Limassol, the largest coastal town in Cyprus, and is the island’s principal cruise port. Limassol offers ancient history, a wide variety of cuisine, Blue Flag beaches and some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. With a story that dates back to antiquity, Limassol was a strategic garrison for Richard the Lionhearted during the Third Crusade and the castle in the historic center is where Richard the Lionheart married, and it’s from here that the entire town radiates.
Cyprus is the kind of destination where you have to venture off the beaten track to uncover the true nature of the place. Scratch the surface, particularly around the castle area, and you’ll find a tangle of shady, pedestrianized streets in the medieval center; ancient mosques alongside Greek Orthodox churches; and broad shopping boulevards, lined with boutiques. The surrounding area is a heady mix of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and shops. In Cyprus you will find plenty of historical and cultural sites, including museums, churches and old shuttered houses that give you a view into the past.
Immediately outside the town are rolling hills, olive and citrus groves and tiny villages, where locals still use donkeys for transport. Limassol is at the heart of the island’s wine-growing industry, and visitors will see dusty vineyards, clinging to the sun-bleached, sloping hills.
It might not otherwise feel old, but Limassol, which dates to at least 2000 B.C., is the gateway to sites of antiquity, such as Kourion, with its Greco-Roman Theatre, and, nearby, the Temple of Apollo. Also worth a look is Nicosia, the only capital city in the world to be divided by force (by Turkish and Greek Cypriots).
Limassol is ideally situated for cruise passengers, as it’s in the middle of everything. The important archaeological sites of Kourion, Kolossi Castle and Limassol Castle are less than 30 minutes from the port. Day trips into the mountains and wine-growing areas are easily manageable. Visitors to Cyprus tend to remember the friendliness of its people. Everybody in the hospitality trade speaks English, and everybody will engage visitors in conversation.
For the disabled cruiser, visiting Limassol is difficult, noting absence of ramps or one that does not meet standards, lifts are rare and toilets for the disabled are inaccessible and inappropriate. The trouble is all public premises including shops and restaurants, start at the front entrance, STEPS, even if there is a slope for wheelchairs it is much too steep owing to the shortness of it’s length. Maneuvering is not helped by restricting already narrow pavements by inserting parking meters and trees in the middle.
Where You’re Docked
Cruise ships dock at the Limassol New Port, a combined cargo and passenger facility, located three miles west of Limassol center. Some cruise lines provide shuttles to the old town center; otherwise, taxis line up at the port when a ship is in. The walk is not especially attractive, particularly in the heat of summer; save your energy for the town itself. Inconveniently, car-hire services are not available at the port, and if you prebook a rental car, you will be charged extra for its delivery to meet your ship.
The passenger terminal houses currency exchange facilities, public telephones, a poorly stocked duty-free shop and a tourist information booth.
Greek is the official language, with local variations in the dialect. Greek, Turkish, English widely spoken. Today, some 40% of the population of Limassol are Russian speaking. Almost all Cypriots in the tourist areas speak excellent English, and road signs are in both languages.
Olive oil and olive tree products; soap, candles and wood carvings, for example; as well as mountain honey are good buys. Sets of Greek worry beads make good trinkets and are easy to pack. Specialty stores sell decent goatskin rugs; goats are used on Cyprus for everything; meat, milk and skin. Cyprus is famous for its handmade lace. Lefkara lace is a good buy and is famous throughout the world as one of the products most closely associated with Cypriot workmanship; the name originates from the village Lefkara, situated on a hill on the Nicosia-Limassol road.
Limassol is packed with excellent restaurants. It has every kind of fast food under the sun, as well as some expensive, gourmet restaurants that are done more justice at dinner than at lunch. But, you can find plenty of places to have terrific local lunches, too. Around the castle, cafes and restaurants offers light Mediterranean dishes, sandwiches, wraps and grills.
Points of Interest
- Kourion – located 12 miles west of Limassol, is the island’s most important archaeological site. It features a beautiful amphitheater, which overlooks the coast, and extensive excavations of a Roman city that dates back to 200 B.C. The Disabled Cruiser will find a large part, but not all, is accessible for wheelchair users with smooth concrete and wooden paths by the side of the ruins giving good view of them, however some of the paths are fairly steep.
- Kolossi Castle – a 13th-century, fortified tower that’s one of the last reminders of the occupation of the island by the Knights Hospitaller. Although the castle is essentially an empty shell, you can see old coats of arms engraved on the walls and the remains of an ancient sugar mill on the grounds. Climb to the top and admire the view; the castle was strategically positioned to survey the surrounding landscape and warn of enemies approaching. For the Disabled Cruiser, the site is described as “with limited access for the disabled”, however I would specify that as there are no elevators, it is nearly impossible to see the inside for somebody in a wheelchair. Although there is a level area just inside the entrance, to gain access to the castle involved either steps or stairs.
- Limassol Castle – in Limassol itself, you can walk around the chunky, medieval castle at the pedestrianized old center. Today, it’s surrounded by smart taverns and hip bars and a very pleasant lunch spot. In 1191, Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre in the original castle there, but today’s fortress is a mere 420 years old. For the Disabled Cruiser, the castle isn’t wheelchair accessible. For disabled or wheelchair users, there are too many uneven surfaces and steps. There is no wheelchair access or lifts to the higher floors
- Troodos Mountains – are the spine of forested hills that run, east to west, across the island’s center. From the top, there are amazing views as far as the Turkish coast (on a clear day), right across the Turkish-occupied northern sector. Follow the walking trails in the forest, and try fresh, barbecued mountain trout at a village tavern. Visit Kykkos, a beautiful and incredibly wealthy monastery, housing incredible icons and gold mosaics.
- Omodhos – the island’s principal wine-growing village, located some 40 minutes from Limassol. The cobbled center is pleasant to stroll around in for an hour or so, and there are some good taverns for lunch, as well as wineries that offer tastings.
- Beaches – Limassol is not known for its beautiful beaches, although it’s a major seaside resort. All beaches in Cyprus are public, so you may feel free to visit one of the hotel beaches, all of which are along a strip in the Amathus area, west of the town center. Most of the beaches are narrow, though, with gritty sand. The municipal beach, at the eastern end of the strip, has cafes, water sports and public restrooms. The broad promenade there comes to life every evening with locals strolling, jogging and taking after-work dips.