With 9251 square kilometres Cyprus - Kypros (Κύπρος) in Greek, Kıbrıs in Turkish – is the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia. Also, it is one of the tallest ones – if I count correctly it comes in at number four after Sicily (again), Corsica and Crete. Its highpoint, Mount Olympos (not to be confused with the Greek Olympos), reaches 1951m. Located on the Anatolian tectonic plate, Cyprus geologically belongs to Asia, while politically it is part of the EU, thus Europe. Cyprus is an independent country, the northern third of which has been occupied by Turkish forces ever since 1974. For a brief overview over the Cyprus Conflict, please refer to the third section.
Cyprus was created by the collision of the North-African tectonic plate with the Eurasian one about 90 million years ago. During that time the collision piled up two mountain ranges, still underneath the sea level of the then Thethys Sea. About 20 million years ago these ranges surfaced forming two independent islands at first. Due to further tectonic activities the ranges rose further and finally were connected by a sedimentary plain. Today the ranges are the Troodos Range in south-central Cyprus and the Kyrenia Range, also Pentadaktylos (Πενταδάκτυλος) in Greek and Beşparmak or Beşparmaklar in Turkish. While the former is formed by volcanic rocks the latter consists of limestone. In Troodos rounded hill-like structures dominate and only at the outskirts you find more interesting structures. The Kyrenia Range, on the other hand, is typical limestone with karst formations, sheer faces (especially to the north) and a sometimes very rugged appearance.
Cyprus has a very long and chequered history. Like many of the Mediterranean Islands it changed ownership quite often. Its location close to the holy land, to Egypt and the whole of the Middle East made it a perfect base for many wartime activities. All over the island you find remains of crusaders castles (most notably in the Kyrenia Range) and many of the coastal cities show ancient fortifications. There are numerous Greek Orthodox churches and monasteries, sometimes dating back to the Byzantine era. On the other hand mosques can be found in any of the bigger towns and villages, even on the Greek side of the divide.
One result of the chequered history, especially the recent one, is that you rarely find an important summit without some structure erected on its top. All three highest mountains of the Troodos Range for instance show massive radar installations, some to guide air traffic in this part of the Middle East but most to observe military activities across the Green Line divide. Thus many of the very mountaintops are off limits to aspiring peak-baggers, which greatly diminishes the attractiveness of the whole island. Moreover, where the summit is lacking military installations you can count of finding fire look-outs or radio and TV installations up there, most of the times secured by fences and multiple layers of barbed wire.
Fire is a real threat on an island were temperatures can exceed 35° C in early May already. Even in Troodos Village at 1700m you can measure up to 30° C in late spring. With 20% wood coverage Cyprus owns the largest forests of any of the Mediterranean Islands but these forest live under the constant threat of fires. The large wood coverage is mainly due to the British, who during their ownership of the island planted tens of thousands of trees all across Cyprus. Today, many of the trees are aged more than 60 years and form formidable groves. Especially near Mount Olympus you can find wonderful 500 year old black pines.
From a hiker's perspective there is a third region on the island, which is worth mentioning: the Akamas Peninsula in the north-west of the island. Generally it belongs to the outskirts of the Troodos Range but is separated by a deep valley and thus can also be considered separate. Here limestone prevails and you can find wonderful karst formations all over the peninsula. The most interesting feature is the Avakas Gorge, a canyon cut deep down into the surrounding limestone. It doesn't reach the length of Crete's Samaria Gorge or the profundity of Sardinia's Gola su Gorrupu but is still one of the most impressive canyons of the Mediterranean Sea. Beyond and above you will find some of Cyprus' most interesting mountains on the Akamas Peninsula. Though only around 400m high, thanks to their isolated locations the likes of Smigies, Pissouromoutti or Moutti tis Sotiras offer wonderful views of the bays along the coast in their west and north as well as the Troodos Range in their east.
And then there are the chalk cliffs along the south coast of Cyprus. The most impressive ones can be found around Cape Aspro near Pissouri, rising about 300m from the sea. However the rock is absolutely horrible so that climbing them is absolutely out of the question. The most famous formation is called Petra tou Romiou and is rumoured to be the spot in which the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite was born. Consequently you will barely find a more crowded spot anywhere on the island.
