We’re excited to be returning next March to Aphrodite’s beautiful island of Cyprus – this time to the North as well as the South. It may still be divided politically but now it’s easy to travel to both although when you’re in the south, you may be encouraged to believe it’s difficult to cross the ‘green line’. It’s true that you cannot take a hire car from the north to the south but you can in fact take a car from the south to the north but you will need to obtain separate insurance at the border. An easing of hostilities between the two halves of the country means it is now possible to enjoy a two-centre holiday in a way that would have been difficult a few years ago, and despite the island’s small size, the two countries do feel quite different. While both halves of the island are distinctive with their own character, both can offer you charm, beaches, mountains and history.
Where to Walk:
Both halves of the island offer excellent walking opportunities providing you choose your routes with care. In the North there is a wonderful ridge running from east to west across the Kyrenia Mountain range. A great network of walking trails can be enjoyed from this ridge, from easy strolls to demanding hikes. There are some wonderful castles to incorporate into your walks such as Kanatara castle; from here you can, on a clear day, see as far as Turkey and Syria to the north and the Troodos Mountains in the south. In fact whatever walks you choose, you will be rewarded with far-reaching views, hidden monasteries and, in the spring, a huge variety of wild flowers. In the South, we recommend the Troodos Mountains and the Akamas Peninsular, the only unspoilt areas which, thankfully, remain protected from development. In the Akamas, nature trails such as The Aphrodite and Adonis trails are hard to beat and you will find enough attractive walks to keep you occupied for several days. Combine a boat trip from Laatchi Harbour with a walk back along the length of the peninsular for a perfect day out. There are several trails in the Troodos, notably the Artemis and Atlante Trails which provide some scenic walking around Mount Olympus.
When to Go:
The best months of the year if you love wild flower are late February to April when a huge variety of wild flowers can be found in both the north and south of the island. There are many varieties of orchids in the earlier part of the season and a walk with local experts will enhance your enjoyment. We recommend Tony Hutchinson’s Orchid Walks in the North and in the South, Dr. Georgiades, the owner of the Natura Beach Hotel, is a well-known authority on orchids and he also accompanies groups and offers evening lectures. The spring is also the best time for walking when sunshine and blue skies can almost be guaranteed without it being too hot. We have also walked in the autumn but although the weather is balmy and the sea warm, the landscape is too parched for our liking; we like to see green rather than brown hills and meadows.
Where to Stay:
A good base for walking in the North is Kyrenia where, with a car, you can access the majority of walks. Kyrenia harbour, complete with fishing boats, is lovely and from one of its harbour cafes you can enjoy views to the coast in one direction, the mountains in the other. Our favourite option is to stay in Bellapais, perched up above Kyrenia and the wonderful Bellapais Gardens Hotel will please the most discerning with its bungalows in a lovely garden setting and excellent cuisine. We do urge you to choose your hotel with care. In the South, we have found the best place to stay is the Natura Beach Hotel at Polis, wonderfully located next to an unspoilt turtle beach. The hotel is surrounded by lawns, orchards, flower and vegetable gardens and your breakfast marmalade is made with oranges from the orchard, cheese from the hotel’s goat herd. There are several good restaurants for evening dining, including Archontarikis in Polis and, in nearby Laatchi, Y&P’s fish restaurant.
Finding Your Way:
There are several walking guides to both the North and South of the Island, including the well-known Sunflower Books and local Tourist Offices should be able to provide you with some fairly basic maps. It is not possible to obtain anything like our Ordnance Survey Maps unfortunately and route finding is therefore not always easy. If you would like to join a guided holiday to both the North and South, commencing 30th March, check out our website at http://www.country-walks.com. We can also provide notes for self-guided walking.
In September 2013 we return to one of our favourite walking destinations: the magical Amalfi coast. I can’t wait! Where else can you walk on ancient mule tracks under permanently blue skies while gazing down on an azure sea. Below are some typical scenes.
Why we choose to stay in Amalfi
Many holiday companies stay in Sorrento, Bomerano or Minore or other towns along the coast which are less expensive than Amalfi itself. In our view Amalfi is by far the best base for a walking holiday: there are frequent and efficient bus services to elevate you to wonderful places like Ravello, Scala, Bomerano, all perched up on cliff tops; at the end of the day you know you will walk down rather than up! Then there are frequent boat services to Capri, Positano, Salerno. Numerous walks of varying lengths are very easily accessed from Amalfi and the town itself is a delight.
In Amalfi you can wander along medieval passageways, visit the ancient cathedral, take a swim, or stroll round the harbour, enjoying a gelato as you only can in Italy.
Then there are all the culinary delights. You can of course eat pizzas at Marios. Or you can dine at fine fish restaurants under the stars, waves gently lapping on the shore as you sip a limoncello while watching the moon reflected on the water. On our walking holidays we take our groups to different restaurants every evening. As for lunch …… if you know where to find them there are hilltop restaurants tucked away where the produce is fresh from the garden, where Mama and Papa cook up a storm in the kitchen!
