Top historic sites in Cyprus

Amathus

Amathus was one of the most ancient royal cities of Cyprus. Its ancient cult of Aphrodite was the most important, after Paphos, in Cyprus, her homeland, though the ruins of Amathus are less well-preserved than neighboring Kourion. The pre-history of Amathus mixes myth and archaeology. Though there was no Bronze Age city on the site, archaeology has detected human activity that is evident from the earliest Iron Age, c. 11 ...
Founded: 1100 BC | Location: Limassol, Cyprus

Tombs of the Kings

The Tombs of the Kings is an impressive necropolis that is located just outside the walls, to the north and east of Paphos town. It was built during the Hellenistic period (3rd century B.C.) to satisfy the needs of the newly founded Nea Paphos. Its name is not connected with the burial of kings, as the royal institution was abolished in 312 B.C., but rather with the impressive character of its burial monuments. The site w ...
Founded: 300 BC | Location: Paphos, Cyprus

Paphos Castle

Paphos (Pafos) Castle was originally a Byzantine fort built to protect the harbour. It was rebuilt by the Lusignans in the 13th century, dismantled by the Venetians in 1570 during the Ottoman invasion and rebuilt by the Ottomans after they captured the island in the 16th century. Originally, this role was served by the Saranta Kolones fort, the ruins of which lie a few hundred meters to the north. During its long history ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Paphos, Cyprus

Salamis

The region round the bay of Salamis is one of the most favoured in the whole island and Salamis city became the capital of Cyprus as far back as 1100 BC. The city shared the destiny of the rest of the island during the successive occupations by the various dominant powers of the Near East, viz. the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, and Romans. The ancient site covers an area of one square mile extending along the sea shore. ...
Founded: 1100 BC | Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Kyrenia Castle

The original Kyrenia castle was probably built by Byzantines in the 7th Century to guard the city against the new Arab maritime threat. The first historical reference to the castle occurs in 1191, when King Richard the Lionheart of England captured it on his way to the Third Crusade. He did so by defeating Isaac Comnenus, an upstart local governor who had proclaimed himself emperor. After a short period, Richard sold the ...
Founded: 1540 | Location: Kyrenia, Cyprus

Kourion

Kourion city endured from antiquity until the early Middle Ages. The city has passed through different phases from a Hellenistic, Roman, and Christian periods. For this reason the city has a very large Agora (market place) and you can find an early Christian Basilica as well within the city walls. Furthermore, large public baths which were equipped with cold, warm and hot spas were built. In the large amphitheatre which s ...
Founded: 4500-3900 BC | Location: Limassol, Cyprus

House of Dionysos

The House of Dionysos is a rich Greco-Roman type building where the rooms were arranged around a central court, which functioned as the core of the house. It seems that the house was built at the end of the 2nd century AD. and was destroyed and abandoned after the earthquakes of the 4th century AD. The House of Dionysus occupies 2000 square metres of which 556 are covered with mosaic floors decorated with mythological, vi ...
Founded: c. 190 AD | Location: Paphos, Cyprus

Kolossi Castle

Kolossi Castle was a former Crusader castle possibly built in 1210 by the Frankish military, when the land of Kolossi was given by King Hugh I to the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (Hospitallers). Owing to rivalry among the factions in the Crusader Kingdom of Cyprus, the castle was taken by the Knights Templar in 1306, but returned to the Hospitallers in 1313 following the abolition of the Templars. The pres ...
Founded: 1454 | Location: Limassol, Cyprus

Saint Hilarion Castle

The Saint Hilarion Castle is the best preserved ruin of the three former strongholds in the Kyrenia mountains, the others being Kantara and Buffavento. Saint Hilarion was originally a monastery, named after a monk who allegedly chose the site for his hermitage, with a monastery and a church built there in the 10th century. Starting in the 11th century, the Byzantines began fortification. Saint Hilarion formed the defense ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Kyrenia, Cyprus

House of Theseus

House of Theseus is a Roman villa built in the second half of the 2nd century AD over the ruins of earlier houses of the Hellenistic and early Roman periods. It was in use until the 7th century AD. The villa"s large size, it consisted of more than 100 rooms, suggests that the building was the residence of the governor of Cyprus. Many of the rooms and three of the four porticos around the central court are covered wi ...
Founded: c. 170 AD | Location: Paphos, Cyprus

Kykkos Monastery

The Holy, Royal and Stavropegic Monastery of Kykkos is one of the wealthiest and best-known monasteries in Cyprus.It was founded around the end of the 11th century by the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1081 - 1118). The monastery lies at an altitude of 1318 meters on the north west face of Troödos Mountains. There are no remains of the original monastery as it was burned down many times.
Founded: c. 1090 | Location: Paphos Forest, Cyprus

Tenta

Tenta, also known as Kalavasos-Tenta, is a Neolithic settlement which dates back to eighth millennium BC. According to local source, the locality of Tenta was named after St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, pitched her tent on the site when she returned to Cyprus in AD 327 from her trip to Jerusalem, bearing the Cross of the Crucifixion, before the construction of the Stavrovouni Monastery which is located close ...
Founded: 800-700 BC | Location: Larnaca, Cyprus

Temple of Aphrodite

The Temple of Aphrodite was officially established by its cult with the construction of a hilltop temple on the important pilgrimage site of Palea Paphos. Although, it is said that the temple was erected in 1500-1300 BC, the idols and coins related to Aphrodite found here date back to 3800 BC. It stood on a knoll about 2 kilometres inland overlooking the sea. Soon, the town of Palea Paphos started forming around the templ ...
Founded: 1500 BC | Location: Kouklia, Cyprus

