The Painted churches in the Troodos region, Cyprus island

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It was a warm day in the spring and we were near a village in Cyprus, somewhere in the Troodos mountains, in the region bearing the same name. In Cyprus the late May is pretty hot. We were waiting for someone to come and open the small church, located outside the village. We had left the car by the main road and walked by the dirt path to the church. Anna was chasing butterflies and Adriana was only 6 months old so we were carrying her. It was a very quiet and peaceful time, a countryside idilly. During this trip we had decided to explore historical places and lesser known sites. And this church, despite being a UNESCO World Heritage site, was one of the places visited by very few people, at least in May.

The church near Galata village - Παναγίας της Ποδίθου
Maria and Anna ring the bell of the church near Galata village – Παναγίας της Ποδίθου

By the dirt road came a grey pick-up truck with three passengers. One of them unlocked the door of the church and the other two appeared tourists, like us. They were all speaking in Greek and no one paid any special attention to us, so we were only able to understand that the church was unfinished. The small church is from the Byzantine times and is one of the 10 painted churches in the Troodos region of Cyprus, which together make a UNESCO World Heritage site.

After this church we headed to explore the other ones. Some of them appeared quite famous while others, like this one, were quiet and lonely. We have to admit that it was like a treasure hunt – we had some initial information but we were not sure whether it was correct. So we drove by the curvy road across the whole mountain and the journey was more than perfect.

The Byzantine heritage on Cyprus island

Most of the stories you will hear and read about Cyprus are about beaches, resorts, Agia Napa and other places on the seaside. But we will tell you about late May in the inner part of the island, the lesser known places in the Troodos mountains. Our story starts from the village of Omodos, the home of wine in Cyprus.

Omodos village in Cyprus
Omodos village in Cyprus

Omodos village is 40 km north from Limassol and some 80 km from the capital Nicosia. It is located in the Troodos mountains and is easily reachable by a nice road. The village itself is wonderful, quiet, calm, surrounded by vineyards and wine cellars. The central attraction of the village is a 17-century monastery, which is extremely beautiful and adds to the charm of Omodos.

A bell in the monastery of Omodos
A bell in the monastery of Omodos

Part of the Byzantine heritage in Cyrpus are the 10 painted churches in the Troodos region, as well as several monasteries. All of them are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as the Painted Churches in the Troodos Region. We decided to start from the churches, but because the mountainous roads are slow and the churches are everywhere across the mountains, we could not see them all in two days. But we will tell you about the ones we managed to visit.

If you are interested in the churches of Cyprus, you could search an read the book „The painted churches of Cyprus: Treasures of Byzantine art“ by Andreas Stylianou. I admit that I used it as a source of information, too.

The ten UNESCO churches

In the morning Anna washed the terrace, wearing only underpants. The weather in Cyprus in May can be pretty hot, but in the mountains it is wonderful and the evenings are even cool. We had breakfast, hopped in the car and headed to Pelendri village (20 km – 40 min drive) to discover the first church in our list (not the one we started our story with, though). We have to admit that we had no idea what we were looking for, but we really enjoyed our time together.

Timios Stavros church in Pelendri – Τιμίου Σταυρού

Pelendri is a relatively large village but the church we are looking for is small and is somewhere at the end of the village. I don’t remember why we decided to start with this one. But I remember that no matter what schedule we had made for the churches, the mountainous roads would ruin it. Our Anna gets carsick and driving by the curvy roads can be really slow. Moreover, in Cyprus they drive on the left which required additional attention from me in order to stay on the correct side of the road.

Timios Stavros church in Pelendri, Cyprus
Timios Stavros church in Pelendri, Cyprus

We reached Pelendri, passed through the whole village, then descended by a steep narrow street and reached the small church at the end of the village. Timios Stavros church was not something astonishing – a small church with preserved wall paintings from Byzantine times. The church has three parts, each one constructed in a different period. The oldest one is dated to 1178. The name Timios Stavros (The Holy Cross) is related to the story about Saint Helena, the mother of Roman emperor Constantine the Great. She spent a part of her life in Cyprus and is thought to have brought to the island several relics, including parts of the holy cross. This is why many churches in Cyprus are named Timios Stavros.