Like on Corsica (GR20) or Crete (E4) there are multi day trekking trails on Cyprus. Like everything on the island they are divided in two separate parts. In the south you will find the 640km long easternmost section of the European long distance trekking trail E4 (the same, which crosses Crete from east to west). In the north there is the Kyrenia Mountain Trail, 250km long overall, which covers the whole Kyrenia Range in 7 stages. The following tables contain a bit of information on the trails, more or less adapted from the external links in the last section.
On Cyprus this trekking trail connects the two international airports of Larnaka and Paphos by a line of 540km length. Basically, the trail crosses the island from Larnaka in the south-east to Akamas in the north-west, then following the western coast of the island south to Paphos. Similar to E4 on Crete, parts of this trekking trail run along rarely used roads, most often dirt roads. In the central Troodos Range as well as on Akamas Peninsula, however, there are many sections on dedicated narrow hiking paths.
E4 is generally marked though quite often the distance between the marks is large. Often, at the beginning and end of a stage (or sub-stage) you can find signposts detailing the statistics of the stage (length and duration). E4 touches most of the interesting areas in the Troodos Range and thus is often used by day tourers as well.
Accommodation is not easy along the trail as no special sites have been set aside. On the other hand, pitching a tent can never be a problem on the island.
|Startpoint - Endpoint||Length||Duration|
|Larnaka – Rizoelia||12km||5 - 7h|
|Rizoelia – Pyla||28km||9 - 12h|
|Ormideia – Agia Napa – Kermia||35km||11 - 14h|
|Kermia – Sotira||20km||7 - 9h|
|Sotira – Pyla Forest||35km||10 - 14h|
|Pyla Forest – Avdellero||16km||8 - 11h|
|Avdellero – Stazousa Church||30km||11 - 14h|
|Stavrovouni Forest – Delikipos||28.5km||10 - 13h|
|Delikipos – Fikardou||45.5km||11 - 14h|
|Fikardou – Stavros Agiasmati Church||24km||8 - 10h|
|Stavros Agiasmati Church – Panagia tou Araka||7.5km||2 - 4h|
|Panagia tou Araka – Platania||15km||5 - 6h|
|Platania – Agios Georgios Kapourallis||32.5km||9 - 11h|
|Agios Georgios Kapourallis – Panagia tou Kykkou Monastery||15km||12 - 15h|
|Panagia tou Kykkou Monastery – Stavros tis Psokas forest station||26km||9 - 12h|
|Stavros tis Psokas forest station – Lysos||25km||8 - 11h|
|Lysos – Krytou Tera||24km||8 - 11h|
|Krytou Tera – Loutra tis Afroditis||22km||8 - 11h|
|Loutra tis Afroditis – Pegeia||36km||12 - 15h|
|Pegeia – Tsada||28km||10 - 13h|
|Tsada – Pafos Airport||24km||8 - 11h|
The Kyrenia Mountain Trail connects Cape Zafer / Cape Apostolos Andreas in the east with Cape Korucam / Cape Kormakitis in the west. It runs across the whole Kyrenia Range, starting at the very tip of the Karpaz Panhandle. It covers 230km, divided in 7 stages, some of which can be subdivided into two stages. Like with E4 in the south waymarkings can be a bit sketchy and again, sometimes roads are used for the trail. Generally the stages end in villages so that accommodation might be a bit easier than for E4.
|Startpoint - Endpoint||Length|
|Cape Zafer – Dipkarpaz||28.3km|
|Dipkarpaz – Yenierinkoy||21.6km|
|Yenierinkoy – Buyukkonuk||21.6km|
|Buyukkonuk – Tatlisu||34.1km|
|Tatlisu – Alevkaya||26.6km|
|Alevkaya – Lapta crossroads||44.6km|
|Lapta crossroads - Cape Korucam||40.2km|
As mentioned in the overview section, Cyprus changed hands quite often during its long chequered history. After its Hellenic period (the Cypriot kings joined Alexander the Great in 332 BC) in 58 BC the Romans took over. After the division of the Roman Empire, Cyprus remained in the Byzantine Empire until 1184, after which the Crusaders and the French house of Lusignan owned the island until 1489. The Republic of Venice dominated until 1571 after which the Osman Empire took ownership.
In 1878 the Osman Empire needed British help against a Russian attack, for which help it paid by leasing Cyprus to Great Britain. During WW I, when the Osman Empire fought on the side of Germany and Austria, Great Britain annexed Cyprus. The treaty of Lausanne of 1923 this annexation was made permanent. Two years later Cyprus became British Crown Colony.
