LIMASSOL

Limassol, the second biggest town in Cyprus, is built on a plain bearing the same name. It sits on an altitude of 20m above sea level, between, two ancient settlements, Amathus in the East and that of Curium in the West. It is unknown when or by whom Limassol was built, some prochristian tombs, however (found in the area) suggest the existence of some small settlement in the area where the town is today. Its development began with the arrival of Richard the Lionheart and continued later on – in spite of the misfortunes the town suffered during the Frankish, the Venetian and the Turkish occupation. The population increase of Limassol was the result mainly of the position of the town, built in a plain, serving as a junction for the road arteries between Pafos – Lefkosia and Pafos – Laraca – Famagusta.  The Troodos mountain to the north presented an obvious obstacle for travel. After the island’s independence of 1960, the population increase of Limassol was impressive. This growth continues to this day, particularly after the Turkish invasion, when a great number of displaced people settled here. Since then, Limassol has become the second biggest town in Cyprus. This was also due to the rapid development of its industrial and tourist activities. The town became the main port of Cyprus after the occupation of Famagusta port by the Turks in 1974. It has an old and a new port, where the greatest proportion of the island’s import and export trade now takes place.

Because of the port, the trade-links, shops and businesses, the commercial growth of the town has been transformed. In addition to the production of grapes from the surrounding areas finding its way into the commercial machine of Limassol it has helped turn Limassol into one of the most important industrial centres of Cyprus.

Limassol’s greatest development however was the expansion of the tourist industry. After the occupation by the Turks of Famagusta and Kyrenia, the then established two main tourist areas of the island, Limassol’s development in tourism muliplied.

The sun, sea, the mountain resorts, good food and wine coupled with the friendliness of people of Limassol have brought a great tourist wave to the city. Huge luxury hotels, pushing the standards ever higher with those existing in other European countries, were built along to coast, mainly on the east of the city. The archaeological monuments around the city interspersed with the city new. A multitude of apartments, shops, restaurants, pubs, discos and all kinds of night spots are continuously being built to cater for the needs of the tourist trade. However, the building boom that took place in Limassol, mostly unplanned and uncontrolled, gave rise to many problems in the area of town planning and communications. At the same time, the building of blocks at the seafront brought about the virtual disappearance of the beaches, made them almost inaccessible, and as a result, Limassol lost its special characteristic: its picturesque beaches.

Even so, Limassol continues to attract foreign tourists, due to the fact that it offers many sites worthy of a visit, as well as interesting functions.

The Castle of Limassol is situated near the old port. It was built at the 14th century, over the ruins of a Byzantine castle, used as a refuge for the residents. During the period of the Frankish occupation Richard the Lionheart married Princess Berengaria in this castle and crowned her Queen of England. The area around the castle is of historical value because it reflects Limassol of another era. The old buildings situated here fall under the Preservation Act, while, at the same time, a Folk Quarter has been created, bearing a genuinely Cypriot traditional character.

Limassol’s Municipal Garden is a site worth visiting. It covers and area vertical to the coast road. The Garden is planted with various kinds of Cyprus flora as well as plants from other climates. The luscious green of the trees and the multi-coloured combinations of flowers fascinate the visitor. Wooden benches and lots of toys complete the area. The inhabitants of Limassol visit the garden mostly on Sundays, with their families. The children can roam about freely in this vast garden or visit the Zoo, with its variety of birds and animals – or the Museum of National History with the embalmed fauna exhibits.

The Limassol Wine Festival

In the area of the Municipal Garden, the Wine Festival is held each year. It usually takes place at the beginning of September and includes shows in the open theatre, a gathering of local and foreign visitors, food and drink and free wine, joviality and shedding of all cares. At the north of the Municipal garden is situated the archaeological museum of the city. It is a simple museum that can be easily explored by the visitor, while at the same time representative of Cypriot history. It houses a worthwhile collection of antiquities, mainly from the Limassol town and district areas, and covers all the important periods in the history of the island.

A one-day excursion at the countryside, in the tranquillity and beauty of nature, is something the foreign visitor residing in Limassol can enjoy. He can visit the Yermasoya Dam, built on the left bank of the river bearing the same name, a few metres outside Yermasoya village.

Many creeks and torrents, cascading from the feet of Troodos mountain, and up in this wide dam.

The greening colour of the waters of the lake of the dam, filled with calm, almost still waters and surrounded by bushes and carob trees, contrasts with the white colour of the calcareous earth, on which the dam is built. The picturesque image of this man-made spot id complemented by the amateur fishermen who, seated at the edge of the dam, try to make a lake fish bite.

The most important historical monuments of Limassol are situated outside the town, mostly to the west, except for the ruins of the ancient town of Amathus, situated on the east.

The Curium (Kourion) Theater

At the west of the island unfolds the small peninsula of Acrotiri. At its northwestern tip, near Episcopi village, one can see the ruins of Curium the famous city of the Argeans, on top of a precipitous cliff, a superb natural fortification for antiquity.

Very near Curium, on the right side of the road to Pafos, one can see the ruins of the Stadium, its horseshoe-shaped perimeter is still preserved, as well as its three entrances and the sports from which the runners started.

A noteworthy site for another archaeological excursion is the ancient temple of Apollo Hylates. This temple was one of the most important religious centres of the island. Apollo was worshipped as the god of the forests. The small cluster of trees surrounding the temple was in antiquity a dense forest, where deer lived.

The Colossi Castle

At the southeast of Curium unfolds a fertile plain and in its middle sits Colossi village. The southernmost edge of the village is dominated by its famous owner, an old feudal castle built by the Frankish monks of the Order of Saint John, so as to establish around it the feudal system of the area. In the Castle resided the Great Commandator, that is, the head of the Order, together with the necessary personnel for the administration of the Order. Our “Commanderia”, the Cyprus dessert wine famous the world over for its sweet taste, owes its name to the Commandator. The castle suffered many attacks and lots of damage, something which resulted in its rebuilding, in its present form, around the mid -15th century.

Limassol is the city of contrasts, a city that fascinates the visitor. On one hand it projects its cosmopolitan character, with luxury hotels, the multitude of restaurants, the varied night life and the variety of cultural events and festivals, and on the other preserves its historical inheritance, the ancient monuments, the religious and spiritual places, reminding us that, in spite of all the development and the rapid progress it is undergoing, it keeps a part of its original character unspoilt. Limassol is certainly an interesting city for every visitor to explore, to live in, to understand.