Thursday, 22 August 2013

Hike to Stavrovouni Monastery... with you dog


Start of the E4 trail up to Stavrovouni Monastery
On a recent trip heading for the village of Pyrga, I got distracted, and we changed course for Stavrovouni Monastery. I hadn't realised, but this spectacular monastery, perched on one of the highest hills in the area, is even visible from our home in central Larnaca. It is a very distinctive hill, high and pyramidal, but the monastery only comes into view as you get much closer.
View of Stavrovouni Monastery 
We turned off the B1 (between the villages of Kofinou and Kornos), following signposts for the monastery. There is a small, winding road that leads up to monastery, and does not continue any further. At various points along this road you can find signs for the E4 trail that ascends the hill, through a rocky terrain of wild flowers and spiny shrubs.

We left the car at the first of these E4 signs, parked just off the road, and started out on foot. It is a difficult, uphill walk, with almost no shade. However the smell of thyme and sage, the silence, and the huge variety of wildlife make this a really lovely walk.

Wild flowers on hike to monastery
As usual, Sage was scrambling ahead, chasing lizards and generally having a good time. We walked for about half an hour, until a voice of reason (not mine) strongly recommended that we didn't continue by foot, as we had absolutely no water with us, and it was a hot midday in June.



The voice of reason was right. We walked back down, and drove up to the monastery. Along the road I saw numerous E4 signs, each one, no matter how high up we had driven, giving the same approximate distance and time of hike - 2 km, 0.5 hours. We'll try the walk again, later in the year, carrying water. I don't think it's very far, but it is a relentless uphill hike, and needs just a little bit of preparation (water, shoes not sandals etc).

View from the monastery
Once you reach the monastery there is potable water for you and your dog to refresh yourselves, while looking at the magnificent view.

My photo does not to it justice. From the top of the hill, outside the monastery, you have a fantastic panoramic view of the Mesaoria plain, and agricultural land down to the coast at Larnaca and beyond.


Stavrovouni monastery (Mountain of the Cross) is the oldest documented monastery on Cyprus. It was founded in the 4th century, according to tradition, by the mother of Constantine the Great Agia Eleni (Saint Helena). Documents by the 15th century chronicler Leontios Makhairas, report that during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Eleni discovered the 3 crosses on which Christ and the 2 thieves were crucified. The tradition continues that she left one of the crosses behind after being shipwrecked in Cyprus. In response to the miraculous appearance of the Holy Cross on the peak of the hill on which the monastery now stands, Eleni left a piece of the cross on the hill, and founded a small chapel there.

See Cyprus Tourism Organisation website: http://www.visitcyprus.com/wps/portal/!ut/p/c4/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3hXN0fHYE8TIwMLtzBXA6NQ48DAoBAjQwMvE_3g1Dz9gmxHRQBtfxRy/?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/English__en/CTO+B2C/Tourist+Information/Culture/Sites_and_Monuments/Stavrovouni_Monastery

The monks living at the monastery are very devout. Women are not permitted inside, and men must wear appropriate clothing.

The monastery houses various relics, including the fragment of the Holy Cross, and the Brotherhood have a long tradition of icon painting.
After the visit to the monastery, we drove around the area looking for somewhere nice and shady to cool down with a drink. We drove by a small picnic area just off the road before Kornos, which looked like it might be a good dog-friendly place. In the end we stopped just outside the village of Pyrga, at the  dog-friendly Periptero H Mesaoria (http://travelcypruswithyourdog.blogspot.gr/2013/06/periptero-h-mesaoria-pyrga-with-your-dog.html), which also had a park and picnic area just behind.

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