Limassol

Limassol, or Lemesos, is Cyprus' second largest city, its main port and fastest growing metropolis - the result is a clash of the old and the new that often. Limassol has the island's most important historical sites, its most notable old buildings. The landscape around the city port is of rolling hills that slowly rise from the coastal area to the Troodos Massif in the north, a tamed wilderness and the highest point on the island. Many tourists on Cyprus holidays find Limassol a great base for exploring the rest of the island. There are plenty of opportunities to escape the main city tourist strip if you want to. Limassol's string of all-in luxury hotels, lining the shore's tourist strip, offer the sort of package that will appeal to all-in-hotel holidaymaker. To the south of the Akrotiri Peninsula is a large salt lake, colonized by flamingos, and huge beaches that stretch just as far as the eye can see. To the west is the 15th century Kolossi Castle and, overlooking the bay is Ancient Kourion, one of the best archaeological sites to be found in the Mediterranean. To the east are the remains of the equally striking ancient kingdom of Amathous.

Travel to Limassol

Most holiday visitors to Limassol fly into Larnaca International airport, a modern airport located about 70km north of the resort and linked by the main A1 road. Limassol has a large port but there are no regular ferry services, just a few cruise ships docking here. There are several firms in the marina offering tourist cruises along the coast.
Main roads in the Limassol region are generally good although minor roads can be tricky, especially if you head into the hills of the Troodos region. It is easy to get around in Limassol as it is a relatively small city. Limassol has four main roads crossing the city east to west. The most southern road runs parallel to the beach and moving north there is Makarios III Avenue, running through the city centre then the Spyros Kyprianou Avenue, also called Makedonias Avenue and finally the city's northern by-pass which takes traffic to Paphos and Nicosia. The by-pass has reduced Limassol city traffic to a minimum. There are good inter-city bus services as well as urban routes and services to local villages although the latter usually only run once or twice a day. Many visitors who want to explore the area, especially the Akrotiri peninsula will hire a car or use Limassol taxis which are plentiful.

Beaches

Dassoudi Beach

Dassoudi is the main town beach of Limassol. It's a very long and flat beach of dark, coarse sand and pebbles that stretches about 3km to the east, usually backed by small, well kept parks with plenty of shade, paths and benches. There are all the usual facilities you expect of a major tourist resort beach, changing rooms, snack bars, restaurants, car parks and lots of water sports..

Governor's Beach

The name Governor's Beach derives from a former British governor who spent much of his time sunning himself here, such were the onerous demands of high office. The beach is about 30km east of Limassol and well beyond the city tourist strip, but it is still popular enough to get a daily bus service. The beach lies down some steps well off the main Nicosia/Limasol highway at the bottom of white cliffs, which are in sharp contrast to the dark sand below that gets very hot in high summer. It's a pleasant enough beach with a couple of restaurants and some small hotels. The waters are shallow so it's fine for children and there is an area of spectacular white rocks for those who like snorkeling. There are also many good walks on nature trails in the hills nearby. There are several attractive villages within a short drive including Pentakomo, the interesting and newly discovered Neolithic site at Mesovouni and the monastery of Aghios Georgios Alamanos where the nuns will sell you flowers and plants. There are several small sandy bays here with tavernas above.

Lady's Mile Beach

Named after the horse of a former governor who regularly rode his mare here, Lady's Mile is a 7km stretch of undeveloped flat sand that stretches down the east coast of the Akrotiri peninsular from Lemesos port to the British base. The beach is sandwiched between the sea and Akrotiri salt lake behind, a stopping off point for migratory birds and a winter home for thousands of flamingos. It is accessible to the public, although there are few buses. The beach is made up of a series of parallel sand ridges. There is very little vegetation because the surface is so close the salt water-table so you get very little in the way of shade. The port end of the beach is mostly pebble, but the other end is fine sand with a shallow incline into the water, making it suitable for toddlers and weak swimmers. There are half a dozen restaurants spaced along its length. Normally peaceful, the quiet can be broken by the sound of screaming RAF jets from the nearby base.

