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  1. This morning it was time for us to leave Paphos behind and travel inland to our next destination: Platres. Today was going to be all about the journey, because I had planned what I hoped was going to be a very scenic route to Platres through the Tilliria forest. We checked out of the apartment at around 10am and began driving towards the small village of Lysos, which is located about 25 miles north of Paphos. Once we'd left the sprawl of Paphos behind us, the road took us up into the hills and we soon had some beautiful views Lysos was a small place, but it had a pretty little church... ...and we could even see all the way back down to the sea. From Lysos, we followed a small road (F723) towards the forest. The Tilliria forest is very remote and some of the roads which cross it are only dirt tracks. My research on the internet had suggested that the F723 was a proper tarmac road, so it was a relief to get to it and see that it was The road soon began climbing higher into the mountains. Every so often there were little laybys where we could pull over and admire the views. The road took us deeper into the forest. The guidebook had warned that there were no petrol stations once you were on this route and no shops either, so we'd made sure we were well stocked with both petrol and water. We were driving towards a small hamlet called Stavros tis Psokos, which seems to be the only habitation within the forest. It was only 12 miles from Lysos, but it probably took half an hour to get there because the road was so steep and winding. Once we arrived and parked we were confronted with a sign which warned that the risk of forest fires was high today. Not surprising I guess, given how hot and dry it is. The main reason for stopping in Stavros tis Psokos is to see the mouflon. These horned sheep are a national emblem of Cyprus. There is a small path you can follow around the mouflon enclosure. The sheep themselves are behind a high fence; apparently someone who got inside the enclosure and started goading the sheep was gored to death The ones we saw seemed quite timid though; the younger ones ran off when they heard us walking around. Apart from the sheep there isn't much else to see here and so we were soon on our way again. We stopped at several viewpoints outside Stavros tis Psokos and came to one which seemed to be the start of a short signposted walk. We decided to give it a go. The path was a bit narrow in places, but overall a lot easier to walk on than yesterday's. We soon had some lovely views The start of the path was quite uphill, but the higher we climbed the further we could see. It was all so beautiful that it was hard to stop taking photos After a while we realised we could see one of the little roads cutting through the forest. Partway through the walk we came to a crossroads with several possible directions and we didn't have a clue which one was correct. After looking at our photo of the map, we eventually realised that the scratches on this sign post were showing us the way to go. It was quite a sharp turn (we'd come from the wider track and the arrow was pointing up the narrower path). We could easily have missed it and gone the wrong way! The next part of the walk continued to have some amazing views. It hasn't come out very clearly in the photos, but at this point we could see the sea in the distance The narrow path eventually took us back to where we had started. Then it was back in the car again, towards our next destination. Our next destination was a place called Cedar Valley, described in the guidebook as being one of the most picturesque places in Cyprus. We found it about 15 minutes further on and parked in the small car park. It wasn't immediately obvious what there was to see, so we started following the only signposted footpath which we could find. The path led uphill through the forest. Finally we started to see some cedars! They have a rather distinctive shape. They were growing in amongst lots of other trees though, so sometimes we had to look quite carefully to be able to pick them out. I had thought the walk was just going to be a stroll, but it ended up taking us quite steeply uphill. We could look down towards the road we'd been driving on. Unbeknown to us we were climbing to the top of Mount Tripylos. When we finally got there, there were some great views though Then it was time to head back down towards the cedars again Once we got back in the car, we started driving towards Platres, our destination for the evening. On the way we passed the Kykkos monastery. This is apparently the richest and most famous monastery in Cyprus. From there it wasn't far to Platres. We found the village without any problems, but finding the correct address for our accommodation was a bit more challenging. We got there in the end though and found we've got quite a spacious house for the next two nights. In addition to a nice living area with a kitchen... ...we've got a bedroom with a four poster bed... ...and a spare bedroom in case we fall out We've also got an outdoor area... ...with some nice views. We were pretty hungry by this point, so we walked uphill into the centre of Platres to find some food. We found a nice restaurant, where I had chicken souvlaki again and Tim had a chicken schnitzel. He didn't get to eat all of it himself though, because he made a new friend Afterwards we had more baklava and coffee. Tim ordered something which on the menu was called "Cyprus coffee". It turned out to be very similar to Turkish coffee. The sun was just setting as we made our way back to the apartment. It's been another lovely day, and we're looking forward to exploring more of the region tomorrow
