Cyprus is a fabulous destination for those who enjoy some activity and adventure in their holidays. The outdoor pursuit offerings are plentiful; the warm, calm seas mean that water-sports are an obvious draw, and cycling is an increasingly popular sport on the island. For walkers and climbers there are excellent hiking tracks and climbing routes which, when combined with year-round sun make Cyprus a great destination for year-round adventures.
I love walking in the sun. It’s an appreciation that stems from spending most of my walking year in North Wales and the North West of England. As much as I love Snowdonia and the Lakes, if you walk here often enough, then you will definitely get to test how waterproof your waterproofs are. With this in mind, I was delighted to spend some time recently in Cyprus as a guest of Visit Cyprus to discover what hiking and climbing here is like.
Cyprus is, very simply a beautiful country and with 340 days of sun a year it is as warm as it is hospitable. Of course, the joy of visiting a foreign country for a walking holiday should not be confined to the time that you spend on its walking trails. There is an abundance of culture and history to uncover, very friendly people, and probably most importantly, fabulous food and drink to enjoy and Cyprus certainly excels on this front.
This was my first trip to Cyprus and I must admit that before I decided to go I didn’t know much about it as a walking destination. I had heard about the Troodos mountains, but I did not know that they were 2000 metres high or that there was a ski resort there. The islands of the eastern Mediterranean have become increasingly popular walking destinations with trips to the Cyclades islands and the gorges of Crete offering excellent out-of-summer walking. Like many of the islands in this part of the Mediterranean, the hills and mountains in Cyprus were created thousands of years ago as the friction between the African and Eurasian plates combined to push the ocean floor up into the sky to create an Island whose steep mountains provide geological clues to its once submerged past.
We spent most of our time in Cyprus exploring the Akamas Peninsula in the far west of the island and about an hour’s drive from Paphos. The peninsula is a protected national park, free from development, and full of options for hikers and rock climbers alike. The highest point of the peninsula is only 350 metres high, but the terrain is rugged and undulating with outstanding paths to peaks that offer fabulous views across the green peninsula and out to the turquoise blue sea.
Walking on the Akamas Peninsula is a pleasurable experience and the dusty paths are well maintained and marked. My recommendation would be to take hiking here at a leisurely pace, immersing your senses in the sweet aromas, and seeking out the flora that are its source. Jasmine, pine, and wild garlic fill up your nose as you slowly make your way uphill. Look towards the trees and shrubs to find the wild orchids nestling in between them and the red poppies that populate the long grassed fields. Butterflies flutter by, and looking up you may find eagles and bearded vultures soaring in the skies above.
The Aphrodite Trail is the most popular walk in the area with stunning views across the peninsula. The three hour circular starts at the Bath of Aphrodite – a pool of water where the Goddess of love and beauty used to bathe – before heading uphill by the ruins of Pyrgos tis Riganis, passed juniper and carob trees, to the high point at Moutti tis Sotiras where there are lovely sea views. After some time enjoying the scenery you can begin the journey downhill through pine forest, before returning back to the starting point on a coastal path that brings you back to the Bath of Aphrodite where there is a restaurant and cafe for post walk refreshments.
The Pissouromoutti trail is a shorter circular – an ideal amble on a rest day or maybe an add on to a multi-walk or multi-activity day – but not to be overlooked as the 360 degree views from its highest point should not be missed. We found plenty of wild flowers and herbs on this walk up to the craggy peak on a lovely sunny April afternoon. Spring is a great time for hiking in this area, with temperatures in the early 20’s and flowers in full bloom
Avakas Gorge is another draw for walkers in the west of Cyprus but the slippery rocks and flood risk mean that this can be a serious undertaking that should not be attempted without consulting locally on the safety of the gorge. Heavy winter rain and the increased risk of rockfall meant that the gorge was closed for walking during our trip, but the long and narrow route which follows the Avgas river is one that I’d like to tick off on my next visit.
The Troodos mountains are an option for walkers all through the hot summer months as the high altitude and cooler air also attract locals escaping the heat of the towns. In winter and early spring snow can cover the area, meaning that walking is not possible in some areas, although this will mean that the small ski resort will be open for business.
Troodos Square and the visitor centre are good starting points for walks in the Troodos with a couple of circular walks that take you around Mount Olympus, the highest point in Cyprus at 1952m. The Atalante Trail is a 14km route that circumnavigates Mount Olympus on good paths through pine forests with fine panoramas presenting themselves throughout the route. The Artemis Trail is a shorter variation that sits above the Atalante Trail higher up the mountain.
There are a number of fine rock climbing areas across Cyprus with a mixture of trad and sports climbing for experts and beginners alike. Amongst the most popular are Cavo Greko which is close to Agia Napa in the south east of the island and predominantly a trad climbing area, with more sport options at Dhiarizos which is situated in-between Limmasol and Paphos.
I’m marginally closer to the beginner end of the novice-expert outdoor climbing continuum, but I enjoyed a fantastic morning climbing on the Akamas Peninsula. There are a number of good options across the area but the crag at Gerakopetra near Ineia is particularly good with a number of excellent sport routes in a fabulous setting. There are wild flowers and wild garlic in the meadows around the huge rock and stunning sea views to enjoy in-between ascents.
We did an introduction to climbing morning with Lee and Paul, our guides from Zephyros Adventure Sports, who were particularly good at coaching and encouraging a largely novice group up the rock face. For those new to the sport, climbing can be a daunting activity that can induce varying levels of anxiety, particularly for those not so keen on heights. However, when managed correctly, it is a very safe sport and we were in very capable hands with our two leads who made us feel relaxed and comfortable to enjoy the sport and the challenge. By the end of the session I wanted to climb higher and further and linger slowly on the abseil back down, so as to enjoy the fabulous views.
We walked back from the crag with the sun on our backs, smiling and basking in our accomplishments and our new found arachnid abilities. If you go walking and climbing in Cyprus then I can guarantee that you’ll spend a lot to time smiling too.
Need to know: Walking maps are improving, but not quite Ordnance Survey standard. German company Kartographos do a 1:25000 map of the Akamas which is hard to come by, so you are probably as well trying to pick up maps and route guides at tourist offices in Cyprus. Cicerone do an excellent walking guide detailing 44 walks across Cyprus and there is a Rother publication that is also worth a look.
Staying: There is no shortage of accommodation in Cyprus with plenty of options to suit all budgets. We stayed at the friendly Aphrodite Beach Hotel which is close to the Akamas Peninsula and seemed popular with other hiking groups.
Food and drink: There is nothing better after a long day out walking and climbing than refuelling on delicious food and Cyprus certainly does not disappoint on this front. Salads bursting with flavour, locally grown vegetables, grilled meats and fish, and the best halloumi you will taste are all maze staples. There are no shortage of restaurants at the resorts, but one of the benefits of being out on the road is that you can find some hidden gems such as Petradaki Taverna near the beautiful Kathikas village.