Panagia Araka – Kourtellorotsos, option for Stavros: 5 Nov.

Our hike of Saturday 5 November 2022 takes place in the picturesque mountainous area of Pitsilia, starts by the church of Panagia tou Araka on the World Heritage list and follows a linear path with parts along the spine of Kourtellorotsos mountain and back. This hike is rated 2+ (medium difficulty to difficult), and is expected to take close to 4 hours. Read this text to its very end, to find an innovative initiative of your Club. The hike involves several uphill and downhill sections and a not insignificant elevation change; we start at the church of Panagia tou Araka at an altitude of 1035 m, climb up to 1160 m and down to near 950 m at the far end. We follow the same path back. Total distance is about 9 km. Almost the entire path is in dense forest with pine trees, golden oaks, oaks, almond trees and several other species of trees and bushes offering a rich reward to the Stroller. The trail further offers some majestic viewpoints, with views to villages around (Platanistasa, Alona, Lagoudera) and also the plane of Morphou.

The walk starts at 11:00 am. Xenophon is leading this walk, which will go ahead even in light rain; if you need to, call 97613720. If we find the church open, there will be sufficient time after the hike to visit the inside and admire the treasures, principally centuries-old murals; Panagia tou Araka was built in the 12th c. and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Depending on the government restrictions on the day, we shall follow the walk with a served lunch. Kindly visit this page in the week prior to the activity for updated news. To provide you with maximum safety vis-à-vis covid-19, and in order to have maximum traceability, we require every participant to register, irrespective of your participation at lunch or not. To facilitate arrangements, for your better service, you are required to e-mail Xenophon by end Thursday, indicating whether you will be joining us for lunch or not.

You have the choice of meeting the group at the walk start, or meet at the designated meeting point in Nicosia. In either case, you need to carry copy of this set of instructions. Meeting in Nicosia offers two important advantages: we drive in full cars, leaving some cars behind; thus, we save in fuel and enjoy the trip in good company. The meeting point in Nicosia is the very large church named tis Theou Sophias (also referred to as Agia Sophia) in Strovolos, which offers ample parking space on its side street. The car trip starts at 9:45 am. Please ensure you observe start times, for the benefit of the group.

On this same day, The Cyprus Strollers is innovating with a new initiative, as follows. If there is a sufficient number of members who would like to hike a longer distance, to reach the church of Stavros Agiasmati, and back, the Club will accommodate this request, with Antonis as the Leader, and an earlier hike start at 10:00 am. Times are set to achieve coincidental walk finish for both walks, so that the combined two groups can sit for lunch together. Members who wish to hike the longer distance must register via e-mail to Xenophon by end Wednesday. You will then expect to receive a return e-mail with further details.

Stavros tou Agiasmati was built in the 15th c. and is dedicated to the Holy Cross. Expect to find the church closed to visitors.

To reach Stavros Agiasmati, at an altitude of 850 m and back expect to require one additional hour of hiking; that is half hour downhill, further out from the far end of the Kourtellorotsos hike, and another half hour return, uphill. We clarify that both hikes have the same common starting and finish point. Participants for Stavros Agiasmati ought to plan departure from Nicosia by 8:45 am and should not expect to meet Xenophon at the Nicosia meeting point.

How to get from Nicosia to the church of Panagia tou Araka, the walk start:

Zero your odometer exactly in front of the main entrance to the very large church of tis Theou Sophias, on Elaionon street, with the church on your left. At the first traffic lights turn right. You pass Lidl and K Cineplex cinema on your left. At the 0.9 km reading you get to traffic lights, with Apolloneion Hospital facing you at a distance. Turn left, into the principal road towards Troodos. At the 1.4 km reading you come to traffic lights, go straight. At the 3.9 km reading you leave the main road, taking the side road on your left, named E903 and signposted to Palekhori.  At the 4.2 km reading you get to a roundabout; take the first exit to the left, signposted to Palekhori. Drive along this main road. At the 16.9 km reading turn right into the E929 road, towards Agios Ioannis and Kato Moni villages. At the 28.0 km reading you pass through a short tunnel. At the 28.2 km reading you reach a T-junction: turn left. At the 29.7 km reading turn right into the E907 road, towards Xyliato and Agia Marina. At the 35.0 km reading you pass the village of Xyliato. At the 38.1 km reading you pass a large dam on your right. The road begins to climb towards the picturesque area of Pitsilia, through a beautiful forest scenery. At the 45.1 km reading you pass a right turn to Saranti village: stay on the main road. At the 45.6 km reading you enter the village of Lagoudera. At the 46.4 km reading turn right, signposted to Panagia tou Araka. At the 46.9 km reading you have reached the church of Panagia tou Araka, on your right.