  2. We had a leisurely start to the morning in our apartment before getting in the hire car and driving north from Paphos, towards the town of Polis. The route took us through the built up coastal area outside Paphos, before turning inland and taking us through increasingly hilly countryside, towards the island's northern coast. As we drove along we saw fields of rather unusual trees by the side of the road... The fruit was mostly wrapped in blue plastic, presumably to protect it, so it took a while before I realised they were banana trees Once we reached Polis, we turned left along a pretty coast road. Our destination was the Akamas peninsula, a small peninsula sticking out into the sea at the northwestern corner of Cyprus. The peninsula is protected as a nature reserve and has escaped the sort of development which has taken place along much of the island's coastline, because until 2000 it was used by the British army as a shooting range. There's no shooting these days, but that history, combined with the remote location, mean that there are not even any tarmac roads on the peninsula. The coast road eventually comes to an end at a car park, and you can only travel onwards by foot or on a jeep tour. A lot of people who come here don't, in fact, intend to go very far at all, but have come to visit a tourist attraction called "The Baths of Aphrodite". This is a pool where legend says that the goddess Aphrodite used to bathe. From the car park, a well-signposted path led uphill towards the baths. When we got there, I think it's fair to say that we both found it a bit underwhelming It looked like quite a dark, dank pool and it smelled a bit funny. There was some water dripping down from the rocks, which was quite pretty, but we didn't linger long. Fortunately, we hadn't just come to Akamas to see the baths There are several signposted walks on the peninsula. I had been considering doing the easiest one, which is a flat 6km walk along the dirt road you can see in the photo below. In the end we decided against it, because I realised this was the same road that the jeep tours go down, and having dust blown in our faces by passing jeeps for 6km didn't sound like a very attractive prospect. Instead, we opted to follow another signposted walk, the Aphrodite trail. This one was described by the guidebook as harder, and I knew it definitely wasn't going to be flat. We were soon climbing high above the dirt road. The path was quite relentlessly uphill at the start, but the views were spectacular. In one direction we could see the sea and the northern coast of Cyprus... ...while in the other direction, we could see the forested interior of the peninsula. There were a few other people on the path, but it wasn't busy by any stretch of the imagination. We were soon so high above the parking area that we thought we must nearly be at the top. The path led us through a bit of forest... ...and then flattened off for a while. I'd read that the route was about 7.5km. After over an hour, we figured we must be almost halfway round. Haha, no We passed a marker telling us that all our exertions so far had taken us a mere 2km. And it soon became clear that there was a lot more uphill to go! Could this be the top? Nope! The path was extremely rocky in places and I was very glad that I'd managed to fit my walking boots into my carry-on sized suitcase. There's no way we could have done this in trainers! We found a bench for a much-needed rest Not long afterwards we came to a flatter path through the forest, where there was a map showing the route. We were doing the Aphrodite Trail and had come from the small red dot at the Baths of Aphrodite to the other small red dot labelled Pyrgos tis Rigenas. So there still seemed to be quite a lot of the trail left to do! The good news is that the rockiest part was now behind us. The next stage of the walk was easier, although still uphill, along a forest road. Brown metal signs with arrows cut into them showed us the way. They were actually quite hard to catch sight of, often camouflaged into the surroundings. The highest point of the walk was ultimately just below the rocky outcrop which you can see on this photo. A bit further up the forest road... and then we were there We really could see for miles along the coast. But I didn't realise that the best views were actually about to come as we started to descend. Wow. We could now see all the way along the peninsula and it was really beautiful I couldn't devote all my time to looking at the scenery though, because parts of the walk down were a bit challenging! The path zigzagged its way down the hillside. In some places it was quite narrow, in other places it was covered in rather slippery gravel, and in some places it was both. In other places there were big rocky steps to negotiate. Overall, probably a walk which would have been better with a pole. But I definitely couldn't have fitted that into my suitcase The path descended quite quickly and so it wasn't long until we were quite far below the rocks. And of course, as we got lower we were closer to the wonderful views of the sea. It was such a beautiful shade of blue Eventually the narrow path began to come to an end... ...and we were walking on part of the flatter forest road which we would have taken if we'd done the other walk. There was a bit more uphill involved here, as the road wound its way around the hillside. Now that we were lower we had a better view of the cliffs. The peninsula definitely has a very rocky coastline. There wasn't much further left to go now. We did get passed by a couple of jeeps en route which, as predicted, blew a fair bit of dust into the air, but apart from that it was a pleasant end to the walk. Bizarrely we did also get passed by someone who was trying to drive a small Kia rental car along the track as well, despite this sign! It was a really spectacular walk but quite tiring, so we were both pretty hungry by this stage. Tim drove us down the coast a bit to the small town of Latsi. It was around 3pm by this point, so past the traditional lunchtime, but we found a restaurant by the sea that was still serving food Tim had beef stifado, which seemed to be like a Greek beef stew, while I had chicken souvlaki. We shared some baklava for pudding (well, I may have eaten most of it!) plus an iced coffee for me and milkshake for Tim. It was really pretty on the beach... ....and we could look back towards where we'd been on the peninsula. Overall it was a really great day and we've had a brilliant time so far in Cyprus Tomorrow we will be leaving Paphos behind and travelling on to our next destination: Platres.
