VOUNI PALACE

In the seventh-century BCE, there were ten city-states or kingdoms in Cyprus. They didn’t always get on and they formed various alliances with other powers in order to strengthen their political or military hands. The neighbouring states of Soli and Marion had forged their alliances with the Greeks and the Persians respectively. In 500 BCE, pro-Persian Marion built a settlement on a high hill overlooking the flourishing Greek supporting city of Soli. It may have been the fundamental military strategy of being on higher ground than your enemy that led them to choose this site. It’s certainly high! And yet, in spite of the limited reasons for building the site, it must still have been very impressive.

There appears to be four distinct stages in the construction of the palace, alternating between differing periods of Greek and Persian rule. Fifty years after construction began, the Persians were defeated by the Greeks and the settlement changed hands and Vouni became a royal palace. The Greeks greatly enlarged the palace, adding second storeys to the existing structures and, at its fullest extent, it consisted of 137 rooms.

In 380 BCE, though, the palace was destroyed by fire and to this day, no-one  knows why. What it means though, is that the entire history of Vouni Palace as a habited site lasted only 120 years. It’s difficult today, looking at the ruins that remain to imagine what it was once like. The hill is exposed to the elements and devoid of any shelter, so 2400 years of wind, rain and punishing sun have scrubbed the landscape bare. There is, however, still a large guitar-shaped standing stone, that once held a windlass for drawing water from a well and which has become something of a symbol for Vouni.

Even if bare and wind swept ruins are not exactly your thing, the hair-raising drive up to the palace and the stunning views, northwards towards the Mediterranean and Turkey, southwards to the Troodos Mountains, make a visit to this evocative place worthwhile