Situated in the eastern part of Mediterranean Sea and a veritable crossroads of three continents, Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean. Cyprus history for the past 10,000 years has seen civilizations come and go and famous historical figures such as Alexander the Great to Cleopatra stake their claim here. According to the legend, Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty made her home on Cyprus, and travellers throughout antiquity came here just to pay her tribute. From independent travellers to honeymooners, archaeology enthusiasts to friends of nature, adventure lovers to people enjoying lazy days on a beach visitors to Cyprus find offers to everyone’s taste. Food lovers feast on farm-fresh halloumi cheese and delectable meze, the local specialty appetizers that mix Western ingredients with Eastern zest. Business travelers appreciate the fine, modern conference facilities and warm, professional service at numerous hotels and resorts.
Since 1974 there have been two countries on the island of Cyprus – the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (recognised only by Turkey and covers just over a third of the island) and the southern Republic of Cyprus. So you can actually visit two countries for the price of one. We invite you to get a delightful taste of what Cyprus holidays have to offer: beautiful sunny beaches, small charming villages, ruins of ancient civilizations and distinctive local cultures. People here are very friendly and the local tradition called philoxenia (friendliness towards a guest) is the rule everywhere on the island. Cypriots themselves have always remained a distinct culture – different even from their closest relatives the Greeks – and retained their unique character.
Rich copper mines in antiquity put small Cyprus on the map. In fact Cyprus (Kypros in Greek) gave copper its latin name: cuprum. First Greeks settled on Cyprus in the late Bronze Age (1,600 B.C.) and established trade links with Egypt and the Aegean islands. During this period ceramic art first flourished. Alexander the Great wrestled the island away from the Persians . As centuries passed by, the island came consequently under Persian, Assyrian, Egyptian, and Roman rule. The Roman emperor Marc Antony gave Cyprus island as a gift to his lover, the beautiful Cleopatra. Then came a long period of Byzantine domination. In 1191 a fierce sea storm led Richard the Lionheart’s ship to seek shelter in the port of Lemesos. He later claimed the island as his own. For a hundred years until 1571 the flag of the Republic of Venice flew in Cyprus, when the Ottoman Turks occupied it. In 1878 Cyprus became part of the British Empire. It gained independence in 1960.
A Greek, Archbishop Makarios , became an elected president, while a Turk, Kukuk, was made vice-president. While many Greek Cypriots wanted to form a union with Greece (a movement known as enosis), the Turkish population was not so keen. On 15 July 1974 a CIA-sponsored, Greek-organised coup overthrew Makarios and replaced him with a puppet leader. Turkey responded by invading the island and Greece quickly pulled out, but the Turks did not stop and took the northern third of the island, forcing 180,000 Greek Cypriots to flee their homes. In 1983 Turkish Cypriots proclaimed a separate state, naming it the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Peace talks have been held sporadically, but Cyprus remains divided. Both Turkey and the Republic are making moves towards full membership of the European Union, and this may force both sides to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict. Cyprus became a Member State of the European Union on May 1st, 2004, but EU laws will apply only to the southern part – the Republic of Cyprus. While it has a successful economic performance and is classified by the World Bank as a high-income country, the economic situation in the northern part of Cyprus is poor. The economic crisis aggravates the income gap with the rest of the island. The northern part of the island uses the Turkish Lira as its currency with high inflation imported from Turkey. Trade is heavily dependent on the Turkish market. The tourism potential remains largely under utilised. Greek population numbers 78%, Turkish 18% (including 200,000 in the Northern Cyprus) of the total 750,000 people. While tensions between the two groups still exist, visitors are warmly accepted by from both sides.
