Pedieos Gorge – Mahairas Monastery walk: Saturday 28 November

Mahairas-Pedieos-Gorge3You do not get many opportunities to walk along and admire a gorge, in Cyprus. Our walk of Saturday 28 November 2015 takes place at the Mahairas mountain area. We follow a well-marked trail, which starts several km outside Politiko village on a steady gentle climb that takes us along the small but picturesque gorge of Pedieos river to Mahairas Monastery and the site of the sacrifice of hero Grigoris Afxentiou in 1957. We follow the same path downhill to return. The total distance (to and fro) is 14 km. The walk will take about 4 hours and is of medium difficulty. The walk will allow time to visit both the Afxentiou monument and the Monastery. The walk starts at 10:45 am. Christos is leading this walk, which will go ahead even in light rain; if you need to, call 99240323. For the initial 50 minutes the walk is on the left bank of the Pedieos river; we then cross over to the right bank. The walk offers impressive views of the Pedieos gorge. There is a rich variety of plants in our path, including the endemic cyclamen cyprius (it flowers from September to January), golden oaks, lavenders, orchids, crocus, asphodels.

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 Handicrafts Centre (Kentro Heirotechnias) on Leoforos Athalassas (Athalassa Avenue), which offers ample parking space. The car trip starts at 9:45 am. Please ensure you observe start times, for the benefit of the group.

About lunch: Sadly, there is no taverna on a long radius from the walk start, neither in any of the neighboring villages on the way back. Consequently, Strollers are advised to bring along their lunch (sandwiches, fruit, snacks etc.), which we shall eat in a picnic style at the Monastery.

How to get to the walk start:

Get to the round-about next to the Presidential Palace. From downtown Nicosia you reach this along the Kyriakou Matsi avenue or along the D. Severi avenue. Set your odometer to zero on the round-about and drive along the principal road towards Strovolos and then Lakatamia. At the 4.2 km reading you reach the main crossing with the major bypass road (named Spyrou Kyprianou avenue) linking Makedonitissa on your right with the Nicosia-Limassol highway on your left. This is the popular by-pass road which drives past the Jumbo toy store and the American Heart hospital. Traffic coming from the Presidential Palace can follow the tunnel that dives under this main crossing. There is a large Metro super market on your left at this main crossing, as well. Set your odometer to zero at this main crossing and continue straight, towards Lakatamia. At the 1.5 km reading you drive past the very large church of Agia Paraskevi on your right hand side. At the 1.9 km reading you reach a round-about. Take the 3rd exit, which is at right angles to your right. At the 2.1 km reading you drive past a Lidl supermarket on your left hand side. At the 2.6 km reading you reach traffic lights (the first traffic lights after the round-about). There is a Papa John’s pizza house at the corner on your right. Turn left at the traffic lights, following the sign towards Mahairas. You drive straight along this main road (E902) for several km, going through the villages of Lakatamia, then Deftera, then Psimolophou, then Pera Oreinis.

At the 12.5 km reading take a right turn into a side road, following the brown sign to the well-known Monastery of Agios Iraklidios. There is a school playground on your right hand side at this turning. At the 12.9 km reading you reach a T-junction where you take a right turn again, following the brown sign to Agios Iraklidios. At the 13.1 km reading you take a left turn, following yet another brown sign to Agios Iraklidios. Past this point you drive through the village of Politiko, and the road has several bends. As you approach the Monastery, you reach a round-about at the 14.6 km reading. Take the 3rd exit (go right) and immediately after, you reach a Y-junction, where you follow the route to the right, signposted to ‘Agia Skepi and Philani area’. (The left route at the Y-junction takes you to the Monastery). At the 19.5 km reading you reach a Y-junction. Ignore the left route signposted to ‘Agia Skepi and Philani’. Take the right route, signposted to ‘Lazanias’. At the 21.6 km reading, you reach the start of the trail on your left, carrying a sign ‘Politiko-Mahairas trail’. There is also a small wooden stand, carrying a map, on your right. Park on the side. We meet here.

