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.
When you think of Cyprus you think of apres-ski on snow capped mountains or hiking through pine forests right? Ok, maybe not. The warm blue seas, and miles of beautiful coastline are a justifiable draw for most visitors to this island nation, but if like me, you cannot sit still then the options for outdoor adventure are plentiful.
A meze of outdoor activities awaits those wanting to explore more than just beaches.
With 340 days of sun per year, it may be tempting to spend lazy days by the pool, but our guide below will help those of adventurous spirit to walk, hike, climb, swim, paddle, ride, and drive on the wild side of Cyprus.
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 to discover what hiking and climbing here is like. As well as other more adventurous outdoor pursuits.
Hiking In Cyprus
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 these mountains 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 and sapphire 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 Madari Trail is fantastic for all standards. As great a 13km circular hike as you will find. Ups, downs, wide ridges and at the summit of Adelfoi (1612 m), the 2nd highest summit in Cyprus, wher you get access to the most spectacular 360 panoramic views over the island.
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.
Rock Climbing In Cyprus
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.
Snorkel the crystal clear waters off the Cypriot coast
The sea here is calm, clear, and warm which makes it ideal for snorkelling – snorkelling in the cold is nobody’s idea of fun.
Although the Mediterranean is not flush with coral reefs, there are fish to see here, especially in the summer months when the sea is warm and you can swim through shoals of silversides and if you are lucky you may spot a ray or two, or even a sea turtle.
Of course, there are no tides in the Mediterranean and the sea is particularly flat and clear around Cyprus with few strong currents.
We spent some time snorkelling with the friendly and experienced staff at Dive Point in Paphos and saw plenty of silversides and sea bream which made me feel a little guilty for having them on my plate the night before.
Dive Point also specialise in scuba diving and the calm waters mean that this is a good place to learn for anyone wanting an introduction to the sport.
For more experienced divers, the Zenobia, which sank on its maiden voyage just off Larnaca in 1980 is completely intact and is one of the top 10 shipwreck dive sites in the world.
Cycling tour through Paphos Old Town
Cycling is increasingly popular in Cyprus and just driving around the island you will notice Lycra-clad cyclists whom have been enticed by Cyprus’s hilly roads and sunny weather.
For those not looking for an Alpe d’Huez experience, then more prosaic cycling is on offer. We spent a leisurely Sunday morning cycling around Paphos Old Town with Ride Easy bikes.
Paphos was designated European Capital of Culture in 2017 so this is a great way to take in both the very old and the new of this lovely town.
We weaved and cycled through the narrow streets by old churches, passed walls elaborately decorated with street art murals, ancient burial tombs, and the tranquil Town Hall square which is next to a shaded park if you need to escape the sun for a while.
Towards the end of the ride you can enjoy a well earned coffee – or a frappe if you are going native – with a view overlooking the new town and the huge beach front hotels that adorn the long coast.
Sea Kayaking around Yeronisos Island
One of the best ways to explore the beautiful and rugged coastline around Paphos is by sea kayak.
As we have mentioned above the sea here is calm so sea kayaking can be enjoyed by both beginners and experienced oarsmen.
We kayaked with the lovely Lucy from Zephyros Adventure Sports who organise kayaking tours around the Paphos coastline and our afternoon began with an introduction to kayaking skills in the safety of the harbour; how to steer, stop, and stick together, plus a little bit of fun swapping kayaks which my kayaking co-mate and I managed ungracefully but without a dunking.
After our initiation we set off on a tour of Yeronisos Island, which sits just off Paphos. The island has been uninhabited since the 15th Century and excavations are underway to uncover its once forgotten history and artefacts.
The lack of human inhabitants means that Yeronisos is teeming with birdlife, which became evident as we passed around the back of the island. If you are lucky you maybe some passing turtles, but alas we were not so fortunate.
By the time we headed back to shore the shoulders were starting to feel the strain, but this was great fun and a way to view Cyprus from a different perspective.
