Open any tourist guide and you’re bound to see the same villages mentioned over and over again, from Lefkara to Lofou, Kakopetria to Kalopanayiotis. And while these rural communities are undoubtedly worth visiting, we’ve decided to shine the spotlight on some lesser-known gems. Always here to inspire you, My Cyprus Insider gives you the lowdown on four gorgeous villages that may not quite be the most popular hot-spots, but are certainly worth discovering.
1. Vavla, Larnaca
This peaceful village in the Larnaca foothills of the Troodos mountain range may not be as well-known as Lefkara or Kato Drys, but Vavla is still a real beauty in its own right. Quiet and incredibly peaceful, the tiny little village – with less than 100 residents – is experiencing a small renaissance of late, with many of the area’s historic crumbling houses now restored to their former glory.
If you love honey, you’re in for a sweet treat here, as many residents busy themselves with beekeeping and produce prime local honey with the nectar of the thyme and wildflowers of the area. In fact, the area’s honey is so delicious that it’s actually praised as some of the best made on the island! Sweet produce aside, if you’re in the mood for some sightseeing, pop into the church of Agios Georgios to the north of the village, and the church of Archangelos Michail to the south. The convent of St Minas is also worth a visit, just outside the village en route to Kato Drys – dating back to the 15th century, it’s a really interesting mix of Byzantine and Gothic styles. Want to get those leg muscles working? Head out on some lovely nature trails that begin in the village and weave through the surrounding countryside.
2. Pano Panayia, Paphos
If you’re keen on heading up high into the pine-covered Cyprus mountains, but are looking for an alternative to Platres or Kakopetria, then make your way into the depths of the Paphos forest and the village of Panagia, right on the outskirts of the forest, famed for its gorgeous Monastery of Chrysorroyiatissa. The monastery dates all the way back to 1152, established by monk Ignatios and dedicated to ‘Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate’. History aside, it’s the courtyard here that’s the real stunner, while the views from the monastery gardens are simply breathtaking.
Wine lovers are also in for a real treat in this pretty village, home to one of the island’s top boutique wineries, Vouni Panayia. Founded in 1987 by Andreas Kyriakides, there is plenty of award-winning wine to taste here. You can also visit the onsite traditional museum or watch a short film enlightening you on the wine-making process; from sowing seeds to drinking vino! If all this learning and wine tasting is making you hungry, then you can tuck into delicious seasonal Cypriot cuisine in the winery’s mountain view restaurant.
3. Koilani, Limassol
Close to the west bank of the river Kryos (Cold River), this picturesque little village is yet another rural gem with narrow alleyways, dotted with houses topped with terracotta tiled rooves, intricate balconies, and gorgeous archways, so very quietly telling tales of bygone days.
Keep your eyes peeled for the traditional earthenware jars that decorate numerous gardens, while some old houses still keep equipment for distilling wine and zivania! Nature lovers will no doubt be happy to stumble across one of the biggest plane trees on the island which provides shade for the village chapel of Ayia Mavri. Step inside and you’ll also catch a glimpse of some lovely murals. There’s also the village olive mill, and the ecclesiastical museum to mosey around.
4. Lazanias, Nicosia district
Much like the nearby Fikardou, there are barely any permanent inhabitants left in Lazanias (pictured in cover photo), and this, is very much undeniably part of its charm. Crumbling mud and stone house cling to the area’s green hills, with lovely balconies and wooden beams adding to olde worlde feel. Much like most villages on the island, there are also churches of significant cultural and historical importance here. The wood-carved church of St George is a special site to see: built in the 1800s and impressing visitors today with its gorgeous wooden roof and carved wooden mezzanine pine wood floors.