Deep in the heart of the Pitsillia region of the island, is a village that has come to be loved by islanders and foreigners alike. Not just another pretty rural hot spot, there’s something incredibly bright and beautiful that makes Agros famous: its glorious rambling roses.
Officially known as the ‘Rose of Damascus’ (Rosa damascene) that blossoms in April/May, the foothills of the Troodos Mountains provide an ideal environment for growth; a place where the fragile light pink flowers are protected from strong winds while bathed in just the right amount sunshine come spring.
With the annual Rose Festival coming up on the weekends of May 12-14 and 20-21, there are a whole host of activities to enjoy, whether you want to indulge in an earthy hands-on experience, wish to try some local produce, or fancy sitting back and listening to talks.
The festival will kick off on Friday May 12th with an opening ceremony at the Glafkos Clerides Sports Centre, followed by a cultural event dedicated to roses. On Saturday May 13th you can enjoy a hands on experience with rose bush planting taking place near the Agros Primary School, traditional distillation of rose water and a music night dedicated to roses. More song and dance will follow on Sunday 14th, with another chance to familiarise yourselves with the distillation of rose water.
Similar festivities will be taking place on the weekend of May 20-21, with a real highlight of the occasion not to be missed on Sunday May 21st, which will see a rather fun competition come to life all about innovative food using Rosa Damascena, with professional chefs selecting the winners.
Suffice to point out that the harvesting of roses itself is a really special occasion that takes place daily before sunrise throughout the month of May as village people gather together to reap the benefits of the flowers that have become synonymous with the area. Want to wake up bright and early to experience rose picking? Both weekends provide the chance to join the villagers of the area to live the experience of gathering roses along with the rose producers of the area.
Kiosks serving food and drink will be set up in the vicinity, while rose products will also be available for purchase. There will also be a hop on-hop off train touring the area, while the small rose factories of the village will be open for visitors.
Did you know?
Agros wasn’t always famous for its roses. In fact, at the start of the 20th century, sources indicate that there were but a few rose bushes in the area, following the import of this specific rose bush from Mesopotamia. And as with most villages, this one has its own tale of a village personality that did something rather special for the community.
It was in fact a schoolteacher in the village, Nearchos Clerides (uncle of former Cypriot president, the late Glafkos Clerides), who was determined to encourage people to recognise the splendours of these roses, setting up the ‘Pupils Association for the Dissemination of the Rose Bush’ in 1917.
With the goal of improving the standard of living of the local community, he introduced an incentive scheme aimed at cultivating the rose bush to produce rose water. The members of the association were obliged to plant and look after fifty rose bushes every year, while those who planted more than fifty rose bushes received a financial reward.
Fast forward to the present day, and his vision has certainly proved to be a fruitful one, with a whole industry now associated with the roses as locals now spending much time cultivating the flowers that so beautifully that blanket the slopes that rise above the village.
The aromatic oil of the roses that locals so treasure is now in turn used for a whole range of purposes, from rose oil to rose water, traditional sweets, to liqueur. Deliciously tantalising to the taste buds, cosmetics containing rose essential oil and rose water are said to hydrate dry skin while providing invaluable protection against harmful free radicals.
For more information on the festival and the full programme visit: www.agros.org.cy