  3. We had a relatively early start this morning, because we needed to be at the airport for 10am to collect our hire car. When I was initially planning the holiday, renting a car from the airport seemed like a good idea compared to trying to find our way to some random other place in Paphos to pick up a car. At least we knew where the airport was and that there would be a bus to it. I hadn't realised though that the buses to the airport are so infrequent, which meant we needed to leave the apartment at 08.45 to get to the airport for 10. And I also had no idea that Paphos is absolutely bursting with hire car agencies. Our apartment is literally next door to one and on the walk from there to the bus station we must have passed about 20. Never mind, I will know if we come again We got to the airport without any difficulty and waited outside departures for someone to arrive with our car. We had to wait for 15 minutes or so, but when the guy turned up it was the most informal car hire in the world. The man didn't mark the location of scratches on the rental agreement or even want to see Tim's driving licence. There was a fair bit of damage to the car, so Tim made sure to take a video of it before we drove off. Our destination for today was the archaeological site at Kourion, about 40 miles to the east of Paphos, near the town of Limassol. It was a pretty straightforward journey, although navigating on this holiday isn't going to be quite as smooth as I'd hoped because, unlike cars we've rented in Sicily and Iceland, this one is quite old-fashioned and doesn't have any USB sockets. We were planning to plug my phone into a USB socket and use it as a satnav, because we couldn't get a map of Cyprus for our actual satnav. We can still do that to some extent, but using the phone to navigate kills the battery pretty quickly, and it definitely wouldn't last for an entire day of driving. So we may have to do some more old-fashioned navigating at times and save the phone for trickier parts of our routes Kourion is located within the British Overseas Territory of Akrotiri, which is one of two bits of the island of Cyprus which Britain retained when Cyprus gained independence in 1960. There are some large military bases here and as we got close to Kourion, we passed lots of buildings protected by high fences, as well as roads with names like "Isle of Wight Road" and lots of signs forbidding any photography. Once we got to Kourion, it cost €4.50 each to get in. The site is on a hill overlooking the sea and just from the carpark we had a great view There was a town here until around the 4th century, when it was destroyed by earthquakes. The first sight we came to was the remains of a large villa, whose floor was decorated with mosaics. A large TUI coach had just been leaving as we were arriving and it was much quieter here than it had been around the mosaics in Paphos yesterday I'd managed to pick up a map in English today and we followed that towards the next attraction, which was an ancient theatre. It was in a beautiful location, overlooking the sea. Apparently it could sit 3,500 people, but it didn't feel anywhere near as big as the theatre we saw in Plovdiv last month, so I was brave enough to climb down to the bottom of this one Again, this was quite a large site and so we had a bit of a walk uphill towards the rest of the sights. This was signposted as the "Earthquake House". The house was originally built in early second century and destroyed by earthquakes in the fourth century. We climbed higher towards a viewpoint. From here there was an even better view of the sea and we could see some amazing cliffs. We were walking towards the ruins of an early Christian basilica. We could make out some of the arches which had once formed part of the church. There were some very pretty columns too. As you can see from the photos, there weren't too many other people here and we were able to explore in peace Moving on, we came to the remains of the town's thermal baths. There were walkways here around the floors, but they weren't quite as impressive as the mosaics we'd already seen. We continued to walk around the site, getting some even better views of the cliffs. We came to the remains of a villa known as the House of the Gladiators. From the mosaics, it was obvious why We'd reached the edge of the site by this point, so it was time to retrace our steps back to the car. We'd only been driving for a couple of minutes when we saw a sign which looked like it was pointing towards another archaeological site. This was the sanctuary of Apollo Hylates. The remains here date from the first century AD. If Kourion had been quiet, this place was practically deserted and we were able to explore almost completely on our own The most striking ruin is the temple of Apollo. There's just enough of it left to give a tantalising glimpse of what it would once have looked like. Apollo was worshipped here as early as the 8th century BC, although the ruins today mostly date from the 1st century AD. It was a really pretty place to visit anyway and the benefit of hiring a car is being able to make spontaneous stops like this Tomorrow we plan to do some more exploring, this time in the northwestern part of the island.
