Painted Churches in the Troödos Region
The Painted Churches in the Troödos Region are 9 Byzantine churches and monasteries in the Troödos Mountains.
What they have in common is that they all are covered with old and colorful frescoes. Some of them date from as early as the 11th century.
Another feature of some of these churches is that they are two buildings in one: on the inside there's the classical form of a Byzantine church, on the outside it often looks like a stable or a farm. The extra layer on the outside was constructed to be able to cope with the heavy snowfall that can occur in the Troödos Mountains.
Map of Painted Churches in the Troödos RegionLoad map
Visit May 2001
Far away, deep in the heart of Cyprus, a number of very old and special churches can be found. They are like hidden treasures, and also in the age of paved roads and cars it takes some stamina to visit them.
Of the 9 enlisted churches, I visited 3: Panagia tou Asinou, Panagia tou Araka and Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis. Although they won their inclusion in the list mainly because of their interiors, I fell for their simple outside beauty. Often "just" a robust stone building, but in the best natural settings you can think of.
When I entered Cyprus in mid-December 2020 with intention to stay for 3 months, there was not much of lockdown. Museums and archaeological sites were open, and I was able to visit Choirokoitia and Paphos WHSs within my first 2 days in the country without any problems. Staying in the Paphos District for 3 months, I thought I would visit the Painted Churches in the Troodos Region WHS sometimes in January or February. I was not following the local news and just going about my own business. Then on January 10 I was told by my landlord that a strict lockdown was to commence on the next day.
Suddenly, we had to stay inside our residences with allowance of only two 3-hour slots a day outside and were also not allowed to move from one District of the country to another. The Troodos Region was basically in the Nicosia District. The feeling that I might not even be able to visit the Troodos WHS before I leave Cyprus in mid-March persisted for a long time, until I was caught by a few police officers on street when I was wandering around at midnight despite the 9 pm curfew. The officers then let me go. I realized at that moment that after all the Cypriots in the southern half of the island were ethnically Greek and loose.
So I decided to take it easy. As a non-resident of the country, I had a right to go to the airport to leave the country and therefore to travel from Paphos to Larnaca where the airport is. I made a plan to travel from Paphos through Limassol, the Troodos region, and Nicosia to Larnaca, claiming my hotels as my residences for 1 to 3 days each. For this reason I had to wait to visit the Troodos region until my last week of stay in Cyprus, which was the first week of March.
After visiting the top of Mt. Olympos, a TWHS and the highest point in Cyprus at 1952 m , I took a mini bus (which is free within the Troodos regions) from the village of Troodos to the village of Kakopetria in the afternoon, and as soon as I arrived at my hotel in Kakopetria I headed to the following two churches on foot.
1. Church of Agios (St.) Nikolaos tis Steyis, Kakopetria
The 1st church I visited was open, and I was happy to be able to claim this WHS. The church seemed to be attended by a caretaker during the opening hours, but he was not following me around. There was a sign for no photographs at the church. As I entered, it was very dark, and I could hardly see anything. I thought I would have to use the flashlight of my phone to see the frescos but then thought if I was going to use the flashlight, I might as well take photos.
I found the church building architecturally quite interesting. It does not even look like it is a church within a church. The outer church seems to cover the inner church only half-way. You can see one roof over another from outside.
2. Church of Panagia (The Virgin) Podhithou, Galata
I arrived at this church in the outskirt of Galata at 4:10 pm, and a sign with the phone number of a caretaker said it closed at 4pm. When I called the phone number, there was no answer.
The next day, after visiting the Kykkos Monastery, the single most important monastery in Cyprus, by two mini buses from Kakopetria, I went back to this church before 4 pm. I called the phone number and had a caretaker open the door for me. There was a sign for no photos, and the caretaker was following me around as if I would take photos.
This church supposedly contains some of the newer paintings under the banner of Italian-Byzantine School. But the interior of the church within church was only half painted.
The caretaker's phone number is: +357 99671776. I would call this number before visiting this church. It can be opened by him until 4 pm except on Monday.
* Church of Agios Sozomenos, Galata
This church is not among the 10 WH churches but is the one of the two that were requested by State Party not to be examined in 2006. Since this church is right in the middle of the village of Galata, 1 km from Kakopetria, I asked the same caretaker above if he could open it for me, and he rather reluctantly did. His phone number was not posted on this church, so it probably means nobody really gets in this church. He did not let me take photos even though there was no sign for no photographs. This church is not very well taken care of, and it was also possible to take photos of the paintings on the outer wall of the inner church through the holes/cracks of the outer church, which I did after the caretaker locked the door and left.
On the third day in the Troodos region my friend, Vasilis, from Nicosia drove out to Kakopetria to hang out with me. I met Vasilis at the Great Lavra of Mt. Athos in 2010, and we kept in touch. He had come out to Paphos a few weeks before, which was the first time I saw him in 11 years. He did the mandatory military service for 2 years for Cyprus in the Troodos region, so he was very much familiar with this region. I wanted to visit Panagia tis Asinou in Nikitari that day, but when Vasilis called the church at about 2 pm, it turned out that the caretaker had left the church due to no visitors earlier on the day. So instead we decided to go visit the following 3 churches.
