Having lived in Cyprus for the past eight years, I have visited much of our beautiful island but had never really given thought before going on a professionally guided tour.
This was until I met Andreas, who runs a small adventure, private tour company.
Andreas’s company specialises in private tours for small groups (usually 1 or 2 families) in Land Rover Defenders (tough 4 x 4 off-road jeep type cars). Andreas prefers to take customers off the beaten track avoiding the most popular tourist areas which are often very busy in the summer with tourist coaches. Instead, he takes you on roads that coaches can’t go and he shows you the real, unspoilt side of Cyprus that otherwise, you would never see on your own.
So this week, Andreas was kind enough to invite my family and I to experience a whole day tour of the Troodos mountains region. It was myself, my wife and our two daughters age 6 and 7 years.
Andreas collected us from our home at 8.30am and for the first 10 minutes or so we travelled along the highway until we reached Mandria where we turned off and started driving along an off-road gravel track through the Xeros Valley.
This was the start of our day's adventure! As we were driving Andreas would explain to us where we were and what we were seeing. We passed (and crossed) streams, saw rare rock formations, various wild and rare flowers some of which we learnt were endemic to Cyprus, birds and some wild sheep.
Our first stop was at the abandoned 12th Century Byzantine monastery of Panagia tou Sinti in Pentalia, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Panagia) of Sinti. The church has an octagonal dome with four windows and belongs to the first half of the 16th century. Its central nave is in good condition, and it is considered to be one of the most important buildings of the Venetian period. The Monastery remained in operation until 1927 and thereafter was abandoned.
Next, we started our climb uphill, higher into the Troodos mountains towards Platres while all the time Andreas was explaining to us where we were, what we were seeing, the history, while at the same time keeping us all interested and amused!
We passed beautiful old, sleepy villages many of which have just a handful of inhabitants. We drove through the beautiful villages of Mesana and Arminoiu and stopped for coffee in an old traditional Cyprus coffee shop in the village of Salamiou, where we watched how the Cyprus coffee was made in the old days and chatted with the locals.
Continuing higher up the mountain passing the Caledonia Waterfall, we went again off-road driving through the heart of the Troodos mountains. To one side we had mountain and to the other cliff-drop with very tall densely packed pine trees. It was a breath-taking drive. After a short time, Andreas stopped and let us take a short walk along in the heart of the forest. It was a strange but wonderful feeling to walk in the heart of the forest, in unspoilt nature. Seeing rare flowers, birds and the fresh air with the smell of pine, while keeping an eye out in a hope to see a glimpse of Cyprus Moufflons (a wild sheep found only in Cyprus). You really have to experience it for yourself to understand but it was a very special and wonderful feeling.
After, we continued our drive through Troodos visiting The UNESCO painted Byzantine church of Archangel Michael (15th Century), at the village of Pedoulas, the nature trails and waterfall at of 'Hantara' near the village of Foini and then visited the Venetian Bridge of Tzelefou.
At lunch, Andreas took us to a traditional Cypriot restaurant in a sleepy village where we were served a feast of traditional Cypriot dishes; barbecued meats, fresh salads, yoghurt and much more.
Leaving Troodos forest, we drove through the wine regions including the village of Panagia.
Overall, I cannot express what a great day my family and I experienced. Our kids LOVED IT! We saw so many beautiful historical places rich in history that we never knew existed in Cyprus. We also learnt a lot of history about Cyprus. Perhaps the very best part of all was that we made a friend. Andreas is a great guy, experienced, knowledgeable and very passionate about his work.
I cannot recommend these tours highly enough, so much so that shortly we will be booking the Akamas Tour to see, learn and experience a different part of the island the diverse nature and landscape that Cyprus has to offer.
Below are the standard tours that Andreas offers, however, custom trips can be organised upon request.
Option 1, The Akamas Peninsula I
Walk the Avakas gorge (about an hour’s walk in and out) . Visit Lara bay (the green turtle’s hatchery); if the weather allows, spend time swimming here. Drive north, and through a few of the villages in the area; stop at the picturesque village of Steni for a typical Cypriot meal. Visit the Baths of Aphrodite. Take a short walk in northern Akamas to enjoy some amazing views. Drive through a few villages on the outskirts of Akamas, and if enough time available, stop at one for Cypriot coffee.
Option 2, The Akamas Peninsula II
Visit the area of the sea caves and the shipwreck . Visit the pretty area of St George. Enter into the Akamas nature reserve, and stop to visit Lara bay (the green turtle’s hatchery) . Drive through the Akamas forest, and stop for lunch at the Baths of Aphrodite . Drive in northern Akamas and stop for swimming/snorkelling at the Blue Lagoon, or Fontana Amorosa bays.
Option 3, The Akamas Peninsula III
Drive north, and stop at the bakery in the small town of Polis to get snacks for a picnic lunch. Visit the Baths of Aphrodite. Drive through northern Akamas, and stop for a swim at the Blue Lagoon or Fontana Amorosa bays. Drive through the Akamas forest and stop for a picnic lunch at the picnic site of Smigies. Visit Lara Bay (the green turtle’s hatchery); if the weather allows, spend time swimming here.
Option 4, The Troodos Mountains
Drive through the Paphos forest. Visit one of the Venetian bridges . Visit a Byzantine church or a monastery. Stop at the highest village in Cyprus for a traditional lunch . Through the heart of the Troodos forest, and stop to visit a small, but pretty waterfall . Drive through the wine region and stop to visit one of the villages in the area, or at a small, family-run winery for wine tasting.
Option 4, The Earth & Water
Drive into the Akamas nature reserve, and stop to visit Lara Bay. Drive north, and through an abandoned Turkish-Cypriot village . Stop at the Latsi harbour to embark on a 2.5-3 hrs boat cruise in northern Akamas, with a stop for swimming/snorkelling at the Blue Lagoon. Drive to the village of Steni for lunch. Drive through a few typical Cypriot villages and stop at one for coffee.
Notes: Private tours start from 300 Euros. The price includes a private 8-seater 4x4 vehicle, driver/English-speaking guide, morning drinks, and most importantly, being a private tour, you can change it as you like. The only additional cost is for lunch and 10 Euros per person for the boat cruise (for those who opt for this tour).
The above tours are suggestions, and other tours can be arranged (time, distance and weather permitting). All are full-day tours starting around 08:00 hours (8.30am) and finishing around 17:00 hours (5.30pm).
For any further information or if you would like to book a tour, please contact us.