Wine is not a new story for Cyprus. Recent archaeological excavations which have been undertaken on the island have confirmed the thinking that this small tranche of earth has been producing wine for almost 5000 years. The discoveries testify that Cyprus may well be the cradle of wine development in the entire Mediterranean basin, from Greece, to Italy and France.
This historic panorama of continuous wine history that the island possesses is just one of the reasons that make a trip to the wine villages such a fascinating prospect. A second important reason is the wines of today –finding and getting to know our regional wineries, which are mostly small and enchanting. Remember, though, it is important always to make contact first to arrange your visit. The third and best reason is the wine you will sample during your journeys along the “Wine Routes” of Cyprus. From the traditional indigenous varieties of Mavro (for red and rosι wines) and the white grape Xynisteri, plus the globally unique Koumandaria to well – known global varieties, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Let’s take a wine walk. The wine is waiting for us!
Pafos, Acheleia, Kouklia, Nikokleia, Choletria,
Stavrokonnou, Kelokedara, Salamiou, Mesana,
Arminou, Filousa, Praitori, Agios Nikolaos, Kedares,
Agios Georgios, Mamonia, Fasoula
Vines, wine -and something more: we shall discover the places where a Goddess was worshipped, and still is…
ALONG THE PATH OF THE RIVER…
AND OF HISTORY
This itinerary takes us eastwards from the city of Pafos and covers the valleys of the rivers Ezousa, Xeros and Diarizos. After a coastal run we shall climb the south-western foothills of the Troodos mountain range observing the course of the River Diarizos, crossing it several times. We are going to traverse a circuit with fourteen mountain villages enroute and visit two small – yet interesting wineries.
Something more; we shall discover the places where a Goddess, the pre-Christian Venus of Pafos, was worshipped. There are unusual and interesting rock formations to wonder at, too, in the Mamonia area.
Life has gone on for millennia in these fertile valleys. Hints are everywhere of its continuity and customs. Each succeeding kilometre reveals pictures, scents and sounds of the circle of fertility. With every little look into the surroundings, discoveries and monuments attest to its worship. Venus passes on her influence to the Virgin Mary, mother of today’s faithful.
The Diarizos Valley lies south-west of the Troodos hills and takes its name from the river that runs through it. In a relatively small area, this valley has a wide variety of fauna and flora.
Climate: The region is characterised by a relatively gentle climate: moderately cold in the winter and temperate in the summer.
Terrain: Following the ancient creation of Cyprus as a result of volcanic activity, the Troodos Mountains were thrust above the rest of the terrain. In the region we also find the “Mamonia Area”, a complicated tectonic concentration of volcanic and sedimentary rocks
Vineyards: This region does not have a “Controlled Denomination of Origin”. Nevertheless, we shall encounter some interesting wines and come across 18 grape varieties.
Red varieties: Mavro, Ofthalmo, Marathefthiko, Lefkada, Carignan, Mataro, Oellade, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Alicante B., Grenache, Shiraz, Merlot.
White varieties: Xynisteri, Palomino, Chardonnay, Sultanα Malaga.
Our starting point is the Pafos motorway round-about. From there we head towards Lemesos (Limassol) for about six km, until we reach the exit to Acheleia (B6). On the “old” Pafos – Lemesos road you can see the experimental plantations run by the Institute of Agricultural Research. Much interesting work is done here.
Continuing towards Lemesos (Limassol) for about eight more km, we pass under the motorway and over the River Xeros, which runs down from the Asprogremnos Reservoir. Before the road reaches the bridge, we take the side road to Nikokleia, on our left . It rises up on the west bank of the River Diarizos. Within a distance of four km we come upon the village, overlooking the river valley. On the opposite side of the valley lies the ancient settlement of Palaipafos, today’s “Kouklia”. It was the centre of worship of the Cyprus Aphrodite.
Leaving a visit to Nikokleia for our return trip, we turn left heading towards Choletria village. It lies about six km away. On each side of the road, the land is covered with seasonal plants, olive trees and citrus fruit groves. Climbing up, grazing land appears along with vineyards, almond groves, and indigenous Cyprus trees, as well as newly introduced species, like eucalyptus.
The village of Choletria is located on the eastern side of the River Xeros, and it is awash with green. Most houses are modern and are surrounded by gardens, groves of almonds, citrus and other trees. It is a small village, typical of the region’s settlements.
Leaving from the north point of the village, we drive about four km to the settlement of Stavrokonnou. This is also a small village but, in contrast to Choletria, it maintains its traditional architecture. Its characteristic “Makrynarka” houses have suff ered limited modern “intrusion”. The surrounding landscape, however, features the same characteristics, although the altitude begins to make itself felt and the vine yards increase in number.
Almost five km further on we come across the village of Kelokedara, at an altitude of around 700 m. It is a small settlement, mostly with traditional buildings, and with a fountain at its entrance. Here, too, we find typical samples of “Makrynarka”. These characteristic houses got their name from their elongated shape. This came about as a result of the custom of the region’s families to add a new room to the left or to the right of the old house to accommodate each child as they married.
For those with 4 x 4 vehicles, we can turn left after Kelokedara on an un made-up track and three kilometres later visit the monastery of Panagia tou Sinti, at the bottom of the Xeros Valley.
Continuing north, the road climbs up steep hillsides. It twists and turns excitingly by turn on mountain ridges and varying inclines, revealing brilliant views of the river valley.
On each side there is a vigorous panorama of vineyards, olive groves, farms and grazing land as well as copses of cypress trees, pines and eucalyptus.
Before arriving at Salamiou, our next port-of call, half way into the six km that separate it from Kelokedara, we come upon a wonderful double view: to the left lies the Xeros Valley, while to the right the Diarizos Valley unfolds, both viewed from a height of almost 700 m.
