So you’ve settled on a new destination and (unless you like to spend 2 weeks idling by the pool) you check out the highlights, read a few ‘Top 10’ lists and start compiling you own ‘must dos’. Time is usually limited so you can’t do everything. You’ll begin with the most popular in line with your own interests and work from there.
I visited Cyprus in October 2021 for the first time. It was never on my bucket list but had several things going for it – there were flights available when I started looking for somewhere in late September, it offered the option of a mini road trip, there were ancient sites galore for a bit of ‘culture’, the food sounded great and, while sunshine wasn’t guaranteed, there was a very good chance of some decent weather!
I’m beginning with Limassol because it was our first port of call. The absolute only thing I knew about it beforehand was that it was a holiday destination. I don’t love resort towns but this one was beside the UNESCO site of Kourion which was on my must see list.
As a resort, the second largest city on the island has a lot going for it – sand and sea, historical old centre and plenty of hotels, dining, entertainment and partying options. Close to two of the island’s main archaeological sites – Kourion and Amathus – as well as the wine routes, it’s also a useful base for daytrips.
Most people head for Molos, the beautiful promenade stretching along the seafront. The 1km long seaside park includes playgrounds, water features, palms and a great sculpture trail. On Sundays, you’ll be joined by Limassol locals, out for a family stroll. Out to sea, you can see the shipping lanes that serve this busy part of the Med.
From the end of Molos, you can see the resort stretching out along the coast…..
The city beach – Akti Olympion – doesn’t do it for me at all but I appreciate that many visitors like to stay close to the action. There are more attractive beach options for anyone willing to travel a little bit out from the city centre.
At the other end of Molos you’ll find the Marina, designed to blend in with the old port and the old town. Here, you can wander and compare the fabulous yachts with traditional fishing boats. There are lots of restaurants, bars and shops as well as open spaces for cultural events and activities.
The historical Old Town is located around the old port and the 14th century Medieval Castle (now a museum). The maze of little streets brings you to the Cathedral with its fascinating frescos, and to the Mosque, surrounded by palm trees. The main square is surrounded by cafes and restaurants.
Kourion IS impressive – it’s worth coming to Cyprus just for this alone:
Firstly, the location – look at this place! Strategically spread across a hilltop, it offers fabulous views of both land and the Med –
I wish I’d more time to sit and enjoy….
Definitely heading down there for a swim after this!
The place is HUGE! – and offering very little shade – wouldn’t be a lot of fun in high summer!
While the site was first inhabited during Neolithic Times, the town of Kourion was founded in the 13th century BC by the Argives. It survived up to the Byzantine era and layers of influences -Pagan, Hellenistic, Roman, Christian – have been unearthed by archaeologists. The marble columns, beautiful mosaics and fine public buildings and baths all suggest a city of wealth and luxury.
A series of earthquakes hit the island in the late 4th century AD, causing much damage to Kourion and other coastal cities. The city was rebuilt but destroyed again during the Arab raids of the 7th century. By the 670’s the city had been abandoned and its habitants relocated to a new settlement just 2kms away.
Kourion was rediscovered in 1820, and systematic excavations began in 1934.
There is just so much detail to be absorbed as you stroll around…
The signage is impressive, making for a very easy self-guided tour. As well as direction indicators, there are information boards and floor plans at all the major buildings.
The Agora still has some of its marble columns in situ.
The Greco-Roman Theatre has been restored and is used for musical and theatrical performances.
The public baths, with intricate heating systems , are particularly fascinating….
The Early Christian Basilica was an enormous complex. Built on the site of a pagan temple, its location and richly marbled features reflect the rise and advance of Christianity in the city and state.
Impressive as the site and its ruins may be, the mosaics are the main attraction. The richly adorned villas are named after the scenes depicted on the floors – House of Achilles, House of the Gladiators, etc.
Visiting the site:
Entrance fee is €4.50.
You’ll need a minimum of 1-2 hours to whizz around – longer, of course, if you stop to read everything.
Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates
Just a few kilometres from Kourion you’ll find a temple complex that was once the most significant religious site on the island. Here, Apollo was worshipped as the God of the island’s woodland and protector of Kourion.
A sanctuary existed here from the 8th century BC but was extensively expanded during the Roman period of the 1st century AD – a temple was erected which was later given a four-column porch. A paved processional led to the temple and several buildings were added to accommodate an increasing number of visitors. The sanctuary was destroyed by one of the earthquakes of the 4th century.
Today, you’ll find several buildings on the site including a partially restored temple, and bath complex.
The great thing about having a car is that you can throw everything into it in the morning and not about carrying stuff around all day. So in this case, you can enjoy the archaeological sites and then head to the beach…
Where we stayed
We were looking for a place:
Within walking distance of city centre
24 hour reception (arriving after 2 am)
Non – luxury (this was for our first 3 nights)
Any kind of pool and sun deck.
Pefkos City Hotel is about a 20 minute walk to the Marina.
We paid €240 for 3 nights, breakfast included. Breakfast is good – Fresh fruit / seeds etc. / yogurt. Coal meats / cheeses / tomato / olives. Hot = eggs / bacon / croquettes/ etc. Breads = croissant / Danish / pain au chocolat…. Coffee machine.
