Agros is famous for its annual rose festival, which this year takes place over two weekends in May: that of the 11th-12th May and that of the following weekend, the 18th-19th May.
Last year a friend was visiting from England.
“I’ll take you to a rose festival in the mountains,” I said.
“How can you have a festival about roses?” she asked.
“You will see,” I said. “We have festivals for everything here.”
Agros is one of those charming Cyprus villages that I love to visit. Cypriots are past-masters at organising themed festivals: Cherries, Zivania, Strawberries, Wine, Apples, Celebration of Noah’s flood, potatoes and many more. You name it; they have a festival for it, and it will be fun because they organise their festivals well! Agros has a special reason to celebrate roses!
The whole economy of the village is based round roses. It all started with the vision of a school-teacher, Nearchos Clerides, uncle of former President of Cyprus, Glafcos Clerides. He became aware of the suitability of the Damascus rose for producing rose water and encouraged villagers to grow such rose bushes. He formed an association where each member was required to plant and maintain fifty such rose bushes. A financial incentive was provided for members who looked after more than fifty.
One of Nearchos’ most enthusiastic followers was Nicodemus Tsolakis who planted the Damascus rose extensively and actively purchased and marketed rose water. In 1948 he set up the Tsolakis Rose Factory. This was taken over in 1987 by one of his sons, Christakis Tsolakis. The factory now runs as a busy family business involving siblings, children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces. It produces and markets Rose Apperitif, Rose liqueur, Rose Vinegar, Rose Essential Oil, Rose Jam. Aromatic Rose Candles and a range of over 10 Bio Cosmetics.
I was really looking forward to my visit to last year’s Rose Festival. Coming from Paralimni, I opted for the Limassol route in preference to turning right at Choirokitia.
As we drew near to Agros, we stopped once or twice to view the tapestry of trees in different shades of green that carpeted the mountainside below. At the town, we followed the cars and as their numbers grew denser, we parked where we could still see parking spots and walked the last bit.
A banner said “Καλοσωρίσατε στην Γιορτή Τριανταφύλλου. Welcome to the Rose Festival”. We’d arrived. To our right musicians were accompanying traditional Cypriot dancers. But it was nearly two o’clock and we were feeling peckish, so we let our noses guide us to the stalls that were chargrilling souvlaki and other snacks.
Adjacent was a building, housing distilling equipment from which Rose water is made. Rose product and museum documents such as early share certificates for a local rose product company were on display.
Outside the road was lined with market stalls generally food related and mostly having some link to the rose.
For me the most interesting part of the outing was the conducted tour of the Tsolakis Rose factory. I love seeing entrepreneurs make a success of their vision and the Rose Factory has a fascinating story behind it. It’s lovely to see family members of all ages showing off the different products with enthusiasm. I tasted just about everything that was to be tasted and bought some products both for myself and as presents.
The dancing in the arena area was also thoroughly enjoyable and the acrobatics of dancing while balancing a dozen or so glasses on your head was incredible to watch.
I look forward to going to the Rose Festival again this year, only this year I plan to organise a wine tour to coincide with it and thus to bring a whole load of people with me. There are a number of great wineries in the area: Gerolemou, Tsiakkas, Oenou-Yi.
Whether you come with me or on your own, I am sure you will find the Agros Rose Festival to offer a delightful weekend experience. If you are visiting Cyprus for a short stay, it is particularly worthwhile.
Remember the dates. Weekend of 11th & 12th May and weekend of 18th & 19th May.
Why not combine a visit to the Rose Festival with a two-day Wine Tour?