Best Cultural Experiences of
Two Island Nations
Let Locals of Cyprus & Malta Share the Stories of Their Home, Culture & Identity! Dive in!
The Mediterranean Sea is vast, covering almost a million square miles and about 1,500 islands. Yet there are only two independent island nations in this well-traveled body of water that is almost encircled by Northern Africa, Southern Europe, and Western Asia. If that special status alone doesn't make Cyprus and Malta worth exploring, they each have unique and fascinating histories & cultures.
Considering a trip to the island of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean? A stepping stone to three continents, Cyprus' counts among its charms tiny painted churches, ancient mosaics, sea caves carved into cliffs and a wealth of traditional arts and crafts. Here's BCD's bird's-eye-view of the cultural highlights of Cyprus, followed by a collection of articles and interviews with recommendations of places to go and people to meet!
The city of Paphos, in the country's southwestern corner, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses numerous expansive tracts of well-preserved ruins that span Mycenaean temples, Roman villas, and Byzantine fortresses.
The Troodos Mountains were both a haven for monks who sought distance from temptation and nearness to God, as well as sanctuary where the Church could secure its relics and riches during three centuries of Arab raids that began in 647 A.D. Dating from 1474, the Church of the Archangel Michael is one of ten in the Troodos region that have been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage sites. This concentrated collection of monuments perched on remote aeries and hollows are all remarkable for their interiors, richly decorated with Byzantine and post-Byzantine paintings.
Cyprus is also a treasure trove of unique handicrafts and cultural traditions. These range from the fabled lace-making craft of the village of Lefkara, first brought to Cyprus by Venetian courtiers in the 15th century, to traditional dance and music, which date to ancient Greek and Byzantine influences, to the spiritual practice and artistry of icon-painting, with roots in both the Cretan and Macedonian schools of conventions.
Intrigued by the islands of Malta, in the center of the Mediterranean and off the coasts of Sicily and Tunisia? Malta is a small archipelago and history buff's paradise: the island nation is home to ancient temples that pre-date the pyramids by a millennium; its architecture spans Neolithic temples dating to 3600 B.C., Roman fortifications, and cathedrals, palaces and feats of military engineering erected by the Knights of St. John, who made Malta home for more than 265 years.
In 60 A.D. St. Paul was shipwrecked on the island while on his way to Rome and brought Christianity to Malta. According to the country's constitution, Catholicism is the state religion, and the faith comes alive in holy day celebrations that are both colorful and heartfelt.
Malta has a rich maritime heritage that can be soaked up through visits to its jewel-like harbors strung with brightly-colored boats. Immerse yourself--take a ride on a frigatina into the Blue Grotto, talk with the fisherman bringing in the day's catch on their luzzus, and tour Malta's Grand Harbor with a dghajsa boatman.