Cyprus // Pafos and around //

The Akamas Peninsula

The AKAMAS PENINSULA makes up the northwest tip of Cyprus and is one of the least inhabited places on the island. It is an area of great beauty – especially the rugged coast – and attracts walkers, mountain bikers and off-road drivers (there are no main roads – just dirt tracks and footpaths). As with most peninsulas, where it begins is debatable. It is broadly defined as the area north of Pegeia and west of Polis.

Once used as a firing range by the British Army – which kept away even the most determined hotel developers – the peninsula has an extraordinary range of wildlife, and contains virtually every type of habitat to be found on the island, from the dense forests of the south to arid pine scrub at the tip. Among the flora and fauna are 39 of Cyprus’s endemic plants, 160 or more varieties of bird, twelve types of mammal, twenty reptile species and sixteen types of butterfly. Top billing, however, goes to the sea turtles (both green and loggerhead) which lay their eggs on the peninsula’s beaches. Though not a national park, the peninsula does have some measure of protection – the Pegeia and Akamas Forests are the responsibility of the government, and other bits are controlled in various ways – but there seems to be no overarching plan to protect it. This is a worry, as powerful forces (not only the usual developers, but even the church) are keen to exploit the glorious beaches out here.

Driving on the Akamas means either renting a 4WD or signing up for a jeep safari and only experienced walkers, properly dressed and equipped, should attempt it on foot. Given its past role, if you find anything that looks like a live shell or other ordnance, leave well alone. For the faint of heart, the best way to see the peninsula is from the comfort of a boat – excursions run from Pafos and Lakki.