When we think about the beauty of Cyprus, our mind often drifts to gorgeous beaches and rugged mountain peaks. But if someone utters the words ‘forest park’ or ‘national park’, you may be racking your brain to think of more than one or two. After all, how many of us actually say: ‘let’s go for a walk in the forest this afternoon?’ But point is, some of the island’s most glorious walking trails weave through stunning national parks blanketed in forest land which we guarantee will leave you breathless. And that’s not to forget national parks by the sea, with totally different rugged and dramatic scenery captivating the senses every step of the way. Let the fun begin!
1. Dazzling Heights: Troodos National Forest Park
Forget city life for a day; this is the kind of inspiration that will work absolute miracles for the mind and soul. After all, endless panoramic views make you feel like you’re standing on top of the world, and with the towering peaks of the Troodos Mountains reaching 2000 metres above sea level, it’s little wonder! Covering an expanse of 90km around the mighty Mount Olympus, there are 10 well signposted trails in this park, allowing you to perambulate the area to your heart’s content.
Do keep in mind that the Troodos National Park is home to approximately 750 plant species, with 72 of these endemic to the island. And if you want to get better acquainted with the many endemic plants and herbs of the area, be sure to head to the Troodos Botanical Garden. Feel like setting your sights on something a little different? Head to one of the area’s cascading waterfalls with three breath-taking spots to choose from: Caledonia Falls, Chantara Falls and Myllomeri.
2. The Beautiful City Escape: Athalassa National Park, Nicosia
Nicosians rejoice: it’s not all about urban landscapes in the capital. Just take a short drive out to Athalassa Park and you can enjoy a real change of scenery in no time. Cocooned by the suburbs of Aglandjia, Strovolos, Latsia and Geri, it’s a fantastic place for city dwellers to break up the day-to-day routine by taking a long walk through one of its designated routes. In fact, the place fills with happy cyclists, runners and walkers in the late afternoon and weekends, while those wishing to take their beloved pooch out for a few hours are in luck, with a special dog walking path to enjoy.
photo credit: Elmos Neocleous
If you love nothing more than a ramble by the water’s edge, keep in mind that part of the park (Agios Georgios) is also home to its very own lake, encircled by a walking path that will give you a little lift and get your heart racing. Stop off by the bird observatory right by the lake to take in the splendour of this oasis in the city.
3. By the Deep Blue: Cape Greco National Park
Fancy a fabulous walk and a refreshing dip into the sea on the same day? Then the Cape Greco National Park is where you need to be. With a rocky headland that juts out into deep azure waters, this designated National Park – characterized by imposing sea caves – is one of the most famous locations on the island for picture taking, and is probably one of the best spots to take in the gorgeous east coast on foot in all its glory.
And once you start exploring the area, you’re likely to be lost for words with various signposted nature trails dissecting the area, one of which forms part of the E4 European Long Distance Trail running from Cyprus to Portugal. The good news is that there are plenty of benches dotted across the park to sit back and take in the views, while the whitewashed church of Agoi Anargyroi makes for the perfect spot to capture the day on camera.
With about 400 different plant species recorded in the area, 14 are endemic to Cyprus while another 14 indigenous plant species are considered to be rare. Also keep your eyes peeled for some lovely butterflies that flutter around the area, with more than 80 species of birds spotted in the Cape Greco skies over time.
4. The Forgotten One: Macheras National Forest Park
We often get friends and family together for a day out in the Troodos peaks, but this eastern side of the mountain range is often forgotten. And it’s a real shame because the whole area is just as impressive as any of the other aforementioned national parks in this article. And what many people don’t know, is that the two most important streams of Cyprus, Pedieos and Yialias, spring from this park, blanketed in pines and dotted with Cyprus’ endemic golden oak.
There are three nature trails weaving their way through the park and the Macheras Politiko Nature trail is particularly unique, combining various types of hybrid plants together with other types of animals and birds. Divided into two parts, one is just over two kilometres long while the other is just over 3km. The latter passes by the Pedieos River, and if you head back to the area in winter, you’ll get to spot beautiful waterfalls. The Macheras Park is also home to over 600 plant species, with 27 of them indigenous to the island. And don’t forget about Macheras Monastery, situated at an altitude of 870 metres on the slopes of Mount Kionia.
Cover photo credit: Palis Michalis