Between Lemesos and the border with Larnaka district, and equally accessible (and well-signposted) from the A1 motorway and B1 coast road, are one of Cyprus’s best known beaches, Governor’s Beach, one of its greatest archeological sites at Amathus, and an attraction which typifies Cypriot enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit–the Santa Marina Retreat.
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A pretty group of coves notable for its dark sand and bright white cliffs, Governor’s Beach lies just off the A1, and gets very busy, especially at weekends. It has all the facilities you need for a civilized day at the seaside – tavernas, showers, beach umbrellas and loungers – with easy access via a clifftop path and a number of flights of steps down to the sand. The low chalk cliffs are topped by luxuriant vegetation, and contrast with the dark sand of the beaches, which are interspersed with further outcrops of chalk, one of which, much used by anglers, juts menacingly out of the sea like the shark in Jaws. The eastward view from the beach, once merely unedifyingly industrial, now takes in the dramatic aftermath of the island’s worst peacetime disaster, the Evangelos Florakis Naval Base explosion of January, 2011. The tattered remains of the Vasilikou power station squat next to the base’s red and white chimneys, with the radio masts of the BBC relay station at Zygi in the background.
Nine kilometres or so east of Lemesos centre and clearly visible right next to the B1 coast road, Ancient Amathus (Amathous) is of enormous significance in the history of Cyprus, with origins that can be traced back over three thousand years. The city was probably first established by Greek islanders fleeing from the eastward spread of the Dorian invasion around 1000 BC, though myth has it that a pregnant Ariadne, eloping with Theseus from Minoan Crete, died in childbirth at Amathus and was buried nearby. By around 800 BC the city had been settled and developed by the Phoenicians, and a new harbour built. During this time temples to Aphrodite and Hercules were established (Amathus was one of Hercules’s sons). During the Roman occupation it became one of four prosperous regional capitals, but subsequently suffered Arab raids in the seventh century AD, and attack by Richard the Lionheart in 1191. It became largely forgotten until it was identified in the late nineteenth century by British archeologists A.H. Smith and J.L. Myers, and excavated from the 1970s on by the French School of Athens.
Today the broad areas of ancient Amathus can, with effort, be discerned, with the open agora, or market place backed by the acropolis hill behind. The outline of houses can be seen, together with sections of wall, the rills and pipes of a water distribution system, a temple and several later Byzantine basilicas. The remains of the famous harbour cannot be seen, since they now lie underwater immediately off the beach. Many of the finds from the site can be seen in Lemesos’s Archeological Museum and Nicosia’s Cyprus Museum; others have been plundered during Cyprus’s periods of occupation – a two-metre-high, fourteen-tonne stone jar is now in the Louvre in Paris, for example.
The Santa Marina Retreat
The Santa Marina Retreat
Just outside the village of Pareklissia north of the A1’s junction 21 lies the Santa Marina Retreat. Once a disused copper mine, it’s now a popular and surprisingly peaceful mixture of stud farm and activity centre. It combines stables, paddocks, two race tracks, even a horse exercise pool, with a putting green, driving range, archery area, football pitches, adventure playground, climbing wall and a ten-metre-high “sky trail”. For the less sporty there’s a lake stocked with koi, a barn containing displays tracing the history of horses in Cyprus, a small petting zoo, a Venetian chapel and the Manghaleni copper mine, the original development on the site, with its own visitor centre. As well as the somewhat pricey organized activities (archery €8 for 15min, mountain-bike hire €12/hour), there are nature trails which can be explored on foot as well as on horseback or by bike. Once you’re done riding/climbing/hiking, you can take refreshment at the very pleasant Terrace Café.