Tucked away in the northwest corner of Cyprus, the relative inaccessibility of the Akamas Peninsula has helped maintain its natural beauty and high biodiversity. While the increasingly popular day trips from Paphos will certainly give one an overall flavour of the region, its worth allowing a few days to linger and enjoy those crystal clear waters and stunning landscapes.
The relatively new Akamas National Park covers almost 230 square kms of public and private land. Boasting 168 birds, 20 reptiles, 16 butterflies and 12 mammals – not forgetting a rich variety of fauna – its wildlife diversity is crucial to the ecology of the greater region and The European Council has included it in its Mediterranean Protection Programme.
1.Beautiful Villages – both inland and coastal
Whilst there is ever growing pressure for development – especially in coastal areas – the stone-built villages have by and large managed to maintain their traditional character…
There are several marked trails on the peninsula, the most popular being the Aphrodite Trail overlooking the northern coast. The 7.5km circular path follows a rocky uphill slope until you eventually reach Moutti tis Sotiras where your effort is rewarded with the most breathtaking views across the end of the peninsula. The decent is trickier, along a steep and winding path, back down to the coastal road.
3.Gorge Walks (don’t forget your jelly shoes!)
This stream must have worked very hard through the millennia, cutting its way through the limestone to create the 2km long Avakas Gorge. Varying in width, the gorge sides almost touch each other in spots and its impossible to navigate the route without getting your feet wet!
4. An Interior as attractive as the Coast
The stunning views are not confined to the coast. The landscape is what you’d expect from the Mediterranean countryside. Wine lovers will enjoy the Laona Akamas Wine Route. The region is famous for the indigenous Xynisteri grape and wineries are delighted for you to visit and sample their product.
Well – this IS Cyprus!! As with the rest of the island, the small local churches, chapels and monasteries attest to the near 2000 years of Christian influence…
The lovely sandy Lara Beach is home to a Green Turtle and Loggerhead Turtle conservation programme. Egg-laying typically lasts from May to August so a visit during those months will give you a better chance of seeing newly hatched turtles in the conservatory’s water tanks.
What’s a sunny destination without a beach! While Lara Beach is lovely, the comforts of umbrellas, sunbeds and even inflatables are forbidden. Along the northern coast, beaches may be sandy or stony but you can bring your sunbed and umbrella – and space is NOT a problem!
I can usually do without the compulsory hyped up mini cruises that are heavily advertised at resorts. But because of road restrictions (due to unpaved surfaces), its worth taking to the seas for a different perspective. There are plenty of trips on offer from Latchi, costing about €15 -€ 20 for circa 3 hours. The coastline is stunning and there’s a chance to swim and snorkel in the famous Blue Lagoon.
Unless you arrive in your own 4X4, your exploration of the region will be limited – hence the popularity of rentals. There are lots of jeep and quad bike tour options or you can just rent one for a few hours and take off on your own….
Typical Greek fare – and just imagine the seafood!
This seafood pasta is actually one of the best things I’ve EVER tasted! I had to go back the following day for seconds!
A few Lowlights, alas!
I try to be positive – so I’d generally say nothing rather than include a negative – but 2 things spring to mind as let downs….
Baths of Aphrodite
This is proof that a good back story is not enough in itself to make an attraction a ……. well….. an attraction!
This pool – according to legend – is where Aphrodite came to bathe. And this is where she met Adonis, when he stopped for a drink whilst hunting and fell in love with her.
Overrated doesn’t even begin to describe one of the biggest tourist attractions on the island!
With time to spare when leaving the peninsula, we decided to visit the waterfall that was so heavily advertised along the road – I’ve never seen so many signs for an attraction! Of course we should have known better – there was no mention of it in any listings and the signs, although abundant, were not official. I don’t know how far we strayed from the main road, but we weren’t giving up….it was like the quest for the Holy Grail. We eventually reached the end of the trail and were rather impressed to find a car park (€2!) and the manned kiosk (with an entrance fee of €1 each no less!!!). This was very promising indeed…..
We walked down a few hundred metres before being met by another attendant who checked our tickets (yep!!). And there was the waterfall…..I’d see more water running along the road at home after a shower of rain. The attendant told us there was another waterfall about a km’s walk further on ………. it seemed churlish to ask him if it was similar to this one so we just thanked him and left.
It’s less than an hour’s drive from Paphos to the top of the peninsula.
There is a bus service from Paphos to the village of Polis and from there to the Baths of Aphrodite. Without transport, you can still enjoy the area with a mini cruise and a jeep tour.
Ideally, a rented car will give you greater freedom. Paved roads are limited so not everything is accessible without a 4X4. With our compact car, we didn’t make it to Lara Beach.
Where we Stayed
We spent 2 nights in the Souli Beach Hotel, Latchi. It’s 2* rating shouldn’t put anyone off booking in for a few nights. It seems to cater for bus tours at lunchtime so probably best to avoid the place at that time of day. An easy 10 minute walk will bring you to the village where there are plenty of restaurants, cafes and boat trips to choose from. Breakfast is basic but fine – and actually the coffee is quite good!
If you’re not into extended hiking than 2 nights / 3 days will allow plenty of time to enjoy the area:
Day 1 – Avakas Gorge, Lara Beach. Stop in the village of Polis for lunch if you’re early enough or else a coffee or drink before going on to Latchi (just a few kms further on) for accommodation and dinner.
Day 2 – Baths of Aphrodite (of course you’re going to visit them even though they’re rubbish!!), Hike the Aphrodite Trail, Latchi for lunch, afternoon Boat Trip, Dinner in Latchi.
Day 3 – If you didn’t fit in both Aphrodite’s Trail and the Boat Trip on Day 2 then make sure to allow time this morning….. Take your time heading back and enjoy the mountain villages, a winery or a beach along the way…
Don’t forget to pack your water shoes as well as decent walking shoes.
There are no shops beyond Latchi, so stock up on snacks and water to see you through the day.
If planning on renting a buggy, jeep or quad bike then do your research beforehand rather than paying maximum price when you get there.