This is a long ride, with a few decent climbs. The highest point at 1,260m does not really reflect the fact that there are a total of four climbs on the way out and two decent climbs on the way back: thus the total elevation of +2,970m for the ride.
The purpose of the ride is really to take in the wonderful scents of the citrus groves on the way up to the forest over the plateau, the smell of the cedar and pine trees within the Paphos forest, to hopefully see mouflon and hear a lot of bird song: a ride that's hopefully in harmony with nature.
Please bear in mind that these roads, whilst extremely good, do not see much traffic: for example we went for two hours without seeing a single car, bike or person on our way into the forest. So best to buddy up for safety.
It is also a stunningly beautiful ride and even more beautiful than the ride up to Mount Olympus.
A mouflon is a wild sheep that roams freely in the forests and is the national symbol of the Republic of Cyprus. There are also some mouflon within fenced off areas in the National Parks such as those at the Stavros Forest Station within Paphos Forest. Cyprus is also a birdwatchers dream as it is on the migration path between Europe, Asia and Africa: so keep your eyes and ears peeled.
Written by John Maskell
Route map and profile
Distance: 130 km
Elevation Gain: 2,970 m
Max Grade: 13 %
All metrics in this guide are approximate
The highlights of this ride are the views, rivers, forest scents, mouflon and bird song, as well as the large number of small hill villages that have been lost in time and the Byzantine churches.
A not so welcome highlight can be the unpredictability of the weather.
1. Paphos to Lysos: 0-43 km
This route starts by going north through the Old Town in Paphos and up the B7 route with around 500m of steady climbing in the first 14 km. This is a manageable +3.5% on average.
Unfortunately the first few kilometres are through the area with all the car dealerships, supermarkets and wholesalers: but we are trying to get the most direct route out to the Paphos Forest. At least you now know where Sportsdirect and Debenhams are on the B7 road!
The first hill village this route comes to is called Tsada after around 15 kilometres into the ride (elevation 585m). There are lovely views from here back over the whole of Paphos.
Then follow the B7 further north, now going gently / fast downhill on a very wide good road (passing the Aphrodite Rock Brewery on the right) until the road starts to flatten out at the 20 km marker and turn right towards Polemi on the E703. Very soon you will go past a massive winery on the right hand side as well as the Polemi Concentration Camp / museum.
Polemi, Psathi and other village in this area sit on a plateau that was historically used to grow crops for the Kykkos monastery that is located much further up in the Troodos hills: so this is a flat part of the ride. Today Polemi is surrounded by vineyards, has a bank, shops, restaurants and several cafes. Soon after the 27 km marker, a left turn towards Milia and Thrinia is needed. Follow this road down to Simou from Lasa (descending at a gradient of around -5%) and then soon after the 34 km marker slightly after Simou, apply your brakes, turn right where the possibly abandoned dumper trucks have been parked on the right hand side corner and continue downhill to the Stavros tis Psokas river. This junction is well signposted but you might be travelling at some speed downhill: hence the need to look ahead for the tipper trucks.
Once you have crossed the river (beware the road over the bridge was a little messed up here for around 20m around were it crosses the river), turn left and the real work is before us as the next 30 km will climb around 1,000m. This climb does give you some wonderful views down towards the Evretou Dam and North towards Poli on the coast so it is worth stopping occasionally to take some photos / an excuse to get your breath back.
At the 41 km mark turn right at the T-junction and continue leading to Lysos where you will find a coffee shop (café lysos) and the famous Maxilles: a type of dry fig that is consumed as a sweetener or eaten with almonds and walnuts. As with virtually any village in Cyprus there is also a series of old churches: these ones are especially nice and the one next to the Lysos café has a fountain / potable water station, but it is not needed as the café will gladly fill your water bottles for you. There is a wonderful view of Poli, Chrysochou Bay / the north coast sea from Lysos as well.
2. Lysos to Pano Panagia: 43-90 km
The road north east out of Lysos is flat for the first 5 km and the route is now within the Paphos forest.
At the 50km marker the road them heads upwards a little over 5% for the next 6 km and then once again flattens out for the next 6 km until reaching the Stavros tis Psokas café / the ranger station at the 62km marker. Please be aware that as you climb into the forest the temperature can drop so you might need to put on a waterproof layer at this point. We got caught in a bad rainstorm and had to go and dry out in front of a real wood fire at the ranger station at Stavros tis Psokas, over not one but two cups of Cyrus coffee.