Nicosia (Lefcosia): The Cyprus’ capital city is divided in twoNicosia’s downtown parts by the UN-patrolled Green Line, which separates the Republic from Northern Cyprus. Nicosia remains a friendly, laid-back place, with good restaurants, museums, and a lively art scene.A visit here should give you a less touristy view of the country than you’ll get if you stick to the coastal towns. The old town , inside the 16th-century Venetian walls, is the most interesting part of Nicosia, a home to numerous little shops where you can bargain directly with the owners. The Cathedral of St.John houses some outstanding frescoes. The Cyprus Archeological Museum exhibits the priceless collection of Cypriot antiquities and art treasures. Visiting Nicosia gives you a chance to cross the Green Line and to explore the Turkish part of the capital city. Passing through the “no man” zone within the Green Line, where everything is left untouched since the 1974 military action, seeing houses covered with bullet holes leaves unforgetable impression. The Turkish part of Nicosia is smaller, has less things to see, but carries its own charm and specific culture.
Paphos: One of the most beautiful parts of the Cyprus, place where, according to the legend, Aphrodite arose from from the foaming waves. Among the souvenir shops you’ll see Saranta Kolones, a Lusignian fortress destroyed by an earthquake in the 13th century; it’s mostly fallen columns and sewer tunnels. The underground Tombs of the Kings dated back to the 4th century are carved out of the solid rock, some of them are frescoed and are thought to have been the burial sites of aristocrats and high officials. In Greco-Roman times Paphos was the island’s capital, and it is famous for the remains of the Roman Governor’s palace, House of Dionysos , with its stunning mosaics which is now a major tourist attraction. There is a small harbour and an upper town slightly to the north where the larger shops, offices and town administration are based.
Troodos Massif: The Troodos region mountains, in the country’s south, are unforgettable. This is where the highest point on the island – mount Olympus (1,952m, 6,507ft) located. Troodos is littered withKykko monastery 15th-century frescoed monasteries, wine-making villages and pleasant walking trails. Kykkos Monastery, in the western Troodos, is the best known one. Built in the 12th century, it’s been completely renovated and contains a museum of religious icons including the icon of Christ and the Virgin Mary painted by St. Luke himself. Asinou is the most beautiful of the area’s monasteries and less touristy than Kykkos, but it’s a bit of a trek to get to it. On the Throni Peak in the region there is a tomb of Archibishop Makarios, the first Cyprus President.
Colossi Castle: Built by the Crusaders (Hospitallers, the Order of St. John of Jerusalem) in the 13th century this castle served as their headquarter. This well-preserved castle, restored in 1933 is a good example of military architecture of that period. A spiral staircase leads up to the roof and the restored battlements. Close by is a sugar factory, also built by the Hospitallers, until the 17th century Cyprus was one of the world’s largest producers of sugar. There are also plenty of citrus orchards in the area, and you can pick up some of country’s juiciest oranges in the markets here.Port city of Limassol, a Greco-Roman amphitheatre
Salamis: It was the most important pre-Christian city in Cyprus. You could easily spend a day here, exploring these very extensive ruins that include a fully restored Roman amphitheatre, the gymnasium with marble baths, and the mosaics, a temple of Zeus, numerous statues of the 4th century. Byzantine remains include the basilica of Bishop Epiphanos (4th century AD). The necropolis of Salamis covers 7 sq. km (almost 3sq.miles) to the west of the town. It contains a museum showing some of the finds. The best known burials are the so-called Royal-Tombs, containing chariots and extremely rich grave gifts, including imports from Egypt and Syria. Close to the site is a very nice beach, so bring your swimming suits.
Northern Cyprus: Famagusta (Gazimagusa): Once one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and often mistaken as the setting for Shakespeare’s Othello, Famagusta is located on the Turkish side of the island and has now gone romantically to seed. The decaying old town is surrounded by a Venetian city wall, while the new town sprawls outside its boundaries. The city had its heyday in the 13th century when Christians fleeing from Syria and Palestine settled there and developed it into a wealthy city. It declined after a riot in the 14th century and by the 15th when the Venetians took over. In the 16th century Famagusta was levelled by the Ottoman Turks. The old city is now mostly notable for its few remaining churches and some fascinating buildings.