This is not a ‘resort’ hotel but ideal for a few nights if touring. The pool area was small but adequate for our needs – it was quiet at the end of October.
Roadworks outside didn’t help with first impressions but did not effect us in any way. Its about a 20 minute walk into town – the walk is not particularly attractive but is quiet and safe. There’s a nice deli close to the hotel where you can get coffees etc.
Would we stay there again? Yes.
Where we ate…
One thing for sure – you won’t go hungry here…
You’ll definitely try a Meze – a medley of dishes including dips, salad, halloumi, vegetables and fish or meat, depending on your choice of menu.
At Meze Taverna Restaurant, our meat feast cost us €17.50 each….
Lunch in Jeugo Cafe
Gorgeous Chicken Avocado Salad (€12.50) and Halloumi Wrap with fries (€8.50)
You’ll get Moussaka pretty much everywhere….
You ARE on vacation – it’s always the right time for a cocktail!
How long in Limassol?
If touring around I’d give it 2 days / 3 nights max – a day wandering town and the beach, a morning for Kourion and the Sanctuary and another afternoon of leisure.
Pushed for time – You could easily do Kourion in a morning and walk around town the same afternoon.
20 thoughts on “Visiting Cyprus? 5 Favourites (from a first-timer’s perspective!) #1 Limassol / Kourion”
It’s on my list Marie, looks wonderful and so full of history
Seems it’s got everything for a perfect holiday
I find I’ve veering more and more towards sun destinations but that wouldn’t be enough on its own to attract me. There was a nice variety here…
Well I do enjoy a holiday in the sun even though I live in a very sunny place 😁
Go on – rub it in😅 😂!! I think our Dept of Health should send every Irish person to the sun twice a year! It would cheer us all up so productivity would increase, and would save a fortune on medical and health complaints which would vanish in the heat! 😅 😂
Definitely Marie and we should be forced to spend time in the cold and stop complaining about the heat
😅 😂 🤣
This is really useful as well as interesting 🙂 We’ve never had Cyprus on our radar but toyed with it for a bit of warmth at the tail end of winter although in the end decided on somewhere even warmer (watch this space!) From what you say so far I think we’d like it. How did you find driving over there? And if we didn’t fancy driving, is it still a good choice, assuming we don’t want to sit on a beach or by a pool all day, which we don’t?!
Driving was no problem – although we didn’t stray far off the tourist route to be honest – We’re going back in April and hoping to visit Northern Cyprus – looking at car hire and insurance at the moment for that. Without a car, you’d manage to see the major archaeological sites in Paphos and this one beside Limmasol if you are staying in either town. The bus from Paphos to Nicosia takes about 2 hours – you could overnight there… The mountain churches are lovely but without a car I’d say you’re looking at an organised day trip – I think they can include the wine routes as well so that’s not a bad thing!!! We’re heading towards Ayia Napa area for a few days next time. There are lovely cliff walks around there and also day trips up into Northern Cyprus so you wouldn’t be stuck on the beach…
I’ve been to Cyprus 3 times in my lifetime and enjoyed each visit but when I last went in April 2010 there were no organized coach tours and the tourist office managed to get us fixed up with a Thompson’s group that had their own coach and itinerary. I shall pull a veil over that one! A car is a necessity, I’d say, and when my husband was alive (pre-2009) we always had a 4-wheel drive for the mountain areas which are the most fascinating. In fact, once away from the main towns, the roads can be very bad, especially if it’s been raining. The nicest thing about Cyprus are the people, they are really welcoming.
We drove over the mountains last time but stuck to the main road which was fine… Did you ever go into Northern Cyprus? Trying to sort it…
It looks so interesting with all the history; it’s such a fascinating island with almost 2 halves of it. I’d love to visit one day to explore it 🙂
I’d say you’d get good flight options Hannah – We’re rather limited out of Dublin. I think you’d like it – there’s plenty of variety to suit any type of holiday…
We were booked to go to Cyprus in 2020 but it was cancelled because of covid. We did go in 2014 to the East coast and had a visit to Nicosia. The thing I remember most about the day trip was that I was too hot.
East Coast – is that around Ayia Napaa? Did you stay there or in another town? Am looking in that area for a few days in April/May
My brother and wife spent a few summers on Cyprus. Any island would be intriguing, to me but I didn’t know there were so many historic finds here. I heard someone ask about transportation. I remember my brother and wife used the moped a lot, instead of a car:) Thank you for visiting my blog!
There are several archaeological sites on the island – then there are the beautiful painted churches up in the mountains…. so there’s lots of history to distract from the beach…. Gosh its so long since I was on a moped!!!! Such freedom!! Not sure I’d have the nerve nowadays with so much traffic everywhere!
Too much traffic was the very reason my practical brother chose the moped:):)
I rarely do the driving when I’m away and would be useless off the main roads in Cyprus – but I think I’d still feel safer in a car – Love the idea though – might have a look when we go over in April!!! Watch out for the photos!!!! 🛵🛵