It’s wine o’clock somewhere, and definitely here.
Tip! If you love local goods, Omodos is where you can shop for tons of artisanal and local goods.
About an hour and a half drive westward from Nicosia, you’ll arrive at Omodos – a wine village covered in cobblestone paths, one after another. Dressed up by alley cats who are treated better than domestic kittens. In this town, cats don’t belong in the homes. They belong to everyone.
Sampling local wines require entering 17th century stone-built caves. It doesn’t get more authentic than this. Never mind the traditional tavernas serving plentiful meze. Don’t miss the kebabs, sizzling and juicy. A small bite is guaranteed to escalate but in a very tasteful way. No pun intended.
Legend has it that Queen Elena traveled from Jerusalem with the Holy Cross, she was forced to wait out a storm in a small harbor in Cyprus. During her hideout, she encountered a vision with the Cross on a mountain. When she arrived in Timios Stavros Monastery, her vision came to life. As most legends go, there are several versions and this is one of three that are widely told.
Omodos was, by far, one of my favorite stops in Cyprus. Although as always, I’m a huge fan of losing myself in small streets, taking in the quaint village vibes. Playing with street cats with a glass of wine in hand never hurts either.
1. SEE: Panagia Asinou, the most beautiful little church.
Since you’ll arrive in Omodos while traveling between two major cities: Nicosia and Limassol, don’t forget to stop by a beeeeeeautiful (there’s a reason for those extra “e”s) on a hilltop. Panagia Asinou Church is quite literally the most hidden gem of all hidden gems. Situated in midst of the Troodos village mountains, it is the perfect representation of Byzantine Art and iconographies in from 11th to 19th centuries. Since 1985, this little church in the middle of nowhere has been listed as UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.
Stepping inside is a complete Wow factor all on its own. No photographies, but I managed to sneak a video in there. The entire interior of the church is painted with colorful frescoes, recounting stories from the Bible for folks who couldn’t read back in the day. There are two rooms, with the first room featuring stories of Christ, from his birth to the last supper. The inner room explains scenes from heaven and hell, with Saint Peter who holds the key to heaven, while the other end of the room explains what types of people would enter hell: gossipers, women who abort…etc.
I’ve visited MANY churches in my lifetime, but Panagia Asinou was an unforgettable and breathtaking experience that I highly recommend as a decorative stop in midst of a windy road trip.
2. EAT: Lunch at Katoi for lovely meze and kebabs.
Once you arrive in the heart of Omodos, you’ll need to stop and lunch at Katoi. This delightful find is full of charm and small town appeal serving delicious mezes and kebabs. I’m not kidding, the chicken kebabs were tender, juicy, slightly charred to the perfect degree. I had been eating kebabs non-stop on this trip, and Katoi perfected its chicken breasts to my utmost surprise. The wine cellar in the back of the restaurant is a proud corner for the owner, who kindly showed me where he stored his good bottles. On a festive day, he’ll even serve up a few shots of local Zivania. Great if you love the taste of raki!
3. SHOP: Nuts, textiles, olive oils in local boutiques.
Shopping in small towns like this means you’re going to get VERY high quality products at VERY low cost. As you stroll through small alleys, you’ll pass by several shops selling textiles, wines, olive oils, nuts and local honey. Here was where I shopped ’til I dropped, the thought of supporting local artisans and farmers made me smile REAL big!
4. SEE: Timios Stavros Monastery.
There are many “landmarks” to see here, since I’d say Omodos is a laidback small town experience that is truly Cypriot. But if there’s one, or the only one monument you must see here is the Timios Stavros Monastery. Frankly, it’s also hard to miss.
It’s been said that a piece of the rope used to tie Jesus to his cross is in the monastery. This ancient Byzantine church has been around since 1816, but was reconstructed during the mid-19th century with a three-nave basilica. Inside, you can see stained glass and frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible. The main element in the interior is the three-tier, gold-plated iconostasis.
Besides entering the church, there’s a museum on the second level of the courtyard that’s worth checking out. The National Struggles Museum pays tribute to many locals whose lives were lost during their fight against British rule.
5. DRINK: Wine tasting.
Since Omodos is a wine village, there’s nothing better to do than to wine taste. The best part about it here is that, it’s all complimentary! Once you enter the village, you won’t miss the random street signs that indicate wine tastings in various boutiques. Try a few and I would bring home more!
Cypriot wine might not be as well known as French or Californian wines, but it belongs to the Old World of wine-producing countries, which means that it’s part of a region where winemaking originated and it contributes heavily to Cyprus’ economy through tourism and export.