In an updated book of maps ALIX NORMAN gets lost in the terrain of Cyprus and engrossed by the cultural heritage presented by a keen orienteer
A year ago, Cyprus’ most avid orienteer released the ultimate book for island explorers. This month, he’s back with a second edition – an updated, expanded, all-new iteration that’s the perfect for anyone who thrills to the words ‘off the beaten track’!
It’s entitled Topographical Maps of Cyprus – but don’t let the unpretentious title fool you into thinking it’s only for cartographers. “It’s a ‘live’ book,” enthuses author Michael Savvides. “Not something you keep on your bookshelf, but something that goes in your car or your backpack everywhere you do. It’s for the adventurers,” he grins. “The explorers amongst us…”
Unlike your average tourist guide, Maps of Cyprus is a mine of information for “explorers, researchers, runners, and hikers,” says Michael. “It’s also ideal for families and visitors: a database of geographical, historical, architectural, religious, and viticultural information, which includes a list of every village and all the major footpaths. Footpaths,” he continues, “which I have walked myself – hiking thousands of kilometres in a bid to ensure the information is absolutely correct.
“Nowadays, many cartographers work from satellite imagery, sitting in an office far removed from the landscape. But when you make a map you have to be aware of what the terrain looks like on the ground; if you’re familiar with the territory you’re mapping, then you don’t mistake satellite imagery of a white line for a track when it’s actually a river!”
As an inveterate hiker (as well as a member of the Council of the Cyprus Mountaineering, Climbing and Orienteering Federation, and founder of the hiking and orienteering club Orientaction) 72-year-old Michael is a trailblazer who introduced orienteering to Cyprus some 10 years ago.
“I’ve always loved exploring,” enthuses the author. “It’s such a challenge to find yourself alone in unknown territory, combining your physical and mental abilities to overcome the challenges you face. Orienteering itself,” he adds, “is a very character-building sport. And though it’s relatively new to the island, it took off immediately; to date we’ve already held four major international orienteering events in Cyprus!”
As a local pioneer of the sport, Michael was often sought out by those who shared his passion. “Over the years, many people asked me where they could find large-scale maps of certain parts of Cyprus,” he continues. “But while there are small-scale maps aplenty, mostly aimed at tourists and travellers, larger scale maps just didn’t exist. Perhaps the area that was most frequently requested,” he adds, “was that of the centre of the Troodos Range. And of course, it wasn’t available. So I created it….
“Then,” he laughs, “another fervent hiker asked me to add in the Akamas Peninsula. And someone else suggested I also map the biking regions around Larnaca… And, over the course of nearly a decade, that first map grew into a book of the whole Troodos region!”
The original Maps of Cyprus comprised 10 main sections (each of which included at least eight detailed maps, covering an area of five by seven kilometres): The Akamas Peninsula, the town of Polis to the west of Paphos Forest, Paphos Forest, Esouza Valley, the central Troodos Forest, the wine region of Krasochoria, the Pitsillia region, Macheras Forest, the Stavrovouni region, and the hilly area west of Larnaca town.
Now, in its updated edition, the book also includes five new maps of the Tylliria area, six of the Xeros and Diarizos valleys, and three maps of the Commandaria region – a welcome extension of the Wine Region section. “I’ve vastly expanded the areas included,” explains Michael. “So the three new sections (covering an additional area of roughly 3,500 square kilometres) bring the number of sections to 12, and the total maps to 104.”
Michael has also included further details of rural heritage sites. “In the first edition there were three introductions with details of the Rural Heritage of Cyprus, comprising Medieval Bridges, Old Watermills, and Tar Kilns. In this edition I’ve added another seven: Water Driven Sawmills, Traditional Oil Mills, Water Wheel Wells, Ancient Copper Slugs and Mines, Old Caravanserai, Abandoned Ghost Villages, and Monoliths.”
He’s also supplemented the previous information on the island’s natural heritage, including Trees and Monuments of Nature, Waterfalls, and Significant Geological Formations, and has updated the section on The Religious and Wine Heritage of Cyprus.
Drawn to a scale of 1/25,000, so that each centimetre on the map represents 250 metres on the ground, the 100+ maps include everything any intrepid explorer could wish for. Contours appear every 10 metres (with a contour index every 50 or 100 metres, and spot heights where necessary), and highways, roads, dirt tracks and footpaths are all clearly marked. Manmade sites of interest – including buildings, vineyards, churches, chapels and mosques, mills, quarries, fishing shelters, kilns, lighthouses, and even water tanks – appear throughout. And among the more natural features of the landscape, we get cliffs, forests, wild vegetation, tree plantations, seasonal streams, rocks, and (worthy of their capital letters) Huge Rocks – many of which are also marked as climbing fields, should you be so inclined!
Best of all, everything is so precisely grid referenced that you can set your GPS by the coordinates, arriving at the exact spot you intended. ‘All maps are GPS compatible,’ we’re told in the introduction. ‘Coordinates taken from a GPS receiver can be drawn directly on to the maps.’ And with this, Michael has effectively put an end to the days of driving (or stumbling) in circles, desperately trying to find the Venetian bridge/rock-climbing spot/picnic site you’re after!
Whether you’re an inveterate hiker, introducing your family to island exploration, or merely trying to escape the descent of the mother-in-law, Topographical Maps of Cyprus is quite possibly the best all-round book on Cyprus outdoors out there. Kids will love exploring new nature trails (length, duration, and degree of difficulty are handily labelled) and picnic sites. Couples will thrill to the romance of medieval bridges, watermills, and painted churches. And anyone who’s had enough of company can now perform the ultimate disappearing act… Both monasteries and wineries are clearly-marked; seclusion or oblivion – take your pick!
For information and purchase details, visit the Facebook page ‘ORIENTACTION – Orienteering in Cyprus’. The book costs approximately €40