Friday, 28 February 2014

Discover Neolithic Cyprus...with your dog

Ok, ok, I admit it, the Neolithic site of Choirokoitia is extremely important, interesting and well-preserved... but it's not a particularly good place to visit with your dog. For starters, obviously dogs are not permitted inside the site, and you can't see very much from outside of the fence. Secondly, you lose a large part of the experience if you don't go in and wander around the replica round houses, or climb the steep steps and see the view from the top of the site. Thirdly, the area around the site is not particularly interesting for dogs - a few rather soulless cafes and a car park.....

But never mind all that. You should go anyway, even if it means taking turns to wait outside with the dog while the rest of your party get to enjoy the site.

View of Choirokoitia from outside the fence

The site is located near the new highway between Larnaca and Lemesos, in the foothills of the Troodos mountain range.

It was first excavated by Dikaios, for the Dept. of Antiquities of Cyprus, from the mid 1930s. A team from the French Centre National de Recherche Scientifique took over in '76, led by Le Brun. The site has been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List since the late '90s.

The settlement at Choirokoitia was founded during the 7th Millennium BC and provides invaluable information about some of the earliest sedentary communities in Cyprus. The inhabitants of Choirokoitia (and their contemporaries) used tools made of flint and stone, rather than metal. They did not fire pottery, but carved stone such as diabase to make vessels.

As at Lempa (see previous post), archaeologists have constructed replicas at one end of the site. Unlike those at Lempa, however, these are not used for ongoing experimental archaeology, but rather to enhance the visitors' experience of the site.
Modern replicas of the Neolithic buildings at Choirokoitia
Continuing around the site, the foundations of a large number of round stone buildings, of varying sizes, are situated one above the other up the hill.  Of particular interest is the intricate entranceway, which would have forced visitors to follow a tight passage that zig-zags, before allowing them to enter - thereby giving residents time and opportunity to defend themselves.

Choirokoitia was abandoned c.5200 BC, then there seems to have been a considerable gap in the archaeological record in Cyprus, before we see the emergence of a new phase, the Ceramic Neolithic.
View of replicas from outside the fence
I have been to this site several times, but I could only find photos of the last time I was there, when I actually waited outside with Sage! I'll upload some more from inside the site as soon as possible.

So, on the positive side, if you are forced to wait outside, there are trees for shade, and cafes to buy a drink. While we were waiting, I took Sage for a little exploration around the area, and discovered the dry river bed and nearby fields. It's not the best walk, but it's a good place to have a rest stop on the road between Larnaca-Lemesos, to let your dog have a run around.
Ticket office and car park area

Dry river bed below site
Check the page of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus for more information about this site.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Flamingo watching... with your dog

When most people think of Cyprus, they think of beaches and blue sea, perhaps night life, maybe history... I think very few people would associate Cyprus with flamingos. Yet every year, as the winter rains re-fill the salt lakes, hundreds of Greater Flamingos arrive and feed in the lakes. They can be found in the salt lakes near Larnaca (Aliki) and Lemesos (Akrotiri), as well as in the wetlands and smaller lakes around the island, such as Oroklini and the area by Kalavassos. They arrive in about December and stay until around March.   
Flamingos in Oroklini Lake
A few flamingo facts:
  • Flamingos are a white colour when born. The pink colouring comes from the high quantities of beta carotene in their diet. The less healthy birds will retain a whiter-brown colour
  • Greater flamingos feed on insects, algae, worms and vegetation
  • They have a lifespan of up to 40 years
  • Greater flamingos are monogamous
  • They have a wing span of up to 1.7m
Flamingos on the Aliki, Larnaca
I love going to see these birds. Sometimes you can just make them out from a distance, out over the Salt Lake at Larnaca. Other times there seems to be hundreds of them spread out in small groups. At the small nature reserve on the road to Oroklini from the Dhekelia Road, there is a small lake by the road where you get a great view of the birds. Here you see flamingos mixing with much less 'exotic' ducks as well as other migratory water birds. 

View of Hala Sultan Teke, Aliki
This post doesn't have much to do with my dog, actually. But we do spend a lot of time by the lake in Larnaca together, with and without flamingos. I'm not sure what she makes of them - you can see in the video that she seems interested, but not too bothered. Fortunately she hasn't tried to chase them....
The number of flamingos wintering in Cyprus changes each year, depending on rainfall and how much water is in the lakes and wetlands. A Cypriot friend of ours said that this year the numbers seem to be particularly low, and other years he remembers the lake turning pink from the thousands of flamingo visitors. 

As well as problems caused by a lack of rain, flamingos and other migratory water birds are suffering from the destruction of their natural habitat (the wetland areas) through over-development. On this very built up island, preserving the small areas of wildlife that remain is extremely important.

Another major concern is the close proximity of Larnaca airport to the Aliki, their favourite of the feeding grounds in Cyprus. I have read that there are literally hundreds of collisions every year between the birds and low flying aircraft.

I really hope that this amazing wildlife is given the support and conditions needed to enjoy their holidays in Cyprus too.

For more information check out this useful article from 2012:

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Fly from major European cities to Cyprus and Greece... with your dog

Flying with your pet can be pricey. This is undeniable. But I have recently come across travel forums that are giving false advice to people wanting to travel within Europe with their pets. Some airlines insist that you organise your travel through a pet travel agency - which then charge around 250€ to be the middle man. But this is NOT true of all airlines and this is an extra cost you can safely avoid.

