Ancient harbor opening to divers, tourists as Cyprus reimagines travel

AMATHUS, Cyprus — It’s said that Demetrius the Besieger, a mighty warrior king and one of Alexander the Great’s successors, built the ancient harbor of Amathus on Cyprus’ southern coast 2,400 years ago to thwart a potential naval invasion from the ruler of Egypt, Ptolemy I, another of Alexander’s heirs.

French archaeologists who initially studied Amathus believe it to be an incomplete military fortification work, the three piers of which would have accommodated the best of the ancient world’s naval ships, ready to repel an attacking force.

Lying just a few feet underwater a mere 200 feet off the coastline near the resort town of Limassol, the harbor will soon be Cyprus’ newest tourist attraction where adventurous travelers can snorkel over its submerged stone remains.

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Yiannis Violaris of the Cyprus Antiquities Department snorkels over submerged stone remains of a 2,400 year-old harbor said to be built Alexander the Great's successors near the modern-day resort town of Limassol, Cyprus.

It’s a novel direction for Cyprus’ tourism authorities, who are looking beyond the east Mediterranean island nation’s long-held “sun and surf” product to reach out to specialized tourism markets.

The COVID-19 pandemic has slashed tourism arrivals for an island that relies heavily on that revenue, so Cyprus authorities are taking a fresh look at what the island has to offer visitors, to re-ignite interest among those who do opt to travel.

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