How to get back to the principal road to Nicosia, from the walk finish:

Set your odometer to zero at the start of the return trip. Do an about turn and drive back the way you came. At the 2.1 km reading continue straight (ignore a side road to the right signposted to ‘Agia Skepi and Philani area’. At the 7.0 km reading you get to a round-about, turn left. At the 8.3 km reading you pass a bridge, with a large church on your left. At the 8.5 km reading you reach a T-junction where you take a right turn. At the 8.7 km reading you turn left into a side road; there is a road sign to Nicosia here. At the 9.1 km reading you reach a T-junction where you take a left turn. You are now on the principal road (E902) that will take you back to Nicosia.

How to get to the meeting point for the car trip, coming from the Hilton hotel area:

Get yourself on Makarios Avenue, heading out of town and set your odometer to zero as you drive past the Nicosia Hilton hotel. At the 0.1 km reading you reach traffic lights (with the Apoel club building on your right), go straight. At the 0.5 km reading you reach another set of traffic lights, go straight. Driving along, you pass a few more traffic lights, staying on this main road (named Leoforos Lemesou/ Limassol Avenue). At the 2.1 km reading, you reach a principal set of traffic lights. Set your odometer to zero again and turn right here. You are now in Leoforos Athalassas, a very busy avenue. At the 0.2 km reading you see a large empty space on your right and the Handicrafts Centre (a single-storey building) on your left. Park in the parking area. We meet here. The Handicrafts Centre is next to the church of St. Barnabas.

How to get to the meeting point for the car trip, coming from the Presidential Palace area:

Get to the round-about next to the Presidential Palace. From downtown Nicosia you reach this along the Kyriakou Matsi avenue or along the D. Severi avenue. Set your odometer to zero on the round-about and drive along the principal road towards Strovolos. At the 0.3 km reading you reach traffic lights. Go straight. At the 0.6 km reading you reach a 2nd set of traffic lights. Set your odometer to zero again and turn left. You are now in Leoforos Athalassas, a very busy avenue full of shops. At the 2.6 km reading you see a large empty space on your left and the Handicrafts Centre (a single-storey building) on your right. Park here.

Google Maps: Here is a map for those coming from the Hilton area to the meeting place for the car trip http://tiny-url.org/RWPji5wr  

Google Maps: Here is a map for those coming from the Presidential Palace area to the meeting place for the car trip http://tiny-url.org/hvLSn8Nw

About Mahairas Monastery: Mahairas Monastery is situated at an altitude of 870 metres on the slopes of Mount Kionia in a picturesque depression of the Mahairas Mountains. It houses the miraculous icon of Panagia of Mahairas. Legend has it that an unknown hermit brought the icon to Cyprus secretly from Asia Minor during the years of iconoclasm (persecution of icons, 8th – 9th centuries). The hermit resorted to a cave on the mountains of Mahairas. After his death, the holy icon remained there until around 1145, when blessed with divine grace, the hermits Neophytos and Ignatios reached the spot and found the cave covered with bushes. In order to approach the icon, the two hermits had to cut the bushes with the help of a knife given to them by divine hand. Thus, the icon took the name ‘Mahairiotissa’ (the word mahairi in Greek means knife) or, more simply, of Mahaira. The monastery was later built on the same spot and is one of three Cyprus monasteries that remain under the Patriarch’s jurisdiction.
The brotherhood is extremely devout, keeping vows as strict as those of Mount Athos in Greece.
The monastery of Mahairas is owner of large estates of land, acquired from donations during the Lusignan/ Frankish era (1192 – 1489 AD). The three – nave church of the monastery was built between 1892 and 1900. Its wood – carved iconostasis was made in 1919 -1921. The bell tower is 19 metres high and dates to 1900.
No photos or video – cameras are allowed within the monastery area.

About Grigoris Afxentiou: Grigoris Afxentiou is the pre-eminent hero of the EOKA struggle of 1955-1959 to liberate Cyprus from British colonial rule and unite the island with Greece.
Afxentiou was born in the village of Lysi in Famagusta district (since 1974 under Turkish occupation) in 1928 and killed in the Battle of Mahairas on 3 March 1957, after his hideout was tipped-off by a traitor.

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.