Lefkara (Lefka Ori - White Mountains) sits at a central spot in Cyprus, near the half way mark on the highway joining Nicosia and Larnaca to Limassol in the white-limestone foothills of the Troodos Mountains. The villages Pano Lefkara, Kato Lefkara and Kato Drys are perched in these southern foothills of the Mountains, at elevations ranging between 500 to 700 m, just ten kilometers from the Nicosia-Limassol highway and a short distance from the beaches near the Ayios Theodoros and Pentakomo villages (Governors Beach). They offer cool, dry weather, unspoiled countryside, no traffic lights and the opportunity to relax in a quiet environment and take short trips to explore Cyprus.
Archangelos Church in Kato Lefkara
Once an administrative center with a population of more than 5000 at the beginning of the 20th century, Pano Lefkara today has a permanent population of about 1000 and boasts a unique architecture that remains to this day. The stone-built houses are separated by narrow winding streets. Occasionally a balcony, with flowers hanging over the narrow street, joins the upper levels of the houses. The Church of the Holy Cross in the center of the village, completed in the early 1900 is a work of art, and the view from its yard is fantastic. The Handicraft museum in the House of Patsalos is worth a visit.
Lefkara is a popular destination for day visits, but remains quiet and almost undiscovered for longer stays. Yet, there is superb accommodation in Lefkara, fine restaurants and coffee shops as well as a hospital. Expatriates are gradually returning to the village. Many update their family houses and spend their vacations in Lefkara.
The entire village was placed under the preservation act by the department of urban development and updates to the houses are done under their supervision, following strict guidelines. Lefkara is one of four sites in the Mediterranean selected for a pilot restoration project by Rehabimet. The street leading to the church of the Holy Cross was recently rehabilitated by Rehabimed.
The village of Pano Lefkara is famous not only for its unique architecture but also for its lace (Lefkaritika Kentimata, Lefkara lace) and silverwork. The world-famous Lefkara lace, inscribed in 2009 in the UNESCO Representative List of the intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is embroidered on pure linen. Although colors may be found in antique pieces, today's embroideries are done on natural-color linen with white or light brown thread. The quality of the lace can vary significantly along with the price. Strolling along the narrow streets of the village, one may still come across women embroidering in front of their houses. The delicate and exquisite craftsmanship and unique designs of the genuine Lefkara lace make the handicrafts popular with visitors. Locally produced Turkish delights are another Lefkara product with a long tradition that is popular.
Saint George, Kato Lefkara
There are several small old churches both inside the village and in the surroundings. Local women tend to them and visit to light a candle. Among them the little church of the Metamorfosis tou Sotiros at the top of the hill above Lefkara. The climb to the top of the Sotira hill from the main road takes about half an hour on foot. On the top there is a magnificent view of the coast of Larnaca and Limassol to the south as well as the surrounding villages and the Troodos Mountains to the north.
From the book Images of a lifetime, Reno Wideson
Lefkara is a village like no other in Cyprus. It has a long history as a lace making center that goes back to the 12th century. At one point in its history it was the largest town in Cyprus. The lace making tradition along with the intricate designs were handed down from mother to daughter generation after generation. Lefkara men always traveled abroad to market the lace and brought back their experiences along with their earnings. There was some relative affluence in the town, and a bit of extra luxury in the homes. In the nineteen twenties and thirties, large two story houses with balconies and tile roofs were the norm. As the times changed so did the fortunes of the people in the village. Craftsmen could not compete with factory produced goods, carobs, olives and the other agricultural products did not bring in high prices and lace making could not sustain the families. The great exodus began in force. People were leaving the village for the towns in Cyprus and overseas in search of better opportunities. Empty houses were left behind unattended. Unlike what happened in the cities there was no demolition for upgrading. Most stone-built houses still retain their original architecture and distinctive character. The narrow streets, wide enough to allow a donkey with two sacs on its back to pass through, are still intact. They bring back memories of times past, women sitting in groups outside the doors and children running around. Bent over a small pillow on their lap, the Lefkara women created exquisite embroideries on linen. Mindful of the children playing in the narrow streets, they worked and socialized in the cool breeze coming down from the mountain above them.
Almond trees in bloom near the village
In Lefkara the front door closes only when the owners are away. Open doors let the cool air in and welcome friends and visitors to the courtyard, filled with flower pots. Upstairs the 'Palati', the great big room, was reserved for the family. On a wedding day, the room and closets would open up, friends were invited in to admire the fine linen dowry the bride embroidered all through her adolescence.
Lefkara is a living museum. It is charming and quiet. If you cannot stay there for your vacation, do yourself a favour, visit and walk the narrow, out of the way alleys, experience the charm of yesterday.
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