Paphos-nature my love
A treasure trove of natural beauties awaits visitors to Paphos, as the district boasts the most diverse and picturesque landscapes on the island. To the south, high coastal cliffs of white rock dominate the landscape and are the perfect spot for a sunset picture on the way to Petra tou Romiou, a sea rock formation where according to tradition Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was born. A hiking trail of low difficulty starts from here and takes visitors along the National Forest area on the nearby hills, whilst offering unique views of the dramatic coast below.
To the northernmost tip of the district lies the Akamas Natural Reserve on the peninsula of the same name, where rare and endemic plants grow, for example a kind of centenarian juniper called aoratos. On the west coast of Akamas, the bay of Lara is blessed with velvety golden sand, and is a favourite spot for Mediterranean sea turtles to lay their eggs. Swimming is allowed there, but take care not to disturb the turtle nests, and plunging sharp objects (like parasols) into the sand is prohibited as this might destroy buried eggs. There are asphalt roads going through Akamas, but if you seek to discover the hidden beauties of the area, a 4X4 car might be a better option; if you don’t want to drive, you can also join one of the organised local “Safari” tours with their heavy-duty Jeeps.
The northeast region of Paphos district is a mountainous area covered with dense forest known as the Paphos Forest. This is a wonderful ancient forest of Mediterranean pine and bushes, a completely unspoiled area full of impressive rock formations of great geological interest, shady valleys and glens, as well as endemic flora and fauna. The area is a great escape from the coastal heat into the cooler mountain air—but its long, winding roads mean that it takes time to drive from one point of interest to the other, so schedule a whole day for your excursion, or break it down into several visits. Right in the heart of the forest lies Cedar Valley, which takes its name from the unusually large number of cedars growing there. The cedar growth in this valley is even denser than the famed cedar forests of Lebanon, and makes for a very unusual sight. An easy hike to the nearby peak of Tripylos offers majestic views over the mountains, all the way to Troodos and beyond.
More to check out:
- The Blue Lagoon beach, on the tip of the Akamas peninsula. This is the westernmost point of Cyprus, famous for the pristine turquoise of its waters, and is only accessible via boat. Regular boat trips to Blue Lagoon, Fontana Amorosa and other coastal landmarks of Akamas depart from Latchi harbour. Optionally, you can charter a RIB or other vessel from the harbour for a private tour.
- Aphrodite’s Baths, a natural grotto with a pool where locals believed the goddess of love used to bathe with her nymphs. The site is easily accessible by car and lies a few kilometres west of Latchi. From here a hiking trail of high difficulty begins, which runs around the mountaintop and offers spectacular views of Akamas’ photogenic western coast.
- Smiyies Picnic Site, right in the heart of Akamas Natural Reserve and next to Neo Chorio village. This is an organised public site for picnics and barbecues, and also the starting point of two hiking trails of medium difficulty. Nearby landmarks include the ruins of an old monastery known as the Tower of Rigena, and the now-abandoned magnesium mines. The trails here can be combined with those going to Aphrodite’s Baths for a longer hike.
- The Avakas Gorge, near the village of Peyia. This is a site of rare natural beauty, with impressive rock formations, a running stream and sightings of the endemic plant Centaurea akamantis. The trail is of medium difficulty, and the hike lasts about one hour.
- Stavros tis Psokas, an outpost of the National Fire Brigade inside the Paphos Forest. Here you can take a break for refreshments while exploring Paphos Forest, and also see the mouflon, a species of mountain sheep found only on Cyprus, from up close. Avoid Sundays and national holidays, as it’s a popular barbecue site for locals.
- Vouni Panagias, a mountain next to Paphos forest that offers impressive views over the valley of Kannaviou, the forest, and all the way to Akamas bay. A hiking trail of increased difficulty begins from Panagia village and takes visitors through local vineyards and a Natura natural reserve. A secondary trail leads all the way up to the mountaintop, where there’s a fire brigade watchtower.
- Kanaviou Dam, a recently completed reservoir that is full of water all year round, creating an artificial lake that winds gleaming into the deep valley. A mountain-biking trail of increased difficulty runs around the lake, but the dirt road along the water is also perfect for a walk at sunset, when the toads and crickets are waking up. In summer, don’t forget your mosquito repellent.
- A visit to Episkopi Paphos Environmental Information Centre, near the village of Episkopi. Here you can find out more about local plants and animals, the climate and geology of Cyprus, and much more.
- Swimming and sunbathing at Coral Bay, a well-protected bay surrounded by rocky cliffs. This is an organised beach with cafés and other amenities.