Date last walked: November 2015
Distance: Approx 13 miles (20 kms)
Duration: 5 hours 35 minutes
Difficulty: Difficult with around 600m descent and ascent.
Start this walk from Kionia picnic site (elevation 1200m) which is situated on an asphalt road about 2km south of Machairas Monastery and just below Machairas Forest Station.
Take the E4 European Long Distance Footpath from the picnic site. There are three Forestry Department boards at the side of the road, the E4 is just to the left of these and takes you past the picnic tables, and leaves Kionia heading downhill in a roughly south-easterly direction.
You’ll be walking downhill on a well-marked footpath. This is a nature trail as well as the E4, so there are green information boards along the way. The footpath is quite narrow and steep in places so take care. You are in a beautiful valley with some dramatic rock formations and cliffs, also plenty of shade provided by a forest of black pines.
There are also good views across the hills to your left.
It’s a good habitat for a variety of birds and we encountered two young peregrine falcons as we rounded a corner here.
Along the route you will pass some old charcoal kilns which have been excavated. Interesting, but don’t lean too heavily on the wooden railings as these were rather wobbly last time we passed!
After following the footpath downhill for 55 minutes you’ll reach an open area where there is a junction of paths. This is signed up (in Greek) as ‘Topothesia Dinmas’ – elevation here is 960m. There is an information board and a signpost to ‘Profitas Elias 4km and Kionia 3km’.
Follow the sign pointing towards Profitis Elias and continue to walk gradually downhill.
The views start to open up and at 1 hour 10 minutes you can see Lefkara reservoir glittering between the hills in the distance to your right, and 10 minutes later, the weather-station at the summit of Machairas way behind to your left.
At 1 hour 45 minutes you will arrive at a junction where there is a wooden bench and an E4 signpost to Profitis Elias 1km.
Continue to follow the E4 towards Profitis Elias. A couple of minutes later you will reach another junction where, again, you continue along the E4 which goes to the right. All this is clearly signposted. (Note – there is a footpath from this second junction heading uphill to a summit (Throni). An option for a small detour if you wish)
Follow the E4 footpath to arrive at the monastery of Profitas Elias (683m) at 2 hours.
This disused but well maintained monastery is a beautiful place with plenty of shady spots for a picnic. There are toilets, a picnic area with tables and barbecues. Also drinking water from a tap just outside the main gates.
When you have finished exploring, leave the monastery on the earth road signposted to ‘Mantra tou Kambiou 7km’. There are no signposts after you leave the monastery but the route is easy to follow.
The earth road winds around the side of the mountain. Keep to the main wide earth road, ignoring any side tracks. As the valley opens out to your right you will be able to see Nicosia and the Mesaoria plains in the distance. About 20 minutes or so after leaving the monastery you will also see the white globe of the Machairas Forest Station high on the mountain ridge ahead of you – just above where you parked your car!
At 2 hours 55 minutes the track turns in a U-bend to cross a stream on a concrete bridge and starts to climb. Two minutes later you will arrive at a 4-way junction. The main track curves to the right and another track turns sharp left in a hairpin bend – ignore both of these and take the middle trail (heading roughly North West) which branches off left from the track you are on and climbs up through the trees.
After climbing steadily for about 10 minutes you will come to another track which dog-legs to the left. Ignore it. Continue along the main track as it crosses over a wide fire-break.
Note the black water pipe running along the side of the track. This continues all the way to Mantra tou Kampiou.
At 3 hours 40 minutes the trail emerges onto an asphalt road. Mantra tou Kampiou is just to the right of this junction. It’s a large picnic site, sometimes busy at weekends but there is plenty of shade and it’s a good place to stop for a break.
When you are ready to move on, walk down the road away from the picnic site in the direction of Machairas Monastery. After about 4 minutes as the road bends left and then curves around to the right you will see a Forestry Department information board at the start of a track to the left. This is the start of the Mantra tou Kampiou – Kakakephalos nature trail which is your onward route.
Turn onto the earth track and climb gently along it as it follows the course of a stream to your left.
WATCH CAREFULLY FOR THE NEXT TURN; After about 17-20 minutes (4 hours) the footpath leaves the earth track and heads into the woods to the right. It is a very clear path once you get onto it, but easy to miss as you stride along the earth road. There was a sign here last time we did the walk (see photo) but it isn’t always there, so do keep your eyes peeled. The footpath dog-legs away from the main track. (Note that the main track continues for about an hour but then comes to an abrupt dead end. We tried it once….)
You’ve quite a climb back to Kionia from here, so it’s quite a tough hike up this path, but believe me it’s worth it as you’ll be rewarded by wonderful views.
The path zigzags upwards and after about a quarter of an hour you reach a ridge. Your path turns left to follow the ridge – you’ll again be able to see the Machairas Forest Station ahead and above you.
At 4 hours 25 minutes you arrive at a remote shepherd’s hut (880m). The hut was built in 1930 and restored in 2013 and it commands fantastic views across the valley.
Continue walking along the path. It follows the ridge at first, then skirts to the east side of the ridge before re-crossing to the west side. The Machairas summit pops into view from time to time as you climb, each glimpse bringing you a little closer. Also, look across the valley to the west to see a large monument. This is very close to the hideout where the EOKA fighter, Grigoris Afxentiou, met his death. I’m not sure whether the monument commemorates Afxentiou. One day I’ll go and find out……
Keep walking, and climbing, and at 5 hours 20 minutes you will reach an asphalt road and an information board which maps the Kakakephalos – Mandria tou Kampiou nature trail.
Turn left onto the road. As it curves around the mountainside you will pass a viewpoint on your left. This is next to the summit of Kakakephalos (1235m).
At 5 hours 35 minutes you arrive back at your start point: Kionia picnic site.
We once arrived back here after dark (having missed that turn onto the footpath at 4 hours!) and were welcomed by scops owls calling all around us. Magical.
Bird List – November 2015: Blackbird, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Chukar, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Hooded Crow, Jay, Magpie, Robin, Song Thrush.