Old stones and new life in Kalopanayiotis
This declining mountain village with its elderly population is taking on a new lease of life thanks to the restoration of its architectural heritage and the promotion of rural and cultural tourism that is benefiting its population.
Lying 60 km west of Nicosia, Kalopanayiotis dominates the Marathassa Valley in the Troodos Mountains, at the heart of a superb natural environment with abundant forests and springs, providing a paradise for botanists and ornithologists. The village is also home to one of the region’s nine Byzantine churches listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, namely the church of Ayios Ioannis (Saint John) Lambadistis, close to a renowned museum of Byzantine painting. Kalopanayiotis therefore clearly has no lack of attractions for visitors who come to the village in large numbers every year.
But the picture is rather less idyllic for the local community. With an ageing population of 280 in 2001, Kalopanayiotis is one of Cyprus’s many rural localities to be facing demographic decline and its consequences. Tourism had not previously brought many benefits to the villagers as most of them only remained for the time it took to visit the church and museum. The village was left in a state of abandon.
Stones, men and the ERDF
The situation began to change when, after the island joined the European Union in 2004, Kalopanayiotis received aid from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to provide 50% of the financing for projects designed to highlight the architectural heritage as a means of supporting its economic and social revitalisation. Also, by means of state aid and again with ERDF support, financial assistance was provided for private entrepreneurs seeking to develop rural tourism activities.
Completed projects include the repair of old stone paths and other traditional structures in the village centre, as well as the restoration of ancient facades. Of particular importance to the villagers was the renovation of the Lavrentios Residence and its conversion into a cultural centre for events organised by the inhabitants of Kalopanayiotis and neighbouring villages. The promotion of rural tourism also encouraged the creation of accommodation facilities, cafés and restaurants catering for visitors.
The revitalisation of Kalopanayiotis is destined to serve as an example for the implementation of similar integrated programmes in other rural communities on Cyprus and the improvement of living conditions for its inhabitants.