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Cyprus Cruises

Limassol, Cyprus

About Cyprus

Birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, Cyprus is an island in the eastern Mediterranean with a lot to admire, from breezy beaches to rolling vineyards. Its history spans the centuries. Settled more than 10,000 years ago by Mycenaean Greeks, the island is home to remains from this period in the Neolithic village of Khirokitia. The island’s strategic location made it attractive to Persians, Egyptians, Romans, Venetians, Ottomans and others, all claiming it over millennia. Today the island is shared between Greece and Turkey, divided by a United Nations buffer zone known as the Green Line.

Limassol, Cyprus’s largest port, is on the Greek side, nestled between the sprawling Akrotiri Bay and the dramatic foothills of the Troodos Mountains, where Cypriot wines are produced. Centuries of history have unfolded here, much of it during the era of the Crusades, as the island-nation’s castles will attest. In one of these historic edifices, Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre and crowned her Queen of England.

Cyprus Lifestyle and Culture

The medieval capital city of Nicosia (Lefkosia in Turkish) straddles the national border. It may be divided, but neither side is off limits. Pedestrian bridges make it possible to have a Turkish breakfast and a Greek lunch. In the dramatic Troodos Mountains, a bounty of grapes, olives and citrus are grown along sloping hills and in sweeping groves. Many farmers still get around on the backs of donkeys, moving their harvests between villages. Their four-legged transportation adds immeasurably to the island’s many charms.

Limassol’s medieval center is closed to traffic, making exploration a pleasure. Here, ancient mosques stand next to Greek Orthodox churches and family-owned tavernas share streets with high-end boutiques. Wine has been produced in this region for millennia. One in particular, Commandaria, is the oldest continually made wine under the same name.

Easter is an important time in Cyprus, with many Cypriots returning home to participate in feasts and celebrations. Midnight mass is followed by candle lighting and fireworks. Special pastries are baked, games are played and traditional music fills the air.

Cyprus Sights and Landmarks

In Limassol, visit Lemesos Castle, which changed hands many times during Cyprus’s tumultuous past. This is where, in 1191, King Richard the Lionheart wed Berengaria of Navarre. Explore the Medieval Museum and enjoy city views from the rooftop terrace. Kolossi Castle, once a mighty Crusader stronghold, was built in the 13th century by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Richard and Berengaria had their wedding banquet here, and he declared the Cypriot wine to be the “wine of kings and the king of wine.” Just west of the city lies the Kourion archaeological site, graced with Greek and Roman ruins and a magnificent amphitheater still in use today.

In the capital of Nicosia, don’t miss the Cyprus Museum; it houses the world’s largest and most impressive collection of Cypriot antiquities, dating to 400 BC. On the northern, Turkish side of the city, Selimiye Mosque looms large. Originally built as a church in the 13th century in the French Gothic style, the Ottomans converted it into a mosque in 1571 and added two minarets.

Dating to the 3rd century BC, Paphos is an archaeological oasis in the southwest of the country, best known for its intricate floor mosaics depicting Roman legends and Greek myths. Located offshore, just outside this ancient city is Petra tou Romiou, or Aphrodite’s Rock, where it is said that the goddess of beauty and love first stepped on land after waves carried her here.

Cyprus Entertainment and Activities

For one of the longest stretches of sand on the island, head to Kourion beach just below the famous amphitheater. Lounge chairs and umbrellas are available for rent, and fresh seafood sends out its aromas from the seaside tavernas. After your fill of sun and sand, set your sights on Omodos, an ancient wine-making town in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains. The 17th-century Byzantine monastery forms the town’s center and cobblestone streets lead to charming homes awash in white. Wine-tasting stalls, restaurants and shopping await here.

The small but well-kept Limassol Zoo is a great place for visitors of all ages to learn about reptiles, birds and mammals from all continents. Come during feeding time to see the inhabitants at their most active.

Hamam Omerye in Nicosia mixes history and architecture with decadent relaxation. A centuries-old, lovingly restored stone building provides a traditional Turkish bath experience in the utmost luxury. Scrub down in the marble hammam or choose from a menu of spa services. You can even sit back with a glass of local wine.

Cyprus Restaurants and Shopping

An enticing combination of Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine, Cypriot food will delight the senses. Small dishes in the form of meze provide a great introduction to fresh Mediterranean flavors. Halloumi is the ultimate Cypriot food; this firm cheese made from a mix of cow’s and sheep’s milk is usually served hot off the grill. And whatever you do, don’t skip dessert. Nuts, honey and rose water play a large role, from rice pudding to mouthwatering baklava.

When dining in Limassol, you can find Karatello in the Old Carob Mill complex overlooking the medieval castle. It’s an inviting spot to treat yourself to traditional Cypriot food with a modern twist. For seafood as fresh as it gets, Ladas Fish Restaurant near the Old Harbor serves fish caught daily by local fishermen. You choose the fish from what’s on hand, and the restaurant will prepare it to your liking in a rustic yet polished setting.

In Nicosia, you can sample small plates at Zanettos, a classic meze tavern in a relaxed atmosphere. Servers will keep delivering food to your table until you ask them to stop. The Syrian Arab Friendship Club serves up delicious Middle Eastern food; choose from an assortment of grilled meats, falafel and meze. For something a little more elegant, you may enjoy Romantica Tutto il Giorno, where Italian food is served on a palm-fringed patio.

My Mall in Limassol is the largest shopping complex on the island with standard international stores and outlets. The municipal market offers an assortment of consumables like sweets and nuts, and the village of Omodos offers a number of boutiques for gift items.