Cyprus: Crossroads of Culture
Join art historian Christopher Allen to dig deep into the history of Cyprus, the ‘island of Aphrodite’, through which the wealth of Mediterranean cultures has coursed for more than 8,000 years.
Discover both sides of this fascinating island, with a thorough exploration of the southern ‘Greek’ side and the northern third with its distinctive Turkish influence. See the wondrous UNESCO World Heritage-listed ‘painted churches’ of the Troödos Mountains and the diverse range of art and artefacts in the Archaeological Museum in Limassol and the Leventis Municipal Museum and the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia. Wander through the extraordinary ancient sites of Paphos and Salamis, the capitals of Hellenistic and Roman Cyprus respectively, and immerse yourself in the underwater archaeology of the Kyrenia Shipwreck Museum.
Cross the Green Line into Northern Cyprus for a walking tour of the Turkish sector of Nicosia, and travel further north to visit Bellapais Abbey and the Royal Tombs at Salamis.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Depart Australia or New Zealand in the evening on suggested Qatar Airways flights to Larnaca via Doha. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
Arrive in Larnaca in the morning on suggested flights and transfer to the hotel in Limassol (included in tour price).
Check in to the hotel before an afternoon at leisure.
At 18:30, join Christopher and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing, followed by a special welcome dinner.
In the morning, enjoy a talk by Christopher and then begin your exploration of Cyprus with a walking tour of the Limassol Old Town. Visit the Castle of Limassol, rebuilt by the Ottomans in the 16th century on the site of an earlier castle where King Richard I the Lionheart is said to have married his Navarrese wife Berengaria, and the Great Mosque, still an important centre of worship 400 years after its construction.
After some free time for lunch, visit the Limassol Archaeological Museum. The museum’s collection spans the period from the 9th millennium BC to the Roman Era, and its diverse inventory, including Mycenaean pottery and Egyptian statuettes, is testimony to the trade connexions which Cyprus enjoyed with the wider Mediterranean. No less fascinating are skeletons of a pygmy hippopotamus (Hippopotamus minor) and dwarf elephant (Palaeoloxodon cypriotes) which roamed the island up to the Mesolithic Period.
Return to the hotel in the afternoon. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.
Check out of the hotel in the morning and visit the beautifully-situated Kolossi Castle, Mediaeval stronghold of the Knights Hospitaller. The Commandaria wine they produced was exported all over Europe.
Travel onwards to the spectacular archaeological site of Kourion. Visit its Sanctuary of Apollo, theatre, Roman baths and the stunning mosaics in the House of Achilles and the House of Gladiators.
After lunch at a local restaurant, see Petra tou Romiou (‘Rock of the Greek’), a great limestone seastack on the shore where the goddess Aphrodite is said to have emerged from the foaming waves. Then visit the Palaipafos Archaeological Museum, the highlight of which is a stunning Roman Era floor mosaic of Leda and the Swan. Finally, visit the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, most famous of the goddess’s places of worship, which was in use between the 12th century BC and the 4th century AD.
Arrive in Paphos in the evening, followed by dinner.
Enjoy a talk by Christopher in the morning, and then spend a full day exploring the archaeological sites of Paphos. The excavations have uncovered relics of the habitation of Paphos from prehistoric times until the Middle Ages, including Roman villas of the wealthy élite with ornate mosaics depicting scenes of hunting, cavorting and divine beauty contests. See St Paul’s Pillar, part of a complex of early Christian churches, some ruined, some still extant. Also visit the Tombs of the Kings, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed necropolis where Paphos aristocrats were interred from the 4th century BC to the 3rd century AD. Hewn into solid rock, many of the tombs were carved to represent elaborate homes, with columns and frescoes.
After some free time for lunch, continue exploring the sights of Paphos.
Return to the hotel in the late afternoon. The evening is at leisure.
Check out of the hotel in the morning and travel to Omodos, a charming cobblestoned village in Cyprus’s wine country still home to a Mediaeval wine press. Enjoy lunch in Omodos and then continue to Kykkos Monastery, set high in the Troödos Mountains and one of the wealthiest monasteries in Cyprus. Founded by Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos in the late 11th century, the monastery contains a veiled icon of the Virgin Mary supposedly painted by St Luke himself. Kykkos was also where Archbishop Makarios III, the first President of Cyprus, began his monastic career and is where his body was laid to rest after his death.
Travel onwards to Kalopanayiotis, an enchanting town dating from the Byzantine Era nestled in the verdant Setrachos Valley.
In the morning, visit the Church of Agios Ioannis Lambadistis, one of Cyprus’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed ‘painted churches’, so named for their lively and colourful Byzantine frescoes, and the Byzantine Museum.
Travel onwards to the Church of Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis in Kakopetria. One of the most interesting Byzantine churches in the whole of Cyprus, the entire inside of the church is covered with icons and fresco paintings, created between the 11th and 17th centuries.
After lunch in Kakopetria, return to Kalopanayiotis. The evening is at leisure.
Check out of the hotel in the morning and visit the Church of Panagia tis Asinou, which contains some of the country’s finest Byzantine murals, dating from the 12th century onwards.