Trooditissa Monastery

The exact date of the foundation of Trooditissa Monastery, situated on the southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains, is not known. But according to local tradition, the monastery was established immediately after the iconoclastic era (around 990 AD). As with other monasteries, it was preceded by a hermit who resorted there during the years of the iconoclasm. Nothing remains of the monastery of the Middle Byzantine period ...
Founded: c. 990 AD | Location: Troodos, Cyprus

Bellapais Abbey Ruins

Bellapais Abbey, or 'The Abbey of Peace', is the ruin of a monastery built by Canons Regular in the 13th century. The site of the Abbey may have served the Bishops of Kyrenia as a residence, and as a place of refuge from Arab raids in the 7th and 8th centuries. The first occupants known to have settled on or near the site were the Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulchre, who had fled Jerusalem after its fall in 118 ...
Founded: 1198-1205 | Location: Bellapais, Cyprus

Khirokitia

In the prehistoric period, Cyprus played a key role in the transmission of culture from the Near East to the European world. Khirokitia or Choirokhoitia is an exceptionally well-preserved archaeological site that has provided, and will continue to provide, scientific data of great importance relating to the spread of civilization from Asia to the Mediterranean world. Both the excavated remains and the untouched part of Ch ...
Founded: 7000 BC | Location: Choirokoitia, Cyprus

Stavrovouni Monastery

According to religious tradition, the Stavrovouni Monastery was founded by St. Helena, the mother of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine I, the Great. According to the 15th century Cypriot chronicler Leontios Makhairas, Helena was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land when she discovered the three crosses on which Jesus and the two thieves had been crucified. She had them excavated and wanted to bring them to Constantinople, but ...
Founded: 327-329 AD | Location: Pyrga, Cyprus

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Royal Palace of Aranjuez

Palacio Real de Aranjuez is a former Spanish royal residence. It was established around the time Philip II of Spain moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid. Aranjuez became one of four seasonal seats of government, occupied during the springtime (from about holy week). Thereafter, the court moved successively to Rascafría, El Escorial and wintered in Madrid. Aranjuez Cultural Landscape is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After the Christian conquest, Aranjuez was owned by the Order of Santiago and a palace was built for its Grand Masters where the Royal Palace stands today. When the Catholic Monarchs assumed the office of Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, Aranjuez became part of the Royal estate. This fertile land, located between the Tajo and Jarama Rivers, was converted into the Spanish monarchy"s most lavish country retreat: during Spain"s Golden Age, Aranjuez became a symbol for the perfection of nature by mortal hands, as El Escorial was for art.

Such excellence was based on strong Renaissance foundations, as Charles V envisaged this inherited estate as a large Italian-inspired villa, a desire continued by Philip II who appointed Juan Bautista de Toledo to design leafy avenues that ran through the gardens and farming land. A series of dams was constructed in the 16th century to control the course of the Tajo River and create a network of irrigation canals.

The splendour of the estate was only enhanced by the Bourbon monarchs, who would spend the whole spring, from Easter to July, at the Palace. Phillip V added new gardens and Ferdinand VI designed a new system of tree-lined streets and created a small village within the estate, which was further developed by Charles III and Charles IV. As Ferdinand VII and Isabella II continued to visit Aranjuez during the spring, the splendour of this site was maintained until 1870.

The Royal Palace, built by Phillip II on the site of the old palace of the Grand Masters of Santiago, was designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo –under whom construction began in 1564– and later Juan Herrera, who only managed to finish half the project. Although glimpses of the original layout still remain, the building itself is more characteristic of the classicism favoured by the Hapsburg monarchs, with alternating white stone and brick. The original design was continued by Phillip V in 1715 but not finished until 1752 under Ferdinand VI. The rectangular layout that Juan Bautista de Toledo had planned, and that took two centuries to complete, was only maintained for 20 years, since in 1775 Charles III added two wings onto the Palace.

Real Casa del Labrador

As the Prince of Asturias, Charles IV was a frequent visitor to the pier pavilions built by Ferdinand VI and grew up playing in the Prince’s Garden. When he became King, he decided to build a new country house at the far end of these gardens, known as the Casa del Labrador (the labourer"s house) due to its modest exterior that was designed to heavily contrast the magnificent internal decor. It was built by chief architect Juan de Villanueva and his pupil Isidro González Velázquez, who designed some of the interior spaces. These rooms, developed in various stages until 1808, are the greatest example of the lavish interior decor favoured by this monarch in his palaces and country retreats. Highlights at this Site include the combination of different types of art and the luxurious textiles, in particular the silks from Lyon, as well as wealth of original works on the main floor, where Ferdinand VII added various paintings and landscapes by Brambilla.

King"s Garden, the Island Garden, Parterre Garden and the Prince"s Garden

Phillip II, a great lover of gardens, paid special attention to this feature of the Aranjuez Palace: during his reign, he maintained both the Island Garden, designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo, and the King"s Garden, immediately adjacent to the Palace and whose current layout was designed by Philip IV. The majority of the fountains on this island were commissioned by Phillip IV, while the Bourbons added other features such as the Charles III benches.

Phillip V made two French-style additions to the existing gardens: the Parterre Garden in front of the palace and the extension at the far end of the Island Garden, known as the Little Island, where he installed the Tritons Fountain that was later moved to the Campo del Moro park by Isabella II.

The Prince"s Garden owes its name and creation to the son and heir of Charles III who, in the 1770s, began to use Ferdinand VI"s old pier for his own enjoyment. He also created a landscaped garden in the Anglo-French style that was in fashion at the time and which was directly influenced by Marie Antoinette"s gardens at the Petit Trianon. Both Juan de Villanueva and Pablo Boutelou collaborated in the design of this garden.