Lifestyle by Bejay Browne
Sleeping under the stars
While camping these days is more likely to be about cramming as much as possible into your car than what can fit on your back, it still offers a change of pace for city dwellers. But where can you go in Cyprus?
Many of us dream about sleeping under a starry sky, and eating food fresh off a glowing campfire, before plunging into the clear waters of the Mediterranean.
Whether it’s the feeling of freedom that entices, sleeping in the open air, roughing it a little, or just a break from the usual routine people desire, the number of campers has mushroomed in Cyprus over the past few years, according to the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO). Similarly, at the Polis campsite numbers are slightly up, with more interest being shown by both people who live in Cyprus and those from overseas.
For people with families, camping can be a cheap alternative. Also, you don’t have to worry about disturbing other dinner guests. “I stacked the car with everything that was not pinned down, loading it with husband and two children, warm bedding (it gets surprisingly cold up the mountains at night), mosquito spray, an occasional table, water container and a change of clothes each. The dog and the kitchen sink stayed behind. There was no space,” said Lia Panayiotou. “The kids loved it – they played in the woods, cooked marshmallows on a campfire and even went to bed grubby!”
The CTO licenses campsites in Cyprus; and facilities at the sites include showers, toilets, washing facilities, a mini market and often a snack bar or restaurant.
Nikki Gabrielides of the CTO confirmed they operate four licensed campsites in Cyprus – at Governor’s Beach, Limassol; Yeroskipou; Fengari Camp site in Peyia and the Polis camp site. In addition, the Forestry Department operates sites in Platania, Troodos (just before the square), Prodromos (next to the picnic site) and Stavros tis Psokas. “To be honest, I have never been camping myself,” Gabrielides said. “But I have heard differing reports. Apparently the best site is in Limassol at Governors’ beach, and then I have heard good reports about the site in Yeroskipou in Paphos.”
She continued, “the campsite in Polis has had mixed reactions. My advice to anyone wanting to go camping is to go and visit the site first before you decided to stay there. This way you won’t be disappointed.”
Rates for the sites vary, €2.50-€3.50 per day for a caravan or tent space and a further €2.50-€4.50 per person per day for services and tax. It’s best to contact the sites before arriving to confirm they are open and there is space available.
Joey Georghiades is 15-years-old, and has visited the campsite in Polis on a number of occasions. “I have been to other campsites, but my favourite is the one in Polis,” he said. “It’s great to have a barbeque, and really fun to sit around the campfire roasting marshmallows.
“Polis is nice because you are in the forest and the beach is literally just there. I went fishing with my friend, and the facilities are really good. There are showers and clean toilets.
“When we were there, a Greek band was playing. The campers were Cypriots and tourists all together, and we all had a good time. I really recommend it and want to go again”.
If you long for an evening meal under the stars, or you want to feel closer to nature, a camping holiday could be just what you need. But be careful where you pitch your tent, as camping is not permitted on unlicensed areas.
Both the fire services and the forestry commission are urging visitors and campers using these sites, to pay special attention to fire hazards. And in recognised camping sites, barbecue areas are covered in concrete to help protect against the spread of fire.
“Due to a lack of rainfall the ground is like tinder and will set alight in moments. While people should enjoy being outdoors, they must think about their actions,” urged one fire official. “Cigarettes must be properly extinguished and fires must not be lit, unless they are in permitted areas built for this purpose,” he instructed.
“In general, I advise campers to act cautiously and avoid any actions which may facilitate a fire,” he concluded.
Pavlos Neokleous is in his twenties and is a seasoned camper. “I have camped in the Greek islands, which were beautiful, and I have to say better than Cyprus. Not because of the surroundings, but they have much better facilities and they are more organised than us,” he said.
“I was camping in Polis a week ago for a couple of days with some friends. We were given a small pass to place on our car windscreen, which gave us access to the campsite. They have showers, toilets and a place to wash dishes and clothes. There is also a small beach bar where you can get food, watch TV, eat and have a beer.
“I really like it. It’s on the beach and the tents are among Eucalyptus trees, so the shade is good. It’s a nice place to get away from the every day routine. But be wary of weekends. It gets very busy, and in August, the place is packed and noisy,” he advised.
“It’s very clean and the showers were attended to about every half an hour. But it’s a bit old. The shower block should be pulled down and a more modern one built. I would say it’s a great place for men, but not so good for women. Apparently it’s a bit of a problem for women that there isn’t any hot water. One of my female friends said it isn’t girl friendly.”
