a travelogue
by Dr. George Taramides


I was born and raised in Kathikas, one of the Laona villages in the Paphos district. Even though my village is a distance of three kilometers from the Avakas gorge, I only recently had the opportunity to visit it. I have to confess that the experience left me so enchanted and proud of this jewel of Cypriot landscape, that I felt I should relate it.

It was then that I realized how true were the words of Ruskin, the English visionary, when he wrote: " Whoever has not experienced weeping with joy at the perfect beauty of nature, has no idea of the beauties of the world." Exploring nature is a way of reaching out to God, it is an insatiable quest for the eternal and indestructible, it is the love of life. All of us should, therefore, get to know our country better and marvel at its beauties, and learn to love them with passion. This land truly deserves our love!

When the object of love is a human being, then inevitably, one should also expect some disappointment. Nature, however, never disappoints.


At the western-most edge of Cyprus, between the coastal zone and the main road from Paphos to Polis, the Laona plateau is found (photo 1).

Map of the area.

Laona is part of the Greater Akamas area and includes the villages of Kathikas, Pano (Upper) and Kato (Lower) Arodes, Inia, Droushia and Kritou-Terra. Almost all of these villages are built at the crest of the plateau. The highest point is Kathikas, at 683 meters above sea level.

The villages are majestically situated on the mountain crest facing the Troodos mountains to the East and the endless blue of the sea to the Northwest. Exposed, as they are, to every weather condition from all four points of the compass, they have moulded their inhabitants into becoming rugged and obstinate, stubborn and proud, but also industrious and hardworking.

The Laona plateau, extending to 16,500 hectares is crossed by streams and rivers which spring from the mountain crest. On the east side, they lead to the Chrysohou valley and on the west side, to the coastal area, creating large precipices and deep gullies.

The climate of the area is dry and cool in the summer and cold in the winter. Laona receives a relatively high average annual rainfall of about 600 to 700 millimeters.

The agricultural produce of the area are cereals, legumes, almonds, carob beans, fruit etc. The main product though, is grapes - mostly black, white and sultana grapes. There are other varieties as well, but in smaller quantities. In the old days all the villages were equipped with grape-presses and the villagers produced some quite good wines.

Today, however, the majority of grapes are taken to the big wineries or to the Cypriot market for consumption. Recently though, some small family wineries have been established in the area.

Experts regard Laona as a paradise that has not been adequately studied, from the point of view of soil, rock formations, geology and vegetation. The large variety of soil and rock formations, coupled with relatively high rainfall contribute to the growth of extensive and rich, but mainly low-level, natural vegetation.


From a geological point of view, according to surveys by the Department of Geological Surveys of the Ministry of Agriculture, the area is characterized by outcrops of calvaneous rocks consisting of chalks, marls and reefal limestone, which rest on a sequence of 'foreign' allochtonous geological formations referred to as the Mamonia Formation.

These rock formations vary and it is believed that they represent parts of the African continent which reached the Cypriot geographical region as a result of the collision of the African and European continents millions of years ago.

In the Kathikas-Arodes area specifically, what the inhabitants refer to as "laona" are the rocks of the Mamonia Formation which consist of a mixture of fragments of quartzitic sandstone, lavas, serpentinite etc, embedded in a reddish clayed mortrix.

The mixture is referred to in the bibliography as Kathikas Melange. Mamonia Formations are barren areas, prone to landslides, creating the characteristic mixture of rocks known as laona. On the eastern foot of the Lipati mountain and the Akamas river-bed as far as the Koufon river, one can find a bentonitic clay formation.

On the western side of the plateau great precipices and deep gullies are found, like Koronia, Akoni, Avakas, Erini and Dipotamos.


The gorge is blessed with a very rich flora consisting of pine trees, Mediterranean cypresses, plane trees, junipers, lentisk trees, oleanders, tamarisks, thorny brooms, wild fig trees, oak trees, styrax trees, virgin's bowers, brambles, wild carob and olive trees, terebinths, fern trees and many others. An abundance of wild flowers are also found. An important element of the flora of the gorge is the existence of Centauria akamantis, which is found on the precipitous slopes of the gorge.

