Akamas peninsula is a region filled with mythology, legend, and tradition. Evidence is the toponyms that are connected to tales from the ancient times. Aphrodite’s baths, Rigena’s groove and Rigena Tower are only some examples. The unique beauty of Akamas with its wild natural beauty in combination with the remote landscape are enough reasons that made it the goddess Aphrodite’s home, and a meeting spot for forbidden and not couples in love. For instance, “Smigies” is a location where Rigena and Digenis met. Or “Source ofLove”, known as “Fontana Amoroza”, is a location where Aphrodite used to take her lovers away from people.
During the proto-Byzantine period, the remote and forested area of Akamas was chosen by eremites who lived inside the carved caves in order to become monks and practice asceticism close to nature and God. Gradually, small churches and monasteries were built near them which later became the parish temples of the settlements that were built around them. Most of these settlements were subsequently destroyed by the Arab raids. The monasteries, the temples and the settlements that were built along the peninsula of Akamas are still known thanks to the toponyms - Agios Konon, Agios Nikolaos, Agios Epifanios to name a few. Nevertheless, the area seems to have been inhabited in the Neolithic period and later during the Hellenistic and Roman period.
According to tradition, the name of the region of Akamas originates from the Trojan hero Akamas, son of Theseus and Phaedra, who built a colony in Cyprus. Another legend claims that the name derives from the negative prefix α and the noun ακάμωτος meaning “uncultivated”. Another one claims that it derives from the negative prefix α and the verb καίω (meaning “burn”) because Akamas is the only area in Cyprus that wasn’t infected by the arsons of Arabs.
The region of Akamas is on the westernmost part of of the island and contains the homonymous peninsula and forest. The region consists of a few scattered traditional villages like Inia, Drousia, Pegia, Kathikas and Arodes – all quite small picturesque villages.
The virgin landscape of the region, the diversity of the flora and fauna, the steep hillsides, and the beautiful unspoiled coastal turn Akamas into a small heaven on earth. For nature lovers, it is undoubtedly a paradise for exploration. Rare endemic plants grow; foxes, snakes and other reptiles live; and many types of migratory birds are found. In addition, two types of turtles, the Green turtle and the Loggerhead (Caretta-Caretta) turtle, live and nest at the coasts of Akamas. The three most prominent types of trees in the area are pines, junipers and wild olive trees. There is also a diverse shrub vegetation and a variety of many wild flowers like alyssum, cyclamen, tulips, daisies, small lilies etc that bloom in spring, creating a feast of colours.
The geomorphological richness of Akamas is evident from the deep valleys, caves, canyons, sea caves, islets – each of them having their own local flora and fauna that result to the presence of different microclimates in the region. Worth noting is “Avakas Gorge” which is accessed through a nature trail that follows the course of “Avgas” river and is covered around with thick vegetation. The gorge is characterised by its rich biodiversity and it is an ideal destination especially for bird watchers. Furthermore, in Akamas one may find remnants of ovens and kilns from the magnesium mines that used to operate in the area. These mines used to operate until the beginning of 20th century.
The whole region of Akamas is indeed a pole of attraction for lovers of nature and scientists alike from around the world. For at least the last decade, a debate arose over the limits of private land that is offered for “developmental” interventions, and the size of the area which needs to be declared as protected (National Park). Akamas is certainly rich in nature, history and culture and deserves our respect. It is a national treasure that must be protected and preserved for future generations.