Perhaps the best way to see a country is on foot. If you love the great outdoors or want to improve your fitness, hiking is ideal. Leave your car and experience the culture and nature of the island in the best possible way.
Cyprus has numerous signposted paths or nature trails, some more challenging than others, but all are a feast for the senses, especially in the springtime when you can experience the sights, sounds and smells of nature at first hand.
Hiking at Troodos Mountains
The Troodos Mountains, whose highest peak almost reaches 2000 metres and is covered in snow in the winter, is a cooler alternative in the summer to the heat of the coast. Here some fine walking is to be had along trails that go through scented forests of pine, past waterfalls and take in magnificent panoramic views across the island.
The mountains are unique geologically and one of the few places in the world where geologists can study what was once the oceanic crust without getting wet. Pillow lava, resulting from the underwater volcanic eruption 90 million years ago that gave rise to the island, can easily be seen along roads and hillsides all over the Troodos area. It is one of the five most rich in copper areas in the world and the island, whose name in Greek is ‘Kypros’, may have given the metal its Latin name, cuprum.
Four main trails cover the area – “Atalante” goes round Mount Olympus; “Persephone” leads to a spectacular viewpoint; “Kalidonia” leads to the Caledonian waterfalls; “Artemis” encircles the Chionistra summit. Other trails go across the Madhari ridge. Many important features or plants are signposted along the way pointing to the numerous endemic plant species of the area.
Birdwatchers may also spot the rare and protected eagle, the griffon vulture, or the colourful hoopoe, and of course the nightingale, which did not let the Nobel winner poet, George Sepheris, sleep in Platres. Occasionally if you are lucky you may see a Cyprus mouflon, a kind of wild sheep peculiar to the island, which roams free in the extensive forests of western Troodos and is the symbol for the island’s national carrier.
Some of these paths lead to splendid monasteries or tiny painted Byzantine churches. Ten of these churches have been put on the UNESCO World Heritage List for their colourful frescoes on walls and apses and their unique architecture of pitched timber roofs.
Hiking in the Akamas Peninsula
The Akamas Peninsula, the northwestern tip of the island, is an area of natural wilderness where pine-clad cliffs plunge down into turquoise waters. With its rugged coastline, alternating between rocky shores, promontories and sandy bays, it is an area of breathtaking beauty exuding an aura of ancient peacefulness.
Here a network of trails, such as those of “Aphrodite” or “Adonis”, provides spectacular views across the Mediterranean. Nature trails go from near sea level past carob, mastic and eucalyptus climbing up to juniper and pine. Along the way you can see rare endemic plants, like the Cyprus orchid, tulip and crocus.
In the spring or autumn hundreds of migrating birds pass by overhead, as the island is on the migration path between Europe, Asia and Africa. Interesting geological formations are present here, from narrow deep valleys, caves and islets to gorges, such as that of Avakas. The area boasts the largest concentration of rare endemic plants on the island, including the Cyprus tulip, while the sandy beaches on the western coast of the Akamas are important breeding grounds for the green and loggerhead turtles.
The Cyprus Section of European Walking Route E4
Cyprus is the easternmost section of European long distance path E4, an international network of 11 long-distance walking routes running for many thousands of kilometres that starts at Gibraltar, goes through Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Crete and Cyprus.
The Cyprus section of the path goes from Larnaka airport to Pafos airport. Along the way it takes hikers through Cape Greco, along long stretches of rural countryside, up into the Troodos mountains and down to the Akamas region, going through areas of exceptional beauty and significant ecological, historical, cultural and scientific interest.
Too long to be tackled in one go, the route is designed primarily as a cross-country route, missing out some fine landscapes and important cultural sites but it does provide a good sample of what Cyprus has to offer.