The third largest island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus stretches 150 miles (240 km) from the west coast to its easternmost tip and 60 miles (96 km) from north to south.
Two imposing mountain ranges act as a dramatic backcloth to the sweeping central Mesaoria plain.
There are six major towns Nicosia, the capital situated inland in the middle of the Mesaoria plain, and the 5 coastal towns of Limassol, Larnaka, Pafos, Kyrenia and Famagusta. The latter two, in the north and east respectively, have been under Turkish occupation since 1974 and are inaccessible to visitors.
Cyprus's landscape is one of infinite contrasts, from its fertile central plain to the cool vine-clad foothills; the majesty of the cedar valley in which wild indigenous moufflon roam; mile after mile of sandy shores with secluded beaches to seek out, and hundreds of villages to explore each with its own tradition and charm.
Leafy carob and attractive olive trees abound while plantations of citrus and banana, and an endless profusion of vines add variety to an island where everything seems to flourish and blossom.
The Cyprus Seasons
The climate of Cyprus never fails to delight her visitors, and every season has a charm and beauty of its own. In summer, sandy beaches and clear turquoise waters beckon swimmers and provide the perfect conditions for sailing, skiing and all watersports under the sun. Yet a complete contrast awaits in the cool, pine covered mountains o Troodos, with delightful hill resorts and traditional hotels.
As the land mellows in autumn there s a wonderful clarity of air on those balmy days, still warmed by the brilliant Cyprus sun. The sea temperature is still high after the long hot summer, and for some this is the best season of all The Cyprus winter is short and mild, with average daytime temperatures around 16¡ This season brings some much-needed rain to the land, but most of its days are bright and sunny. And there is a short snow season on the mountains from January to March, with fun to be had by all ages from tobogganers to serious skiers. During winter one is able to bask on a sandy beach and within an hour embark on a skiing adventure in the Troodos mountains.
In springtime the island takes on an enchanting beauty. The countryside is set ablaze as glorious wild flowers and fragrant blossoms burst into life to delight the eye with their stunning colours. Bright poppies, yellow daisies and pastel anemonies present their myriad colours in the fields. Meanwhile prickly broom and rockroses decorate the hillsides, peonies start appearing on the mountains, and everywhere the heady scent of orange blossom pervades the air. In fact with 1500 different species of flowers, Cyprus is a paradise for nature lovers. As the days lengthen and the sun gathers strength. Cyprus enters an idyllic season for walks, leisurely picnics and the fascinating contemplation of nature, not forgetting, of course, swimming and sunbathing.
From the gentle warmth of early spring lo the golden sun-drenched days of high summer, there's a Cyprus season to suit all types, just as there is a special part in this Island of contrasts to appeal to all tastes.
Town and Village Life
The towns of Cyprus present a modern cosmopolitan atmosphere blended with historic buildings and ancient monuments. Imposing colonial and classic style buildings rub shoulders with well designed contemporary hotels, apartment blocks and attractive shopping streets, some narrow and quaint, others thoroughly modern.
By contrast, life in the villages follows a slower pace, reflecting the importance of agriculture, cottage industry and family ties. Traditional flat roofed village houses made of mud brick are a common sight, while stone-built dwellings with tiled roofs can be seen in the mountains. Many village houses feature delightful vine-shaded court-yards and the typical local oven "fourno" for home-made baking.
The people of Cyprus are traditionally warm and welcoming and consider a visit to their island as a compliment - one that is repaid with genuine hospitality, summed up in the Greek word Philoxenia: Friendship towards the guest. Their naive tongue is Greek, but English is readily spoken in all the shops, restaurants and hotels - in fact just about everywhere. In a world of ever-increasing violence, Cyprus has a remarkably low crime rate, and from just one visit to the Island the visitor can understand why.
The pace is leisurely, the people kind and helpful, always ready with a smile. The Cypriots are hard workers too - resilient people who have withstood and accommodated the succession of invaders throughout their long history.
Where to Stay
There are many fine hotels with high standards, from large and luxurious to small and simple; from the grandeur of the international chain to the convenience of hotel apartments with cooking facilities. There are youth hostels too, and camping sites with good facilities. But all share the island charm of welcoming smiles and good friendly service.
Cyprus continues to grow as a serious conference and incentive destination, and many hotels have now responded to this demand with excellent meeting halls and the most modern facilities for businessmen. Their staff are well trained to cater for the needs of business groups, while imaginative local travel agents have perfected the art of surprising incentive visitors with outings that range from the unusual to the spectacular. In Nicosia you will find the most sophisticated Conference Centre on the island which accommodates more than 1,OOO delegates.