3. Church of Archangelos Michael (Archangel Michael), Pedoulas
This small church is supposed to have been restored and to contain some of the best paintings among the 10 churches, but I was surprised that the door was kept open without any attendants around. Indeed, when I first saw the small brick structure with an open door, I thought it was a public (human) toilet, not even a stable. It contained a large portrait of Archangel Michael as well as a very unusual painting of completely naked Jesus being baptized by John at River Jordan.
Vasilis mentioned that when he was a child, he used to come to this village of Pedoulas with his parents for a week-long summer getaway every year, so we walked around the village a little.
4. Church of Panagia tou Moutoulla, Moutoulla
By the time we arrived after 4 pm, it was closed. This is supposed to be the oldest of the 10 churches. Despite that, it was not taken care of so well, and I was able to take some photos of the paintings on the outer wall of the inner church through the wall of the outer church, on which there was no sign for no photos.
The UNESCO material says, "They also contain a wealth of dated inscriptions, an uncommon feature in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Middle Ages, which makes them particularly important for recording the chronology of Byzantine painting." The photo I post here from this church seems to contain such a dated inscription. But Vasilis said he couldn't read the Byzantine Greek medieval alphabet on this photo.
5. Monastery of Agios Ionannis (John) Lambadhistis, Kalopangiotis
This was also closed. It is the only monastery among the 10 churches and consists of several buildings, one of which is now a museum.
So 2 of the 3 churches we visited that afternoon were unfortunately closed, but this WHS is also inscribed under Criterion 6, which is about the Byzantine vernacular architecture of the simple church buildings. I quite enjoyed this aspect. It was about discovering yet another style of Christian church.
I plan to go back to Cyprus perhaps for another 3 months in the near future, so I would visit some more of these rustic churches. Almost all the 10 churches, even Panagia tis Asinou in Nikitari, are reachable by bus if you are willing to walk for a few kilometers each.
Vasilis' invitation to a socially-distanced dinner at his parents' house in Nicosia completed that day for me.
A day before the departure from the Larnaca airport I also visited the Hala Sultan Tekke and the Larnaca Salt Lake Complex TWHS and the Church of Panagia Aggeloktisti TWHS.
Read more from Tsunami here.
Preparing for our trip to Cyprus, we noticed that very little practical information (opening hours, ...) can be found about the painted churches, so maybe the below is useful for future visitors. Note that we visited all 10 churches mid March, so potentially the opening hours may be different in other months/seasons.
As mentioned in previous reviews, it's best to use GPS coordinates to find the churches - they are indicated below. Unlike Clyde, we never felt we needed a 4x4 vehicle but the difference might be that we used the 'avoid unpaved roads' option on our GPS.
We explored the Troodos mountains for 2 days. Visiting all 10 churches in one day could maybe be possible since we departed from Nicosia and also visited other sites (Kykkos, Fikardou, ...), but this will probably be rushed.
We particularly liked the churches located outside of a village (e.g. the ones in Nikitari and Platanistasa), but they are all worth a visit.
1. Nikitari: 35°02'45.4"N 32°58'24.5"E, open when we visited it on a Monday at 10 AM.
2. Lagoudera: 34°57'55.7"N 33°00'25.1"E, open when we visited it on a Monday at 10.45 AM.
3. Platanistasa: 34°58'44.8"N 33°02'48.0"E, closed when we visited it on a Monday at 11.30 AM. Coming from Lagoudera, a sign at a T-junction (right to Platanistasa, left to the church) indicates that the key can be picked up in Platanistasa. We did not do this taking into account that this would take about 30-45 minutes (back and forth) and that we were low on fuel [note that there are not a lot of petrol stations in the Troodos mountains].
4. Palaichori: 34°55'18.7"N 33°05'41.9"E, open when we visited it on a Monday at 12.15 AM. However, note that the church is normally closed on a Monday but we were lucky that other tourists called the caretaker. This person also gave us a 10-15 minute explanation about the church, the paintings, ... which was certainly added value.
5. Pelendri: 34°53'35.4"N 32°57'58.8"E, closed when we visited it on a Monday at 14.45 PM and no coordinates of the person with the key.
6. Galata: 35°00'12.5"N 32°53'47.7"E, closed when we visited it on a Tuesday at 9 AM. On the door is a telephone number which can be called as from 9 AM but when we tried this at 9 AM and again at 9.15 AM there was no answer.
7. Kakopetria: 34°58'39.8"N 32°53'20.1"E, open when we visited it on a Tuesday at 9.30 AM.
8. Pedoulas: 34°58'03.4"N 32°49'52.8"E, open when we visited it on a Tuesday at 10.30 AM.
9. Moutoulla: 34°58'56.8"N 32°49'26.5"E, closed when we visited it on a Tuesday at 10.45 AM and no coordinates of the person with the key.
10. Kalopanagiotis: 34°59'33.4"N 32°49'48.4"E, open when we visited it on a Tuesday at 11 AM.
Finally, note that in most churches taking pictures inside is not allowed. However, the caretaker at Palaichori did not mind and in Pedoulas there was no caretaker at all.
