Have been eagerly seeking information about going on a safari in Cyprus? Well, here we are to fill you in! And more so, especially for all those interested in extreme relaxation, our correspondent visited all the safaris that he was able to find through the Internet. We have collected a large amount of material and split it up, so to say, so the first part will get you acquainted with the safaris that take part in the most specific area of the island — Troodos.
First, a small introduction. I, Dmitriy Gridin, have been living in Cyprus for about four years, and during this time I’ve traveled far and wide. At the same time, the whole experience surrounding the idea of a safari is shamelessly shameful to me. Once, only in 2013, I had the misfortune of taking a ride in a “super powerful ATV desert tour” in Egypt. In fact, it all turned out to be a sad and exhausting trip in tandem with 30 ATV’s at a speed of 20 km/hr through the desert to a ridiculous, pseudo-Bedouin village, where scammers tried to sell us $2 cokes.
In other words, one could say that I have practically no experience. Well, as I set off on this adventure (at the time this article was written, I have visited only one safari), I will try to look at everything that I see through the eyes of a tourist. That is, a person who is in Cyprus for just the first or second time, because seeing it through the eyes of a person who has traveled every inch of Cyprus, everything will be seen in a slightly different light.
|Level of Extreme
Where you should you start in choosing a safari tour? With the Internet, of course. A couple on Google and you will already have at least a small plan. However, my very first safari was chosen unguided by letters scrolling across a monitor, but under the influence of a rather aggressive advertising company, Agros-Safari, through Russian Radio Cyprus.
Firstly, this advertisement mesmerized me for a year every time I drove in a car somewhere on business.
Secondly, knowing the village of Agros and its vicinity quite well, I sincerely wondered where I could find these “traditional Cypriot villages, ancient churches, pristine ponds, forest trails, and mountain peaks that offer stunning views of the most untouched corners of the island” the advertisement talks about. Well, that is, I get everything with the villages, and there is certainly no shortage of churches in Cyprus either. As for the “cleanest ponds” and “untouched corners”? My memory was able only to shrug in bewilderment.
And thirdly, in spite of a bunch of tour operators offering safaris to Troodos, Agros-Safari is one of the few that issue unique and original routes. Almost all the rest are limited to a standard tourist set (more on this below).
I read the Agros-Safari advertisement on their site, to start. There are 3 standard options to choose from: 1.5-hr travel for a bargain price, 4-hour travel for 85 euros, and 8-hour travel for 125 euros. The second and third options include food.
After a little reflection, I decided that I wouldn’t be able to experience anything in 1.5 hours, and in 8 hours I would be deathly tired, so I decided to split the difference. I called…and the conversation turned out to be a little strange:
Me: Hello! I would like to book a tour.
Operator: You’d better do that through the Internet.
Me: Um, ok. Can’t you do it over the phone?
Operator: Oh, you’re calling, then another million people start calling, and it can get confusing. It’s better done online.
Me: Hmm…uh, okay.
This was a rather unusual manner of communication, given that I wasn’t calling to sell anything, but rather as a client. I thought: this is either a special form of “hospitality”, or the operator I got had so many clients that they were crawling in through the windows and he was just doing his best to fend off any others. Later I learned that the person who spoke to me is Ilya, our guide. Pretty good guy, as it turned out — very simple and direct. Apparently, this specific style of communication should be attributed to spontaneity.
I filled out the form online, received an answer, and arrived at the collection point, the tavern “Linari”, at the scheduled time: 10am.
The advertisement says: “Before the trip, we will treat you to Cypriot coffee.” I must confess that I forgot about this, and when the waiter came up to me, I said that I didn’t need anything. Then I learned that others on the safari didn’t receive their free coffee. There was a little bit of confusion surrounding this moment. Nobody reminds you about the free coffee, so let me offer some advice: speak up! Moreover, what could be better than a good morning coffee in a traditional Cypriot tavern before you set off on a grand adventure?
About an hour was spent on waiting for all the participants, taking a trip to the ATV garage, paperwork (you need to bring your passport and driver’s license with you, along with money), a meet and greet, and instruction. Everyone was given a helmet and a clean balaclava. There were mainly Russians in our group (as can be expected), plus a couple o Brits (what’s a trip without Brits?), an international couple (a Cypriot husband and Russian wife) with a child. The result was a convoy of 9 ATVs (including our guide, Ilya).