The impressive blossom of Centauria acamantis

Centauria akamandis is an endemic plant, found exclusively in the gorge, growing only in Cyprus and nowhere else in the world! According to the Forestry Department only about 300 plants have been traced, all on the slopes of the gorge. Efforts to transplant them to Loutra tis Afroditis in the Akamas area have so far been unsuccessful. The Centauria akamandis blossoms in the spring and its flowers have a purple colour.Another rare wildflower found in the gorge is the Euphorbia thomsonii.

Euphorbia thomsonii


The fauna of the gorge are foxes, hares (photo), partridges, falcons, crows, wild doves, night-owls and a multitude of native and migratory small birds. A large number of reptiles are also found.

Years ago vultures were found on the highest points of the precipitous rocks. However, the presence of man and lack of food have forced them to leave the gorge.

A wild hare. (Louis Kourtellarides)

A considerable number of semi-wild goats can still be seen.

An important element of the fauna encountered in the upper part of the gorge is the presence of thousands of butterflies. These butterflies appear in autumn among the fems and brambles. The Forestry Department has established that these butterflies are of the same variety as those found in Rhodes, and that their scientific name is Callimorpha quadripunctata.


In order to see the main gorge, you should enter via the coastal road, that is from the river bed. If, however, you wish to see the gorge to its full extent (about three kilometres), you should start from the upper section, from the villages of Pano and Kato Arodes, where the River Avakas springs.

For the first route, your car can be left about 15 minutes walk away and after seeing the main gorge you can return via the same route. The whole walk, from leaving your car to returning to it, will take about two and a half hours.

For the second route, you will have to travel by car to the area Koloni of Arodes, where the gorge begins, and be picked up at the exit towards the sea. In this instance, the cars you use need to have four wheel drive in order to tackle the difficult roads. This route will take about three and a half hours.

Necessities for both routes are boots, (Wellington boots if it is either winter or spring), a walking stick and water. The boots provide protection from the water and the rocks, and the walking stick provides support and security.

Confrontation of the giants

The play of light and shadow on the rocks and water. The discrdant pipe can also be seen.

The sculptured creation of nature.


Hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of years, have patiently shaped and left their mark on this glorious gorge, so that we can today admire and enjoy it.

We, the present but nonetheless transient inhabitants of this land, have no right to disturb or interfere with these wonderful creations. We have no right to upset the actions and wisdom of nature.

The community of Arodes, the District Administration, the Forestry Department and the Cyprus Tourist Organization whose policy is the protection of the natural environment, should place the Avakas Gorge under their protection and preserve it as a national treasure - as is the case of the Samaria Gorge in Crete. It should be declared a protected national monument.

The laws of nature should not be violated in any way and there should be a continuous effort to maintain the balance and harmony of the landscape.

The Avakas Gorge is a natural monument into which light, water and colours are allowed to run free. It is an impressive monument of wild and majestic beauty; it is a primeval smile of nature.

I would like to conclude this journey with the following verses of our national poet Costis Palamas taken from his poem, "My Greatest Longing".

'At the supreme moment when the light of my life

is slowly-slowly extinguished by death,

one thing will be for me my greatest longing.

It will not be the empty thoughts, the lost years,

the worry of poverty, the relentless

yearning for loving, a thirst in my blood

an ancestral curse,

not even my empty life always dragged

by the magnet of the Muse,

not even you, my precious home.

My greatest longing will be that

I was never able to live near you

oh green nature,

in the mountains, in the seas, in the forests;

it will be that I didn't enjoy you

immersed as I was in books,


You nature worshippers who walk along the gorge:

Your visit to the gorge is a communication with God.
Please leave the gorge intact and unspoiled.
When leaving, take back only your impressions and experience.

Dr. George Taramides,
5 Crete Str., P.O.Box 2011, Nicosia, CYPRUS
Tel: 357-22-476516, Fax: 357-22-361120
ISBN 9963-7752-2-5