The Troodos Range in the western part of Cyprus covers about a third of the island's area. While in its centre, where it reaches elevations of nearly 2000m (Olympos, 1952m), the mountains are made up from volcanic rock, which forms smooth, hill-like summits, at its outskirts you will find limestone mountains with considerably more impressive summits and ridges. Still - given the brittleness of the rock - you would hardly call those ridges knife edges, and if you would, the blades would turn out to be pretty blunt. However, the rock doesn't allow much vegetation near the summits or on the ridges so that the climb of such a mountain is one of the most impressive undertakings you can do on Cyprus.
In the very east of the Troodos Range one mountain specifically attracts attention: Macheiras (Μαχαιράς), also known under the name of Kionia (Κιονιά). It is the highest mountain of its immediate vicinity and it can be clearly distinguished from wherever you see it. Like most of Cyprus' important mountains it carries a summit structure, which in this case is a fire lookout tower with a radar installation placed on top of it. This military installation is off limits so that the very summit of the mountain is unattainable. The easiest "route" is via the support road of the radar installation but much more interesting is the traverse of the western north ridge of the mountain, which starts at Macheiras Monastery at its base.
The road to the monastery passes within a kilometre of the summit, where at approximately 1200m a big picnic area can be found. This picnic area serves as trailhead for several hiking routes in the vicinity of the mountain and thus is an excellent base for several day tours in the area. Most trails traverse the dense pine forest at the base of the mountain with the Macheiras - Macheiras ridge traverse as the sole exception. Macheiras Monastery is a historic monastery which was founded in the 12th century. Within its castle-like premises it contains a large abbey and a multitude of smaller churches and chapels. It is one of the main tourist attractions on Cyprus and you have to be aware that busloads of tourists might cross your paths.
A few steps from the monastery, however, you will be on your own - whether you climb the Macheiras north ridge or whether you hike towards Moutti tou Klimatou, a mountain on the opposite side of the valley of Macheiras Creek. The villages in the area, Lazanias and Fikardou, have been virtually abandoned. While in Lazanias you still might meet locals during the weekend, Fikardou has been converted into a museum village, displaying the ways of life, which have been lost over the decades. Both villages also might serve as trailheads for the ascent of Macheiras / Kionia though distances are long and elevation gains stiff.
You can reach the Greek (southern) part of Cyprus from any major airport in Europe. The island has two international airports at Larnaka in the east and Pafos in the south-west. Both airports are connected by a motorway.
- From Larnaka take the motorway in direction Pafos
- Take the exit 13 / Skarinou.
- Drive through Lefkara and Vavatsinia
- Here signs will direct you to the Kionia Picnic Site and Macheiras Monastery
As you can imagine, on a divided island there is quite some red tape. Generally, along the coasts and in the mountain ranges only the usual restrictions apply. In the natural parks, keep to the trails, leave animals and plants in place and – most importantly - don't start fires anywhere. Fire hazard is high throughout spring summer and early autumn and some of the oldest forests on Troodos have been devastated by careless fires.
Moreover, military installations – and the Macheiras fire lookout / radar installation has to be considered one – have to be handled with care. They are guarded with barbed wire fences and taking photographs is restricted in their vicinity. Nervousness still runs pretty high.
Accommodation of all kinds is easy to find along the coasts of the island. You can book hotels and apartments from any travel office. Moreover, a lot of British expatriates are living on the island part time. You can get lucky to book one of their winter homes in summer.
Near Macheiras (mountain and monastery) little accommodation can be found. The closest town is Lefkara, where you'll surely be able to find inns and hotels. However, more likely you will stay at the south coast on the strip between the cities of Lemessos and Larnaka.
Maps & Books
I must admit that I didn't find any decent maps of the island, maybe caused by the military nervousness mentioned above. I have used the following street map:
- Cyprus / Chipre / Zypern
Freytag & Berndt
Here the situation is different. An excellent guidebook is available from Rother Verlag, both in German and English. It covers the whole island in 50 daytours.
- Zypern (Süd & Nord) / Cyprus (South & North)
Rother Wanderführer / Rother Walking Guide
ISBN (German): 978-3-7633-4271-6
ISBN (English): 978-3-7633-4814-5