So, if you want to fly with your pet to Cyprus from the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Greece and various other locations, I would recommend trying Cyprus Airways (

Here is the price list for pet travel to ALL destinations, for a single ticket, with Cyprus Airways:

  • Up to 8kg, a dog (or cat) may be travel with you, in a carrier case, inside the cabin. Cost - 40€
  • From 9-25kg, your dog (or very fat cat??) must travel in the pressure and oxygen controlled section of the hold, in a suitable carrier case. Cost - 80€
  • From 25kg and upwards, rules as above. Cost - 160€

Note: The dog owner is responsible for buying a suitable sized carrier case, pet passport, microchip etc

For flights to Greece (from UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany and many other locations), I recommend Aegean (

Here is the price list for pet travel to ALL destinations, for a single ticket, with Aegean Airways:

  • Up to 8kg, a dog (or cat) may be travel with you, in a carrier case, inside the cabin. Cost - 40€
  • From 9-25kg, your dog (or very fat cat??) must travel in the pressure and oxygen controlled section of the hold, in a suitable carrier case. Cost - 80€
  • From 25kg and upwards, rules as above. Cost - 150€

British Airways is one of the airlines that insist on customers using an additional 'pet travel agency' to book plane tickets for their pets. The BA website does not include prices for pet travel, and makes it almost impossible for you to contact either staff at BA or at the handlers they use IAG Cargo. I had a polite but brief response to my email from IAG Cargo, informing me that they do not deal with individuals, only with pet travel agents, so could not answer my questions (regarding regulations, price etc). I still do not know how much BA charge for a single pet ticket from the UK to Cyprus, for example, but you can bet that with the additional cost of the pet travel agency, on top of the ticket price, this is going to be quite a sum!

The budget airlines (Ryanair, EasyJet) do not accept animals in the cabins or in the hold of the planes.

Have a look at this previous post: for info on the documents and health requirements etc that pets need before travel

See also my 6 reasons why travel with pets is worth the cost and the trouble:

Friday, 7 February 2014

Discover Chalcolithic Cyprus...with your dog

Chalcolithic site at Lempa with reconstructed Chalcolithic houses behind
Speaking to some friends last night, I found myself defending Cyprus against criticisms that it is not so culturally and historically rich as elsewhere in the Mediterranean, such as Greece or Malta. I don't know why people have this idea of Cyprus; it is simply wrong.

Reconstructions at Lempa Experimental Village
One of the most exciting things about this island is the fact that you can't go more than a few metres in any direction without stumbling on yet another site of archaeological or historical significance. From the spectacular Neolithic structures at the UNESCO site of Choirokoitia (as well as the lesser known site of Kalavassos Tenta), the wealth of Bronze Age sites throughout the island, such as Kition and Enkomi, the outstanding mosaics from the Roman settlements at Kourion and Nea Paphos, the beautiful Byzantine painted churches dotted all over the Troodos mountain range, to the fortifications, the mosques, the monuments..... the length of time that people have been living here, on this one small island, and leaving behind glimpses of their lives, is actually incredible.

At the gate to the site at Lempa
So today's post is about just one of these amazing sites, Chalcolithic Lempa... with your dog.

Lempa is an archaeological site 4 km north of Paphos. It was excavated by the University of Edinburgh in the late '70s. The settlement was formed during the Chalcolithic period (3800-2500 BC), the transitional period between the Neolithic (Stone Age) and the Bronze Age.

A number of stone female figurines were found at Lempa, most of which are exhibited in the Paphos Archaeological Museum, although the large, phallic figurine (seen in the photo to the left) is on display in the Archaeological Museum in Nicosia.

Not much remains of the Chalcolithic site, except for the foundations of large round stone buildings. Visitors to this site would find it difficult to interpret what they were seeing, if it weren't for the amazing reconstructions that have been constructed close by.

Remains of circular building at Lempa
These reconstructions began in the early '80s, as the Lempa Experimental Village, and were a collaboration between the local residents, the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, and archaeologists.
Reconstructions at Lempa
These buildings are extremely important to understanding what materials and methods were used, how you can create such structures with traditional tools, how the buildings deteriorate and collapse etc. 

Other activities have also been tested there, such as pottery firing and prehistoric cooking techniques.

Some of the houses have been left unfinished, so visitors can really see the materials that were used to make the mud bricks and mud plaster. Other buildings have been finished with a layer of mud plaster, then painted with a traditional red earth pigment.

This is an amazing resource for learning about prehistoric Cyprus - what life might have been like, the houses they lived in, how they built them, how they cooked.

Reconstructed building left unfinished 
So, can you visit Lempa with your dog?

I went to the Chalcolithic site of Lempa while my parents were visiting me last autumn. I took my dog Sage along, as we were already out for the day. Dogs and archaeological sites don't usually mix very well, but this site was quite convenient.

Firstly, you can see a great deal of this fairly small and compact site from outside of the perimeter fence.

Secondly, there are trees around the fence, providing shade, so it's possible to tie your dog outside in the shade while you go to see the remains (again, it is a small site, so you can stay in sight of your dog).

Lastly, there are very few visitors to this site (nobody while we were there), so if your dog makes a bit of a fuss being left outside, you can wait for a quiet time when any other visitors have left.

Sage by the entrance to Lempa archaeological site