Maria and the girls in front of Timios Stavros church in Pelendri, Cyprus
Maria and the girls in front of Timios Stavros church in Pelendri, Cyprus

Opening hours:

Summer: Monday-Friday: 10:00 – 13:00 and 15:00 – 17:30; Saturday: 9:00 – 13:00; Sunday – Closed

Winter: Monday-Friday: 9:00 – 12:00 and 13:00 – 16:30; Saturday: 9:00 – 13:00; Sunday – Closed

Free admission

Church of the Metamorphosis tou Sotiros (The Transfiguration of the Saviour) in Palaichori village

It was actually nice to drive through the Troodos mountains, despite the curves and the slow travelling. The spring time, the good mood, the two good kids made our journey refreshing. We reached the hill above Palaichori village, some 40 km from Nicosia on the eastern side of the mountain. We parked the car under a tree, just above the Metamorphosis tou Sotiros church, built towards the end of 16th century.

Church of the Metamorphosis tou Sotiros (The Transfiguration of the Saviour) in Palaichori village - Μεταμόρφωση του Σωτήρος
Church of the Metamorphosis tou Sotiros (The Transfiguration of the Saviour) in Palaichori village – Μεταμόρφωση του Σωτήρος
Church of the Metamorphosis tou Sotiros (The Transfiguration of the Saviour) in Palaichori village
Church of the Metamorphosis tou Sotiros (The Transfiguration of the Saviour) in Palaichori village

The church was locked but while looking for a phone to call, a whole group of tourists arrived. I think they were Brits with a local guide. He kindly invited us inside the church. A lot of time passed since this visit and I don’t remember everything he told us about the church. But it was entirely painted from the inside, with beautiful frescoes in Venetian style, because at that time Cyprus was controlled by the Venetian republic.

The church vestibule
The church vestibule

The guide told us in brief about the wall paintings just before the whole group entered. He noted that down in the village there was another old church. We did not find it open but we went down to the village by the steep narrow streets to have lunch. There were only sandwiches but the people in the restaurant were extremely hospitable.

The other church in Palaichori village, Cyprus, Troodos region
The other church in Palaichori village, Cyprus, Troodos region

Opening hours:

Tuesday and Wednesday: 10:00 – 13:00

It is best if you can arrange your visit in advance. We were lucky because we arrived on Saturday morning but thanks to the other group we were also able to see the church.

Palaichori village in Cyprus, Troodos region
Palaichori village in Cyprus, Troodos region

Although exploring the mountains was wonderful, we returned to the vicinities of Limassol because we had arranged a wine tasting. Moreover, we wished to explore also the village of Omodos where we were staying.

The church near Galata village – Panagia tis Podithou – Παναγίας της Ποδίθου

With this church we started our story – Panagia tis Podithou (Blessed Virgin Mary) near Galata village. Once there was a whole monastery here but now only the church has remained. It is located in the valley of the only river in Cyprus that does not dry in the summer – Karkotis (or Klarios).

The church near Galata village
The church near Galata village

The steep slopes of the roof were visible from the main road, where we stopped the car and continued walking. The church was once a part of a monastery complex. It was built in 1502. The paintings are in line with the Italo-Byzantine tradition, influenced by the Venetians who were controlling the island at that time. The church has never been entirely painted. It was prohibited to take photos of the paintings inside so you will need to visit and see them personally.

Panagia tis Podithou church in Troodos region, Cyprus
Panagia tis Podithou church in Troodos region, Cyprus

Opening hours:

No official opening hours. On the door there was a note with a phone number which we called.

Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis (St. Nicholas of the Roof) church in Kakopetria – Άγιος Νικόλαος της Στέγης

The St. Nicholas church is also on the coast of Karkotis river and was a part of a former 11-century Byzantine monastery. This is the only preserved monastery church in Cyprus from this period. Nothing else is left from the monastery buildings and the church is now surrounded by school camping site.

Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis (St. Nicholas of the Roof) church in Kakopetria
Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis (St. Nicholas of the Roof) church in Kakopetria

The church has a nickname „της Στέγης“, which literally means “on the roof”. It comes from the 12-century roof with steep slopes that was built additionally in order to protect the church from the rain and snowfall in the mountain. So, when you enter the church, you will see a dome which is not visible from the outside.

