Our hike of Saturday 12 March 2016 takes place in the picturesque mountainous area of Pitsilia, visits two churches on the World Heritage list and follows a linear path of 7 ½ km. This hike is rated 2+ (medium difficulty to difficult), and is expected to take up to 3 hours. The hike involves several uphill and downhill sections and a not insignificant elevation change; we start at the church of Stavros tou Agiasmati at an altitude of 850 m, go up to 1160 m, and finish at the church of Panagia tou Araka at an altitude of 1035 m. 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 11:30 am. Xenophon is leading this walk, which will go ahead even in light rain; if you need to, call 97613720. If we find the churches open, there will be sufficient time to visit their inside and admire their treasures, principally centuries-old murals; Stavros tou Agiasmati was built in the 15th c. and is dedicated to the Holy Cross; Panagia tou Araka was built in the 12th c. and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. At the end of the walk we shall drive to a taverna in the vicinity, for a meal.
Because of the difficulty, we will only walk the trail in one direction. This translates to a set of logistics rules, which participating Strollers need to observe, as a group. Please study them carefully and make up your mind, based on your acceptance of these demands, as follows:
*you need to register for this activity (e-mail the walk leader by end Thursday)
*the event is open only to Strollers who accept participation at dinner, at the end of the hike; the activity takes place in an area off the beaten track, and we need to supply the taverna with the number of participants, to ensure the high standard of service you have come to enjoy with the Cyprus Strollers
*we need to drive in cars of 2 adults (driver + one passenger); when registering, please indicate whether you are bringing your car, or if you need a lift
*to start, all cars shall drive from Nicosia to the walk finish (Panagia tou Araka); half of the cars will park there and the Strollers in those cars will get in the cars continuing from there
*half of the cars will drive on from Panagia tou Araka to Stavros tou Agiasmati, the walk start
*at the conclusion of the hike, all Strollers shall drive back from Panagia tou Araka to Stavros tou Agiasmati, to pick-up the cars parked at the walk start
At that point, all cars shall drive to the taverna.
Please read all driving instructions below and have a copy with you on the day. To turn this plan into a success, it is imperative that you adhere to times and use your odometer as instructed.
If you live in or near Nicosia, you need to meet at the designated meeting point in Nicosia. If you are joining us from a distant place, such as Limassol, kindly alert the walk leader as early as possible, to work out a plan for you and others traveling like you. 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.
How to get from Nicosia to the church of Panagia tou Araka, the walk finish:
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 the church of Panagia tou Araka, the walk finish, to the church of Stavros tou Agiasmati, the walk start:
Zero your odometer, with the church on your left. At the 0.5 km reading you get to a T-junction: do not turn left towards Lagoudera; turn right, uphill, signposted to Troodos and Polystypos. At the 2.9 km reading you get to a T-junction: turn left, towards Polystypos. At the 4.8 km reading you reach a crossing, in the village of Polystypos; do not go straight towards Alona; take the sharp left turn, downhill, signposted to Stavros tou Agiasmati. You pass through the small villages of Livadia and Alithinou. At the 8.7 km reading you get to a T-junction: turn left, downhill, into the E906 road. At the 10.1 km reading be very careful; you leave the E906, taking a left turn uphill, with the sign to Stavros tou Agiasmati obscured by foliage. At the 13.9 km reading you have reached the church of Stavros tou Agiasmati, on your right. There is no road continuing further. Do an about turn and park your car on the side.
How to get from the church of Stavros tou Agiasmati, the walk start, to the church of Panagia tou Araka, the walk finish:
Zero your odometer, with the church on your left. At the 3.6 km reading you get to a T-junction: turn right, uphill, into the E906 road. At the 5.1 km reading turn right into the E930 road, signposted to Alithinou, Livadia and Polystypos. At the 9.0 km reading you reach a crossing, in the village of Polystypos; do not go left towards Alona; take the sharp right turn, uphill, signposted to Lagoudera and Panagia tou Araka. At the 10.9 km reading turn right, signposted to Lagoudera and Panagia tou Araka. At the 13.3 km reading you reach a junction; do not continue straight; turn left, signposted to Saranti and Panagia tou Araka. At the 13.7 km reading you have reached 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://tiny-url.org/hEk7ggCF
Google Maps: Here is a map taking you from the meeting point in Nicosia to the church of Panagia tou Araka, the walk finish http://tinyurl.com/jgybxrr
Google Maps: Here is a map taking you from the church of Panagia tou Araka, the walk finish, to the church of Stavros tou Agiasmati, the walk start http://tinyurl.com/ne65bll
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. Two of these churches form the start and finish of this hike.
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.