Good roads, good weather, good scenery: the ingredients for a great cycling holiday are quite simple. As cyclists, we know the usual places to hit up to ensure we make the most of our precious time. But what follows is a tale of a trip that has all this and more – and somewhere you may not have thought of going: Cyprus.
Although technically in Asia, Cyprus is culturally and politically a part of Europe. And with around 320 days of sunshine per year, it’s an ideal place for travelling light and fast on a bike. Most of Cyprus’s tourists crowd to the hundreds of all-inclusive resorts that cover the coast. But leave these bastions of bacchanalia behind, head out to the middle of the island and you’ll discover quite a different side.
Our journey took us from east to west. Beginning in Larnaca, we climbed across the Troodos mountains, circling the Akamas Peninsula, before rejoining the masses in the bustling seaside resort of Paphos. Despite the island’s southerly location, the elevation of its highest point (1960 metre Mount Olympus) means it spends its winter days as a ski location, so it’s best waiting for spring to tackle it.
Unlike the crowded cols of the Alps, in early May we had the Cypriot mountains almost to ourselves. Cycling across a mixture of smooth, hill-top roads and gravel tracks, we passed very few cars and were treated to epic vistas of tree-topped hills and dusty forests in almost perfect silence. This was life off the beaten track – and it was great.
True, the heartland of Cyprus is not set up for cyclists in the way it may be elsewhere. We saw few others, rolling into silent villages in search of halloumi and beer to be met with closed shutters. Out of season, life is quiet here and we quickly learned that the price of our treasured solitude was simply to stock up on supplies where we could.
We didn’t take a tent and agreed that camping would have been tricky. We passed no campsites, and the arid, tree-filled and steep landscape would have made finding a wild camping spot a challenge. Nonetheless, we were treated to some great accommodation in hill-top towns and there were enough sufficient opportunities for slumber.
Cyprus also has a closely guarded secret: it is a gravel paradise. There are miles and miles of the stuff. Beautiful gravel roads crisscross the entire country, cutting across the sides of mountains and allowing you to avoid tarmac altogether if you want. There are no gates, no fences, no boulders. Just a wonderful network of non-technical tracks as far as the eye can see.
Since there are so many, we had a choice: follow our route on gravel or hit the road – whatever took our fancy. With a gravel bike we could be flexible, mixing up the map to suit our mood rather than committing to one or the other.
We hadn’t known what to expect from Cyprus. Its main draw was the cheap flight. But on arrival we unearthed a gem. It has the roads, the weather and the scenery – in short, all the ingredients for a real cycling adventure.
Some more routes to get you started:
Mount Olympus -
The highest peak in Cyprus is a lung-busting climb through pine forests with sweeping sea views. The summit is an anticlimax, with an army base strongly discouraging any lingering or photography. But worth ticking off the list.
That rare beast – a rideable gravel climb to the top of a 1300 metre peak. It’s a stiff old ascent but a fun challenge, magnificent views, and an epic descent on the way down.
A beautiful winding road that cuts through the heart of the mountains. Rising above the top of 30 metre tall cedar trees, you’re treated to the sight of leafy canopies below you.
A beautiful stretch of rugged gravel that hugs the coast around this nature-filled peninsula. Sparkling blue seas accompany your journey as you pass isolated golden beaches, rock formations and quiet coves.
Words by Megan Owen