In Salamiou, the settlement and the farms command a vantage point over the River Diarizos. Just outside the village there is a picnic area which overlooks the Xeros Valley.
A little further on, a side road can be found leading to the Panagia tou Sinti monastery. On the right, an unpaved road leads to the Lagria hill, and the winery by the same name.
This hill, rising up 40 to 50 metres higher than the village, covers an area of almost a square kilometre and is covered with vineyards. Bushes grow at its rocky parts, along with low vegetation and sparse trees. The vines are planted at different levels and varying inclines, in a location blessed with long hours of sunshine. Although dry, rooted on essentially rocky terrain, the vineyards of
Lagria produce wines of very good quality.
The “LAGRIA” winery is owned by the President of the community of Salamiou, Mr. Kostakis Avgousti, whose family have grown vines and made wine for generations.
It is a small production winery, utilising grapes from its own vineyards and of nearby growers. It bottles four wines: one white from local Xynisteri (fresh and fruity and best drunk well chilled when it is young), a dry red blend of local and imported grape varieties, a Cabernet Sauvignon varietal and a rosι, which is a blend of the local “Mavro” and “Xynisteri” varieties. It is best to pre-arrange the visit of large groups. The tour, conducted in English and Greek, concludes at the tasting rooms, where the wines may be purchased.
You’re looking at a long history in Salamiou. There have been people living here for four or five thousand years. Today’s village demonstrates the popular architecture of many centuries. In one traditional, two storied building just along from the church, you’ll fi nd the local taverna, while “Kafeneia” (local coff ee shops) and other shops are at
By Salamiou’s fountain, stop and admire the imperious Cypress tree, an estimated 750 years of age and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. On the higher reaches of the village your eye gazes upon the sight of an 800 metre drop to Diarizos Valley. The ancients called the river the “one hundred mouth flows”, indicating its sources from a hundred gullies.
Very near, in a region covered with fertile plots, vineyards and gardens, is the Panagia Salamiotissa monastery, with a church of about 500 years old.
Northwards, the road soon leads to Mesana. It is a small, pretty village close to the edge of the Troodos forest, which will accompany our way for some time. Three kilometres onwards we come to sparsely populated Arminou, on the western slopes of the Diarizos Valley. Here the road descends down the valley crossing the river. After a while the road starts heading uphill through lovely scenery and gorgeous air. The route abounds in “mountain greenery” indeed, and the ubiquitous vine of course! We soon conclude the five km separating Arminou from Filousa, fi nding now ourselves on the eastern side of the River Diarizos bank.
In a short while we come upon the pretty hamlet of Praitori. It is here that we can visit our second winery, “NELION”, which belongs to Neofytos and Helen Ioannou.
They have built a compact plant in a lovely location, near the village, and they are dedicated to their art. They produce an interesting range of wines, including a notable Rosι. They are unique in growing and making wine with one of the great grape varieties of Bordeaux, the red Cinsault. Visits are by arrangement. Wine and other items can be purchased at their shop and light meals are available.
After seeing the winery, Agios Nikolaos village, with its minaret’s green cone visible above its roo_ ops, is worth a little detour.
At a number of points here, recently constructed bridges cross the river. But there are others worth visiting, dating from the Venetian period. Six km north, through the forest, is the Tzelephou Bridge, over the River Diarizos. In the forest you can also find the bridge of Roudkias, over the River Xeros (six km west of Tzelephou Bridge) and Elias (Olive) Bridge, over a tributary of the River Diarizos.
From Agios Nikolaos we drive back to Praitori, and a_ er three kilometres southwards, we arrive at the picturesque village of Kedares. More greenery here with plenty of vineyards around it…
The road undulates as its winds down to the river for the next five kilometres. It crosses the River Diarizos and almost immediately its tributary, the River Xeragaka. We arrive at the almost abandoned settlement of Kidasi. Then comes a spectacularly beautiful drive along the bottom of the valley with the river on the left hand side. On the right the view is sometimes green, at others of steep cliffs. Nearby are the “Rocks of Hasamboulia”, an interesting oddity: two huge blocks of stone that lean against each other, leaving enough room between for us to pass. Their name comes from three robbers of the 19th century, who evaded their pursuers by sheltering here.
The distance from Kedares to Agios Georgios is approximately 14 km. This settlement has singularly fertile land around it. Mamonia village, a short drive further on, is the next habitation. The area’s name describes the structure of its rock outcrops, which are characterised by both volcanic (lava) and sedimentary (crystallised) limestone. From Mamonia it is just a kilometre or so to the
next settlement, Fasoula, attractively placed astride the River Diarizos.
The next spot, five km south, is Nikokleia village. Before we reach it we shall come across a hostel housed in a restored building of traditional architecture. Its original function was as a Caravanserai (resting place for travellers and their animals). It is a suitable base for the exploration of archaeological sites of the nearby villages, Kouklia, the Pantheon of Venus, Asprogremnos Reservoir and the abandoned Souskiou village, where crossshaped statuettes from the Bronze Age were discovered. Near here there is an important Neolithic cemetery, where excavations revealed intact burial sites and gems from tombs which have enriched the Museum of Cyprus.
Our final stop on this journey before our return to Pafos is at our starting-point, Nikokleia village. It is a beautiful settlement, calling to mind the long history of the area and the glory of its ancient King, Nikoklis, from whom it took its name. After our wine tastings, we can relax here and enjoy some coffee. And then, with the memories of the hills, the forests and the lovely scenery of our drive by the River Diarizos fresh in our minds, we can return to our base. A lovely “Wine Route” fruitfully accomplished.
26332276, 26332336, 99458316
Agiou Georgiou 10, Drouseia, Pafos
Kato Vrysi 45, Kathikas, Pafos
Courtesy of the CTO