  4. Clare

    Day 2: Paphos

    It was a beautiful sunny day when we woke up in Paphos this morning, and after nearly 10 hours sleep we were feeling a lot more awake. We had a relaxing breakfast on the terrace, before setting out to explore the town. Before I started planning our trip to Cyprus, my assumption had been that Paphos was just the sort of place people come for a beach holiday. Once I started reading the guidebook though, I realised that there were several archaeological sites around the town, and that was what we were hoping to see today. Our first stop was the ruins of the Chrysopolitissa basilica. These are the remains of an early Christian basilica, built in the 4th century AD, whose floor was entirely covered in mosaics. You can still see a bit of them today. Within the ruins are the remains of a pillar (the one on the right), known as St Paul's pillar, which tradition says that St Paul was tied to and beaten during the course of a missionary visit to Cyprus. There is also a smaller church, called Agia Kyriaki, which was built around 1500. It was a really pretty place to walk around And there weren't too many other tourists, which was good. From the church, we walked down towards the seafront. We wanted to see Paphos castle. Originally built as a Byzantine fort, it was dismantled by the Venetians in 1570 but later restored by the Ottomans. It's a very square castle, so it was difficult to take a good photo of it! There were some nice views of the sea from the rocks beside it though. Not far from the castle is the entrance to Paphos Archaeological Park. It cost €4.50 each to get in, which felt like a bargain, because the park covers quite a large geographical area. The main attraction of the park is the remains of four Roman villas. They all have beautiful mosaic floors, which are very well preserved. The most elaborate mosaics are in covered areas to protect them, but there were some that we could just wander around outside and look at too That turned out to be a blessing, because there were some tour buses here, and some of the areas with covered walkways were incredibly busy if you had the misfortune to arrive at the same time as a tour group was being shown around. We managed to push our way around a little bit to see some of the most impressive mosaics... ...but one villa in particular was so busy (with a group that looked like they had come off a cruise ship) that we had to give up and go back outside. Happily there were plenty of Roman remains to see outside too And away from the mosaics, the park was almost deserted. We caught sight of a white lighthouse in the distance and decided to walk towards it. While there are tonnes of British tourists in Paphos, the second biggest group of tourists here appears to be Russian. There are Russian signs everywhere; on estate agents, car rental agencies and restaurants. I'd even accidentally picked up the Russian version of the free map for the archaeological park and so I was able to learn the word for lighthouse: маяк The lighthouse is comparatively modern, built in 1888 when Paphos was occupied by the British. When we were walking towards it from the middle of the park it gave the bizarre impression of being inland, but once we got up closer we could see the sea It was also nice that we could see inland a bit towards the interior of the island, which looks quite hilly From the lighthouse it wasn't far to the remains of the Roman theatre. The large flat space in front of the theatre is where the Roman forum once was, but there isn't much left of that now. Beyond the forum, the far end of the park was really deserted and it was less clear what the various ruins were. We did find an enormous cactus though As we walked back towards the centre of the park, we found what looked like the remains of a castle. These are the remains of Saranta Kolones, a ruined fortress. It's thought that it was built in the 7th century and was destroyed by a strong earthquake in the area in 1222. From here we had a lovely view back towards the lighthouse We'd seen the majority of the park now so we went outside, drank a very large bottle of water, and then started walking back in the direction of our apartment. Paphos' other main archaeological attraction is not far from where we are staying and has a rather ominous name: the Tombs of the Kings. This slightly strange place is a world heritage site, consisting of a collection of underground tombs, dating back to around 4 BC. This is where the aristocrats of ancient Paphos would have been buried. The whole site is on a beautiful location by the sea. It was quite breezy here, which was nice on what had otherwise been a very warm day. I thought better of sitting on the wall though once I saw the size of the local lizards You could probably have stayed here a lot longer if you were interested in tombs. We may only have stayed for about 20 minutes, before going back to the apartment to cool down for a while In the late afternoon we went out again and walked in the opposite direction to normal, climbing uphill towards the higher town of Ktima Paphos. The guidebook had said that the old town here was interesting, but we failed to find it very photogenic. The most attractive building was this enormous mosque, located in what was historically the Turkish part of town. The mosque was built by the Ottomans in the 16th century, on the remains of what was a Byzantine church. Once we'd seen the mosque, we walked back down the hill towards the lower town. We had dinner at a restaurant not far from the apartment, which involved some rather impressive desserts Tomorrow we're picking up our hire car and looking forward to exploring some more of the island
