The island of Cyprus sits in the clear blue waters of the eastern Mediterranean at the crossroads of Africa, Asia and Europe. At the end of December, when northern Europe has slipped deep into the clutches of winter’s icy grip, Cyprus still enjoys a mild and sunny climate with a pleasant average daytime temperature of 18°C. However, whilst Cyprus can boast an impressive average of 340 days of sunshine per year, its rainfall tends to fall between October and February, watering landscapes parched and desiccated by the summer sun, encouraging Cyprus’s autumn and winter-flowering plants to burst into life once more. This rejuvenated green land attracts an interesting variety of birds, amongst them such sought-after species as Finsch’s Wheatear and Moustached Warbler which overwinter on the island.
This 2-centre natural history holiday also provides the opportunity for participants to partake in a Cypriot Christmas for a change. So, as well as searching for the varied plants, birds and other wildlife of this beautiful Mediterranean island, we will enjoy a more relaxed and far less commercialised Christmas than that experienced in the UK. We’ll also no doubt sample a few of the island’s traditional festive foods such as ‘melomakarona’ (a delicious honey cake) and ‘kourabiedes’ (an almond cake coated in icing sugar). So, let Naturetrek take the worry and stress out of your festive planning this year and join us in southern Cyprus for a relaxing week of wildlife, walking and a glass or two of the local Cypriot wine!
Our holiday begins with a flight into Paphos, an interesting and historical town located at the south-western end of the island. A small but comfortable hotel in Paphos will be our base for the next three nights whilst we explore the coastal habitats and inland hills of this region in search of flowers, birds and other wildlife. On our first full day we will visit the archaeological ruins on Paphos headland, a World Heritage Site with remains dating from pre-historic times through to the Middle Ages. Much of the site, however, is Roman in age and includes some of the finest Roman mosaics in Europe. It is also an interesting spot for wildlife and should offer us our first autumn and winterflowering plants such as Narcissus serotinus, Muscari parviflorum and the endemic Taraxacum aphrogene. Spinyfooted Lizards bask on the walls of these ruins, whilst birds to look out for include Tawny Pipit, Crested Lark, Black Redstart and perhaps even a wintering Greater Sand Plover on the rocky beach.
To the west of Paphos lie the Asprokremnos and Kouris Reservoirs, great areas for birds throughout the year and regular wintering sites for Finsch’s Wheatear, a sought-after species that only breeds from eastern Turkey into central Asia, but winters in small numbers in Cyprus. We also hope there may be one or two lingering Cyprus and Spectacled Warblers here, plus Moustached Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush, Griffon Vulture and Long-legged Buzzard. On the coast at Mandria we will be looking out for other wintering species, plus flowers such as Ranunculus bullatus, Crocus veneris and Romulea tempskyana.
Next, we transfer to the small coastal town of Latchi, located at the foot of the beautiful Akamas Peninsula. En route we will stop at the Pegeia Forest, one of the best-preserved lowland juniper and pine forests on the island and home to Colchicum pusillum, Spiranthes spiralis, and Euphorbia dimorphocaulon. During our four nights in Latchi we will be based in a comfortable hotel close to the Baths of Aphrodite, an attractive natural pool where the goddess of love was fabled to bathe. This is also one of the few permanent sources of freshwater in the area and, as such, attractive to a variety of thirsty birds. Walks from our hotel will take us along the coast of the Akarmas Peninsula which is characterised by its dramatic limestone cliffs and extensive maquis adorned with rocky fields. With a little perseverance we may hope to find the shy, but very vocal, Black Francolin, plus a variety of other species including Corn Bunting, Sardinian Warbler and Spanish Sparrow. Starred Agamas and Troodos Lizards will be sunning themselves on the Carob Trees, whilst for the botanist an interesting variety of plants may include Arisarum vulgare, Scilla autumnalis, Narcissus tazetta, Spiranthes spiralis and the first Anemone coronaria and Cyclamen persicum of the season. There should also be one or two early flowering orchids on show such as Ophrys israelitica and Anacamptis collina.
So, please do join us for a festive week of wildlife in southern Cyprus this year and a ‘Kala Chritouyenna’ (Merry Christmas) to one and all!