What to See
Cyprus history presents an unlimited choice of places to see and things to do. Neolithic settlements, ancient Greek temples and theatres, Byzantine churches and monasteries, tombs, museums and castles - or just a glimpse of the simple life of yester year in remote villages, unchanged and steeped in tradition.
To get around the Island there are hire cars from International and local companies, or tours in luxury air-conditioned coaches with well trained guides that speak fluent English. There is also an inexpensive but frequent inter- town service taxi system, whereby the visitor rents a seat, and good public bus services. Driving is on the left as in Britain and distances between towns relatively small.
With its wonderful climate Cyprus offers a variety of sports to choose from all year round, and an opportunity to embark on something exciting and different. Her unpolluted waters offer every type of water sport possible, and the chance to experience the exhilarating speed of jet-skiing, or even explore the mysteries of the deep going scuba diving, under the expert guidance of our school recognized by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, PADI.
Cycling or hiking takes on a new dimension in the safe unspoilt and beautiful countryside where superb views, wild birds, flowers and exotic plants can be studied at leisure. And in the winter there is enough snow for a short skiing season in the Troodos Mountains.
Religion plays an important part in Cyprus life. This is evidenced in the predominance of impressive monasteries, churches, chapels and roadside shrines on the island. The country has known Christianity since Roman times, when St Paul arrived in Paphos and converted the Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus in 45 AD. Whilst Greek Orthodox is the national denomination, all other faiths are completely accepted and many practised at their own places of worship, such as Anglican and Catholic churches.
Religion and celebration are deeply entwined, and the most important event in the church calendar is the occasion of Easter. Another popular religious festival and one which is unique to Cyprus is Kataklysmos meaning the Flood which coincides with Pentecost, and is celebrated at seaside towns - especially Larnaca.
But festive excuses are not hard to find. Every village has its panagyri or fair usually at harvest time. On a larger scale the island celebrates its grapes at the annual Limassol Wine Festival; Its flowers at various town festivities. The Carnival, chiefly in Limassol (but recently in Larnaka and Paphos too) is celebrated with parades, parties and masked balls, and there are cultural festivals in summer Including the ancient Greek Drama Festival.
What to Buy
There s so much choice that the problem in Cyprus is not what to buy but what not to buy. Pottery is always popular for the items are small distinctive and very inexpensive. The famous handmade embroidery known as Lefkaritika after its village of origin, can be found all over Cyprus and makes another enviable gift. Legend has it that Leonardo Da Vinci found this work so beautiful that he took a tablecloth back with him to place on the "Ayia Trapeza" altar of Milan Cathedral. Also attractive are the local silver or copper work, the baskets and tapestries. Shoes are a good buy, being stylish but extremely reasonably priced and leather, either made up into jackets, bags or cases, or made to measure for visitors, is a bargain that is hard to resist. And so are textiles. You will also be pleasantly surprised to note that the prices of spectacles are very reasonable.
Commerce and Industry
Cypriots enjoy a high standard of living - one of the highest in the area and the countries main industry, tourism, provides employment for a sizeable proportion of the population throughout the year.
Tourism in Cyprus began to play a significant role in the general economic development of the country after the island won its independence in 1960. A few years later the island became one of the major tourist centres of the Mediterranean because of its geographical position, natural beauty, cultural heritage, and its excellent tourist facilities. Now the island receives more than a million and a half tourists every year.
As an agricultural country Cyprus bolsters her economy with the significant production of potatoes, citrus, fresh vegetables etc while the importance of manufacturing can be seen in the exportation of Cyprus clothing, footwear, wine and foodstuffs.
Cyprus now has joined the EU together with 14 other countries.
Most travelers first see Cyprus at Larnaka, which is the second port and the site of an international airport. No welcome could be sunnier: at Larnaka, deep blue seas meet bright sand beaches under incomparably brilliant skies.
Palm Tree Promenade
Here yachts and sailing vessels from around the globe bob and glint, and along the harbor perimeter is a palm-lined promenade. Between shopping trips to Larnaka’s international-caliber boutiques, inviting cafés offer shady resting spots and sweeping ocean views. The promenade winds its way to a striking finale, the Larnaka Medieval Museum, housed in a 17th-century fort.
Make your way north from the fort, toward the center of the city, and you will come to one of Larnaka’s and the island’s most cherished sites — the church of St. Lazarus. After his resurrection from the dead by Jesus, Lazarus elected to live out his “second” life as Bishop of Cyprus. He is reputedly buried in a crypt under the main altar.
