Cyprus - spring wildlife on Aphrodite's island
We first visited Cyprus way back in 1991 and always look forward to returning to Aphrodite’s island.
The wildlife of Cyprus has elements from both Europe and Asia, with familiar western species alongside eastern specialities such as Turban Buttercup and Persian Cyclamen, Black Francolin and Starred Agama, while it has been isolated long enough to also support its own range of endemic plants, birds, reptiles and butterflies.
March is the best month to enjoy the island’s wild flowers, particularly the orchids, with just a handful of late- and early-flowering species being missed. There will also be a good selection of other flowers to enjoy, from colourful bulbs and herbaceous species to attractive shrubs, including endemics from various families. Whilst paying plenty of attention to the wonderful wild flowers, we won’t be missing out the other wildlife this island has to offer.
Our base is a pleasant family-run hotel on the coast on the Akamas Peninsula not far from Polis, looking out over Chrysochou Bay. From here, we will explore the surrounding hillsides, fields and meadows in search of wild flowers, early spring butterflies and migrant birds which should be passing through in good numbers and variety at this time of year. Various warblers, flycatchers, wheatears, larks and buntings could all be seen during the week, along with local specialities including both Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Wheatear, endemic to the island.
During our visit we will learn about the conservation challenged facing the island, and the work of BirdLife Cyprus. Cyprus has a rich history, and we will spend time at a variety of historical sites including the World Heritage archaeology of the Paphos peninsula.
Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
Day 1 Our morning flight takes us to Paphos, from where we transfer to our hotel, where we will be welcomed ‘home’ by our delightful hosts. After settling in, there will be time to relax at the hotel or take a local walk in the afternoon.
Day 2 We start with an optional pre-breakfast bird walk near the hotel, during which we will become familiar with the song of the Sardinian Warbler and the territorial call of the Black Francolin. After breakfast, we walk along the coast from the botanic garden at the Baths of Aphrodite towards Fontana Amorosa. The scenery is breathtaking, with high cliffs dropping steeply down to the sea. During the walk we should see an abundance of Cyclamen persicum and Ranunculus asiaticus, with the endemic Paphos Blue amongst the early spring butterflies, and migrant birds flitting amongst the bushes, hopefully including flycatchers, warblers and shrikes.
Day 3 We explore Pegeia Forest. Beneath the scattered canopy of Calabrian Pine and Phoenician Juniper we will find an interesting variety of orchids: depending on the season we could find ten species, including Ophrys fusciflora subsp levantina, O. argolicai subsp elegans and the delicate Neotinea maculata. We will also inspect some interesting seasonal rock pools where local rarities can be found, including the diminutive Least Adder’s-tongue Fern. Reptiles could include the impressive Starred Agama, Kotschy’s Gecko, the tiny Snake-eyed Skink or even European Chameleon.
Day 4 Today our attention turns to the history of the island, visiting several sites around Paphos. We start with a visit to the monastery of Ayios Neophytos, before we move to the Tombs of the Kings, dating back to the ptolemite Cypriot Kingdoms, where we will find interesting coast-loving plants and migrant birds among the archaeology. Finally, we will spend our afternoon on the Paphos Peninsula, with ‘houses’ of Roman mosaics. Aside from the well preserved mosaics, this site is also known as a migrant hot spot, and we will check to see what birds we can track down: almost anything is possible at this time of year, with Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear and Eastern Orphean Warbler all likely during the afternoon.
Day 5 A local day after our exertions yesterday. In the morning we will return to the intricacies of orchid identification during a walk in the meadows nearby. Here, we hope to find three forms of tongue orchids, including the delicate locally endemic Serapias ‘aphroditae’. After lunch at the hotel (hopefully on the terrace) the afternoon is free to explore the area at your own pace, or just relax around the hotel.
Day 6 We head to the Paphos area today, with birds on our mind. We will be joined by a conservationist from BirdLife Cyprus as we visit several local sites, hoping to find the endemic Cyprus Wheatear and Cyprus Warbler along with other interesting migrants and local specialities, while enjoying the flowers we find along the way.
Day 7 Today we drive up to the ridge in the heart of the Akamas. Beneath the pines we will look for wild flowers, including Ophrys umbilicata subsp lapethica and O. fusca subsp iricolor. A week is a long time during spring and it will be interesting to compare the plants with those we saw during our first days and to find out what new migrant birds have arrived. After a stop for lunch and a coffee in the village of Neo Chorio, a leisurely walk down hill will take us back to the hotel.
Day 8 After a last lazy breakfast on the sunny patio, we must gather our things and bid fond farewell to the Aphrodite Beach and head homewards.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
The Aphrodite Beach Hotel is a wonderfully welcoming family-run hotel, located on a beautiful coastline.
Meals, using fresh local produce, are taken in the lovely dining room overlooking the bay. Breakfasts can be taken on the terrace (weather allowing). Lunches will be mostly picnic packed lunches provided by the hotel. All meals are included in the holiday price.
Local travel will be by small coach.
The group flights are with Easyjet from London Gatwick to Paphos.
Cyprus is two hours ahead of UK time.
It is also possible to travel with Easyjet from Manchester to Paphos.
If you hold a British passport, from 1 January 2021 you will be able to travel to Cyprus for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. You must have at least six months left on your passport.
The weather should be pleasant, even hot down near the coast. In general we should expect warm, sunny weather. Showers are unlikely but possible.
On most days, we are walking for much of the day, albeit at a relatively slow pace. The longest walk (Day 7) will be just over 7km, mostly downhill. It is necessary to walk on rougher ground and up some (gentle) slopes, although none of the walking is strenuous. Good (light) walking boots are essential. All walks and excursions are optional.