The inside of the church Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis (St. Nicholas of the Roof) near Kakopetria
The inside of the church Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis (St. Nicholas of the Roof) near Kakopetria

Opening hours:

Tuesday – Saturday: 9:00 – 16:00; Sunday: 11:00 – 16:00; Monday – Closed.

Free admission

From here the road took us to the Kalopanagiotis village and the local monastery. But meanwhile, we stopped to see two more churches from the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Archangelos Michael Church in Pedoulas – Αρχαγγέλου Μιχαήλ

The village of Pedoulas is locateda at 1100 m altitude and has 12 churches. The most impressive one among them is from 1474 – Archangelos Michael Church. It is in the lower part of the village. When we arrived, there was a group of English-speaking visitors, but they were just leaving. So the church was all left to us.

Archangelos Michael Church in Pedoulas
Archangelos Michael Church
Maria, Anna and Adriana next to the church
Maria, Anna and Adriana next to the church

The church was beautifully painted, with a large painting of St. Archangel Michael. The building was small, with the typical steep slope roof which we saw on the other similar buildings.

Archangelos Michael Church in Pedoulas
Archangelos Michael Church in Pedoulas

No information about official opening hours.

Panagia tou Moutoulla church (Παναγίας του Μουτουλλά) in Moutoullas village

We were already hurrying to reach the end of our adventure and dedicated less time to the last churches, despite they were even more interesting than the first ones. But when you travel with small kids, everyone gets tired easily. At first we were confused about the location of the church but finally, driving by a very steep road, we reached the hill above Moutoullas village, where the church was. At that midday time there were only two other female tourists besides us.

Panagia tou Moutoulla (Παναγίας του Μουτουλλά) in Moutoullas village, Cyprus
Panagia tou Moutoulla (Παναγίας του Μουτουλλά) in Moutoullas village, Cyprus

The church was built in 1280 and has the typical steep-pitched timber roof, covered with stone tiles. The frescoes inside are in Byzantine style but are only partially preserved.

Panagia tou Moutoulla
Panagia tou Moutoulla church

No information about official opening times.

Agios Ioannis Lampadistis monastery (Αγίου Ιωάννου του Λαμπαδιστού) in Kalopanagiotis village

This is the last site from our trip, there are two more churches we were unable to visit. As I told you earlier, we headed to Setrahos river and the village of Kalopanagiotis. On the eastern shore of the river, in the lower part of the village is the monastery Agios Ioannis Lampadistis. Nowadays it is not a functioning monastery. But the buildings and the church are well-maintained.

Agios Ioannis Lampadistis monastery
Agios Ioannis Lampadistis monastery

We left the car on the full parking near the monastery and went into the inner yard. Here we met Russian female tourists taking photos for Instagram, but the place was still calm, beautiful and well-maintained. It was a pleasure to see this monastery.

Agios Ioannis Lampadistis monastery in Kalopanagiotis village
Agios Ioannis Lampadistis monastery in Kalopanagiotis village
Agios Ioannis Lampadistis monastery in Kalopanagiotis village
Agios Ioannis Lampadistis monastery in Kalopanagiotis village

Opening hours:

Tuesday – Saturday: 8:00 – 13:00 and 14:00 – 16:00; Sunday: 10:00 – 13:00 and 14:00 – 16:00; Monday – Closed. In the summer the church is open until 19h.

Kalopanagiotis village appeared a famous tourist place with some other attractions. By the nearby river there are healing mineral water springs. At one place we even read that the village was known as the SPA capital of Cyprus. Indeed, Kalopanagiotis is a picturesque village, with many guest houses and even a luxury SPA complex. In the valley of the river there are old Venetian bridge and several mills that also attract tourists. Another attracton in the village is the local funicular that takes the lazy visitors to the top of the hill.

Troodos mountains in Cyprus
Troodos mountains in Cyprus

From here we headed to the highest point of the Troodos mountains and then to Omodos village, where we had other interesting things to do. In the mountain there are many other monasteries and churches and I hope we will have the opportunity to see them and write about them in the future.

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