I visited this WHS in February 2016. It is made up of a series of 10 or 12 painted churches high in the Troodos region of Cyprus. The official map indicator offered by UNESCO gives 12 GPS coordinates while the description only mentions 10. Since I had enough time I visited all the churches even though the 'latest' additions were closed for restoration. I'd recommend renting a car and most importantly a GPS navigator. I brought my GPS along with all the saved coordinates and still visiting some of the churches surely wasn't easy. If possible, I'd suggest to approach the Troodos region coming from the capital Nicosia instead of what I did, i.e. crossing inland from Limassol. The route is much more scenic on the latter option, however you'd be better off on a 4x4 vehicle to be on the safe side as you'd be able to venture down the several tractor trails or minor roads to get to all the churches in a sort of loop. I managed with a non-4x4 compact vehicle but there were several moments when I thanked my lucky stars that I managed to do this without damaging the car or worse getting hurt. I have to say that I really enjoy these kind of WHS (a series of less-known sites). Ihe Troodos region reminded me of the Val de Boi Churches in Catalunya. In my opinion the interior of the painted churches of Troodos is their definite highlight and why they have OUV, even though their exterior is quite unique too albeit simple at the same time. My favourite interiors were in Agios Ioannis Lambadistes, Panagia Phorviotissa Asinou, Panagia tou Arakos and Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis. These had incredible colours and detail and were in very good condition overall. When churches were closed, I simply asked around in a cafeteria or shop and immediately the friendly locals would call the keyholder! It was really quite an experience and goes to show how laid back life still is in the Troodos region. You won't be able to visit them all if you're in a hurry and you won't enjoy your visit if you're in a rush. I spent 2 full days exploring and it was really worthwhile. Visiting solo in the low season meant that I could easily take several photos and enjoy the quiet environs practically alone. Visiting the churches was completely free even though I bought quite a lot of interesting books and postcards in most of them. My favourite church exterior was that of Panagia Phorviotissa Asinou, which is the most accessible, and in front of which there is a marble Unesco plaque. Almost all the other sites have an individual plastic/metal Unesco sign attached and I'll surely make a photo collage of them all in my free time. The 2 painted churches (+ another non-inscribed one) in Galata offer a great place to stop to eat and to enjoy exploring a Troodos village. Even though the weather was sunny and quite hot at daytime (in February!), the roads close to Mount Olympus (1,952m) and the mountain peaks were covered with melting snow so you should keep this in mind if you visit in December/January. Overall, I really think this is the best WHS in Cyprus and one of the best 'minor/unkwnown' WHS the list has on offer.
Over two days I managed to visit all ten of the listed painted churches. This involved driving through magnificent autumn scenery, along steep winding roads, wel;l worth the effort. Of the 10 churches:
1 was closed for restoration (Pelendria)
2 were unrestored but open to visitors (Moutouilas and Kakopetria)
2 were restored but closed (Palaichori and Platanistasa)
5 were restored and open to visitors (Galata, Pedoulas, Lagoudera, Nikitari and St John's Monastery).
Of the ten churches only Nikiteri and Lagoudera rated 'spectacular' frescoes, while others were damaged or patchy.
Of all the Troodos churches, I've only been to the only one easily accessible by public transport from Nikosia - the one in Galata. We took the effort to go there from Famagusta in Northern Cyprus and were very much disappointed. The paintings were nice but nothing out of the ordinary. I have seen much more beautiful ones even in Nicosia. Only the paintings in the apsis survived (and one other fragment) which was also a bad surprise as I imagined them to cover the entire church (again like in Nicosia). The church was badly lit (in order to preserve the frescoes) and the apsis which is the only interesting section of the church was not accessible to anyone but the local priest. So even in the dusky inner room of the church we still had to admire the paintings through a wall! A (partial) compensation for this unrewarding visit was the nearby charming village of Kakopetria with its cubbled streets. I sure hope the rest of the Troodos churches are better!
I visited the Metamorphosis Church (one of the inscribed churches) in the mountains. The most interesting experience for me was knocking on a few doors near the church to finally get the "keeper of the key" to open the church for us. And the beautiful frescos in the church was worth all the effort. No exception as well to the beautiful location the church was situated and the friendly people we met on the way up the mountains. Definitely worth a visit!
- Rodinia WalGra :
- Cezar Grozavu Daniel Gabi :
- Pierre T Roman Raab Dirk-pieter Alexander Barabanov Lauren Carmen Maria David :
- Zoë Sheng David Berlanda Clyde Martina Ruckova Philipp Peterer Argo Els Slots Wojciech Fedoruk :
- Svein Elias Szucs Tamas Dorejd Alias65 Forest80 HaraldOest Peter Lööv Randi Thomsen :
- Solivagant Gary Arndt Ivan Rucek :
- Mikko :
2006 Requested by State Party to not be examined
Extension "Church of Agios Sozomenos, Galata and Church of Agios Mamas, Louvaras (Extension to the “Painted Churches in the Troodos Region”) (Cyprus)" withdrawn
To include the Church of Ayia Sotira (Trans-figuration of the Savior) in Palaichori
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