The Akamas peninsula, named after an Athenian warrior and son of Theseus, who arrived here after the Trojan war, is a unique area, both geologically and physiographically and with regard to flora and fauna.
Almost all the geological formations of Cyprus can be found here, from narrow deep valleys, caves and islets to gorges such as that of Avakas, resulting in a real geological mosaic. For this reason the Akamas peninsula is endowed with a unique biodiversity, habitats and ecosystems.
The uniqueness of the flora stems mainly from the unparalleled endemic wealth. In the Akamas there are about 530 indigenous plants, of which 35 are endemic, out of a total of about 142 endemic species, sub-species and varieties occurring throughout Cyprus. Some of these plants are endemic to the area. Alyssum akamasicum and Centaurea akamantis have taken their name from the area itself, while species such as Centaurea veneris, Tulipa cypria, Gladiolus triphyllus and many others are found either exclusively or chiefly in the Akamas peninsula.
As regards fauna, the endemic Glaucopsyche paphos butterfly can be considered the emblem of the area. Until recently the Mediterranean seal, Monachus monachus, bred in the inaccessible caves of the peninsula, while on the remote beaches of Lara, the sea turtles, Caretta caretta and Chelonia mydas, continue to breed in large numbers.
The area has one of the favourite haunts of the mythological goddess Aphrodite. Legend has it that after swimming in the crystal clear waters of the bay, she would walk up the hill and bathe in a pool fed by a freshwater mountain spring dripping down the sides of a shady grotto overhung by a leafy fig tree, which has come to be known as the Baths of Aphrodite. It is here that Adonis saw and fell in love with her while hunting in the Akamas forest. The Italian poet Ariosto wrote a poem about the area and its waters which became known as the Fontana Amorosa.
The myth of Aphrodite lived on through the Middle Ages turning into the love story between the mythical Byzantine hero Dhigenis Akritas and the Queen of Cyprus known as Rigaina. The ruins of an old monastery in a clearing in the heart of the Akamas with a giant oak tree and a bubbling spring, is known as the “Pyrgos tis Rigainas”, or the Queen’s castle, and is linked to this love story.
Get to know the area on foot along one of the nature trails that cross the peninsula, such as those of Aphrodite or Adonis, affording marvellous views of the bay and the west coast and an opportunity to admire nature from close up. European path E4 cuts through the region as it goes across the island. Stop off for a rest in the shady Smygies picnic site, a place associated with love and where Digenis met Rigaina. The area is ideal for cycling due to its numerous forest roads.