Traditional Cyprus hotel in Paphos

Here is an example of a walk and the photographic record made at the time. The copy is supplied by Wendy Cameron of Purely Paphos magazine


Landscape format

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Portrait format

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Wild West Walks ~ The Avgas Gorge

One of the natural wonders of the Paphos Region is the Avakas Gorge, located 16km west of Paphos at the start of the Akamas Peninsular. This spectacular gorge has been created over thousands of years by a turbulent stream flowing over the limestone, carving walls up to 30m high and sculpting elaborate rock formations.

Heading west from Paphos, the road for the Akamas is signposted on the right, shortly before reaching Ayios Georgios. The road is tarmac for about 2km, but then becomes loosely-surfaced with deep potholes – it is just a short distance further, past the White River Tavern, that you reach the small parking area for the Gorge, so it is possible to bump this far into the Akamas in a normal saloon car. You can drive further up the track to the entrance gates, but this is really only advisable in a good 4X4 with excellent brakes.

Leaving the car parking area, you can walk up the track past the Viklari Tavern or, like us, take a pleasant 10-minute stroll through the orange and grapefruit groves in order to arrive at the same destination. The Forestry Commission allows only licensed safari tour operators to drive beyond this point, which is clearly signposted.

This track is an easy walk to the start of the gorge, though it offers no shade from the sun, and is lined both sides by a variety of flora, including juniper, oleander, carob and olive trees. The gorge itself is home to the endangered plant species centauria akamantis, the only place in the world that it has been found.

Once into the gorge itself, the first 20 minutes or so of the journey are relatively easy underfoot with a clearly defined route that keeps mostly to the right-hand side of the stream.

It is not until you reach the point where the sides of the Gorge narrow until they almost touch in places, and maidenhair ferns cling to the dark rocky crevices, that the stepping over stream on slippery stones and scrambling over scree, rocks and boulders really begins. This ‘grotto’ is considered by many to be the most spectacular part of the gorge, so if your fitness or footwear aren’t up to the rest of the journey, you could retrace your steps now and still have witnessed an awe-inspiring miracle of nature.

However, wearing sensible shoes and equipped with plenty of water, we continued our journey as planned. Once the gorge opens out again, the walls are higher and the impressive rock formations and caves are home to many birds, all very easy to spot and their warbling song a pleasant musical accompaniment.

The gorge is also home to fruit bats, which is what we had most hoped to spot, but sadly these eluded us. We did, instead, see pools awash with tadpoles and freshwater snails and, scurrying back and forth between the rocks and undergrowth, several larger-than-average lizards.

The gorge takes its name from the Greek word for impassable and, as we approached the end, this did indeed seem to be the case. Rocks and boulders, overhanging foliage, sprawling roots and abundant undergrowth obscure the base of the gorge and a certain amount of ingenuity is required to find the way forward. There are no real climbs as such, more of a clamber, but the rocks can make the going slow and put a fair amount of stress on the muscles and joints, particularly the knees.

At the end of the gorge you have the choice of returning the same way that you came or taking a lengthy hike (at least two hours) along the dirt road from Kato Arodes. As the time was midday and the high road offered little shade, we took the low road back again. The return journey was faster, partly because we had learned how to circumnavigate the numerous obstacles and partly because it’s slightly downhill.

On our return we met a number of fellow walkers making the outward journey, all with the same question: Is it much further to the end? The Avakas Gorge should remain as nature intended, but a few discreet distance markers along the route would be extremely helpful. Knowing that you have to walk back to your starting point is an important consideration when deciding how far you are prepared to continue.

The Forestry Commission has, however, helpfully labelled a number of trees and plants on the approach to the gorge and, at the entrance, warns that you Enter at your own risk - there may be rock falls. (Or words to that effect.) We did, in fact, pass a group of about 30 young children on a school or club outing to the gorge, all well-prepared in plastic hard-hats. We also noticed, whilst balancing precariously on wet rocks to let them pass, that at least half were wearing sandals. The partially submerged rocks at the narrowest point of the gorge are extremely slippery underfoot and you can’t hold on to the equally slimy walls for balance. The likelihood of turning an ankle or falling into the rocky stream is far greater, though admittedly less potentially harmful, than the possibility of a rock fall. Having said that, sandals or not, they seemed to be skipping about like little mountain goats, oblivious to possible injury as only young children can be.

Our route to the end and back took just over three and a half hours and hot, hungry and a little worn out, we gratefully took our places at the Viklari Tavern. The views from this tavern perched high above the azure seas are breath-taking and many people risk the damage to their saloon’s suspension for this reason alone. Don’t expect a menu here, it is no-frills chicken or pork souvla, salad and potatoes every day of the week, well prepared and cooked, costing just £5 per head. Vegetarians, or those who prefer to have an option when they eat out, should drive 1km back to the White River Tavern passed en route.

The ideal time to discover the Avakas Gorge is in spring or autumn – in summer it can be too hot unless very early in the day; in winter the trickling stream becomes a torrent, making water levels too deep for safety. In early May, we found the conditions perfect for the journey, and wondered why it had taken us five years on the island to get round to experiencing this natural wonder virtually on our door step.