Button Beach

To the south of Lady's Mile is Button Beach where coastal sand dunes have grown up, pocked with scrub and some low vegetation. This is an unspoiled area that is more popular with Cypriots than tourists. On the edge of the salt lake nearby is the oddly named Holy Monastery of St Nicholas of the Cats, first built in 327 and so named after the many cats that were bred there to try and rid the area of snakes.

Kourion Beach

The eastern side of the Akrotiri peninsular is mostly inaccessible cliffs until you reach the village of Episkopi and the beach and ruins at Kourion ot Curium, some 17km from Limassol. It's a long swathe of exposed sand and pebble within the British Bases Area and popular enough to get a daily bus service and three big beach tavernas provide facilities for visitors. The southern end of Kourion beach is unsafe for all but the strongest swimmers and prominent signs warn of the dangers but the northern end is much safer. The main attraction of this area though is the spectacular archaeological site, one of the best and most visited on the island and many combine a walk around the ruins with a day on the sands.

Avdimou Beach

Heading west along the coast out of Limassol leads to several interesting sights. Drivers take the old B6 coast road or the A1 highway depending on their inclination and how quickly they want to reach the resorts. Some 16km west of Kourion beach is Avdimou. It is wide and sandy and more protected than Kourion and much safer for swimming, but there is little in the way shade. Avdimou is mostly a huge expanse of sand with some stone hugging the shoreline and too big to ever get crowded. The sea is shallow here and good for children. There is no bus service though, so a car is needed for a visit. A beach taverna opens in the summer with the usual basic menu.

Pissouri Beach

The most popular beach along this stretch of coastline is Pissouri Bay, 10km west of Avdimou and midway between Limassol and Pafos. Package tour companies have set up here but it is still a pleasant enough beach. There are two distinct communities. Pissouri village is about 3km up the steep hillside and a working village with a mix of farmers and British ex-pats. Several bars and tavernas now hold popular Cyprus nights and recently the village has added a new theatre. The beach area is very much a tourist resort, with numbers swelling to more than 1,000 each summer. The centre of the beach is the busiest with a large array of sun-loungers serviced by a narrow paved walkway. The beach sweeps around the bay for a kilometre in both directions, flanked by low rock cliffs on both sides. It's mainly shingle and pebbles in the middle with sand elsewhere. There are the usual water sports and tavernas.

Sights

A city where you will be surprised to find a surprisingly extensive selection of art galleries, Limassol is certainly the place to come if you are interested in art appreciation of the Cypriot kind. The Limassol Municipal Art Gallery should certainly always be your first port of call, followed soon after by a trip to the one of the multitude of commercial galleries to pick up a souvenir with a difference.

Tourists often enjoy a visit to the city's Folk Art Museum, while the Limassol Sculpture Park is another magnet for art lovers. This unusual Sculpture Parks spans just over 1 mile / 1.6 km and stretches along the scenic coastline of Twin Cities Park, comprising some 20 sizable, stylish contemporary sculptures in total.


Things to Do in Limassol


Castle & Museum

Set in attractive gardens on the west side of the old city, the squat, square Limassol Castle was built in the 14th century on the remains of an earlier Byzantine fortress. Its dull outward appearance belies a rich history.
Richard the Lionheart put Lemesos on the map when he arrived to rescue fiancé, Berengaria of Navarre, who had been shipwrecked here. Richard defeated the local captors, married Berengaria in the castle chapel and sold the Cyprus to the Knights Templar who held sway for 200 years.
Despite the rich history there's not a great deal to see inside, not even a decent view from the roof. In the gardens is an olive press said to date from the 7th century, although even that doesn't actually belong to the castle; it was found nearby.You get a better appreciation of the history of the castle in the Limassol Medieval Museum where there are plenty of interesting exhibits, many transferred from Nicosia when north Cyprus was overrun by Turks in 1974. There are several thematic displays that include Ottoman pottery, suits of armour and weapons and religious artefacts.

