More than a hotel

Karen Overend, 05 September, 2019
Casale Panayiotis in Cyprus’ Troodos Mountains is way more than just a ‘hotel’. It is the culmination of one man’s dream to bring an ancient village back to life.

In the heart of the Troodos Mountains, clinging to a steep hillside in Cyprus’ highest inhabited valley, is the extraordinary village of Kalopanayiotis. Dating back to Hellenistic times, the village has a rich Byzantine heritage with a frescoed monastery, several chapels and a museum. Sadly, by the late 20th century, the village had become neglected, and its population had dwindled. But thanks to the vision of civil engineer John Papadouris, who was born and raised there, Kalopanayiotis has been restored and its buildings revitalised to form an impressive agritourism project – Casale Panayiotis – enabling the local community to thrive again. This is now far more than a mere hotel, so we decided to ‘ask Alexa’, by talking to his proud daughter about this extraordinary place...

Alexa, you told us that when your father, John Papadouris, talks about Kalopanayiotis, “his eyes sparkle”. What do you think inspired him to begin this project?

In Cyprus, people are very attached to their villages, even if they’ve lived in the city for years, and my father is no different – he’s always loved the area and has a deep connection to it. After a career abroad, he came back and was saddened to see the whole valley was dying. He decided to use his skills to help revive the local economy and the village spirit. With his own investment, matched by EU funding, he rebuilt roads and restored some of the older, dilapidated houses. His first project was a restaurant – after all, in Cyprus food is hugely important! There are now 41 rooms in 7 houses across the village, a café, three restaurants and a luxury spa looking out directly onto the mountains. The views here are glorious!

Can you tell us a little about the restoration of village life?

Yes – families who have lived here for generations have been inspired to take part in the revitalisation. Younger people have returned, are getting married, having children… it’s great to see! Some are employed by Casale Panayiotis, while others have restored their homes to rent as holiday accommodation, or have opened shops, cafés and restaurants. The local winemaking industry – my great-grandfather would load his donkeys with wine to distribute across the region – has been brought back to life, we serve homemade soutzouko (a local sweet treat) and loukoumi (Turkish Delight) with coffee to our guests. We also use handmade Cypriot pottery, and some rooms have bedspreads and cushions that have been woven locally on traditional looms.

What else might Inntravellers be able to enjoy here?

There are over 100 kilometres of walking trails starting and ending in Kalopanayiotis, and over 700 kilometres of forest roads for cycling. The ideal period for walking is from October to May, while in winter there’s often snow on the mountains and skiing is possible. This has always been a spa village, so there’s a lovely nature walk down to the sulphur springs, plus walks through local orchards and vineyards. Then there’s the monastery with its breathtakingly beautiful frescoes – its UNESCO heritage status is another draw for visitors.

You mentioned restaurants... Please tell us more.

There’s Byzantino, overlooking the river, highly rated for traditional Cypriot cuisine. Our chef prepares authentic regional dishes and all our fruit and vegetables are sourced locally. To support local businesses, we source our meat from a local butcher and bread from the bakery in the neighbouring village, and both are of the highest quality. There’s a steak and grill house, Loutraki, serving a fusion of Cypriot-Mediterranean food and a casual dining restaurant, Pantheon. There’s also a popular taverna in the village, a further restaurant and a few cafés, all independently owned. There’s plenty of choice!

Finally, what are the aspects of the village that are closest to your own heart?

Kalopanayiotis holds special memories for me as my whole family comes from here. So I’m proud to be involved in this project, enabling the community to survive and thrive. As a child, my grandfather would ask me to bring him a large barrel of sulphur spring water, and, since his house was at the top of the village (up more than 150 steps), it was quite a challenge! But things have changed: now visitors to the springs can return to the top using the mountain elevator! I love the changing seasons here, too: if you’re eating cherries, it’s June; almond trees blossom in February; mushrooms appear in October, and the oranges at Christmas are just phenomenal! We once had guests who thought the orange juice we serve at breakfast couldn’t possibly be fresh, as it tasted so rich and sweet. It’s as if it was almost too good to be true!

We think Alexa’s last statement perfectly sums up the story of Casale Panayiotis!

Experience it for yourself...

Casale Panayiotis, spread across an inviting hillside in Cyprus’ highest inhabited valley, is the third and final three-night base on our walking holiday, The Three Faces of Cyprus. It also features on our shorter, 7-night itinerary, An Island of Surprises.
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