In the middle of the island of Cyprus, there exists an escape from the oppressive heat of the coast. Just a short drive inland will take you to the Troodos mountains, where crisp clean mountain air offers respite from the humidity and heat experienced on the rest of the island.
But the Troodos mountains offer more than just a pleasant climate change. This region is also home to the 10 UNESCO listed painted Byzantine churches. We decided that we wanted to visit all 10, and to be honest, it ended up being a bit of a mission, but we did succeed. This guide will outline the churches of the region, how to get there, and what to expect from your visit.
Whether you want to visit 1, or all 10, of the painted Byzantine churches of the Troodos region, you will almost certainly require a car. A couple of the churches are located within villages, but the majority of them are sort of in the middle of nowhere. On our quest to visit all 10, we ended up driving along dirt tracks through what seemed to be farmer’s fields, or along mountain roads so narrow I was terrified we would plummet over the edge. Its definitely not a journey for public transport.
We spent 3 full days visiting the 10 churches, and that was with almost non stop driving and touring. Even though the churches don’t appear to be that far apart, the narrow mountain roads can make for very slow going. If you are in a hurry, I would suggest picking just a handful of the more conveniently located churches to visit (although some of our favorites were the more obscurely located ones). I have grouped the churches into regions, but depending on your itinerary and interest level, you may decide to mix and match.
1. Stavros tou Agiasmati
This church is located about five kilometers northeast of the village of Platanistasa. It is free to visit the church, but you will need to make an appointment and/or locate someone with the key. Inquire at the local coffee shop to find out about visiting. This is one church in which we did not enter.
2. Metamorfosis tou Sotiros
It is built on a small hill overlooking the eastern part of the village of Palaichori. It was erected at the beginning of the 16th century and was inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list in 2000.
The church is open Tuesday – Friday from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM. We didn’t make it until after visiting hours were over, so this is another one in which we did not enter. However, the sweeping views of the town and region from the church are worth the visit anyway.
3. Timios Stavros
The church of Timios Stavros is situated in a central area of the Troodos mountain range, at the south end of the village of Pelendri. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. The church is free to visit and is open daily from 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM.
4. Panagia tou Araka
The church of Panagia tou Araka is situated in a central area of the Troodos mountain range, in the area of Pitsilia, between the villages of Lagoudera and Saranti. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. The peaceful mountain setting makes for a wonderful and relaxing stop. We stopped here to enjoy the cool breeze and have a picnic. Hours for visiting depend on the day, so best to check the Visit Cyprus website for this particular church.
5. Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis
The church of Ayios Nikolaos tis Stegis is situated in a central area of the Troodos mountain range, in the upper Solea valley. It is built on the west bank of the river Klarios/Karkotis, at a distance of about two kilometers southwest of the village of Kakopetria. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.
It is the only surviving monastery church of its kind on the island and is covered entirely in wall paintings from the 11th to the 17th centuries, with the most important surviving set on the island from this period. As such, it is considered one of the most interesting Byzantine churches in Cyprus.
The beauty of the floor to ceiling wall paintings in this church is mesmerizing. Visiting hours depend on the day, so check online before making your plans.
6. Panagia Podithou
The church of Panagia Podithou is situated in a central area of the Troodos mountain range, in the upper Solea valley. It is built in a narrow and fertile valley of the river Klarios/Karkotis, a few hundred meters to the north of the village of Galata. In 1985 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The church is free to visit but is by appointment only. Check the Visit Cyprus website for contact details on how to make an appointment.
7. Panagia Asinou
This was by far my favorite UNESCO painted church, but that could also be influenced by the epic journey it was to get to it. There are two ways to get there; the easy way and the ridiculous way. We were somehow misled by our GPS and ended up taking the ridiculous way. Some of the roads it navigated us down were little more than dirt tracks. However, upon leaving, we found a much more straight forward (and paved) route.
The church is situated in the north foothills of the Troodos mountain range. It is built on the east bank of a stream, three kilometers south of the village of Nikitari. In 1985 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The murals inside the church date from the 12th century to the 17th century and reflect the art of Constantinople, which is thought to be the artist’s birthplace.
The church is free to visit and is open most days from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, with more limited hours on Sundays and public holidays. This is the only church which allowed us to take photos on the inside.
8. Agios Ioannis Lambadistis
The monastery of Agios Ioannis Lampadistis is situated in a central area of the Troodos mountain range, in the valley of Marathasa. It is built on the east bank of the river Setrachos, opposite of the village of Kalopanagiotis. In 1985 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
9. Panagia tou Moutoulla
The church of Panagia is situated in a central area of the Troodos mountain range, in the valley of Marathasa. It is located on a hill above the village of Moutoullas. In 1985 it was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The church is free to visit and is open from Monday to Friday from 7:30 AM – 3:00 PM.
10. Archangelos Michael
The church of Archangel Michael is situated in a central area of the Troodos mountain range, in the valley of Marathasa, in the village of Pedoulas. In 1985 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The tiny church is open daily and is free to visit.
To check visiting hours or how to make appointments to visit these churches, I recommend visiting the Visit Cyprus website as this will have the most up to date information.