Let’s talk a bit more about our vehicles. Here’s what the advertisement says: “An exciting journey to the very heart of the Cyprus mountains is waiting for you on the new, powerful, comfortable ATV Artic Cat 400cc (USA).” Our vehicles were, in fact, Arctic Cat ATVs, but they were, first of all, “new” in some distant past, and secondly, some of us were put on vehicles made by different manufacturers. For example, I got a sport ATV. Who was the manufacturer, you ask? No way of knowing…
At first I was glad that I was given one different from everybody else, but that joy faded away very quickly. Sports transport is good for…when sports are involved. And slow, measured movement (for example in a convoy) is like driving a fast car to the nearest supermarket for groceries. An ATV is tough, powerful, abrupt, but the main thing is the low clearance. The latter was the reason for me getting stuck at one point. Whereas a usual Arctic Cat cleared an obstacle without slowing down, my “horse” was stuck with its belly caught on a stone, and refused to go any further. But of course the Anglo-Greek tourists were sure to run up and push me out fairly quickly.
And so — the group left the garage around 11:00 and immediately set off along the off-road (that is, not an asphalt road). We climbed the mountains, among the gardens, for about 15 minutes. Ilya stopped several times, showing us plants that were exotic for any ordinary Russian: kiwi, almonds, persimmons. In one place, we slowed down to try grapes, which were a little unripe and sour. At another short stop we ate wild blackberries.
Then we hit the asphalt again and went along a smooth road. We slowly went to meet at the first big stop.
As for the ride itself? Compared to how it was in Egypt, everything was just fine with Agros-Safari. In Egypt, there were 3 guide-instructors at once — one at the head of the convoy, another at the end, and the third, who drove back and forth from the side, strictly observing us to make sure the convoy moved as a pack. This approach is justified by the security measures, but because of this safety, any feelings from the trip can be boiled down to irritation only.
At Agros-Safari, thank God, nobody paid that kind of attention to safety. There was only one guide, traveling ahead of the pack, and relatively quickly (in places up to 40km/hr). If someone in the convoy needed help, all they had to do was beep twice, and the instructor was there momentarily.
Honestly, though, there were several unnecessary nuances. One time, some guy forgot to remove the ATV from parking mode (in this mode, the front wheels are blocked), but stubbornly tried to ride on it until it nearly flew into a cliff. Another time, the ATV in front of me stopped for some reason, and I had to stop. Then I heard a heart-wrenching female cry, turned around, and a hesitant lady comes flying at me on her Arctic Cat. She was able, though, to stop her “horse” a few centimeters from me, and we got off with only a scare.
A third time, another girl lost control on a sharp turn and drove a little into the ditch. Given the fact that we occasionally drove along the cliffs, it would have been very sad had the incident happened there.
I then asked Ilya how often these serious instances occur. He replied that this year there wasn’t a single one. Amazing.
In general, the route was simple. Not a smooth road, of course. While trekking the off-road, you’ll often encounter boulders, steep slopes, and craters here and there. But these difficulties are easily surmountable by an ordinary tourist with minimal driving skills. To drive an ATV you don’t need to be a brainiac. However, without practice, you might get easily distracted and make a mistake, or vice versa, come to think of yourself as a bona fide “king of the road”, and be unable to cope with the management. This going said, everything is relatively safe, but you should keep your head in check.
But we’re getting off track here. Meanwhile, the journey continues. Around noon, the group reached the first village, Alona.
If you google the name of the village, you’ll suddenly find that it is the equivalent of “Cyprus Switzerland”. I must confess that I have been to the real Switzerland, and not just once…and it’s not really Switzerland. In my opinion, it’s just an ordinary, typical Cypriot village. Yes, it’s cute, yes it’s picturesque, but you could use that description for almost any village in Cyprus.