The beautiful interior of the Church of St. Lazarus
Originally called Kition in the days of the Old Testament, Larnaka reached a heyday as a commercial center in the 1700’s, when the consulates were established here.
One of the oldest, continually-inhabited cities in the world, Larnaka abounds with sights. Nearby is an 18th-century aqueduct, and two wonderful museums — the Larnaka District Archaeological Museum and the Pierides Foundation Museum. Both contain exceptional examples of Mediterranean art.
Heading out from Larnaka toward Limassol (next section), stop by the enchanting village of Lefkara. Doubtless you, like Leonardo da Vinci five centuries before you, will be seduced by Lefkara’s exquisite handmade lace...
Ammochostos Region (containing Agia Napa)
The Ammochostos region has many luxurious resorts which offer modern conveniences, complete with ocean views. In this area you’ll find three wonderful beaches, Nissi Beach and Makronissos beach in Agia Napa, and Fig Tree Bay in Paralimni.
With its superb beaches and multi-star hotels, the Ammochostos region draws discerning sun seekers from all over the globe.
But this part of the island remains the agricultural heart of Cyprus, where traditional windmills stand with modern aqueducts to irrigate the fertile red soil.
Agia Napa, once a small fishing village, is as lively a resort as any in the Mediterranean. But historic sites such as a 16th-century Venetian monastery lend character to a town that’s best known for its colorful shops, tavernas and discos. Another focal point is the crescent harbor, crowded with bright fishing boats. The day’s catch is tonight’s dinner at the popular restaurants nearby.
Life in this southeastern corner of Cyprus revolves around the sea, with water sports of all kinds readily available - from scuba diving to water-skiing to paragliding.
Explore the rugged coast toward Cape Greko, with its string of calm sandy coves, and stay for the indescribably beautiful sunset. Or head north, toward the basket-making community of Liopetri, stopping at Sotira to take in the pretty village churches that date to the 15th and 16th centuries.
East to Protaras, more glorious beaches spread out under the sun, while just inland the white-washed town of Paralimni boasts open-air tavernas known for their succulent grilled fish. Only a few miles from the most contemporary of resort scenes, you’ll feel eons away.
“The island has in its midst a fair city called Nicosia, which is the capital of the kingdom, well walled, with its fine gates, which are three, to wit the gate of Paffo, of Famagusta, and Cirina. That of Famagusta, is the most beautiful, and in my judgment the city of Barcelona has none to match it”~ P. Joan Lopez, 1770.
During the Venetian expansion eastward in the 1500’s, Nicosia (Lefkosia) was fortified with imposing stone walls and massive gates. The famous Famagusta Gate still stands today, proudly protecting the still-ancient town within from the modern city without.
Pedestrian area within the walled city, east of Plateia Eleftherias. Charming winding alleys with traditional houses, shops, restaurants and galleries all lovingly restored as typical examples of Cypriot urban architecture of a bygone, more graceful age.
Through the Gate lies Laiki Geitonia, an old section which has been lovingly restored. Wend your way through narrow stone streets where crimson flowers cascade from window pots and the aroma of traditional baking wafts through open doorways. Explore jewelry and handicraft shops, dine in charming tavernas, marvel at churches centuries old.
Those engrossed in history and art will make their way directly to the Cyprus Museum, which holds the island’s priceless treasures from the first stirrings of the Neolithic Age through the Roman period. At the Byzantine Museum, encounter a dazzling collection of early-Christian icons from the Mediterranean’s Golden Age. The State Collection of Contemporary Art takes a newer perspective, focusing on Cyprus’ modern artists, some of whom have gained note on the international market.
Come full circle in time and visit the Cyprus Handicraft Center workshops, where traditional arts are practiced today much the same way they were in ages past. Relax and enjoy a splendid Cypriot meal, accented by one of the island’s famous wines.
Later, the night life beckons near Famagusta Gate, giving expression to the Cypriots’ legendary spirit of celebration.
The thick cedar and pine forests and sun-soaked slopes of the Troodos region offer an unexpected contrast to the Mediterranean coast, less than an hour away. Halfway between the busy towns of Nicosia and Limassol, halfway between sea and sky, rising to 1,950 meters (6,500 feet), Troodos is a counterpoint to the rest of the island.
Connecting the mountain resorts of Troodos, Kakopetria, Platres, and Agros are trails that hold delights for mountain bikers, hikers, bird watchers and botanists alike. Signs mark the presence of flora and fauna unique to Cyprus. Glimpses of the blue sea beyond peek through the lace-like canopy of cedar trees.