Northern Cyprus: Kyrenia (Girne): Located in the middle of the north coast it is the most pleasant coastal resort on the island. The town is known for its historic harbour, and as one of the first places captured by Turkey during the 1974 invasion of the island. As is the norm in Cyprus, the old town is the best place to visit, but most of the hotels are in the newer resort strip. Kyrenia Castle is a very spectacular site and within its walls there is a 12th century chapel. The town has an icon museum housed in a Church of Archangel Michael. There are also some tombs cut into the rock dating from about the 4th century and a small Christian church behind the harbour Originally built in Roman times, the mostly Venetian building includes a Byzantine chapel and a museum of shipwrecks, featuring the world’s oldest shipwreck and its cargo including the famous “Kyrenia Ship” – remains of a 4th century Greek ship discovered in 1967.
A country of resorts, Cyprus has plenty of places where you can try water sports. If it’s windsurfing or sailing you want, head to the peninsulas and capes, where the wind is strongest. There’s also at least one sea-diving site in each of the big resorts. Mountain biking and hiking areWaterpark in Limassol, the biggest in Cyprus, with over 20 attractions including the biggest wavepool in Europe possible all over the island, with specially marked trails in the southern hills, on the Akamas Peninsula and in the Troodos. Although hardly renowned for its skiing, Cyprus does have a resort on the northeastern face of Mount Olympus, but it’s not exactly world standard. For a golf fan there are several courses, the most popular are in the Paphos district. Spear-fishing (without aqualung) angling, fishing with vertical lines or trolling are the permitted methods for which no licence is required. Birdwatching trips and social events are organized for members and the general public. Horse-riding can be enjoyed at special centres, professional training facilities, equipped with instructors who provide lessons for beginners and advanced riders.
The Republic of Cyprus has airports at Larnaka and Paphos, you can book a flight from most of Europe and the Middle East. Northern Cyprus has an international airport at Ercan, but only Turkish airlines fly there. By sea, you can get to Greece (Athens mainly, but sometimes the islands of Rhodes, Patmos or Crete) and Israel from the Republic’s port in Lemesos. There are ferries from Northern Cyprus to Turkey, but you cannot exit Cyprus island this way unless you entered from Turkey. Bus services run within and between towns every day except Sunday, they are cheap, frequent and efficient. On a Sunday you’ll need to get a taxi. It’s easy to hire cars and bikes all over the country. Traffic moves on the left side of the road, British style. Visitors may travel between the North and the South. If you enter Cyprus from Turkey, customs officials from the South are authorised to fine you for entering through an illegal port. In practice, this policy is not enforced. 2 and 3- day cruises from Cyprus to Jerusalem, Cairo and Jordan are very popular among tourists. They can be booked through any travel agency on the island. Prices start from $ 300 USD. 9-11-night Eastern Mediterranean cruises with Cyprus’ Limassol as one of ports of call cost from $1,200 USD when booked online. Hotel accommodation prices start from $65 USD/ room in peak season when booked through our agency.
The Cyprus climate is typically Mediterranean, with very hot summers in July and August. T here are generally 300-plus sunny days per year. Mid-May to mid-October is the ideal season for swimming, sunbathing and a whole range of watersports from sailing to scuba diving. Temperatures are refreshingly cooler in the Troodos, making the mountains ideal for hiking or simply relaxing. December and January are the months of Mediterranean winter, bringing the possibility of rain, but still an average of six hours of bright sunshine a day. Into early February there is occasional rain on the island, and often snow in the Troodos – ideal for skiing! The first orchids bloom in January, and by mid-February the countryside is already alive with fresh green meadows and blooming almond trees. March days can still be cool (daytime temperatures around 19C or 65F, 9C or 40F at night). In April and into the middle of May spring is in full force. This is an ideal time for nature hikes and off-road adventures. Cyprus often suffers drought years, and water is so scarce that it is often rationed. The shoulder seasons – April/May and September/October – are the most pleasant times, climatically, to visit Cyprus island.
