A mountain drive is something that can be done at any time of the year. Even when the heat of summer is too much to bear on the coastline, high up in the mountains there is always a breeze scenting the air with the fragrance of pine. The only time not to try it is when there is mist shrouding the mountain tops and reducing visibility to zero.
Driving in springtime there is always the chance to look for the many species of wild flowers, including some exquisite bee orchids such as the Brown Bee Orchid, the Yellow Bee Orchid and the Eastern Woodcock Orchid, these are plentiful during the months of March and April and are easily identified. In addition there are the pretty pink Naked Man Orchid and the Pyramid Orchid. The predominant colour of spring is yellow and there is an abundance of sunny looking plants from the Giant fennel and the Cape sorrel, both of which cover the landscape in an unmissable vibrant cloak, to the shyer and less obvious Arabian sun rose and the Yellow Cyprus sun rose. Rarer and becoming more so is the Black Cyprus tulip, an endemic, surviving in remote areas and some corn fields, as much of its natural habitat has now been destroyed. There are many trees and shrubs, among them are the red-barked Eastern Strawberry Tree which bears pretty white flowers and an edible fruit, the Azarole which resembles hawthorn bearing a fruit from which the Cypriots make a preserve or jam, the Terebinth, once a source of turpentine and the Lentisk bush secretes an aromatic resin used in chewing gum. The trees are represented by the majestic Calabrian Pine growing profusely on the mountains and ubiquitous Cypress tree which is found in the villages and on ancient sites, especially those with a religious significance.
Mountain routes are easy to find with good access from the main roads. The majority of tracks are tarmacked but they are narrow and just because there seems little traffic, care should be taken. One section of the route runs from St. Hilarion to a point above the village of Karsiyaka and they are places to stop among the trees. Part of this route is a military restricted area and no stopping or photography is permitted. Once through the restricted zone it is safe to stop. Another main access point is at the Five Finger mountain pass. Heading westwards after a scenic drive of about four miles, the car park below Buffavento Castle is reached. Continue along this route to the ruined church of Panayia Absinthiotissa where there is a large picnic area. Heading eastwards from the Five Finger pass is a drive almost entirely sheltered by pine trees with many stopping places until the picnic site above the ruins of Sourp Magar monastery are reached. Continuing eastwards towards Esentepe for the road to Antiphonitis, (Christ of the Echo) this small frescoed church is well worth a visit.