The Covid pandemic has a negative impact on economic, social and health issues, but it has offered the opportunity for many to get to know Cyprus’ rural areas, especially the mountain locations.
Last summer, we saw an unprecedented demand for the Troodos mountain hotels and other real estate in the region.
For the first time after many years of stagnation, we had new investments by hotels and daily excursions by visitors only for lunch.
It is worth a visit to Larnaca’s mountainous region of the wider Lefkara area, which offers unprecedented pine forests and very good quality restaurants, offering all sorts of local dishes, whereas my recent visit to the donkey farm at Skarinou village, is an experience not to be missed by the younger generation and families.
In rural restaurants and tavernas, the ‘ttavas’ dish is a good option, like traditional souvla, meatballs, etc.
As one climbs up from Skarinou to Lefkara and Vavatsinia, the recently sleepy restaurants and cafés now require a reservation for a table, especially on weekends.
Interestingly, out-of-the-way places by way of the dirt roads, with little or no traffic, is a scenic route to observe flora and fauna, an excursion I recommend with a motorbike. It will become an experience not to be forgotten.
Similarly, the ‘back road’ between Polis and Kykko Monastery, with a stop at the moufflon reserve and then on to the Cedar Valley, is another route worth exploring.
Still, its 4-hours by motorbike is not for the “mature” ages – better use a car.
You can consult the Forestry Department or the tourism offices who can provide you with maps for such routes.
For those who want the experience of the sea, combined with mountain views, Akamas is the place, but then you need a 4-wheel drive and lots of bottled water if you wish to stop and hike on the way.
Avacas gorge is one place to walk through, but many others are worth visiting, especially for the first, better to use a guide, since many tourists lose their way, the narrow roads are not in very good condition and could be risky.
Driving along the ‘alternative route’ from Peyia village to Aphrodite’s baths through Akamas, you can opt for overnight camping.
Ensure this is done in approved locations and definitely not in locations designated as a turtle nesting and hatching place.
Explore the Akamas villages, which offer accommodation and restaurants, and an overnight stay is an experience, as is the Omega location at the Pyrgos village.
Aim to visit when there is a local wedding with many peculiarities and great fun.
If you are not invited, but you ‘drop in’, a cash gift of up to €50 will be most welcomed.
Regrettably, there are no regular organised TV programmes regularly to promote such locations and experiences, unlike Greece, where several weekly programmes such as the travelogues by Nicos Manesis, ‘My Greece’ combining travel and food with Despina Vandi.
They promote the beauties of the places they visit and provide interviews with locals, even foreign residents who live permanently there—what a miss on our part.
Cyprus spends millions to attract foreign tourists, yet nothing to promote domestic tourism, which has become the main source of visitors to rural areas.
The Covid situation with the restrictions of travelling abroad has turned the interest of locals to explore Cyprus’ unknown locations.
The younger generation aged 20-40 know little about Cyprus rural areas.
An indication is that Platres has revived over the last year due to limited options and expensive cars noticed in abundance and new restaurants (but with upgraded prices, food quality and service to go).
It has resulted in investment demand for real estate in development land, holiday homes and mountain hotels.
Prices have jumped, whereas a Russian group has just bought 40 building plots at the Millomeri area, planning a multi-purpose development.
The Splendid hotel (abandoned and considered structurally dangerous) was sold and has now submitted a planning permit to convert the hotel into 38 super suites.
Local authorities are desperate to improve their villages, experiencing the results of domestic tourists and foreign investment.
I often find that they bend over backwards to produce results.
To this end, the newly appointed Mountain Destination Commissioner is there to help.
Things in Cyprus take a long time to be implemented, especially regarding real estate development. Building relaxations and financial subsidies offered by the Government to permanent residents will help.
I have often said the under-construction Limassol-Moniatis-Lania road will make the mountain region much more accessible. Over the mid-term, these areas will become an outskirt of the town. It seems that is already happening with increasing demand for permanent residents, local and foreign, pushing prices up.
A lot of hope is placed on the pending Paphos-Polis road and the expansion of the Latchi marina, with Polis becoming a basis for excursions to the area.
It would be amiss not to mention the cancellation of the Limni Golf Course since now it has been taken over by a financier with an unknown time frame of its execution.
Get to know Cyprus, dear readers, and you will be surprised what you discover in the distant countryside and off the asphalted roads.
You might even come across a property investment opportunity.