches, is the village Galata. The villages of Spilia and Kourdali are also located in the Troodos region, offering peace, relaxation, and a healthy climate yearround. Lythrodontas is situated closer to the capital (about 30km from Nicosia). Surrounded by olive groves as far as the eye can see, the hospitable locals are happy to share their customs and point guests in the direction of olive and flour mills open to visitors. At an altitude of 1,100 metres, on the northern slopes of the Troodos mountain range, is the village Pedoulas. Surrounded by pines, cherry trees, and natural springs, Pedoulas, one of the most popular of these mountain villages, possesses a rich cultural life highlighting the customs and traditions of the place, as well as luxury accommodation in boutique hotels.
Agros, in the province of Limassol, is a timeless and popular choice, as it combines the incomparably beautiful natural environment with warm hospitality, countless attractions, and good food. Take the opportunity to sample Zivania, a strong alcoholic drink made from grape pomace and dry wine, and traditional spoon sweets, the latter found in shops around every corner. The village mascot is the rose, which is available in dozens of versions both drinkable and edible – all worthy of falling in love with! The village of Kyperounta is one more destination that can’t be missed, especially during winter. The largest of the mountain villages in Cyprus, Kyperountas boasts multiple options for travelers – historical sites and the great outdoors among them. Apple trees and vineyards complement the settings at high altitude (about 1,300 metres), while the 5th-century Byzantine church of Ayios Arsenios of Cappadocia, and the famous Kyperountas Winery guarantee memorable experiences. Omodos, a beautiful village paved throughout its largest part, is located in an agriculturally-friendly region full of apple, plum, pear, peach and apricot trees. Moreover, Fasoula, located just 7km from Limassol, has many options. Another choice is Anogyra, famous for its carob trees, carob honey, and brittle candy pasteli. The stone architecture and Byzantine sites are reminiscent of the Crusading era. Moreover, Arsos, located on the border with the province of Pafos and surrounded by vineyards, is one of the most productive winemaking villages on the island. Vasa Koilaniou village, neighbour to Arsos, has similar geographical features. The plantain trees and pure food in Potamitissa exude calm and refreshment. The various rock features in Apsiou are of particular interest to geologists. Then there are the up and coming villages of Vouni, Lemythou, Sykopetra, and Lofos that operate also in accordance with the principles of agrotourism and have become beacons for those seeking meaningful getaways. Special mention should be made of Platres, a favorite vacation spot of Nobel Prize-winning poet George Seferis, located in an incomparable landscape of age-old trees, waterfalls, and rare fauna.
Photo: Nikolas Mastoras
Photo: Deputy Ministry of Tourism
In the province of Larnaka stands one of Cyprus’ most beautiful villages, Lefkara, famous for its leukarite, a form of embroidery, and silversmithing. The area is ideal for walks and visits to nearby monuments. Next to Lefkara is the village of Kato Drys, with oak trees, a winery, and home to delicious local jams. In the wider mountain range is the village of Vavla that is designated a protected site thanks to its white stone houses and delectable honey. Easy to access is the village Skarinou, located on the road that connects Nicosia, Limassol, and Larnaka. Skarinou is distinguishable by the traditional stone architecture of its homes, the hearty cuisine, and treasured local folklore. Rounding out this list of villages are Choirokoitia, Psematismenos, Kalavasos, and Tochni, located closer to the island’s shores, with accomodations offering a sense of cosmopolitan wellbeing.
In the province of Pafos, agrotourist accommodations are available in the villages of Giolou, Goudi, Droushia, Episkopi, Kathikas, Kallepia, Akourdalia, Nikoklia, Pano Panayia, Arodes, Choulou, Miliou, and Poli Chrysochous. Of these, Kathikas stands out for its lush landscape, its stone-built houses, and amazing views both towards the mountains and the sea. Famous for its taverns and wine, it is a place where Cypriot gastronomy has achieved its purest and most unadulterated form. Do not miss out on visiting the small donkey shelter and the chance to connect with these wonderful animals up close. The mystical and charming village of Episkopi has much to offer. Dominated by rock formations above, and unique clusters of single-story homes below, the scene is reminiscent of Meteora. The rivers, valleys, watermills, Venetian bridges, chapels, and ruins in the vicinity still hold onto secrets from centuries past and are worthy destinations to explore. Panayia, the most remote among the villages of Pafos, is named for the many churches and monasteries in the area, most dedicated to Holy Mother (Panayia). The most prominent of the churches are Panayia Eleousa (16th century) that occupies the village centre, the historic Monastery of Panayia Chrysorogiatissa, and the Byzantine Monastery of Panayia tou Kykkou (Kykkos Monastery). Also iconic of the area are the “agrino”, an endangered species of wild sheep. There are a multitude of noteworthy wineries in Pafos carrying on with traditions of winemaking established in centuries past, many of them offering public tours and tastings.