  5. Even by our standards it was a very early start this morning, with a 07.15 flight from Gatwick. We'd booked some cheap airport parking at a small hotel, which turned out to only run a shuttle to Gatwick twice an hour, so although we were technically booked into it for 04.30, we were aiming to arrive by 04.15 to make sure we had time to hand over the car keys etc before the 04.30 shuttle. Counting backwards, that meant we needed to leave Nuneaton at the incredibly early hour of 01.45 Normally when we leave home at about 03.00 to catch early flights, we see lots of taxis around Nuneaton bringing people home from nights out in Birmingham. But today we were too early even to see that; everywhere was completely deserted. We got to the parking for 04.15 and checked in with plenty of time for the shuttle. This was another one of those low-budget affairs where the same person is manning the reception and driving the shuttle, which I guess is why it only runs twice an hour. After our horrendous experience checking in at Gatwick with Thomas Cook on the way to Burgas, I was a little bit apprehensive about checking in today, but it turned out that the Easyjet check in couldn't have been more efficient. There were no desks - just a huge row of self service baggage drop machines - and we barely had to wait any time at all. That meant we had plenty of time for breakfast in the airport, which was good because it was probably going to be early evening before we got any more food. The flight to Cyprus is quite a long one, at 4.5 hours, and there is a two-hour time difference to the UK. That meant that although it felt like we had a really early flight at 07.15, it was going to be 13.45 by the time our plane touched down in Cyprus. Luckily for such a long flight, the plane turned out to be quite nice and it wasn't 100% orange inside, which is always a concern with Easyjet I think I fell asleep during the safety demonstration (I have no recollection of take off!) and I woke up properly a couple of hours later when the pilot made an announcement about the flight path. We were flying over Belgrade at that point, which he said was the midpoint of the route, before carrying on across Sofia and Plovdiv, into Greece and then across southern Turkey towards Cyprus. Unfortunately, the whole of Europe seemed to be covered in cloud today and so there wasn't much of a view. The cloud only began to break up as we flew over Turkey and the sky didn't become completely clear until we were flying over the sea towards Cyprus. Passport control at Paphos airport was rather unusual. We had to scan our passports at a small machine, not dissimilar to the sort of check-in machine that prints boarding passes, and then look into a camera. The machine took a photo of us, which it then printed onto a slip of paper, together with our names, passport numbers etc. We then had to walk past a man sitting at a passport control desk, who just collected up the slips of paper without looking at them. Never seen a system quite like that anywhere else! When I was planning the holiday a couple of weeks ago, I spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out how to get to Paphos from the airport. The airport is less than 10 miles outside the main town, but the airport buses run really infrequently. The first bus I found, which runs from the airport to quite close by where we are staying, only runs four times a day for example. Eventually I found another bus, the 612, which runs once an hour or so to the main bus station in Paphos. The next one was due at 14.35, so we had a bit of time to kill in the airport. When we got to the bus stop, there were only a handful of other people waiting for the bus. It seems to be one of those airports where almost everyone is getting onto a tour operator coach or taking a taxi. When I'd researched taxis online, it seemed like they cost around €30, while the airport bus only cost us €1.50 each It was a slightly bumpy ride though and it seemed to take quite a roundabout route, taking around 30 minutes to cover the fairly short distance to the centre of Paphos. Once we got off the bus, we could see the sea straightaway. Probably the best view we've ever had from a bus station It was a walk of just over a mile from here towards our apartment. We found it without too much difficulty and the owner met us outside. It turned out to be much bigger than I was expecting, with a bedroom and outdoor terrace... ...kitchen with another terrace... ...plus a living area. It seems like really good value for €50/night. There's a clear British influence on Cyprus; we'd already been surprised to find out that they drive on the left hand side of the road here, and we were even more surprised once we'd settled in to the apartment and found that all the plug sockets were British too and we didn't need our adapters! Some things felt very reminiscent of Greece, though! Despite the extra sleep on the plane, I was still pretty tired and definitely needed a nap by this point. I slept for about an hour, so it was around 17.30 by the time we left the apartment and started walking back into the centre of Paphos. We passed what looked like an interesting building... ...and turned out to be a slightly bizarre Roman-themed hotel. Soon we were back near the bus station where we'd got off the bus earlier in the afternoon. One consequence of going away in October is that, although somewhere like Cyprus is still really warm, it starts getting dark pretty early. The seafront area is pedestrianised, so we had a little stroll along in the sunset. I'd booked an apartment away from the centre of Paphos in case it turned out to be full of drunk English people, but so far it seemed pretty quiet We stopped at a restaurant by the sea to have dinner. The main courses were a bit mediocre, but we had delicious baklava for pudding. By the time we'd finished eating, it was completely dark. Tonight is definitely going to be an early night, but we're looking forward to exploring more of Paphos tomorrow
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