The monastery of Panagia tou Kykkou, widely known simply as “Kykkos”, is the most famous in Cyprus. Located on the far edge of the Troodos area, 15km west of Pedoulas and the Marathasa valley, it’s often dismissed rather scathingly by guidebooks but will tell you more about Greek Cypriots and their religion today than all the more venerable churches of Troodos put together. Add in President Makarios’s tomb and the nearby EOKA hideouts and you have a must-visit for anybody trying to get a handle on modern Cyprus.
The original monastery was established at the end of the eleventh century by the Byzantine Emperor, though none of the original buildings have survived the numerous fires that have swept through the region. Nothing in the current monastery predates the last fire in 1831, and much of it is later than that, though the famous icon of the Virgin Mary seems to have miraculously survived.
The Kykkos Monastery is the richest on the island and it shows. Its buildings are pristine and immaculately maintained, its murals vivid and bright, its monks numerous. This wealth grew partly because of the pulling power of the icon, and partly because, during Ottoman times, many people donated their money to the church rather than see it whittled away by heavy Ottoman taxes. On entry, through a highly decorated porch (even the cover-up clothes provided for visitors are a cut above the ones you’ll find elsewhere), you walk into a handsome courtyard with a museum at the far left and, above the monastery roof, a wooded hillside with a recently built bell tower.