For something like 12,000 years the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been at the crossroads of some of the greatest empires of the world. From the Assyrians to the British, the depth of history on the island is astounding. You can’t really visit Cyprus without checking out some of the amazing archaeological sites to be found on the island.
If your days are limited, hit up car hire in Cyprus and head on out to these top five important archaeological sites.
Although the earliest archeological remains to be found at Salamis date to the Late Bronze Age, well before the Greeks, Salamis was once
one of the great Greek city-states. Located on the east coast of the island at the mouth of the Pedieos River, Salamis shows early Phoenician and Assyrian presence. In fact, for a long time the rulers of Salamis paid tribute to the famous Sargon II. Later, Salamis led the entire island in a war to free it from Persian rule and then served at an early capitol of the island. Salamis also played an important role during Roman and early Christian times serving as the home base for St. Barnabus, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. A series of earthquakes, the harbor silting up and finally the Muslim invasion left the city abandoned to the forces of nature. Excavations began in 1952. The ruins remain impressive. Particularly the amphitheatre. The site is located just 5km from Famagusta. For more information visit here.
The Crusaders build Kolossi Castle but it probably had less to do with fighting the Muslim armies and more to do with controlling the Cypriot sugar cane trade in the Middle Ages. Located just 14km west of Limassol, the original structure was built around 1200 by the Franks. The castle that exists at the site now is a construction of the Hospitallers under Louis de Magnac in 1454. The Knights Templar took the castle in 1306 but the Hospitallers got in back in 1313 after the abolition of the Templars. This is also the home of the Commandaria wine, called by Richard the Lionhearted “the wine of kings and the kind of wines”. So pick up a bottle to enjoy after your visit to the keep. For more information visit here.
Hala Sultan Tekke
Perhaps the most interesting site on the island, the human occupation of this important Muslim holy place predates the religion by many millennia. Occupied from the Late Bronze Age, this area was also of importance during the Classical and Hellenistic times. It was the death of Umm Haram in 648AD however that gives the site its current importance. The elder and respected Haram was a supposedly fell from her donkey during the Arab siege of Larcana and was buried where she died…this is disputed but…lets go with it. When the Ottomans ruled the island they built a more extensive mosque complex around the tomb. Another shrine as erected in 1760 and the bronze fence built in the late early 1800s. It seems however that nearly ALL of this is in dispute with no one really knowing how the site came to be. It makes it all the more interesting. The site is currently undergoing some renovation. For more information visit here.
The depth of history here is astounding. According to Cypriot researchers, an ancient Egyptian inscription dating to the times of Ramses III refers to Kition has being an important Mediterranean city. The city was initially established in the 13th century BC. Archaeological evidence shows that the Achaeans and Mycenaens came early on, looking to exploit the regions copper resources. The Phoenicians mentioned the city in several texts and there is indication that they had a substantial settlement there. The Egyptians took it in the 5th century BC and then the Persians. Truly a crossroads. The Romans arrived in 58AD but then came the earthquakes that decimated the entire island. The city was abandoned by 400AD. The modern city of Larnaca was built on top of the ruins. For more information visit here.
One of the greater mysteries of the island. This archaeological site can be found 9km west of Gemikonagi way up on top of a cliff. The Swedish archaeologists who have investigated the palace feel that it origins date to the Persian occupation about 2500 years ago. At that time several cities revolted against the Persians but this place was allied with one of the pro-Persian cities. It was sacked and burned at one point, but by whom? For more information visit here.