During the British reign of the island the Greek part of the populace started to aim for re-unification with the Greek motherland (called Enosis). The Cypriot Archbishops were the driving force behind these efforts, which soon morphed into open revolts. Moreover, after the death of Archbishop Sophronios there were two contenders, which intensified the troubles. The British high Commissioner tried to establish law and order by prohibiting the election of Archbishops. They intensified their attempts of „dehellenisation“ to get a grip on the situation. This, however led to open revolt in 1931 after which the British were forced to take over more and more administrative tasks.
During WW II matters changed and after 1947 the office of Archbishop was reintroduced. A plebiscite, performed in 1950, resulted in 93% of the Greek populace voting for unification with Greece while the Turkish populace more and more voted for separation (Taksim). The UN refused this unification, which provoked even more open revolts. The Greek Army openly supported Enosis and it appeared only a matter of time until the island would explode.
However, with the death of Archbishop Makarios II his more moderate successor Makarios III took over and a long process of leading Cyprus into independence started. On Aug 16th 1960 Great Britain, Greece and Turkey signed the contract of Zürich, granting independence to the island. The Greek and Turkish populace got the same rights. Makarios III became the first president of the new republic. His Vice President – by constitution – was a member of the Turkish populace: Dr Fazil Kucuk.
In 1964 – after an ill fated attempt by Makarios III to rid the presidency and vice presidency of their veto power – tensions erupted into a full fledged civil war. Turkish villages were cut off from their surroundings by Greek troops for months. The UN sent peace keeping forces to Cyprus during that year, which have stayed on the island until today. The UN brokered a ceasefire which is also still in place today. UN peacekeepers were deployed to survey the ceasefire process.
On July 15th 1974 the Cypriot National Guard overthrew the government of Makarios III with the outspoken goal of unification with mainland Greece. Five days later, on July 20th 1974, the Turkish army invaded the northern part of the island in attempt to protect the Turkish populace. 200 000 Greek Cypriots were expelled from the northern part of the island with the result that Turks from the south had to leave their ancient homes as well. Since then the island has been divided with the northern 37% making up the Turk Republic of Northern Cyprus which has only been recognized by Turkey. Some 6% of the island still belong to Great Britain, the area around the military bases of the Akrotiri Peninsula and at Dhekelia. In addition a 5km buffer zone has been established which is overseen by UN peacekeepers.
In recent years for several times there has been hope of reunification. Then UN secretary general Kofi Annan tried to broker an agreement which led to a referendum on the island. However, while nearly 70% of the Turkish populace voted for Annan's plan 75% of Greek Cypriots voted against it. Later, in 2004, when Cyprus became member of the European Union, new hopes for reunification were born. Representatives of the two parts started negotiations, which in 2008 led to an additional border checkpoint on Leda Street in Nicosia. Since then, negotiations have ground to a standstill.
Together with the map posted above the following list is supposed to give you an overview over the mountains submitted to SP and where you will find them on this page. The map easily shows the three ranges discussed on this page: the Kyrenia Range along the north coast, the Troodos Range, taking the centre and the Akamas Peninsula in the west of the island. The list below contains mountains and canyons. The canyons are located at the back end of the listing for the respective range.
The Troodos Range – if you don't count the coastal regions along Cyprus' south coast takes up the south-western third of the island. It is the most important geographical feature of the island, a huge range, reaching nearly 2000m. It also has become a geologic showcase, as the creation process was rather complex and has been studied in detail. The central highest part of the range is made from ophiolite rocks like harzbugite and diurite, which were once part of the earth's crust. In several sections you can find old pillow lava (for instance near Pouziaris above Pano Platres).
About 90 million years ago the North-African Plate collided with the Anatolian one, starting a complex upheaval process. At that time, what now is Troodos, was part of the floor of the Tethys inland sea, which covered great parts of the Mediterranean and Southern Europe (parts of the Alps were formed during the same period). While piling up the range, the layers were toppled, with the bottom layers of the earth's crust coming out on top, while sediments were forced to the bottom. The range surfaced 20 million years ago and then piled up to 2000m about 2 million years ago.
