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Science And Nature

In Cyprus, that’s where you will find Aphrodite

The pine-scented Troodos Mountains and turtle-nesting beaches of the Akamas Peninsula certainly are a timeless antidote to the hawaiian islands sun-kissed resorts.

Published August 1, 2022

15 min read

The ancient Greeks held that Cyprus was so beautiful, it absolutely was a playground of these gods and the birthplace of the fairest, Aphrodite, the goddess of love. While theres little potential for bumping into any deities, travelers will get the Mediterranean islands most timeless swaths on a drive through the Troodos Mountains and the sprawling Paphos Forest in the west of the united states.

While tourism has altered its fringes, the inside of Cyprus suggests a period before cruise lines and resort holidays. To check out the automobile window here’s to see life from another era, decades ago, perhaps, and maybe even centuries. By the roadside, a stooped woman with knees seemingly over the age of the hills climbs slowly toward another village. Dogs and cats snooze in sunlight. In it, buildings appear as if theyve emerged from the mountains instead of been constructed.

My journey begins in Limassol, where I make my solution to the Artemis Nature Trail, a four-hour hike named after the goddess of the wilderness that provides a satisfying route around Mount Olympos peakthe islands highest mountain at 6,404 feet. Above, benevolent clouds appear to have snagged on the summit, supplying a type of parasol. Around me, a loose pine forest cloaks the mountainside, countless fallen cones lying at your toes of the trees, a billion pristine needles beside them.

I mostly have the trail to myself, this means I could appreciate the lichen hugging the tree trunks and spend what witnesses may likely describe being an embarrassing period of time attempting to photograph the neighborhood wildlife (mostly birds and butterflies). Defeated, I rest on a bench looking across Cyprus toward its contested north.

Following years of unrest, Turkey invaded this island just 62 miles west of Syria in July 1974, leading to the increased loss of around 10,000 lives. Today Nicosia, invisible through the haze, may be the worlds last divided capital city. Before the conflict, in the first 1950s the fantastic British writer Lawrence Durrell opt for village in the now-seized territory to create his home, a bold decision he detailed in his seminal, often hilarious novel, Bitter Lemons of Cyprus.

A lot more than 60 years separate our amount of time in Cyprus, therefore much has changed that its perhaps futile to compare our experiences. But when i reach the finish of the road and discover my car the only person parked at the trailhead, I recognize that we have a minumum of one part of common. Durrell was created in 1912 and is a boy through the 1918 flu outbreak, so he will need to have known something of the monumental devastation due to pandemics. I wonder what he’d have remembered about any of it. I wonder how he could move ahead.

Climbing in to the car and considering this, I pull the plug on the air-conditioning and roll down the windows, allowing Olympos warm, pine-scented breeze to drift in. In per year where Ive found myself mistrusting the air I breathe, these alpine conditions feel something similar to a miracle, therefore i savor a few extra lungfuls before heading back off the mountain.

Dinner and the devout

I allow car enjoy meandering downhill, stopping and then purchase a bag of dried cherries from the farmer at the roadside. There is nothing too much away because the phoenix flies in the Troodos, but theres rarely an opportunity to have a direct route. Tunnels are uncommon and roads have a tendency to loop extravagantly around valleys like lines on a topographical map. Much like village life, there seems no point in even wanting to rush; consequently, the driving is delightful, and scheduling should be flexible.

You can find a large number of scenic mountain settlements in the hawaiian islands interior. Such beauties since it had were in its hidden villages, wrote Durrell of the region, tucked into pockets and valleys on the list of foothills, some abundant with apples and vines, some higher up smothered in bracken and pine.

Recently, small towns such as for example Kalopanagiotis have already been developed and improved by the arrival of boutique hotelsnew life has been breathed into old buildings which were crumbling into oblivion. Elsewhere, in Kakopetria, Cypriots prefer to escape the crushing heat of the coast and spend the evenings in the city square, drinking Keo beer on plastic chairs before shambling home to murder some karaoke late in to the night.

I push to the rose-scented village of Agros, where I pull up a chair outside Pezema Tavern and have the waiter for a few recommendations. He says hell bring me what hed have. Not wanting to eat traditional halloumi cheese in Cyprus is proving to be something of an impossibility, so Im just a little relieved when Im instead offered a hearty salad plus some village sausage.

Nothing here originates from outside this valley, says my new friend with the proud smile of a parent, before dropping off one glass of table wine. Could it be too sweet? At this time, it hardly appears to matter. I fill my cheeks and eat slowly because the sun gently sinks behind the mountains. Around me, gangs of villainous cats skulk at night, drifting through alleys like wraiths, within the night sky an eyelash of a fresh moon does little to illuminate the valley below.

Byzantine churches and monasteries dot the Cypriot interior; most are identified by UNESCO and protected by locals. A niche site of worship since before Richard the Lionheart conquered Cyprus in the 12th century, today Kykkos Monastery could very well be the best possible and grandest religious institution anywhere on the island. Just as much a fortress since it is really a church, it lies under a monolithic white cross that appears to challenge the others of Cyprus to question its magnificence.