For the most part, we stayed in this little “Switzerland” just to take a breather and drink some water and coffee in a small tavern. The water was free, the Cypriot coffee was 1 euro, or a frappe for 2 euro. We rested for about 20 minutes, listened to Ilya’s stories about his rich experience of driving tourists through all of Cyprus’s beauty (Agros-Safari has been around for 4 years), ate apples that had been taken out of one of the gardens along the way, and stowed away in our pockets. Then we once again set off. This next stretch of the road — from Alonа to the next stop, the Stavros Agiasmati church — had been paved with asphalt. Thus, by 13:00 we were already there.
Stavros Agiasati is a 12th-Century church. Some of the oldest frescoes in Cyprus that depict Christ are preserved here. Authenticity emanates from the place. There are no tents with nuts scattered about and zivania, as can be seen in some other popular religious and tourist sites. The church and the forest are all that is there. Antique lovers and religious believers are highly recommended to visit.
It took about half an hour to walk to the church and its surroundings. Then we walked nonstop to the peak of our adventure: the top of Madari Mountain.
Around 14:00, we climbed up. Yes, the view from the mountain is fabulous. You can see almost 20% of the entire island at once. And, according to Ilya (and I completely agree with him here), this is perhaps the best viewing point in all of Cyprus. However, the mountain is not the highest on the island.
By ATV (and by car), you can drive almost to the very top of Madari. To get further on to the peak, you need only climb a few meters to the highest fire observation station in Cyprus. This station has a convenient area for exploring the surroundings. Apart from the structure itself, you have a full 360 degree panorama here.
True, few people know that the best observation point isn’t at the very top, but a little further off, where an inconspicuous path leads. If you walk along this trail for about 10 minutes, you can climb the peak, on top of which a bench is installed, and the view isn’t blocked by anything. Cloudy weather makes the view here especially beautiful. You feel like an ancient Greek god, sitting amongst the clouds.
We enjoyed the views for about 15 minutes, and then set off on the return trip. The return trip was direct, and therefore took only 20 minutes.
We returned to the office, gathered our documents, and finally Ilya “rinsed” us all off with the hose of an air compressor, to rid us of dust. Then the group headed back to the tavern.
By the way, speaking of dust: before the trip, Ilya was concerned that there would be a lot of it, but in reality this was not the case. Basically, I traveled most of the way at the end of the pack (meaning I was succumbed to the largest portion of dust), but in the end I arrived as good as new.
In the tavern, we were finally treated to a portion of meat meze. It was very good, in case you’re wondering. We had lunch, recalled our “past” adventure, and I asked my fellow travelers whether or not they liked it. Everyone was thrilled.
Gradually, people began to disperse, and, at some point, I left, too.
To summarize…I can’t help myself, but I still associate the word “safari” with the Savannah, jeeps, giraffes and panthers, and definitely not with a slow ride through the lifeless, rocky mountains of Cyprus. What I mean is that you clearly won’t find any savannah on the island, but it still rubs the wrong way when they call it a “safari”.
Really, this claim applies to any “safari” in Cyprus.
As for my trip specifically — it wasn’t bad overall. The guide didn’t stop to tell us almost anything. However, he was attentive, charming, and responsive. The group was small, which is also good. The route included one of the most beautiful places on the island — it’s just fantastic! The ATVs, though not very “fresh”, however, did not cause any problems. Their technical condition was satisfactory. The price, given that gas and lunch are already included in the price, was adequate. No overt mishaps took place. It’s just that to me, personally, it seemed like not enough. The places we traveled to weren’t really that beautiful: ordinary mountain country roads among villages, vineyards, ravines, etc. Though there were actually two really interesting stopping points: the church and the mountain itself. In my opinion, for 4 hours it isn’t enough, but if I were to lead a “safari” in Agros, I don’t think I would have found a better location myself.
Overall, if you are a fan of grinding gravel on a four-wheeler, and you don’t have very high expectations, then this tour is for you. You don’t really learn anything about Cyprus, and you’ll see very little, but the general impression will be pleasant. And don’t forget that the finale dinner is simply delicious.
Troodos Safari Tour
|Level of Extreme
Jeep safaris in Troodos are one of the most popular and widely represented types of organized holidays in Cyprus. There are dozens of companies offering this service. And for the record, there are hundreds of intermediaries who will give you the same thing, just more expensive, so be careful. When preparing for this journey, I spent a long time unable to choose between two offices, and then it turned out that even though the description is different, the tours are, in fact, one in the same. It’s just that one company organizes the tour, and another mediates the process for money.
By and large, all “safaris in Troodos”, regardless of the organizing company, are similar, and sometimes even identical. Slight differences do happen, but only the starting point connects them. For example, say you are traveling to Troodos from Paphos, be sure to snag a visit to a donkey farm. And if you are coming from Larnaca, then most likely you will wind up in the “village of artists”, or Lania. Starting from Limassol will probably lead you to the abandoned village of Corfi.
I must say, that none of the above locations are some kind of super important, ridiculously beautiful, or unforgettable place. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter where you start. The main thing is that starting from the second or third location listed above, all tours become completely identical.
I was scratching my head for quite some time, trying to somehow choose between these “twin” safaris. I thought and I thought, but eventually decided to “pledge my allegiance” to the company that takes tourists to a buffet restaurant for lunch. Yes, I know, I fell victim to a consumer relationship. But, alas, I couldn’t find any more intelligible selection criteria, because everything else is identical.
The company is called Evis Jeep Safari. The whole tour costs only 40 euros (meals are not included), and we started from Paphos. The company organizes transfers from any city, but I prefer to come on my own, so as to not be dependent upon the driver.
At 8:30am on Friday, half-asleep and yawning, I arrived at the collection point: the parking lot of the Aloe Hotel. It was here, I was told, you can leave the car, and then you need to wait for transport. Immediately, a janitor came and began energetically and plainly explaining that it was forbidden to park here, that he didn’t know of any Evis company, and confidently indicated the direction where he would like to send me. More precisely, even several directions. I had to park.
He sat on the curb and waited. The sun had already risen and was shining at us, shamelessly. Flies, especially active at this time of the year, did their best to keep me alert during my leisurely wait. They selflessly swarmed around my eyes, flew into my trouser legs, hovered on my hands. Evis jeeps scurried back and forth, but no one paid attention to me.
After 50 minutes of waiting, the coveted Land Rover Defender, nevertheless, arrived. I, as the person who was last taken, got the most uncomfortable seat in the back. The machine itself was designed for 10 people. In front were the driver and two passengers. In the middle were 3 lucky ducks who were lucky enough to get normal seats, and in the back were 4 more people sitting on some “perches” and regularly banging their heads on the ceiling. Well…my fellow back-enders just banged their heads, but I was the most miserable, being 2 meters tall. The ceiling hung so low that it was impossible to sit up straight at all. I spend the whole trip hunched over like Quasimodo.
If, by chance, you’ve heard the phrase “Land Rover”, but you have never heard the name “Land Rover Defender”, then you might have the idea that we are talking about a luxury SUV with air conditioning, power windows, etc. No, no. None of this pertains to the “Defender”. Here, the level of comfort is comparable, perhaps, to the comfort of the police’s drunk tank. And really…I’m not exaggerating here.
In fairness, it should be noted that other companies will not transport you in a Hammers and Gelenvagens. The Land Rover Defender is the one and only workhouse for all Cypriot jeep safari tours. You cannot find anything else. However, one day I did see a Nissan option in a company tour, but the level of comfort in them is fully comparable to that of the Defender.
Okay, back to our journey. At first, sitting in the car, I kept myself buried in my phone, and didn’t really pay any attention to what was happening around me. Then all of a sudden I noticed that all the passengers began to laugh and furtively whisper something, pointing to the driver. I listened in, and picked up on what they were saying. Our driver (aka our guide, Nicholas) was literally a carbon copy of the popular character Zhorik Vartanov, from the TV show “Our Russia”. He spoke like this: “trah zis, cahm een, wery taystee, meet fuhr yoo, reelly”.
On the whole, our pal turned out to be savvy, and was constantly rattling off numbers, dates, and places of events. Truth be told, I can’t say that it was very informative or interesting.
The first stop was the Argonaftis Donkey Farm. Meaning an actual donkey farm. At first, our guide arranged a short excursion into the historical life of the island. There is a tiny museum on the farm. There you can see the old moonshine still, olden plows, ancient methods for baking breads, and so on. In fact, this is not a museum at all, but an exposition, occupying an entire wall of the café. But still pretty curious.
After inspecting the exhibits, the guide gave us fifteen minutes to cuddle with the animals. It was possible to arrange a half-hour trek on donkeys to the nearest monastery, but there were no volunteers.
The donkeys are clean, beautiful, and friendly.
The second stop is a view of the Armina reservoir. We arrived, stood for 5 minutes, took photos, and drove on. The Arminu Reservoir, in my opinion, looks pretty, but is hardly enough to be used as the background in a nice photo.
The third stop is the Kelefos bridge. It is old, dating back to the 16th Century. Yes, and Venetian times. But, it’s just a bridge, and there isn’t anything to do there for more than 15 minutes.
We got back into our Defender and knocked our heads on the ceiling for about half an hour, crossing the mountains along the dusty, crooked, deserted and asphalt-free paths of Troodos, at a speed of 20-30 km/h. All this could seem extreme or picturesque if I didn’t know that the most excellent asphalt roads were right next to us. What I mean to say is that we were driving off-road simply because “we’re in a Defender”.
Jumping a little ahead, I will let you know that a jeep is not necessary for this kind of route. The only place from the whole trip where a high-quality asphalt road does not lead to is the first stop on our route — the donkey farm. All other locations can (and should) be comfortably reached, even in a tourist bus. And, actually, I would recommend just that — a bus. Of course, then it wouldn’t be called “jeeping”, but simply “a bus tour”, but to hell with it. A trip in a Defender does not add any joy at all. There is no mention of extreme sports at all. It’s just your bones rattling. Very uncomfortably.
The trip to the fourth stop was, honestly, very tiring. And the views outside the window were not very pleasing. The same mountains with scarce pine trees, nothing more. Out of boredom, I began to ask my fellow passengers how they were feeling. It turned out that no one liked the jeep tour. The main reason for my dissatisfaction was expressed by my neighbor: “You shake for 50 minutes in a terrible car, then you do some sightseeing for 10 minutes, and then your bones are back to shaking for another 50 minutes.”
However long or short, doesn’t matter, but we got to the next stop — the Kykkos Monastery, the richest and most famous monastery on the island. It’s the Mecca for Orthodox tourists. Here is where they store the icon of the Virgin Mary, painted by the Apostle Luke. Tents and stalls, like Constantinople in a Turkish siege, surround the monastery. We stayed here for about half an hour.
In our group there was, of course, that one person that was like “I’m a mommy comic.” You know, those people that stupidly, inappropriately, and persistently joke, and then stare at you, awaiting your reaction? Jokes like “Oh, driver, I must’ve forgotten to return the robe they gave me in the temple! Haha, yes I’m kidding.” , or “This waterfall must be coming from a pipe. Haha, I’m only joking.” Yeah, our group seemed to be no different. And this lovely addition was seated right across from me. I had to struggle to curl my lips into a smile the whole trip.
Anyway, back to the trip, and on to the most important and interesting, at least for me, part of the jeep safari: the café!
If earlier I wrote that all tours to Troodos are identical, then this is true in everything except the choice of café for the group’s meal. Here, they all offer up something different. Often people are taken to absolutely shameless cafes “for streaming tourists”, where they sell low-quality and tasteless food to them at exorbitant prices, but specifically in our case, everything was just fine.
For our meal, we went to the village of Pedulas to a café with a somewhat ridiculous name, “Mountain Rose”. As I said, a buffet was promised, and for only 13 euros. For Cyprus, that’s cheap.
Frankly, the selection was modest: a couple of salads, moussaka, sausages, bulgur, stewed pork, sautéed chicken, potatoes. But everything prepared there is very tasty. Here you can really enjoy the food.
That being said, my enjoyment was somewhat spoiled. I sat at a table next to the table of guides (in addition to our jeep, there were two more jeeps with other tourists).
After eating, I went back for dessert, and when I returned, I saw a mountain of dirty dishes on my table. The drivers, having already eaten, decided to clear their table and pile it all on mine. As I returned to the table, one of the drivers turned to me and, instead of apologizing, simply smiled radiantly, as if to say: “Why yes, of course we put all the leftovers on your table. What’s wrong with that? That’s life.”
Having firmly reinforced myself in mentally sending that driver to a well-known devilish location, I obediently got back into the “torture machine” and we continued the journey. This time on our way to the highest point in Cyprus, Mount Olymbos!
The driver said that we will not go to the very top, because there are military bases there. Instead, we would be able to take a photo below, right on the trail.
Dear reader, just so you know, the driver fibbed a little. There really is a military base up there; however, this does not mean that you cannot climb the mountain all the way to the top. It’s very possible. It’s just that there is no equipped platform and a “postcard” view. And you would have to hike up the stones to the top for 15-20 minutes, and what kind of tour company needs that on their list? God forbid somebody breaks their leg. Therefore, everyone is told about the ‘sinister military base’.
Olymbos is a great place. When the whole of Cyprus is languishing from the heat, here (and only here), there is always a refreshing chill in the air, because the height of the mountain is almost two kilometers.
But we were not given a long time to enjoy this coolness. We were allotted 5 minutes for a photo shoot, and then were herded back into the Defender.
That leaves the last place of the highlands — Hantara Falls. The third largest in Cyprus. But if it is third, that doesn’t necessarily mean huge. Or beautiful enough to cry at. Just a basic, small waterfall. Fun for 15 minutes.
Next we went back down the mountains and stop by the popular tourist village of Omodos. It is mainly known for its countless wineries and the Monastery of the Holy Cross at its center. This place is no longer active, but it is one of the most ancient Christian buildings in Cyprus. The temple has several important relics, including part of the Life-giving Cross and the Holy Hemp rope that the Romans used to tie Christ to the Cross.
To get to the temple, you have to break through crowds of tourists and dozens of stalls with mountains of Chinese junk.
Omodos is a place, in my opinion, that is largely overrated. When my fellow passengers left the temple, judging by their tired and long faces, they agree with me.
After half an hour at Omodos, we set out for the last stop on our trip: the stone of Aphrodite. This place is very popular and known to almost every tourist who at least once Googled “vacation in Cyprus”.
Here we had as much as 40 minutes. Aphrodite’s Stone is a cool place. According to Ancient Greek traditions, the goddess was born near the stone, hence the other name for Aphrodite, Cypris.
But those days of yore are long gone, and now only a reddish tan is born here on the white skin of endless Russian tourists. Near the stone, you can swim, take photos, and just sit, enjoying the views and the sea breeze. Even a tourist pilgrimage, in my opinion, can’t spoil the feeling you get from this place.
We arrived to Paphos at about 17:30.
The aftertaste that’s left in your mouth after this trip is like being stuck in a washing machine. The fatigue is strong with this one. You definitely need a short rest after this trip.
Among my tour companions was a family: a husband, wife, and son. For three people they paid 105 euros. Just for comparison: for that kind of money, you could rent a comfortable car, gas it up to full, and drive the whole day around the island — wherever you want.
When I shared this idea of “renting a car” with the family, they waved their hands at me and said: “Oh, but that just means you have to search for everything yourself. Here, everything is laid out for you.” And, in general, yeah, they’re right. The question is: who loves that? If you don’t want to worry about anything, just pay once, and not think about anything else, while listening to the intermittent mutterings of the local “Zhorik Vartanov”, then yes, this is the route for you, definitely. You will see all the most touristy places of Cyprus’s mountains, try real Cypriot food, and spend your time more interestingly than you would, say, on a sun lounger with a beer.
But if you are one of those who, before the trip, first tries to find out at least some information, and to whom it is less important to be “toted” places than it is to see specific places, routes, and feel the actual atmosphere of a place, it is better to just bypass all these “Troodos-Jeep safaris”. It is more expensive and worse than what you find on your own.
In general, I would recommend a standard “Troodos Safari” tour. Yes, this is a classic tourist route. There are a lot of people around. BUT you get an idea of what mountainous Cyprus really is, and you will see some very interesting locations. The only thing is, don’t choose a damn Defender, but an ordinary bus. Then you’ll have only pleasure, without the fatigue.
Kantara Nature Finder Safari
|Level of Extreme
Nature Finder is a company that cannot be found during the day, even with fire. Based on a simple Google search, it is not indexed, and information can only be found on Facebook.
However, they make quite unexpected (from a locations point of view) and unique safaris in the eastern part of Troodos. True, I didn’t succeed in getting onto the trip, because they demanded a company of at least three people. To my requests and persuasion I was met with only rejection. Therefore, I will write only about what I saw on the site.
You can’t choose your transportation method here: by default, everyone will suffer the wrath of a Defender. The cost also could not be determined.
The first stop is the village of Luthrodontas. Judging by this location, this version of the safari is designed mainly for the residents of Nicosia, because the capital is the closest city to the village.
So, in Luthrodontas, you are invited to drink coffee and see how older people spend their leisure time playing backgammon. That is, it is to be assumed that there is nothing to do here.
The next location is Agios Onoufrios, a church of the XIV Century. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about the church, and there isn’t much information online, either.
I can’t say anything about the lake, but I have visited these villages more than once. If you are coming to the island for the first time, then you will find both of them interesting. Fikardu is kind of like an abandoned village, but I really mean “kind of”, since there are restaurants and hotels, with brand new local residential housing nearby. That being said, the village is really old and there is really interesting architecture here. Sure, this “sleek” ghost town looks good, but if you do your best to not look closely, you’ll feel like you’re in ancient times.
Lefkara, on the other hand, is the most popular tourist village in Cyprus. Here, silver and linen products are traded every step of the way. The whole village consists of narrow, scenic streets. There is a store of rare women’s clothing unique to Cyprus here, though, it is almost always closed.
Locals love to plant flowers in pots literally everywhere, which gives the look an extra special touch. Generally, even despite the huge number of tourists, the village looks stylish and quaint.
It is not known which paths Kantara Nature Finder leads its tourists on, and what kind of level their service is on, but the proposed option for this safari is quite good and is an interesting alternative to the classic Troodos jeep safari. If you gather a company of three or more people, it’s worth a try in my book.
|Level of Extreme
Business in Cyprus can be defined by when you run with a bundle of money, trying to catch a seller that stops for a breather, then breaks out and runs away again. Safari Kalopanayiotis is this Cypriot business incarnate.
Firstly, the company does not have a website, only a Facebook page. Secondly, the rest is designed mainly for Greek-speaking vacationers. Thirdly, it is nearly impossible to get in touch with them.
I found this company by accident. I drove my relatives, who arrived in the mountains and saw a bunch of ATVs in the village of Kalopanayiotis. I Googled it and found nothing, then somehow managed to get ahold of information via Facebook.
First I called the phone number indicated, but no one answered, and they did not call me back. Then I wrote a message on Facebook. I was once again met with silence. Then I made a comment on their most recent photo on Facebook and…I was ignored again.
Then I began to flip through the entire history of their page’s news feed, and somewhere way down I found another phone number. I called it. The woman on the other “end of the line” told me in broken English that she would call me back and jot down my phone. Naturally, no one bothered to call back.
As a result, I “bothered” them several more times in an attempt to buy a safari tour, and finally they agreed to talk with me. True, they immediately reported that the tours are only for companies, and I would have no interest in participating alone.
I had to talk a little more, but they winded up adding me to another group for 3 hours, even though I requested a 5-hour tour. But, as they say, give thanks for what you get.
Almost three weeks had passed from my first attempt up until the actual agreement with the safari company. So, if you want to definitely get on this tour, and you don’t have that much time, you should go to the office on your own and agree directly with the guide that’s there.
Safari Kalopanayiotis, of course, does not organize any transfers from any hotel, so you need to get to the meeting spot on your own. It doesn’t matter where it is, it will not be closeby.
The cost of my tour was 60 euros. This is a ride on an ATV. Quite inexpensive, given that lunch is already included in the price. A 5-hour tour will not cost much more — 70 euros. Lunch is also included.
The safari started at 09:30, but since the tour is organized by the Cypriots, and they are the main participants in the safari, we were able to leave only at 10:30. What happened during this hour? We filled out documents pertaining to driver’s credentials? Of course not. They just sat in the company of their aksakal friends and the owner of the ATVs, drank Cypriot coffee, smoked a lot, and spoke slowly. More precisely, they talked, and I, having no knowledge of the Greek language, just admired the views of the mountains.