How to get from Limassol to the church of Panagia tou Araka, the walk start:

Take the main road towards Trimiklini, then Saittas. Get to the principal junction at Saittas, where you have the options of going straight to Platres or left to Pera Pedi, or right to Amiantos. Zero your odometer and turn right. At the 10.9 km reading you reach the principal junction of Karvounas (note, no traffic lights). Do not go straight, downhill (this takes you to Kakopetria). Do not turn left (this takes you to Troodos square). Turn right, signposted to Pitsilia region. Drive through and out of Kyperounda, the first village on your way. The second village you meet is Handria. As you drive through Handria look out for a left uphill turn, signposted to ‘Panagia tou Araka’ (8 km) and ‘Lagoudera’ (7 km). Turn left and drive a couple of km, until you reach a crossroads. At the crossroads you follow the signs to Panagia tou Araka, until you reach the church of Panagia tou Araka, on your right.

How to get to the meeting point for the car trip:

From Nicosia get to the junction between Cineplex and Apolloneion Hospital. At the traffic lights where you have the Cineplex on your left hand side and Apolloneion Hospital on your right hand side, zero your odometer and turn left. At the 0.3 km reading you see Lidl supermarket on your right. At the 0.8 km reading you reach traffic lights. Turn left into Elaionon street. Immediately after you observe the very large church of tis Theou Sophias, with its green dome, on your right. Just past the church (1.0 km reading) take the first turning to the right into Kastellas street. This side street offers ample parking space. Park here.

Google Maps: Here is a map taking you from the junction between Cineplex and Apolloneion Hospital to the church of tis Theou Sophias http://tinyurl.com/ll9fefj  

Google Maps: Here is a map taking you from the Presidential Palace to the church of tis Theou Sophias: http://tinyurl.com/ndnr6uo  

Google Maps: Here is a map taking you from the meeting point in Nicosia to the church of Panagia tou Araka, the walk start http://tinyurl.com/jgybxrr

About Kourtellorotsos: The word means pointed and sharp stone. The etymology is as follows. Rotsos means rock, large stone and is derived from the Italian word roccia. The first part of the word is derived from the Italian word coltello, meaning knife blade.

About Pitsilia: The region east of Mount Olympos (Troodos) is known as the Pitsilia area and includes about 30 villages. Its tallest peaks are Madari (1612 metres) and Papoutsa (1554 metres). The picturesque villages nestle on the mountainside amid vineyards, or are hidden in valleys, maintaining much of their traditional charm. The surrounding hills and valleys are full of vines, as well as almond, hazelnut, walnut and other fruit trees. The area is also known for its traditional products such as aromatic rosewater, ‘hiromeri’ (smoked ham), ‘loukanika’ (smoked sausages) and ‘lountza’ (smoked pork loin).

Pitsilia has four of the famous Byzantine churches on the World Heritage list –  The Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour (tou Sotiros) at Palaichori, the Church of Stavros tou Agiasmati near Platanistasa, the Church of Timios Stavros (Church of the Holy Cross) in the village of Pelendri and the church of Panagia tou Araka in the village of Lagoudera.

Disclaimer: If you attend a Cyprus Strollers walk you do so entirely at your own risk. The Cyprus Strollers is a social club and neither the organizers nor the leader of the walk are responsible for the health and safety of those taking part. If you do not wish to receive further e-mails, reply to this message, stating so.