There is an enclosure here (about 150m north of the ranger station) for the wild mountain sheep if you want to see one (see photo).
From here is the fourth climb of the day and possibly the steepest averaging around 7% for the next 6 km. At this point you should take the trouble to look around and really see the forest: with all the colours from purples, to pinks to whites, to all the different shades of green: awesome, amazing, epic, I could go on and on. You will also come across a few little churches, grottos and monasteries up in this area; they're just stunning.
Remember to turn right at the next junction (circa 65km into the ride) onto the E740 heading for Panagia: all roads are extremely well signposted so don’t stress. This area is known as the Cedar Valley and depending on the time of year, there should be some wonderful scents coming from the trees and definitely some fantastic views with the road lazily carving through the forests following the contours of the land. The road now starts to head south and the fun bit – i.e. the descending is now approaching from around the 58 km mark. This road has quite a few twists and turns so it is advisable to read the corners well if it is wet. If it is dry, it can be almost full gas on this long wide and awesome descent. At around the 71km mark turn to the right towards Panagia down the aptly named Cedar Valley road. Follow this road downhill at a gradient of between -5 and -10% for some 17 km: yes that’s a descent of 17 km on really good roads and when we did this ride on a Saturday morning in April: we saw only one car. You will know when you are coming into Pano (meaning upper) Panagia as the road turns up for around 2-3 km at a relatively steep 7% into the village.
Panagia, like all villages in Cyprus has several churches, the outstanding feature here is two museums that are dedicated to the Republic’s first president: Archbishop Makarios III. Wine from this region “Vouni Panagias” is also meant to be the best on the island but is probably not as famous as the sweet Cypriot wine Commandaria. Panagia has also a highly rated café called the Secret Garden, but we did not stop.
3. Panagia to Paphos: 90-130 km
From Panagia continue west following the road going gradually (5-10%) downhill with wonderful views down to the Kannaviou reservoir. Then, somewhat hugging the edge of the forest towards Asprogia and then beneath the front of the dam at the Kannaviou Reservoir until the village of Kannaviou. Again this is a really good road and could have been taken at speed were it not for the desire to take in the wonderful views.
There are a few places to stop here if needed (this is 99 km into the route) on the E703, but we would advise moving on as the next few kms climb gently to meet the road we originally came up.
From here it is a simple matter of crossing the plateau down to Polemi and then to the B7 main road. Once back on the B7 do not forget that there is a 4km gradual climb back up towards Tsada (115km) and then you can pretty much free wheel back to the hotel in Paphos down the B7 with some delightful views of the west coast.
There are a number of places to stop on this route such as Tsada and Polemi on the way out, but we chose to wait a third of the way into the trip before stopping:
Lysos café: (43km) pretty terrible cafe, but great views and very welcoming! Next to the church and a water fountain / potable water. The toilet for some reason is at the top of a rickety staircase at the top of the building and a TV is left on whilst rather weathered old men speed smoke. Best to go outside.
Stavros tis Psokas Ranger Station: (62km) they serve coffee and can sell you a pack of biscuits, but there's no homemade cake or food. When we were here, we found everyone dressed in camouflage gear which was slightly disconcerting. Real fire and the fire wood was obviously both bone dry and a hardwood as the fire was a belter. Very welcoming and probably a little more sophisticated in the summer as there were a lot of outdoor seating options.
Vouni Panayia Winery, Pano Panagia: (90km) as we came out of Pano Panagia there was a beautiful modern building winery with views over the whole valley on our left hand side: on trip advisor it is 4.8/5 with 79 reviews, so will stop here or the Secret Garden Café next time. Apparently the most obvious choice for us, the Oniro café / hotel opposite the T-junction, is dreadful.
We chose the Aliathon Hotel in Paphos as it was good value for money, close to bike shops and close to the airport and coast.
There are full details of this and other accommodation options in our ultimate guide to cycling Cyprus.
Read our tips for cycling in Cyprus before you set out.
More specifically for this ride:
This is a hard ride and the temperature will drop some 5-10 degrees from the coast into the forests, so bring gloves and a rain jacket. Check the weather forecast for the forest independently of the weather outside your hotel window: they are not the same.
If it has rained recently there will be rocks on the road and you could even come across a landslide or two – so be prepared and bring a phone. The emergency number is 112.
We would recommend doing this ride with some company. Why? Well firstly beautiful things should be enjoyed with others, but also there are very few people/cars/cyclists up in these woods: so for safety it might be better. Especially if you've watched the film Deliverance too many times...
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