The view from our hotel

Paphos and North West Cyprus

Sandy beaches, deep blue seas, bright sunshine
and warm temperatures - some of the attractions
we were told we could expect in Cyprus

We had never been there before and decided to spend ten days at Paphos, towards the northwestern corner of the island. This is an area that seems to have been under used and under developed until the relatively recent (and significant) growth of tourism.

Our hotel was alongside the beach and within walking distance of the town itself - either by road or along a beach-top promenade. Beautiful views of the seas and beach.

Paphos is an ancient city with a long, attractive waterfront leading to a small picturesque harbour area with many places to eat and drink. A distinctive fort on the harbour promontory was once used as a Turkish prison; it is open now to the public, and a short tour leaves no doubt how uncomfortable a place this once must have been.

The other major 'must see' in Paphos is the site of excavated mosaics  from the Roman and Hellenistic periods, they are amongst the best-preserved mosaic floors anywhere in the world. Even if this is not your usual fare, a stroll through the site (which is also close to the harbour) will leave you wondering at the work and skill employed in creating them those many centuries ago. All around Paphos are references to figures from Greek Mythology, with the locations of supposed mythological sites as well as the remains of tombs and other structures going back seemingly for ever. We found it eerie to stand besides almost perfectly preserved pottery dating back (in some cases) to around 1400BC.
Although Paphos and the surrounding beaches had plenty to offer we wanted to see more of the island. A beat-up old four-wheel drive, hired for a week, enabled us to get to places that otherwise we would not have seen. If nothing else we learned that it is possible to take a car through terrain that previously we should have thought impossible!

North of Paphos the Akamas Peninsula is an area of mountains sloping down to the sea and accessible (for the most part) only along unsurfaced tracks that are several miles long, littered with small boulders and potholes along the way. The beaches and views in the Akamas Peninsula are simply spectacular. Almost deserted during our visit in April (except for the occasional fellow 4WD) they include Lara Bay, a long stretch of coastline where attempts are being made to protect turtles and provide safe sites for their egg laying. Sadly at the time of our visit (in April) the turtles were all out somewhere at sea, far away.
The Lara Bay Sanctuary - which has been in existence for more than 25 years - provides a protected breeding ground for two types of turtle, the Green Turtle and the Loggerhead.

Newly hatched turtles are brought in to Lara from other areas to encourage them to home on Lara as a breeding ground in later life. Turtles can breed from an age of 25 ears, and may continue to do so until well over 100!

Survival rate is not high; baby turtles have many natural enemies (gulls, crabs, foxes) as well as plastic bags which they mistakenly try to eat, assuming them to be jellyfish.

Close to the tip of the peninsula is The Aphrodite Trail, a four-mile walk up into the mountains overlooking the sea with fantastic views from the top. Along the trail lizards and wild flowers abound, and the going is steep in parts but manageable. Worth the trek!
Having the car also made it possible to go for a number of long walks - both alongside remote beaches and in the nearby Troodos Mountains - away from all the other visitors.

Roads up into the mountains are frequently narrow tracks running along sheer drops and without any surface apart from loose earth and stones. We travelled along these for miles, through villages that are gradually shrinking (in some cases, dying) as the inhabitants move towards the coast and the greater opportunities there for them and their children.

On one occasion we had to turn around (which was a little nerve-wracking) and retrace our steps for 5 miles or more after turning a corner to find the path blocked by a landslide.
The legend of Aphrodite and Adonis

Adonis was loved both by Aphrodite and Persephone, Goddess of the Underworld. This led to an argument and squabbling, and so the Court of the Gods ruled that Adonis should spend one third of his time with Aphrodite, one third with Persephone, and keep one third to himself. He cheated, spending his own third with Aphrodite - and so Persephone killed him by having him attacked by a wild boar. When Aphrodite heard the news she ran to Adonis, cutting her legs en route - and the blood that she shed caused lilies to grow.

About 15 miles south along the coast from Paphos is Petra Tou Romiou, the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love (hence Aphrodisiac).  Legend has it that Aphrodite rose here from the white sea-foam, and floated on a seashell to nearby Paleapaphos.
Overall impressions? We enjoyed Cyprus more than expected  good and varied food, beautiful if sometimes rugged scenery, and interesting places to drive. Plenty of sunshine, wonderful beaches - but can be a little hot in summer!

One of the most striking features, we thought, was the cheerful and friendly local people who seemed to go out of their way to be open and welcoming - more so than in other tourist countries that we have visited. Supposedly many of the people now living in that part of Cyprus moved there after being displaced from the north by the Turkish invasion in 1974 - certainly there is no mention of Turkey anywhere, and the English seem to be very popular.