Then venture across the Green Line into the northern third of Cyprus, which, following an invasion by Turkish forces in 1974, has been under the control of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus since 1983. Fortunately the days of active conflict are long past, but the cultural separation of the ‘Turkish’ north and ‘Greek’ south of the island is nonetheless palpable.
After lunch, visit the evocative ruins of the 13th century Bellapais Abbey and the village where British author Lawrence Durrell lived in the early 1950s while writing his novel Bitter Lemons.
Continue to Kyrenia and check in to the hotel. Enjoy a talk by Christopher in the evening, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.
This morning, visit the Castle of St Hilarion, which commands the heights of the Kyrenia Mountains watching over Cyprus’s northern coast. Originally built by the Byzantines in the 11th century as one of the major defences against the marauding Arab pirates, the castle became a summer residence of the Lusignan French kings of Cyprus in the 13th century, although the Venetians subsequently dismantled much of the fort to reduce the cost of garrisoning it.
After some free time for lunch in Kyrenia, acquaint yourself with the city of Kyrenia on a walking tour, including Kyrenia Castle, a 16th century fortification of Venetian construction, and the Shipwreck Museum, which houses the remains of a 4th century BC Hellenistic merchant ship discovered by a diving instructor in 1965. The remarkably well-preserved vessel provides a fascinating and immediate connexion to Cyprus in the time of Alexander the Great.
Return to the hotel in the late afternoon. The evening is at leisure.
Check out of the hotel in the morning and travel south to Nicosia, capital of Cyprus and a city which straddles both sides of the Green Line.
Enjoy a walking tour of Nicosia, including the 17th century Old Archbishop’s Palace, formerly the official residence of the Archbishop of Cyprus, the Cathedral of St John the Theologian, where the Archbishop of Cyprus is crowned, and Famagusta Gate, a Venetian construction from the 16th century which was once the main gate in the city walls. The gate, originally known as the Porta Giuliana after its architect Giulio Savorgnano, is crowned with a dome with a circular oculus opening at the top, in imitation of the Roman Pantheon.
After some free time for lunch in the Old City, visit the Leventis Municipal Museum for a guided tour of its collection which leads visitors back through the city’s history from the present to 3,000 BC, though jewellery, pottery, clothing, furniture, maps and engravings.
Check in to the hotel in the afternoon, followed by dinner.
After a morning talk by Christopher, enjoy a full-day tour of Salamis on the east coast of Cyprus. The city of Salamis was said to have been founded by Teucer, a native of the Greek island of Salamis who could not return home after failing to avenge the death of his half-brother Ajax in the Trojan War, and so he named the Cypriot city in memory of his lost homeland. The evocative Royal Tombs attest to the city’s importance since 800 BC, and as a flourishing Greek city-state it is thought to have been instrumental in the establishment of Greek colonies in Asia Minor during the Classical Period.
Although it lost precedence to Paphos in the west of the island during the Hellenistic Period, the coming of Roman power to Cyprus once again established Salamis as the main trading centre for the island’s rich wood and copper resources. The extensive ruins of Roman Salamis (later redubbed ‘Constantia’) include a theatre, gymnasium, baths and cistern. Suffering from a series of earthquakes in the 4th century AD, it was the sack of Salamis by the Arabs around 650 that finally spelled the end for this great cultural centre of Cypriot life.
Return to the hotel in the evening.
In the morning, travel to Choirokoitia, an 8,000 BC Neolithic settlement site with closely-packed circular houses. One of the most important archaeological sites in the eastern Mediterranean, Choirokoitia is one of earliest examples of collective farming. The evidence shows that the inhabitants grew crops, herded sheep and goats, and raised pigs in stone enclosures – indeed, the name of the site is thought to derive from the Greek for ‘pig pen’.
Return to Nicosia for some free time for lunch, and then cross over the Green Line into the northern, Turkish portion of the city. After tea at a traditional caravanserai, visit Selimiye Mosque, which was once the Gothic Cathedral of Sancta Sophia and was re-consecrated by the conquering Ottomans in 1570.
Cross back into southern Nicosia and return to the hotel. The evening is at leisure.
The morning is at leisure to continue your exploration of Nicosia at your own pace. Why not take the opportunity to visit the Hadjigeorgakis Cornesios Mansion, the so-called ‘House of the Dragoman’, which was home to a wealthy 18th century government interpreter or dragoman?
In the afternoon, enjoy a guided tour of the Cyprus Museum, the largest collection of Cypriot archaeological treasures in the world, and a spectacular consummation of your fortnight exploring this diverse and delightful island.
This evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Christopher and fellow travellers.
In the morning, check out of the hotel and transfer to Larnaca Airport (included in tour price).
Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at Larnaca Airport. Suggested flights to Australia or New Zealand on Qatar Airways via Doha departing from 12:00 onwards. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
01 August 2019
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit Cyprus (including Northern Cyprus).
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally-located 4- and 5-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure if using group transfers
- Lectures and talks throughout with your tour leader, Dr Christopher Allen
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure if not using group transfers
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature including telephone, laundry, taxis, minibar, room service etc.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Limassol – Grand Resort Hotel *****
Paphos – Annabelle Hotel *****
Kalopanayiotis – Casale Panayiotis ****
Kyrenia – Dome Hotel ****+
Nicosia – Hilton Cyprus *****
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted