Cycling Through Paradise
For more than three decades, Cyprus has hosted some of the world’s top professional and amateur cycling events, including the spring Sunshine Cup. To casual and serious bikers alike, Cyprus offers a mild Mediterranean climate with low rainfall, few if any strong headwinds, miles of well-marked trails along paved and unpaved roads, and a compact, yet challenging, terrain that can change, within only a few miles, from smooth to rocky, or from steep to flat. In seaside villages and hill-towns, bikers stop to explore ancient temples and monuments, sample award-winning vintages at family-owned wineries, and savor healthy grilled meats and fish, as well as hummus, garlicky eggplant puree and other meze, at local tavernas.
Rising in the island’s center, the 1,200-foot-high Troodos Mountains are known for lush vegetation--including blossoming apple and cherry trees in spring-as well as icon-filled Greek Orthodox monasteries, and Byzantine “painted churches,” 10 of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The closest gateways to the Troodos National Forest Park are Lemesos (or, anglicized, Limassol) on the south coast, and Pafos, to the southwest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, location of the island’s second-largest international airport, and home to the InterContinental Aphrodite Hills (www.aphroditehills.com), a sprawling resort with an acclaimed 18-hole golf course as well as golf and tennis academies.
Threading through the Troodos Mountains are easy bike routes like the 40-mile ride from Pafos through picturesque Diarizos Valley towns like Mandria, Agios Nikolaos and Agios Georgios, or the 34-mile route that includes 6,404-foot-high Mt. Olympus, Cyprus’ highest peak, and the 12th-century Kykkos Monastery, the island’s richest, boasting 1 of 3 rare icons attributed to St. Luke. Tougher trails, requiring 21-speed mountain bikes, are also available.
About 30 miles north of Pafos is the Akamas Peninsula, home of Akamas National Park, with dramatic limestone rock formations, and pristine Chrysochou Bay beaches like Lara Bay Beach, a refuge for nesting loggerhead and greenback turtles. An easy 30-mile jaunt on paved roads takes visitors from Polis, site of the five-star Anassa Hotel (www.thanoshotels.com), to the charming village of Kato Pyrgos. More difficult routes include the steep 23-mile ride northwest from Pafos to Akamas National Park, Lara Bay Beach, and the Baths of Aphrodite where, some believe, the goddess met her lover Adonis.
Many major hotels offer bike rentals and trail maps. For guided trail rides and rentals of more technically sophisticated mountain bikes, contact Bike Cyprus (www.bikeCyprus.com), Mountain Bike Cyprus (www.mountainbikecyprus.com) and Zephyros Adventure Sports (www.enjoycyprus.com). Wheelie Cyprus (www.wheeliecyprus.com), whose co-owner Helen Smeaton wrote The Cyprus Cycling Guide, offers week-long guided and unguided bike trips with accommodations. The Cyprus Tourism Organization publishes two free guides: “Troodos Cycling Routes” and the 84-page “Cyprus Cycling Routes.”
For more information, log on to www.visitcyprus.com or call (212) 683-5280.