The English of the owner of the company (our guide) was limited to three phrases and their combinations: “my friend”, “it’s ok?”, “don’t worry”. This is a man of about 50, with gray temples, a short stature, and with a constant smile on his face.
Interestingly enough, in Safari Kalopanayiotis, I did not fill out a single paper at all, and nobody cared whether or not I have a driver’s license. This tour is maximum Cypriot authenticity. Far from civilization and large settlements exists this separate life and separate atmosphere. The laws and regulations here are a little inappropriate and interfering. In these places, traditions, moderation and “don’t worry” reign.
Therefore, if you for some reason came to rest in Cyprus and want to go on a safari, but you do not have a driver’s license, this is the spot for you. You’ll be guaranteed to ride.
Helmets, by the way, were also given at will. In these remote places, there is hardly highway patrol around.
There were 6 people in the group. The guide, two young couples of Cypriots from Nicosia, and me. Everyone was pleasant and friendly, and we instantly became friends during the trip.
This version of the trip is very specific and ambiguous. Let’s remember the definition of the word “safari”. This is what Wikipedia says: “safari” means an excursion into the wild where animals are photographed.
As you remember from my previous trips, the meaning of the word “safari” is understood very differently in Cyprus. It is rather a trip to the island’s biggest sights, usually by off-road transport. Specifically, though, in Kalopanayiotis, you get a safari in the more classical sense of the word, and this is the only such proposal the island has to offer.
Even when we were sitting in the office and drinking coffee, the guide said to us in broken English that we would see mouflon (sheep) on the trip. I was somewhat surprised by such a bold statement. After all, few people have seen real wild mouflons on the island, and here, they even guarantee it!
And you know what? We really saw them! I mean, it was at a great distance, but we very distinctly saw them.
In this instance, there were no attractions, gorgeous views, etc. Most of the time we spend going off-road through the mountains, where there were loads of rare pine planted. For hours, the landscape didn’t change. The road itself was quite easy to navigate; however, sometimes it became drab and I really wanted to sleep. Almost all stops are technical, meaning we stopped to drink water, smoke, and for the guide to point his finger in a given direction, signifying we were headed that way. “It’s ok?”, and that’s it.
The middle portion of the trip was very pleasant. At some point, our group went down from the mountains to the river and for three minutes rode along the channel, directly through the water. Then we stopped, and the guide pulled out a hot plate from his backpack and made us all Cypriot coffee right there in the forest. It was very cool. Moreover, a local delicacy — whole walnut jam — was passed out amongst the group. This is a good thing, by the way, even though the aftertaste from this treat can last up to several hours, and there’s no way of dulling it.
The ride back didn’t really offer any variety. Mountains-pines-mountains-pines. At one point, the guide stopped us and picked up a hare that had been killed by someone, busily threw it into the trunk of his ATV, and we moved on.
At the very end of the road, we drove a little more along the narrow village streets, which was interesting, taking into account that the villages here are mountainous and almost every house has a fantastic view tucked away behind it.
Upon arrival back at the starting point, the guide said goodbye to the group and mentioned that a free lunch was waiting for us at a restaurant near Marcos.
The restaurant itself is not located in Kalopanayiotis, but on a mountain road 5 kilometers from the village. The food is organized buffet-style. Everything you see on the table is traditional: tzatziki, pistachio, dolma, barbecue, salads. The food was very tasty.
To sum it all up, tourists typically travel abroad to immerse themselves in the traditions, life, and culture of other nations, but on well-trodden popular routes, you will often not find authenticity. Colorful pamphlets, guides smiling ear to ear, sweet speeches, “unique monuments” are all very far off from real life on the island. If you want a real Cyprus outback, you should definitely come to Kalopanayiotis.
If your goal is to see as many sights and interesting locations as possible, then perhaps it is better to go to the Akamas Peninsula (we’ll talk about it a little later), or to a Troodos Safari…Lovers of everything extreme will probably not take much away from here.
Lastly, I can say that I liked the trip. The authenticity of it all really ended up being bright, satisfying, and tasteful, largely due to the guide himself.
With that, our journey through the Troodos Mountains comes to a close. In the second part of this article, you will learn about safari options that are available on the western side of the island: in Paphos, Polis, Akamas, and the surrounding area.