Cedar Valley, An Emerald Heart Of The Paphos Forest

In this post: come for cedars, stay for a hike; how to get to the Cedar Valley; Cyprus cedar explained.

Cedar Valley
Cedar Valley, the heart of the Paphos Forest

Dust off your hiking boots, grab a bottle of water and let’s go see some cedars. Whoa, wait a minute. If we were in Lebanon or Siberia, it would sound just right. Cyprus though… well, I never heard about Cyprus Cedars before.

Cyprus Cedar
The classic example of the Cyprus Cedar

I am not a botanist though. Mother Nature is unrelentingly creative. Who knows what it has in store for an unsuspecting onlooker. I just keep an open mind and… let’s go. Cedar Valley, here we come!

The valley is located literally in the middle of the Paphos Forest. Getting there is an adventure by itself. There are just a few options. Regardless of starting point, they all are narrow windy mountain roads. They all paved, so 4×4 is not necessary. An optimist would admire stunning views and crystal clear air. A pessimist would grumble about an excessive amount of Dramamine needed to finish the journey.

It took us about an hour to get to the valley. It could’ve been even less, but we stopped over and over again to take pictures.

Paphos Forest
Who can resist to stop and snap a picture like this

Every turn revealed amazing ridges and vistas. No aspiring photographer could miss these opportunities. Thus, a notion of time became irrelevant in the presence of eternal beauty.

With a buildup of this magnitude, the final destination has to be exceptional. Friendly warning: do not confuse a parking area with the Cedar Valley. Seriously. Some visitors get upset when cedars do not jump right in front of them. You have to earn their respect. Get out of the car and be ready for some exercise.

Cedar Valley
The beginning of the path to the cedars is clearly visible from the parking area

The hiking path follows the narrow stream, eventually crosses it and steadily climbs along the mountainside.

entrance to the cedar valley
Entering the Cedar Valley

That’s where cedars rule. You can’t miss their exotic shape. The distinct horizontal layers are unique and stand out from the rest of the forest.

Cyprus Cedar
Cyprus Cedars are easily recognizable
Cedar Valley
Now, try to find cedars on this picture. Easy, right?

To be fair, the name could be misleading. If you are used to vast American or Australian landscapes, you are up for a disappointment. The valley per se is fairly small, narrow and densely covered with trees.

Cedar Valley
Cedar Valley in disguise

However, the size does not really matter if you are up for a hiking excursion along the mountain track. It quickly leaves the valley behind and weaves for miles and miles up and down through the forest.

Cedar Valley
Hiking along the mountain road

The views are astonishing and would keep you entertained for hours.

Cedar Valley
Cyprus Cedars in the Paphos Forest

Just do not forget that it’s better to get back to your car before dark.

Up and up you go. At some point, you will see the Chapel on Throni Hill. Archbishop Makarios III, the first president of Cyprus, is buried next to it.

If you are lucky or time your visit wisely, you would enjoy Cyprus cherry blossom.

The legend

The Cyprus Cedar is also known as Holy Mary’s pine. According to local folklore, when Virgin Mary visited Kykkos Monastery, the pine trees knelt down honoring her as she was passing by. She rewarded them by changing their shape into these ones of a kind beautiful trees.

What is Cyprus Cedar

The Cyprus Cedar belongs to the family of Pinaceae. It is the only endemic tree species growing in Cyprus.

Cyprus Cedar
Cyprus Cedar is known as the short-leaf cedar, because it has the shortest needles (aka leaves) as compared with the other species of cedar.

The genus of Cedrus (common English name cedar) is represented by four closely related species inhabiting the area from the Himalayas in the East to the Atlas mountains in the West. The fossil evidence supports this theory. Fossils were discovered in Western Kazakhstan, Southern Europe, Central Europe and the Ahaggar Massif in central Sahara. Unfortunately, it’s not certain whether the Cedrus ever had a continuous distribution along this path.

Cedrus brevifolia is found exclusively in Cyprus, Cedrus libani(aka the Cedar of Lebanon or Lebanon cedar) in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, Cedrus deodara(the deodar cedar, Himalayan cedar, or deodar/devdar/devadar/devadaru) in the Hindu Kush, Karakoram and the Indian Himalayas and Cedrus atlantica(the Atlas cedar) in the Atlas mountains of North Africa.

The Cyprus Cedars grow in five small neighboring areas of Paphos Forest covering about 700 ha on stony mountainsides at elevations between 900 and 1400 meters.

Cyprus Cedar
The crown in mature trees is open and flat-topped. The cones are barrel-shaped and, apparently, delicious at least to some inhabitants of the forest

The Cyprus Cedar was well-known during ancient times. It was mentioned by Theophrastus and Pliny as an important forest tree. Sadly, island’s cedar population greatly diminished in the past centuries. In 1879, the Forestry Department adopted conservation measures for Cyprus Cedars protection. Currently, there are just a few pockets of Cyprus Cedars left in the Paphos Forest.

Practical advice

Too often, visit to the Cedar Valley gets sandwiched between other activities. Kykkos Monastery and mouflons receive an unfairly greater share of attention leaving cedars in the shadow. I beg to differ. Plan a daylong trip to the valley: combine viewing these magnificent trees with hiking.

Having said that, there is no reason not to visit mouflons on the way back home. Mouflon Enclosure near the Stavros tis Psokas Forest Station is just a short drive from the valley.

Mouflons are the kings of Cyprus forests. They are the largest wild animals on the island

Mouflon Enclosure is not marked on Google Maps but here is the exact location:

Enjoy your visit!

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Cedar Valley is a great place for a daylong hike. The track goes for miles and miles offering fantastic views of the Paphos Forest. In this post: come for cedars, stay for a hike; how to get to the Cedar Valley; Cyprus Cedar legend and history.

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