Cyprus offers up 326 days of sun a year, so it’s no surprise that it’s a regular on the holiday hot-list. But, on a recent trip to Paphos, Lucy Perrin uncovered a different side to it – its wildlife. There’s so much of it, in fact, that it gives Costa Rica a good run for its money. A bold claim, we know. And, with a way shorter flight time, plus crocodiles and dolphins, here’s why she thinks it’s one to watch…
Watch turtles taking their first steps
Ever since Finding Nemo, I’ve always had a crush on turtles – excuse the pun. It’s the animal tonnes of people flock to Costa Rica to see, but there’s an easier option. Lara Beach is about an hour’s drive from Paphos and gives you a front-row seat for spotting Green and Loggerhead turtles. Head there between June and October for nesting period, and take a midnight trip to watch the babies make their first steps, following the white foam as a guide to the sea. Adorable, I know. You might even bump into the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) scientists like I did, who dish out loads of interesting facts. Did you know, for example, that the temperature of the nest determines whether the babies will be male or female? Or that their favourite snack is jellyfish? Nope, us either.
Dodge snakes in the Avakas Gorges
Bustling rainforests are always good fun until it’s a torrential downpour. And you realise you definitely should have opted for the waterproof mac with the hood, rather than that gorgeous blue one that perfectly matched your outfits. Thankfully, Cyprus swaps out the rain for sunny gorges – so you can leave the waterproofs at home. Don’t think you’ll have to sacrifice wildlife for sun, though. As I trek through the bubbling Avakas Gorges on the Akamas excursion, I freeze in my tracks as someone shouts crocodile. It’s not all big snappy teeth though – just a baby. And, I’m not only getting a tan (bonus) but I’m joined by eight types of snakes, including the blunt-nosed Cyprian viper, 160 species of birds, 40 species of plants, and a load of reptiles – plus the added extra of mountain goats. Seriously, the whole peninsula is a national park. The only thing I struggled to spot? Chameleons, predictably…
Pick tropical flowers in the Garden of Eden
For a shake, rattle ‘n’ roll off-road safari to the mountains, you’ve got to try the Troodos Classique 4×4 adventure excursion. Why? I expected amazing views. And I got them. But I also got to dip my feet in cool spring waterfalls, and update my Instagram feed with shots from the Troodos Botanical Gardens perched 1,500 meters above sea level. It’s decorated with a load of tropical bloomers, and has a herbarium that’ll get everyone double tappin’ your pics. And, while Costa Rica gets brownie points for being one of the most eco-friendly places to visit, the Troodos Botanical Garden aims to protect, conserve and promote Cyprus’ botanical heritage through exposure and education.
Dip into Europe’s biggest medicine cabinet
I always take it for granted that I’m a happy, healthy human – minus the odd Dominos binge and the standard winter sniffles. But, no matter what ailment you’ve got, Cyprus is likely to have a cure. Arthritis? Pick some Cyclament Periscum from the Akamas gorges, which acts as soothing aid when crushed into medicinal form. Look out for Carob trees, too. They provide iron and magnesium, and make up a load of medicines that are great to take during pregnancy. They even provide syrup for sweets – which are always medicinal, right? And, if you’re after our other favourite red, white or rosé medicine, you’ll be spoiled for choice, too. In fact, we bet Costa Rica doesn’t have a wine festival like Limmasol’s…
Pitch your towel on tropical shores
I love a good swaying palm, so I was chuffed that Cyprus does a great pick ‘n’ mix of golden sand and dramatic mountain scenery to rival Costa Rica’s ‘Rich Coast’. So, for crowd-free sands head to laid-back Latchi. It boasts a mile-long of sand and pebble beach, and marks the spot of where Aphrodite is said to have fallen in love with Adonis. You don’t get that kind of lovin’ in Costa Rica do you? It’s also really close to Akamas National Park, where there are hills full of olive trees and juniper forests if you fancy a hike. Or, if you’re like us and fancy spotting some dolphins and seals, don’t miss out on a trip to the gorgeous Blue Lagoon, where its warm turquoise sea almost convinced me I was in the Caribbean.