Museums & Galleries of Limassol

Limassol has several interesting museums worth a visit. Sited at the junction of Vyronos and Kaningos this is the Archaeological Museum with a collection of ancient artefacts. There is a large and impressive collection of Mycenaean pottery and various domestic utensils dating from Neolithic times. It's cheap to get in to the Limassol Folk Art Museum and once inside, some might appreciate why. There is a less than exciting display of traditional costumes, some wood carvings, jewellery and several household utensils. The artefacts are housed in an old mansion at Agiou Andreou, not far from the city centre. Just outside Limassol, in Erimi village which stands at the crossroads of the old wine routes of Cyprus, is the Cyprus Wine Museum housed in a 150 year old traditional winemaking building. It details the history of winemaking in Cyprus and has a great collection of old photos. Limassol has a good many art galleries and lots of outdoor sculpture. The Limassol Municipal Art Gallery, in Oktovriou Street, has paintings by contemporary Cypriot artists and there is a sculpture park that runs along the coastline for nearly 2km with some excellent works on permanent show.

Limassol Theme Parks

As a major tourist centre there is plenty in and around Limassol to entertain holidaymakers. One of the latest additions is the Time Elevator on Vasilissis. It is a virtual ride through a potted history of the island that adds roller coaster thrills to a suitably dumbed down commentary.

Other place place popular with families is the giant water theme park. Near Limassol is the huge Fasouri Watermania, the biggest on Cyprus, with about 30 slides set on a 25 acre site..

Kolossi Castle

The medieval Kolossi Castle is a major tourist attraction and it lies about 10km west of Limassol on the edge of the village of the same name. It was the headquarters of the Knights Hospitallers and, despite changing hands any a number of times, the castle is mainly linked to the Hospitallers and to winemaking.

The present building dates from the 14th century but it was probably built over an earlier structure by Louis de Magnac whose coat of arms can be found on one of the walls. Visitors enter over a drawbridge where there are some large chambers and a spiral staircase leading to the upper level and then to the roof. The rooms are bare and empty so there's not much atmosphere to the place. There is a small museum and, to the east of the castle, a large, ancient and impressively vaulted warehouse that was once used to store and process sugar cane, once an important local export.

Ancient Kourion (Curium)

A prosperous settlement since 1400BC it was expanded under the Romans and became the centre of an Apollo cult. The site dominated by the magnificent 3,500-seater amphitheatre, built in 5th century AD, and now reconstructed and still in use for open-air music festivals. The views of the sea, fields and hillside are magnificent. The apostle St Paul is said to have preached here. Nearby is the House of Eustolios which houses some remarkable and well preserved mosaics. Built on the ruins of an earlier palatial private residence, which was destroyed by earthquakes the present house dates from 4th-7th century AD with more than 30 rooms. An early Christian basilica also has mosaics as does the House of the Gladiators, so called because of the mosaic motifs of fighters in combat dress. Kourion, like many other ancient Greek sites, has suffered invasion and earthquake, including tremors in 365 that reduced much of the area to rubble. Reconstruction has also been haphazard with mismatched columns and other parts looking curiously new.

Sanctuary of Apollo Limassol

About 2km west of Kourion is Apollo Ylatis, the sister site of the ancient Kourion and well signposted off the main road. As Apollo was god of the woods you might expect a few trees but the scattered ruins can look very forlorn.

The surviving remains are mainly Roman and the site was levelled by the massive earthquake in 365. The main sanctuary has been partially restored and looks quite odd as a result.

Visitors can make out a sports arena, some baths and priests' quarters. There was once a stadium here seating 6,000 spectators but there is little to be seen of it now

Amathous Ruins

Once one of the island's ancient kingdoms, Amathous or Amathus is a vast area of ruins that are hardly recognisable as an ancient city.

Scholars are unsure of its origins (some say 300BC) but it flourished until the 10th century and archaeologists have uncovered an acropolis, temple, forum, basilica and two necropoles.
The temple to Aphrodite dates to 100AD and excavations have unearthed city walls and gates.
Most of the important finds have been hauled off to museums around the world and the site is a bit of a mess. Many of the original carved limestone building blocks were shipped to Egypt or used to build local village homes. The Amathusia Festival is held each summer in the spectacular location. A packed programme of cultural events introduces visitors and locals to traditional Cypriot dance and music typical of the region.