Choirokoitia Neolithic Settlement
Choirokoitia Neolithic Settlement is a UNESCO designated World Heritage site and as such you can expect to see something regarded as very important in the history of the world. If ancient history and visiting historic sites is your thing then this site is a must see but if your idea of holiday heaven is lying on the beach this probably isn’t the place for you. In fact to emphasise this even more, we have had visitors who have declared a visit to the site as the highlight of their holiday whilst others have described it as ‘just a pile of rocks’.
The site is open throughout the year although the opening hours vary depending on the season. In the Winter it is open 8am to 5pm with extended Summer times of 8:00 – 7:30. During the shoulder season the gates close at 6pm. If you wish to check times the phone number is 24322710. Getting to the excavations is via steps so those with impaired mobility need to assess if they will be able to access the site; certainly wheelchair users will find it impossible. Sensible footwear is recommended as you will be walking over loose gravel paths/steps; don’t make the same mistake as us of wearing flip flops!
Having decided to visit the Choirokoitia Neolithic Settlement it is relatively easy to get there. The Limassol/Nicosia motorway runs right past the site – in fact the noise from the motorway is quite intrusive once you are up at the top of the excavations. Take exit 14 if you are coming from the West and at the junction turn left. A few hundred metres take the right turn as if you were going to the village of Choirokoitia and then turn right again at the ChrisMarie bakery. Go to the end of the car park to park your car – we much prefer this car park as it is a lot quieter. If you are coming from the East you still take exit 14. At the junction turn right and follow the road under the motorway. At the junction turn right again, go past the petrol station and then turn right as if you were going to the village of Choirokoitia and then turn right again at the ChrisMarie bakery. Go to the end of the car park to park your car. As mentioned this car park is much quieter; the ‘official’ car park can get very busy with coaches.
Once you have parked walk through the bollards, past the toilets, to the pay kiosk. The entrance fee is €1.70. Whenever we have visited the attendant has always been very helpful and willing to answer any questions you may have and give any tourist information that he can. You can purchase guide books at the kiosk if you want to get more background information to the site.
After you have paid the entrance fee the path leads down to a reconstruction of how the settlement might have looked when it was active. Here you can see how little space inhabitants had in each dwelling with stone benches doubling as sleeping platforms. This reconstruction is worth taking a look at if only to assist your understanding when looking at the foundations of the actual remains.
Once you have perused the information board to get your bearings take the path to your left. Initially it is a gentle upward slope with some steps but gets very steep as you get to the stone remains. Of course it is due to this steepness of the site that the dwellings were built in the first place being easy to defend when added to the protection that the River Maroni afforded.
As you look at the remains of the dwellings you can see the linking stone circular foundations that comprise one house. This is where you need to use your imagination to distinguish what are remains and what is just rock. Bearing in mind that the site dates from 9,000 years ago it is perhaps not surprising that time has blurred the edges of what was. The ancient residents are thought to number 2,000 at the height of the settlements existence which is an incredible number for such a small area. As excavations are ongoing it is thought that there will be much more to discover as time goes by.
The ancient Choirokoitians buried their dead under the floor and you may have noticed this feature in one of the reconstructed huts. As bodies were buried so the level of the floor was raised. In one house 26 graves on eight levels have been discovered. With the bodies personal effects such as bowls or necklaces were also buried and many of these can now be seen at the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia.
As you get to the top of the site you will see some remains covered by corrugated sheeting where excavations are ongoing. There is little point in taking the path round to the left as you can not see anything else of interest. Looking out over the surrounding land it is easy to see how the hill dominates the landscape. Walking back down the path it is easier to see the circular nature of the huts as you look down on them.
As you leave the Choirokoita Neolithic Settlement you may want to enjoy some refreshments. The large cafeteria Vasiliki, which you could see as you came off the motorway, tends to cater for the tourist coach parties that arrive regularly throughout the day. Our recommendation for a quieter break is the ChrisMarie bakery that serves snacks and coffee and cake. You will have passed it if you parked in our suggested parking space. If not, follow the path past the toilets, go through the bollards into the car park area. The bakery is the building on the left – the one on the right is a bookies.
Other facilities in the area include a bank just opposite the Vasiliki restaurant which is open until 12pm on Saturdays. A petrol station just off the motorway slip road has a 24 hour pay terminal if required. If you get yourself on the opposite side of the motorway as if you were going back to Limassol you will find another large restaurant, a butchers, ice cream parlour, pharmacy and a convenience store open 6 til late.