Close enough to touch, herds of grazing moufflon, or agrino — the shaggy mountain sheep indigenous to Cyprus — pass by. And the clear mountain air is fragrant with lemon and orange from the groves below. Happily, a natural reserve in the heart of the region insures that this wild beauty will remain forever.
Along the way, each village will be glad to offer you its local specialty, whether that be a mountain goat cheese, a characterful Cypriot wine, fresh cherries, or rosewater. And of course, because you’re still on Cyprus, history and culture are never far away.
Nine of Troodos’s remarkable painted Byzantine churches have been listed on UNESCO’s prestigious World Cultural Heritage List. The famous Kykkos and Trooditissa Monasteries are well worth a visit for their icons, frescoes, and inspiring architecture.
Enter another world, where idols and temples, graves and goddesses make up the fabric of everyday life.Pafos is where Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, is said to have risen from the waves that crash on its shores.
Petra tou Romiou, or Aphrodite’s Rock, is a massive chunk of stone that marks the spot. Her birthplace was a place of pilgrimage for the entire Hellenic world. Aphrodite’s presence seems to have drawn other divinities and notable mortals as well. Excavations have unearthed the spectacular 3rd -5th century-mosaics of the Houses of Dionysus, Orpheus, and Aion, and the Villa of Theseus — buried for sixteen centuries and yet remarkably intact. Their grace of line and subtlety of color will surely inspire elevated feelings in those who see them. Also in this region is the Odeon Theater, a stone structure still used as it was in ancient times for outdoor concerts, plays, and games. Small wonder then that the whole town of Pafos is included in the official UNESCO list of cultural and natural treasures of world heritage.
Past Polis and Latsi, the Baths of Aphrodite provided the ancients with a dramatic setting for outdoor bathing. The Fontana Amorosa, or fountain of love, still bubbles forth nearby. Is it simply water... or Aphrodite’s fabled love potion? The little harbour of Latchi has expanded with its new marina for pleasure boots due to finish March 2005.
Later periods of history have also left their traces. The Tombs of the Kings, in Kato Paphos, is a monumental honeycomb structure carved into sheer rock whose vaults held the tombs of Ptolemy period nobles. Nearby, the stone pillar where St. Paul, according to tradition, was bound and beaten for preaching Christianity thrusts heavenward. The Chrysorrogiatissa Monastery was founded in the 12th century A.D. and is dedicated to “Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate.” The neighboring monastery of Agios Neofytos contains some of the world’s finest Byzantine frescoes and icons as well as an interesting Byzantine museum.
Archaeological discoveries in the Paphos region are continual, making it a highlight for those tracing civilization’s roots in Cyprus. For a glimpse of the artifacts and masterworks found in the area, visit the District Archeological Museum.
Returning to the 20th century, enjoy a cool drink, a steaming Cypriot coffee, or a meal of just-caught seafood in one of the tavernas that dot the scenic harborside in the town of Paphos. Hotels for every taste and budget can be found in town and the surrounding area. Use them as your home base for discovering this rich region.
During the Crusades, Richard the Lion-Heart, leader of the Third Crusade, landed in Limassol (Lemesos), not incidentally to free a noblewoman held captive by the Byzantine sovereign.
The noblewoman? His betrothed, Berengaria of Navarre. In Limassol they married, touching off the most extravagant party the island had ever seen.
Today, the tradition of celebration and hospitality continues in this vibrant seaside town. In February before Lent, masked revelers invade the street with music, parades, and dancing for Carnival. In September, the Wine Festival explodes in the town for a week. And every night people in restaurants, cafés, and nightclubs celebrate events momentous and trivial, from a soccer win to a sudden romance to yet another stunning sunset at day’ s end.
Explore Limassol Castle, which contains the Cyprus Medieval Museum, or the Folk Art Museum, which is housed in an old mansion.
Walk on ten miles of beautiful beaches, deservedly known as the Cypriot Riviera. Stroll in the sea promenade or visit the lush Municipal Gardens. On the coastal road to the east, just after the luxurious hotels, you will find Amathus, one of the ancient city kingdoms of Cyprus. See the ruins and take a dip near the site of an ancient port.
At 14 km west of Limassol lies Kolossi Castle, a medieval fortress whose walls contain not only an imposing tower and surrounding living quarters but also an ancient sugar factory.