Last year the Green Party of Cyprus caused a storm when it revealed that the future of Polis camp site was under threat. The site actually belongs to the Forestry Department but is sublet to the CTO, which, according to new EU regulations is unlawful. However, the CTO could not afford to pay market prices to let the site, putting its future in question. The current agreement expires in 2010 and although the site is OK for this year, its future beyond that is unclear as no official decision on what to do has been reached.
Lacey Packsun is in her 50s and likes nothing better than packing up her tent and roaming the world. “I have camped all over the Mediterranean,” she said. “I have visited all of the sites in Cyprus, and I really love pitching my tent in the Troodos.
“The climate up there is wonderful and it’s amazing to feel so at one with your surroundings. I admit I have hugged a few of the trees,” she said, “I guess I’m a bit of a hippy,” she laughed. “For me the Troodos mountain range is one of the most spectacular sights of the Mediterranean, it is very peaceful. It’s a good place to go to recharge your batteries.”
This year a new camping site opens in Platania. It is situated just before the picnic area and replaces a site nearby where camping was allowed. Funded by an EU grant, it has space for caravans and tents in addition to a small kitchen, showers, toilets and a children’s play place. And if demand requires, it will be further upgraded. For those who want to take in a bit of nature, the smaller camping site at Stavros tis Psokas – near the moufflon - has also been upgraded.
Governors beach camping site is right on the beach and has a capacity for 360 tents and caravans. It is open all year and is a very popular destination for Cypriots during August. “I really like camping here,” said Andri Laouris. “The site is to the left of the beach and is more organised and less noisy than Polis.
“I think some of the caravans may be permanent though, as they are equipped with everything you could want, including satellite television.”
The beach too is a great reason to visit. “The water is shallow so it’s suitable for kids, and there are some rock formations which are good if you want to explore or snorkel,” Laouris added. This makes it a better family bet than Polis, where the waves can be quite strong.
WHERE TO GO
Governors Beach Limassol Tel: 25 632878
Yeroskipou Zenon Gardens, Paphos Tel: 99 632229
Fengari Camp site, Peyia Tel: 26 621534
Polis camp site Tel: 26 815080
Troodos Hill resort Tel: 25 470903
Platania Tel: 22 924245
Trooditisa-Prodromos camping at Kalyeroi Tel: 25 422625
Stavros tis Psokas Tel: 26 991860
By Jacqueline Theodoulou
Having three dogs, it’s always a problem finding somewhere to stay during time off. When some friends suggested camping, I thought I’d give it a go. Next stop was the Super Home Centre, where I bought the necessary equipment – at very reasonable prices – and then it was off to the Polis Chrysochou campsite.
Paying the €6 fee to enter and set up wherever I pleased, I couldn’t help but feel this would be a very cheap vacation indeed. Even better, my beloved pooches were with me and I didn’t have to worry about them being OK in some kennel, or ‘dog hotel’ as they are (sometimes misleadingly) called in Cyprus.
Setting up the tent proved a lot easier than I had anticipated and after organising my provisions – drink coolers filled with copious amounts of water and alcohol as well as munchies – I sat back and breathed in the fresh air. It was years since the last time I felt so calm and serene.
Surrounded by trees and tweeting birds, and with the sea just a stone’s throw away, I couldn’t believe I had been living in Cyprus for more than 20 years and had never discovered this small paradise.
The dogs were happy as well, tied to trees on long ropes so they could investigate but not get lost and I could keep an eye over any mess they would make.
During peak seasons, the campsite fills with youths, but also families, and the atmosphere is amazing. Beach parties and sometimes special events organised at the campsite add to the experience.
Sleeping at night – even in mid August – is a refreshing experience as the cool breeze offers a relief that an air conditioner can’t. Waking up warm once the sun has risen can be easily dealt with with a quick trip to the beach.
However, I am glad I took my trip when I did as the campsite has decided to make itself into a dog-free zone. This is really upsetting, considering it was just about the only place in Cyprus I could have enjoyed a holiday with my pets. Ridiculous really, considering I was recently in Strasburg at an upmarket hotel, which stated that you could bring along your pets as long as you informed the management beforehand.
What next, dogs banned from Cyprus altogether? But would that be such a bad idea considering the poor way many dogs are treated on the island?
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