A lot of its current buildings were constructed as late because the 18th century carrying out a fire that devastated the originals. Nonetheless, even because of this committed atheist, Kykkos today can be an impressive place, polished however, not sanitary, ostentatious however, not obnoxious. Monks with knitted eyebrows and hurricane-proof beards look as if they could have already been here for years and years, till they reach to their black robes to check on their cell phones.

While there are many tourists with cameras, theres no shortage of serious pilgrims, too. In the oldest, most ornate and sacred portion of the complex, photography is banned, which seems right considering precisely how rapt most of the clergy become.

(Frances most well-known pilgrimage site plans a fresh tourism future.)

Preserving a wild coast

For the initial 10 minutes of the drive to Lara Beach, I really believe that reports of the roads notoriety have already been greatly exaggerated. Then, for another around 30 minutes, my faithful and far abused Toyota must traverse an unsealed, pot-holed route that violently reminds me to trust local advice later on. While four-wheel drive vehicles and quad bikes zip past, I nervously bump later on, making painstakingly slow progress toward the famous beach, flanked by the rolling Mediterranean and dusty scrubland.

Lara Beach is in the southern reaches of whats now called the Akamas Peninsula National Park, possibly the last untamed area of the island. The designation only came into being within the last five years, however the extra protection national park status affords is going a way to greatly help prevent significant human encroachment.

Ive had the Akamas in my own heart since i have first started touring here with people back 1996, says Paphos naturalist Andreas Tsokkalides. Its got fascinating geology, the virgin beaches, the mythology and history, in addition to the arrival of the turtles every summer. But also for me, why is it special may be the amazing flora. Theres various wildflowers, including many types of wild orchids, and for a couple weeks only, you can find two areas where you are able to spot the endangered Cyprus tulip.

(Understand how locals are protecting Italys famed wildflower bloom from overtourism.)

The Akamas houses 35 of the 142 endemic Cypriot plant species and was left undeveloped for a long time, thanks partly to the occupying British conducting military exercises in your community. It appears strange to take into account conservation through annihilation, but had they been asked, the rare nature in your community may likely have accepted the odd mortar going off or squaddie trampling over them for an improved chance at long-term survival.

The isolation of Lara Beach implies that its also among Europes largest nesting sites for endangered green and hawksbill turtles. While their nests are clearly marked by volunteers and surrounded by signs too big to ignore, the creatures future is perilous enough that local conservation groups gather turtle eggs in June and July and transport them to a hatchery to provide the babies an improved chance of at the very least rendering it to the ocean.

Conservation pioneers Andreas Demetropoulos and Myroula Hadjichristophorou have spent almost 40 years attempting to protect the reptiles from the ill-effects of tourism, first through just work at the governments Department of Fisheries, now through their very own Turtle Conservation Project.

The beaches of the Mediterranean are under so much pressure from tourism and precisely what complements it, says Andreas of his motivation. With this particular sort of project, thankfully, could actually make an effort to save the species and save the valuable coastal zone simultaneously.

(Turtle-watching tours help conservation. Heres how.)

When I arrive one hour before sunset, these interventions seem very prudent. Regardless of the harrowing condition of the street and having less even basic facilities, Laras raw, distant beauty has attracted a large number of people to its pristine shores. While I observe them from the trunk of the beach, I look out for Mediterranean monk seals in the surf. Theyre severely endangered, with only around 700 considered to remain globally. But just north from here, in almost inaccessible caves from prying eyes, a small number of survivors endure.

The next morning, I intend to head deeper in to the peninsula, the westernmost section of Cyprus, but having learned hard lessons on the riotous road to Lara, I opt to leave the Toyota behind and instead follow Andreas advice. The Aphrodite Nature Trail is undoubtedly the very best route for seeing most of the wildflowers, and although its quite steep, youll be rewarded with a number of the greatest views of Cyprus, hed explained, before adding he wouldnt recommend it in the center of July, when I was visiting.

The story goes that Aphrodite was created on Cyprus south coast, but that she traveled up here to bathe with nymphs in a cave at whats now the beginning of a trail named in her honor. Rising from the dusty road, the craggy stone path could be brutally subjected to sunlight, but its shortly before it includes cascading views down the brilliant coast.

(This mythological river in Greece lures adventure travelers.)

Perhaps its my bad timing, perhaps its the lingering ramifications of the pandemic, but on the three hours I walk the astonishing trail, I find myself alone; just me and some indignant lizards and itinerant goats hearing the hum of cicadas and the distant hush of the ocean.

Beneath the boughs of a vintage carob tree, I look for a weathered bench and gratefully escape sunlight for an escape. In the Troodos, the air carried the fragrance of toasting pine; here its wild oregano and ancient juniper. Retrieving my copy of Durrells book from my backpack, Im disappointed to get he made no reference to this portion of the island, though thats perhaps testament to precisely how distant the Akamas Peninsula has always felt, even to Cypriot residents.

Instead, my eye lands on another passage in his story, one with that i can heartily agree. Loading my bag back onto my shoulders and finding out about the steep hill before me, I repeat it aloud: Nothing should be done in a rush, for that might be hostile to the spirit of the place.

A version of the story first published in the December 2021 problem of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

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