As for the walks: they can be as long or as short as you wish. On our easier walking holidays we combine easy walking with sightseeing and boat trips. On the moderate holidays, although the emphasis is on more walking, these too are very flexible with opportunities to shorten or lengthen the routes by the judicious use of the bus and boat network.
A favourite walk is the ‘Sentiero degli Dei’ or ‘Pathway of the Gods’, a stunning walk high above the coast between Bomerano and Positano. Whizzing clouds pace your approach into the highest reaches of the Lattari mountains, clumps of myrtle and rosemary tickle your ankles, trees rise above you and craggy volcanic cliffs tower in the distance. When we were there with a group in September 2011 we actually encountered a string quartet on top of the cliffs. Perhaps the most memorable recital imaginable!
Other walks through the heart of the Lattari Mountains include the renowned ‘Valle delle Ferriere’ Nature Reserve where waterfalls and woodlands line our route through a magnificent rugged hinterland of high pastures, remote woodlands and magnificent wild mountains that rise to 3,300 feet.
The days spent visiting the palaces and gardens of Ravello, looking out over an impossibly-blue Gulf of Salerno or walking on Capri with views over the Bay of Naples will stay with us for ever.
Our chosen hotel, the magnificent Hotel Residence, was once an 18th-century palace and is still furnished with antiques. One side faces the sea, the other the Cathedral Piazza and it’s been in the hands of the same family for generations. It’s a delight to start the day breakfasting on the terrace overlooking the sea or relaxing after a day’s walking before returning to spacious rooms with every modern facility.
For details of the next guided walking holidays, commencing 8 September 2013, click here.
Where to Stay
We’re half-way through the first week’s walking with our group of 20. They tell us they’re having a great time and loving our base here at the Estoi Pousada. It’s rare to find a hotel where all the staff, from the management to the chambermaids, are so committed to ensuring their guests have a good time: nothing is too much trouble. The rooms are large and comfortable, all with a terrace, the public rooms situated in the former palace, splendidly opulent. Now we know what it’s like to live in a palace! The cuisine is outstanding.
We’ve designed the walks to include as much scenic variety as possible. Our first day was spent in and around Tavira, undoubtedly the most handsome town in the entire Algarve, pictorially placed in a beautiful riverside setting. Having explored twisting streets and visited the ancient castle we paused for coffee and a ‘pastel de nata’ before boarding the boats for Tavira Island.
After lunch at a beach bar we were off on a memorable walk, swinging along on firm sand, at one with the ocean, the wind the wild seabirds. Eventually, after several miles, we left our own desert island for Santa Luzia, the Algarve’s ‘octopus capital’. A short drive back to Estoi concluded our first day.
In complete contrast, our second day’s walk took us inland to an area known as the ‘Barrocal’ at the foot of the Serra do Caldeirao, a deeply rural, peaceful region with a vast range of wild flowers. Here we wandered through orchards, olive groves, meadows, on paths used for centuries leading to the fountain,the vegetable patch, the mill or the village.
From a number of viewpoints we admired extensive views over the Bengado river valley before completing our 6-mile circuit back at Fonte de Mesquita. Following a rather splendid lunch at a local restaurant, we visited Sao Bras de Alportel, walked some of the Roman road, visited the Roman museum and watched a film on the all-important cork industry.
Find out more
Details of this holiday can be viewed at http://www.country-walks.com/guided-walking-holidays-hiking-tours/algarve/
Majorca is a paradise for walking, particularly around the Soller Valley, a world away from Magaluf and the high rises of the south coast. Here is tranquillity, stunning scenery and, for us Brits, the wonder of guaranteed blue skies and sunshine! Our favourite time of year is May when it’s warm enough to walk unemcumbered with layers of clothing, a time when you can feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and yet you can exert yourself without feeling uncomfortably hot.
Our hotel in the Soller Valley
We have visited Soller a number of times, having fallen in love with it on our first visit 8 years ago. Since then we have returned a number of times, staying at our favourite hotel, the Ca’l Bisbe, a former bishop’s palace quietly tucked away in the heart of old Soller. From the balcony we look down on the inviting blue waters of the pool and marvel at far-reaching vistas of the surrounding mountains. There is no better place to breakfast (or dine) than on the sun-soaked terrace beside the pool, sipping freshly-squeezed orange juice or, later in the day, a glass of chilled wine!
Country Walks along a spectacular stretch of Kent coast
If you have not yet discovered the delights of White Cliffs country, we can highly recommend it as a spectacular stretch of heritage coast where butterflies dance over multi-coloured carpets of flowers, where the only sound is of skylarks singing above, where your feet gently tread soft downland turf and all around is unspoilt beauty and tranquillity. As you enjoy glorious clifftop walking you will see the French coastline across the Channel. And if you are interested in history, this area is completely steeped in history, both ancient and modern.