The Geology of Cyprus
“On the isle of Cyprus stands a mountain, tall and above all the rest, and Troodos it is called”
- Hesiod - 700 BC -
Did it cross your mind that there is a place on earth where you can actually see the deepest layer of a section of oceanic crust and the Earth’s upper mantle? The genesis of Cyprus was the result of a series of unique and extraordinarily complex geological processes.
The miraculous emergence of the island from the Mediterranean Sea has been associated with the birth myth of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, who also emerged from the waters of the sea. The beauty and fertility of the island inspired ancient people to name it the birthplace of the goddess, where she took her first steps on land. Contrary to her beauty, her birth came out of a brutal act when Kronos castrated his fathers’, god Uranus, genitals and cast them into the sea. In the sea, the sperm from the genitals met the foam of the sea and gave birth to a stunningly beautiful goddess, who emerged from the sea on the Cyprus shore. Walking on land, flowers grew after each step she took, hence the beauty of the island.
Nymphs met the goddess, clothed her in rich garments and precious jewels, and escorted her on Mount Olympus to meet the gods.
The island is a unique geological destination. Especially the Troodos Mountain range which is at the heart of the “Heartland of Legends” route is a magnet both for professionals, scientists and students, as well as for geology aficionados that want to understand the evolution of the planet’s land and oceans. The Troodos mountain range is an ophiolite, a term used to describe a group of igneous rocks, which make up the oceanic crust. Troodos is part of a very ancient section of oceanic crust, which was uplifted to its present position due to the collision of the African and Eurasian Tectonic Plates, and the subduction of the former beneath the latter. Since it is located above the sea, it is the most complete and best-studied ophiolite in the world! Even the term “ophilite” sounds legendary as it comes from the Greek words ophis (snake) and lithos (stone), so it actually means serpent-like stones!!
If you want to experience the unique landscapes of Troodos “rock” yourselves out by spending some time at the Troodos Geopark Visitor Center, a beautifully restored building that once housed the school for the children of the miners working at the nearby Amiantos (Asbestos) mine. With an array of interactive lessons and demonstrations, its exhibits of rocks and artefacts from the Asbestos and Chromite mines of Cyprus as well as its amazing geological garden, the Troodos Geopark Visitor Center will open up a window into the magical world of rocks.
What, no magic in rocks? Oh yes there is!!! Legend has it that on the highest peak of Troodos there was a huge rock that could barely be moved by four strong men. This rock, once moved, had the strange attribute of bringing rain!! So every time Cyprus experienced a period of droughtiness, the villagers led by chanting priests went up the mountain and moved the rock. The result was imminent and rain came pouring down on them. The legend says that the rock disappeared but you can always try to test it!! If it doesn’t work you can always try another activity like climbing massive rocks and crags: the climbing experts of Cyprus are here to offer you a lifetime experience.
If you prefer something more down to earth then book a geo-tour or download the map and do it at your own pace. The Troodos Geopark Visitor Center is there to help you make an unforgettable experience out of your visit to Troodos.
But do not think that this all the geology you can get in Cyprus. The Heartland of Legends Route takes you to the village of Mamonia. Apart from being a charming village, the area is a geology hub! Here you can see the Mamomia Rock Cluster which is part of the African Tectonic plate that attached itself to the Troodos massive after its emergence out of the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The age of these rocks varies between 210 and 95 million years.