Not all UNESCO sites are created equal. Cyprus has three UNESCO sites: the striking ruins of Paphos, the gorgeous painted churches in Troodos, and the neolithic site of Choirokoitia. One of these things is not like the other.
I saved Choirokoitia for the last thing I did during my month in Cyprus, which considering it was DEFINITELY not a highlight was probably not a smart thing to do. It’s located in the Larnaca Region of Cyprus, and while I went to Larnaca quite often, I just couldn’t get super excited about visiting Choirokoitia. I’ve never seen a UNESCO site with less enthusiasm from the country’s tourism board, despite the fact that Cyprus is a country that is incredibly proud of it’s history and archeological sites.
It’s not that Choirokoitia isn’t important for archeologists and historians, but for the history enthusiast, there’s just not much there there.
I love UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and I put trust in their organization that the places they select have such high value to the understanding of world history and geography that they are worth visiting. But Choirokoitia left me cold.
This TripAdvisor review sums up my experience as well:
We left this till last wasn’t actually much to see.it was so hot up there. Just a few stone walls. Lots of steps.
Yikes! I’m glad I didn’t read it before my trip. If I didn’t specifically set out to visit UNESCO sites, I would have been happy to skip it.
Choirokoitia is a neolithic site that was inhabited from the 7th-5th centuries BCE.
From UNESCO’s description:
[Choirokoitia] “is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the eastern Mediterranean. It represents the Aceramic Neolithic of Cyprus at its peak, that is the success of the first human occupation of the island by farmers coming from the Near East mainland around the beginning of 9th millennium.
Excavations have shown that the settlement consisted of circular houses built from mudbrick and stone with flat roofs and that it was protected by successive walls. A complex architectural system providing access to the village has been uncovered on the top of the hill. The achievement of such an impressive construction, built according to a preconceived plan, expresses an important collective effort, with few known parallels in the Near East, and suggests a structured social organisation able to construct and maintain works of a large scale for the common good.”
When you get there, you climb 180ish steps to the top of the hill, making this site only partially accessible. When you get to the top, you see the ruins of circular dwellings. Most of the hill is yet to be excavated, but what you can see are the walls and dwellings from different periods during the site’s inhabitance.
At the foot of the hill, there are 5 dwellings that have been reconstructed using original building methods. These are outfitted with replica tools and objects contemporaneous to the site.
These huts were the most interesting part of the visit. They are SMALL. They make tiny homes look massive. And they are dark. And I got the distinct impression they would feel oppressively hot in the Cyprus summer.
I couldn’t find a good tour or city bus to get there, so I ended up taking a bus from Nicosia to Larnaca and then negotiating a flat rate for a taxi to drive me Choirokoitia and wait during my visit. The site is 35km outside of the city of Larnaca. I spent the morning on a tour of the city, so I dedicated about two hours total to the visit. An hour of driving and an hour of climbing and touring.
I negotiated a taxi from Larnaca. I paid 50€, but, if it had been meter-based, I would have paid 65€. It’s also easily reached by rental car.
The entrance fee was 2.50€. There are two entrances, and if one is closed the other may still be open. This happened to me, so make sure to check. Here’s the Cyprus Tourism website with hours and updated fees.
Things to Do While You’re There
Walk to the top to see the site. Check out the reconstructed houses at the bottom. There’s an archeological trail that might be a nice hike if you’re into that sort of thing (I’m not). That’s pretty much it.
- There’s not tons of info at the site, so read ahead if you want to know what you’re looking at.
- Take water (and snacks if you need them)
- Wear sunscreen since there’s no shade
- Go early or late in the day to avoid the heat. My visit was around four in the afternoon, and the weather was perfect.
- Wear shoes that can handle rock steps
- If you’re not a serious history lover or really into UNESCO sites, go to the beach instead