AKAMAS WILD BEAUTY
If you have heard that the Akamas Peninsula is a little slice of heaven, then do not doubt it. An abundance of magnificent beaches, steep mountain slopes, deep valleys, sea caves, breathtaking gorges, and rare, blue butterflies are testaments to this truth.
A capable off-road vehicle and a big appetite for adventure are all you need to explore the most enchanting parts of the Akamas Peninsula. Surrender to the wild beauty of this little paradise, where the alternation of geomorphological features will leave you in a constant state of surprise. At one moment, you’ll be crossing a plateau. Then, all of a sudden, you’ll encounter small plains. You’ll discover hidden gorges and narrow, deep valleys. You’ll be dazzled by caves on land and at sea, and you’ll dive into clear, blue water among amazing formations. Can you imagine a more exciting landscape for an unforgettable road trip?
Akamas, located in western Cyprus, is surrounded by a scattering of small, traditional villages such as Ineia, Droushia, Peyia, Kathikas, Arodes, and Neo Chorio. Keep in mind that Akamas is part of the Natura 2000 network, one of the most ambitious conservation programmes in Europe. The easiest route to travel to the peninsula is through Neo Chorio or immediately after the Baths of Aphrodite. However, if you want to stop first at the Gorge of Avakas and visit the beach of Lara (famous for sea turtles), then it is wise to take the road from Ayios Georgios of Peyia. But, let’s start from the beginning.
From Ayios Georgios of Peyia
On the road from Ayios Georgios of Peyia, at 2,5km you will reach Toxeftra bay. Following a diversion on the right will lead you to a specific parking area. There you need to leave your vehicle and proceed on foot towards the gorge. This path follows the Avga river and, at the point where it narrows between steep, high rock walls, is the entrance to the gorge. As you walk further along, the access becomes narrower. This is where the spectacle begins. You’ll find primitive plants such as the ‘Hair of Aphrodite’, as well as bat nests and many rare birds. If you’re lucky, you might encounter some of the extremely rare, blue butterflies flitting about the area. Returning to the road, drive towards Lara beach following the same line of Toxeftra bay. Lara beach is an incredibly beautiful stretch of golden sand. It is also the breeding ground for Green and Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) turtles. Therefore, the complete absence of any infrastructure is a necessity. Once you have had your fill of sand, sun and sea, your next destination will be the Tower of Regina. The Tower is a rectangular stone structure located within a beautiful valley hidden from the sea– a remnant of a twelfth-century monastery. There is a huge, centuries-old oak where, according to mythology, the goddess Aphrodite sought refuge and rest. From here begins the Adonis path, a circular route connecting to the Aphrodite path leading to the Baths of Aphrodite.
From the Neo Chorio in Pafos
This is the smoothest dirt road that takes you to the Smigies area where legend has it that the goddess Aphrodite met Adonis, and Regina met Digenes. After a short, relaxing pause at the well-organized picnic area, you can choose between two nature trails to explore on foot– 2,5km long and 5km long, respectively. The longer trail passes through old mines, the magnesium facilities and abandoned kilns, then through a thickly forested region of Akamas. The shorter trail offers panoramic views of the western coastline and Lara beach from above. The views eastward include the bay of Chrysochous, Latsi, Pachyammos, and the Forest of Pafos.
From the Baths of Aphrodite
Prior to entering Akamas, a short hike from the parking area to the botanical gardens, then on to the Baths of Aphrodite, is an absolute must. Surely, you must be curious to see where the goddess bathed– the very same spot where Adonis, who paused to drink from the cave’s spring, first laid eyes on Aphrodite? When the landscape has worked its enchantments upon you, head for the dirt road leading to some of the most beautiful beaches on the island– Akamas’ gift to you. A short distance after the ruins of Ayios Nikolaos, a small church, is the bay of Fotiadis. Approximately 300 metres in length, Fotiadis beach is a stretch of soft, pebbled sands and crystal-clear waters. However, the most famous beach in Akamas is Fontana Amorosa– 400 metres of isolated, inaccessible yet idyllic shoreline along the bay. The name means, “source of love”, and is associated with many legends and traditions. Last, but not least, is the equally stunning Blue Lagoon, a beach on the edge of turquoise waters– not unlike a postcard’s dreamy scene.
There are 25 distinct types of habitats of pan-European importance in Akamas. • 530 species of flora– 36 are endemic, 23 are very rare. • There are 49 species of orchids, as well as vivid red anemones. • 172 species of birds shelter here– 104 are migratory. • Rare birds of prey such as peregrine falcons and common buzzards are found here. • 16 unique butterfly species can only be found here. Rare, blue butterflies appear in May or June. • 12 mammals, such as fox and hare, have earned Akamas a reputation of utter ecological importance for the entire Mediterranean. • Various species of bats live in caves or tree hollows. Among those are ‘Nychtopapparos’ (Rousettus aegyptiacus), the only species of fruit-eating bat on Cyprus. • Closed shoes are recommended, as there are snakes and lizards to be mindful of. • Two species of sea turtle breed on the beaches of Akamas– Green (Mυdas) and Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), both extremely rare around the world.
Archaeological excavations have scientifically confirmed that the area was first inhabited during the Neolithic era. • Newer settlements and cemeteries are sound proof that Akamas was more densely populated during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. • Byzantine chapels and churches were discovered. However, many were destroyed during subsequent invasions by Arabs. • Early in the Byzantine era, Eremites is said to have lived in the caves of Akamas. • Many place names throughout the peninsula derive from ancient Greek and Cypriot mythology, such as the Baths of Aphrodite, the Smigies, the Tower of Regina, and the Fontana Amorosa.