MONEY: You’ll need to budget around $40 USD a day if you’re going to stick to public transport, stay in very cheap rooms and live mostly on food from shops rather than from restaurants. Around $80 USD a day will let you stay in a mid-range place, eat out twice a day, and get about in a hire car. The cost of tourist commodities in the Republic and in the North are similar, though the North is cheaper. Banks throughout Cyprus will exchange all major currencies in either cash or travellers’ cheques. Most places in the North will accept Cyprus pounds and other hard currencies as well as Turkish lira. In the Republic you can get a cash advance on Visa at most banks, and in the North a couple of banks will do one for you. There are ATMs in most towns and even some villages throughout the Republic. In the North there are ATMs in Nicosia, Famagusta and Kyrenia. Tipping is 10% for restaurants and taxi on both sides of the island.
VISA REGULATIONS: citizens of the USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and the EU can stay in the Republic of Cyprus for up to three months without a visa. The UN Green Line, which separates the Greek and Turkish Cypriot regions, is currently open and travel between the regions is legal and straightforward; however, travellers must present their passport, fill in a form and must return to their side by midnight. It is prohibited to bring across any goods purchased on the Turkish side. It’s also illegal to travel from the Republic to the North and to then continue to Turkey – you cannot take luggage with you across the Green Line, and you will be placed on the Republic’s black list, which will most likely prevent you from ever entering the Republic again. Travellers may enter the Republic only through the legal ports of entry: Larnaka and Pafos international airports, or the seaports of Limassol and Pafos.
ELECTRICITY: 240V, 50Hz. During summer explore the archaeological sites early in the morning or in late afternoon, avoiding the hottest part of the day. It’s always a good idea to bring along sun protection, such as sunscreen and a broad-brimmed hat. If you plan to go to Paphos area, do not forget to take some warm clothes, even in the peak of summer it may be cool in the mountains. EVENTS, HOLIDAYS: Annual Kypria festival held in the fall (1 September – 31 October) is one of the most important cultural events on the Greek part of Cyprus. The programming incorporates ballet, opera, cinema, art, theatre and music, performed by distinguished artists from Cyprus and around the world. The cultural calendar is alive and well throughout the winter, with new events coming all the time. The summer resort of Agia Napa, for example, offers a “Cultural Winter” with classical music concerts and modern and folkloric dance performances. Easter is the most important religious holiday of the year with candle-lit processions, fireworks and feasting. Cyprus Independence Day is celebrated on the 1st of October. The North observes Muslim holidays. Foremost among these is Ramadan, a month where everyone fasts between sunup and sunset to conform to the fourth pillar of Islam. Ramadan ends with a huge feast, where everyone prays together, visits friends, gives presents and stuffs themselves. The Proclamation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is celebrated on 15 November.
DINING: The Cyprus.com website offers an extensive list of restaurants, fast food and patisseries classified by the location.
WHAT TO BUY: Look out for the official Cyprus Handicraft Service Shops in Limassol, Larnaka, Pafos and Lefkosia, where you can be sure that the goods (though probably a little pricier than in other shops) are handcrafted and not factory mass-produced. Leather is good value – you can pick up shoes, handbags, suitcases and jackets at bargain prices. Intricate hand-embroidered lace known as “Lefkaritika” made in the picturesque village of Lefkara. Basket-making and wickerwork are popular, and there’s good wood-carving, too. Chests of pine, cedar or walnut, decorated with flowers and trees. Copper and silver filigree jewellery also make good buys. On the foodie front, Halloumi cheese and Chiromeri ham make tasty souvenirs, and you’ll find lots of delicious local honey as well as Cyprus wines and spirits (especially brandy) are definitely worth taking home. Attractive ceramics are produced in the Pafos area where you’ll find all manner of vases, bowls and candlesticks.