I had been in Cyprus for just over 4 weeks and had stayed in 3 of the major coastal town’s (Larnaca, Limassol & Pahos) so have seen some of the sights and used the buses but there was so much more to see that a road trip was needed.
In most countries I struggle to hire a car without a credit card but in Cyprus this was not a problem. I was wondering round Paphos one afternoon when I saw a sign reading something like “hire this car, no credit card, no deposit”. Needless to say I was in there like a shot and had a car booked for the weekend. With a few days off organised I Googled for driving routes in Cyprus to get a rough overview of where to go and my road trip idea became a plan.
I got up super early to make the most of the day, opened the curtains and it was over cast so I dressed for the occasion and opted to wear jeans, a move which I would later regret! As I got in to Paphos town the clouds had cleared and it was getting hot. I waited for the car hire shop to open sipping cappuccino by the harbour and I was already breaking in to a sweat, it was 33 degrees C by 9am. Definitely a good day for being in a car with the windows up and air conditioning running!
I got to the hire car shop and there was a different guy there, the price I had agreed was already fairly high but beggars can’t be choosers. This guy though tried to put the cost up more but eventually after a bit of haggling we settled on €75 for 3 days. Then came the extra clause to try and recoup some of the money I had haggled off the price. “My friend you give me €50 for petrol and bring the car back empty” he said. I was thinking to myself this guy does not think I will use €50 of petrol alone in a 1 litre car in 3 days haha how wrong he is!
So to get used to the driving I decided to stay local(ish) the first day and explore the Paphos region. They drive on the left in Cyprus so as it turned out there was not much to get used to. I left Paphos town in the rear view mirror and drove up in to the mountains on route to Polis Chrysochous and the Akamas peninsula in the NW of the island. The drive through the hills is surprisingly green given the climate and I was soon in Polis.
Polis is a fairly chilled affair, an old town center with a few restraunts and cafes then a track leading down to a beach bar besides a campsite where I stopped for a coke. I didn’t really think camping in Cyprus would be an option but the site looked cool and they rent out tents too. This place is defiantly worth looking in to if your reading this because you’re planning a trip to Cyprus and like camping.
My next stop was Latsi, this is a pretty little town complete with a sea front lined with restraunts, a harbour and a beach. If you are looking for a chilled place surrounded by nature in Cyprus then this area would probably be a good call.
From here I followed the road to Akmas without any set plans. The road ends at a car park full of tourists and coaches so I guessed there was something interesting to see here. After a short walk up a path I found it. The baths of Aphrodite, this is where the Goddess of Love took a wash. She certainly picked a nice spot for it!
From here you apparently need a 4X4 to explore further, I don’t know the logistics but if you appreciate nature and beautiful scenery then I would definitely recommend looking in to exploring this peninsula. But I was on a mission to burn this €50 of petrol and see as much of the island as I could so I hit the road again.
I got back to Polis and took a quick look at the map over coffee. I could see the road follows the coast NE direction and I can get back through the mountains. I had loads of daylight left and by this stage it was a whopping 38 degrees so air conditioned coastal cruising was the plan for the afternoon.
The drive up to Pomos is exactly as one would expect it to be looking at a map. A scenic road that follows the med passing beaches and little villages all the way. Also when you look at the map you notice the road goes inland after Pomos. This is where the more recent history of Cyprus starts to kick in. Worlds away from historic scenes that involve the goddess of love bathing in beautiful nature this is a history of war and bloodshed, a history that I know nothing about.
That part of the route that goes inland does so because Turkey still occupy a tiny part of land that the road circles, the Kokkina Exclave. Undeterred the Greeks have built an impressive road all the way around it. The route winds its way up in to the mountains and forest and the views from up here are something else! Although it is hard to take many pictures as there is military bases, fences, Turkish flags, Greek flags, Cyprus flags and big no camera signs all over.
Descending from the mountains you can instantly tell you are near the border with the regular passing of United Nations jeeps. In fact you can’t really tell you’re at the border until you drive round a corner and there it is in front of you like a massive stop sign. No point trying to cross here in a hire car! I got properly told off for taking a photograph so I wouldn’t recommend doing that either.
The village at the border (Kato Pyrgos) is well worth a visit. It’s like going back in time. It’s quintessentially Greek Cyprus and miles away from the tourists! A long tree lined street where the whole community seemed to be catching up with each other outside old style Tavernas and cafes. I stalled here for a while and soaked up the atmosphere then hit the road headed for the mountains.
The drive through the mountains winding its way through Paphos Forrest was more of the same beautiful scenery. So many places I wanted to stop and explore but with daylight fading and miles to go I had to keep motoring on.
Day 2. Again an early start, today I was heading to Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus to cross the famous line in to the Turkish side. The drive from Paphos to Nicosia is an easy one, the road is like a 2 lane motorway all the way and took a little under 2 hours with a slight delay.
Nicosia is another place that is overlooked by many of the sun and beach seeking tourists but it’s a vibrant little city and well worth a visit. I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time as I would have liked to in Nicosia. If your idea of a holiday is more than beaches and bars then I would certainly recommend an overnight visit.
Crossing the line in to North Cyprus
Going back to the map, if you look at a map of Cyprus you can see there is a strip running right through the centre of the island. That’s the border with the republic of northern Cyprus, a republic that only Turkey recognise. It’s the UN controlled buffer zone, a no man’s land. It cuts through the heart of Nicosia making it the last divided capital in the world.
It’s kind of spooky. Abandoned streets that are a no go zone. Barrels and road blocks on both sides are painted in Greek and Turkish colours while on both sides life goes on as usual.
There is not really any signs to the border, the main shopping street of Nicosia just stops at a check point and your there. I had to wait quite a while in line, apparently the security had been stepped up and there is not usual that long of a wait. You pass thorough Greek passport control, walk through no man’s land then go through Turkish passport control and you are in the same city but a completely different place.
This is Turkey, colourful markets and coffee shops instantly reminded me of the only other time I had been to Turkey. With the Greek side literally a few hundred meters away, Mosques were calling for prayer and it all seemed a little more hectic and buzzing. Again I did not spend nearly as much time as I would have liked to here. Definitely another place worth staying overnight and exploring. Apparently the coast here is insanely beautiful and untouched by the mass tourism of the south but sadly I didn’t have the time to make it that far over.
After a kebab followed by Turkish coffee it was time to re-enter the Greek side and hit the highway again. Next stop Troodos up in the mountains. The drive from Nicosia to Troodos is more stunning scenery. You hit the country side and start climbing up in to the mountains passing through little mountain villages till you arrive in Troodos.
Troodos is more like a tourist attraction than a village! A few hotels, cafes and the usual tourist money attracting things sit 1725 meters up in the sky near the peak of mount Olympos. To give you an idea of the altitude you can ski here in the winter and Cyprus is up there at the top of the list of hottest countries in Europe. Hard to imagine when again it has been over 35 degrees all day.
The drive from Troodos to Limassol was cool, (take the old road from Troodos). Lots more mountain scenery until you arrive in Limassol.
From here I had a few hours of daylight left to burn and off-course petrol left to burn so I opted out of taking the highway back to Paphos and followed the coastal route instead. This is a drive I would highly recommend. The highlights being the beaches of Aphrodite’s Rock and Pissouri beach, then Pissouri village itself perched on a hill with narrow streets and great views.
If you are visiting Cyprus then hiring a car and exploring the island is a must, I had a really great weekend even going solo. If like me you are looking to hire a car without a credit card then the tourist area of Paphos is the place to go asking around the rental shops for the best price.
As for the petrol, I had to put €10 more in to get the car back. A successful mission 🙂