Just 19 km west of town, visit the Kourion archaeological site, an ancient city-kingdom, where you can take in a play or concert at the ancient Greco-Roman Theater, overlooking the blue Mediterranean. And, a bit further on, explore a treasure trove of Greek and Roman sites, such as the Sanctuary of Apollo.
Cuisine Music and Fun
The gastronomic pleasures of Cyprus should be savoured at an unhurried pace, to discover new flavours and sample the many traditional dishes. And what better way to learn than to follow local custom with a typical ÒmezeÓ - meaning mixture which is usually a little of everything that is available that day in that taverna or restaurant.
As many as thirty dishes may form the meze starting with dips, salads and vegetables, advancing to hot dishes - including such favourites as Moussaka and kebabs as well as tasty local casseroles, fresh fish and chicken - and finishing with sweets like Baklava and loucoumades. Cyprus wines, inexpensive and plentiful, make a good accompaniment to this exotic and lingering repast, and a Cyprus coffee in a tiny cup, ordered according to sweetness desired is a fitting finale with a local brandy.
Besides this typically Cypriot type of meal a visitor offered versatility. There are plenty of charming fish tavernas by the sea and numerous restaurants serving Chinese, Arabic, European and Indian food.
Wines and Local Drinks
Over 100 varieties of grapes, plumped to perfection, yield the fortified and table wines whlch Cyprus is famous for and which can be traced back over 3.000 years. Sherrics, wines, brandies and liqueurs, which have been enjoyed through the centuries, will compliment any meal all at very reasonable prices.
A cool, refreshing long drink is the local Brandy Sour, a tangy concoction that goes down remarkably well and tends to have addictive qualitles; others prefer the clean taste of Ouzo, a local cousin of Pernod or Ricard which turns white and cloudy when mixed with water. And two breweries on the island offer beer thatÕs light and perfectly matched to the Cyprus climate.
Music and Fun
There are literally thousands of tavernas to choose from all over Cyprus each one offering a friendly welcome and a relaxed atmosphere. At some there is bouzouki music, and the visitor will soon realise how Cypriots enjoy their local songs -it doesn't take long before they join in, always with gusto and appreciation. It is in this ambience that he may bt lucky enough to take part in a "glendi - a spontaneous celebration involving eating, drinking, singing and dancing . ÒKopiaste!'' someone will beckon to a complete stranger, meaning: come and join in - come and share our food, our drink, our fun.
Nightlife on the island caters to every mood and every age. There are trendy discos and sophisticated nightclubs. There's ample opportunity to dine and dance romantically under the stars; and their's plenty of local atmosphere and liveIy fun when the spirited Greek dancing gets going . There's even the chance of seeing a Shakespearean play or a Greek drama performed in an ancient theater by the light of a Cyprus full moon.
Quick Info and Tips
C.T.O. = Cyprus Tourism Organisation
Driving Is on the left side of the road.
Between 1300-1600 hrs is siesta-time in summer. (May-Sept.)
The International Airports are at Larnaka and Paphos.
Centrally located banks offer special afternoon facilities for tourists.
The Cyprus pound is divided into 100 cents.
Voltage: 240V A C throughout the island, Sockets outlets and sockets of flat 3 pin type are used.
The population of Cyprus is approximately 706.000.
A small tip in restaurants taxis etc is always welcome.
The typical take away is "souvlaki stin pitta"-kebab in a special envelope - type.
Nearly all drug and medicines are available on the island.
It is forbidden to remove antiquities from the bottom of the sea.
In Cyprus there are 127 endemic flower varieties, that is growing nowhere else in the world but in Cyprus.
The Tourist Information office at Larnaka Airport provides 24hrs service 365 days.
Cyprus is a member of the Commonwealth.
Hallourmi: Is the local cheese. It can be served plain or grilled.
No vaccination is required for any International traveller.
All the publications (maps, leaflets etc) provided by CTO are distributed free of charge.
The Supermarket basket in Cyprus is considered among the cheapest in Europe. The shops are closed on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.
Dhekelia (east of Larnaca) and Akrotiri-Episkopi (west of Limassol) are the two British bases in Cyprus.
Avoid shorts and wear suitable clothing when you are visiting churches and Monasteries.
More than 30 airlines connect Cyprus directly with most European and Middle East Countries.
The town of Paphos is included in the official Unesco list of Cultural Heritage.
If you drive a car in Cyprus do not hesitate to use the "horn" if required, (not during night time).
The tap water is drinkable.
The average day temperature in summer is 32 C and In winter 16 C.
30 minutes after sunset darkness has fallen.