In the centre of Troodos you will find smooth, tree covered slopes, easy to climb and not very spectacular. The highest mountain of Cyprus, Mount Olympus, is a case in point: without the radar installations on its summit it would be hard to make out from its surroundings. Lower down, in the outskirts of the range, where the younger sedimentary rock can be found, matters differ. Here you can find wonderful limestone mountains like Macheiras / Kionia or Adelfoi. While these mountains still lack the excitement of other limestone ranges, they offer wonderfully panoramic ridge traverses and thus are excellent hiking destinations.
The Kyrenia Range is the predominant geographic feature of the north of Cyprus. It is a limestone range, running for 150km along the whole northern coast of the island. Its highest mountains are located to the west, near Girne / Keryneia and reach about 1000m. The highest mountain, Kyparissovouno (Greek) or Selvili Tepe (Turkish), is 1,024m. To the east the range runs out into the Karpaz Peninsula, where mountains don't exceed heights of 100m – 200m.
The Kyrenia Range is a typical limestone Range with impressive north faces that drop into the narrow plain of the north coast of Cyprus. Very much like the Alpi Apuane in Tuscany the Kyrenia Range also shows large layers of marble. The range – like Troodos, surfaced from the surrounding sea 20 million years ago by the collision of the North-African with the Anatolian tectonic plate. However, the upheaval process was not as complex and only the topmost limestone sediments rose out of the sea.
Its location close to the sea made (and still makes) the Kyrenia Range a perfect lookout position during the crusades. Crusaders set up a number of castles on the mountaintops, three ruins of which can still be visited today. They overlooked the important waterways between Cyprus and Asia Minor, which in their narrowest parts are only 54km wide. Later, in the Byzantine era, more fortifications were built along the northern coast, the most important of which in Girne / Keryneia.
As already mentioned in the Overview section, the Akamas Peninsula can be considered a part of the Troodos Range. However, a corridor separates it from the mountains so that its low mountains stand apart from the rest of the range (and the rest of the island). This makes the summits of these mountains, which reach little more than 400m, some of the best lookout-spots of all of Cyprus.
The Peninsula consists of limestone rock, which forms large plateaus. Between these high plains, rivers have cut deep gorges and washed away much of the outlying material. Therefore the summits of Akamas are tabletop mountains, typical of any karst area. The former scree slopes at their bases have been filled and covered by vegetation and offer quite easy access to the summit areas. These are protected by limestone layers of 20m – 50m thickness, often providing fascinating deep views towards the coast. The most popular of the mountains is Moutti tis Sotiras, which stands directly above the northern coast of the peninsula.
In the south of Akamas you can find Cyprus' most formidable canyon: Avakas Gorge. While not as impressive as its counterparts on Crete, the gorge winds for several kilometres through the surrounding limestone rock. In its narrowest part, a section of approximately 1km length, the gorge closes down to some 3m – 4m width. The walls to the side are about 100m high.
There are two international airports, Paphos in the south-west and Larnaka in the south-east. They are more or less served like any other island airport in the Mediterranean. There are lots of charter flights and a good number of regular flights. Larnaka airport is one of the more important airports in the Middle East and serves as a switch-over point for many long-distance connections. Charter flights from Western Europe often are indirect flights as Cyprus is very popular among Eastern Europeans.
Accommodation of all kinds is easy to find along the coasts of the island. Hotspots are Agia Napa, Larnaka, Pissouri and Paphos. 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.
Since the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey there are no direct flights there. You will have to stopover on a Turkish airport to reach the airport to the east of Nicosia. While Northern Cyprus is part of the EU, Turkey is not, which complicates travel procedures. You will be well advised to bring a passport.
For accommodation the same rules and processes apply as for southern Cyprus. You can book anything from any travel office. Again, most hotels, apartments or campgrounds can be found on the coast. Compared to southern Cyprus the supply of accommodation is less but so is the northern part of the island.
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.
For EU citizens, crossing the green line is possible by showing an ID card. On several designated crossover checkpoints you can drive across the border in your car. BUT: cars rented in the south are not insured for travel in Northern Cyprus. You have to take the whole financial risk of any potential accident. Also, some of the smaller rental car companies don't allow you to cross the border.
Moreover, military installations – and there are a lot – 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. This makes some of the most interesting summits (Macheiras, Olympos) off-limits for any aspiring peakbagger.
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
Maps (city and road maps) are also availabe at Cyprus Tourism Organisation offices (free of charge).
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. Also, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation published a booklet covering the Cyprus Nature Trails