Horse riding on the biggest horse in Cyprus
I’ve never been horse riding before, so when Samson the Shire horse, and the largest horse in Cyprus by all accounts, was given to me to ride I started to wonder whether or not horse riding was one of the listed activities covered by my travel insurance.
How do you even steer one of these things and where are the brakes? I need not have worried of course. The staff at George’s Ranch in Paphos were professional and friendly and led us on a circuit from the ranch down to the beach and back on their well schooled horses.
We were given some pointers on how to stop and start the horse – they don’t have brakes it turns out – and how to steer them, but in reality our guides were largely in control and I just had to dissuade Samson from munching leaves on our pleasant amble down to the beach.
It took a while to re-align my hips and groin after abseiling down from Samson, but it gave me time to enjoy watching the rest our non-equestrian group ungracefully getting off their normal sized horses.
Despite our lack of experience we managed to enjoy the ride and spent a little time watching seasoned riders being put through their paces in the parade ring back at the ranch.
A Buggy Car tour of the Akamas Peninsula
Don’t let the dust put you off. Buggy car riding over the dirt tracks of the Akamas Peninsula is a tremendous amount of fun. I had never been buggy riding before, so I had not known what to expect.
The goggles we were given as we entered the 2 or 4 seat open sided vehicles suggested that this might get a bit messy. And it was. The eye protection was needed; the dry dirt roads kick up mini sand storms and following our guide in the lead vehicle meant that we were eating his dirt!
Despite the dust, this is a great way to explore the protected areas of the national park that are inaccessible by cars.
The roads are rugged, and the terrain undulating but there are jaw dropping views at every turn.
Deep gorges drop down in the valleys below you, mountain goats feed themselves on lush hillside grass, and the rugged limestone coastline is dotted with turquoise blue lagoons.
There are some fantastic view points on the safari route that allow you to see both sides of the peninsula and the Troodos Mountains off in the far distance.
By the time we finished I looked like a ghost of my future self; the dust had turned my hair grey(er?) and my skin pale white.
Apart from our ghostly apparition, the thing that all of our tour had in common was that we were all smiling and loving the experience.
Despite the uneven terrain the vehicles are safe and sturdy and you never feel that you are in any danger. The open sides of the vehicles make the vehicles seem deceptively fast, but you will rarely get near 30mph as you negotiate the tricky terrain.
We were led on our trip by our guide from Petrides Motors who drove us through all the best spots on our 2 and a half hour tour. The head to toe dusting is a small price to pay for this experience.
Culture, archaeology, relics, and other non-sports related fun
If you need a break from outdoor pursuits, then there is no shortage of interesting things to see on an island with such a rich history as Cyprus.
Archaeology, mythology, ancient relics, and traditional villages are never far away and Cypriots are more than happy to share their knowledge and stories with you.
The Aphrodite Cultural route takes you from the Akamas Peninsula in the west to Ayia Napa in the east on a tour that links together nature trails, archaeological sites, and museums that celebrate the goddess of love and beauty and the protectress of Cyprus.
If you are staying near Paphos then the Archaeological Park and mosaics are a must see.
The House of Dionysus houses intricate mosaic floors that detail mythological scenes, whilst the rest of the park contains 2nd and 4th century buildings that were once home to the King of Paphos on a site that what was a strategic stronghold over-looking the sea.
Visiting Cyprus Info
They 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.
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.
We also stayed at the super-swish Constantinou Brothers Asimina Suites Hotel on the beach at Paphos, which is adults only, luxurious and a special place to unwind after a day exploring.
Food & 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.
There are so many more places to visit and so many more activities to do that that make Cyprus a great destination for those looking for much than just sun, sea, and sand (and there is no shortage of that!).
And I’ve not even mentioned the fabulous food; the best halloumi that I’ve tasted, salads and vegetables full of favour, and of course grilled meats and seafood so tasty that your belt may be eased back a notch or two by the time you leave.