There's a great deal packed onto the small island ofCyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. It's most popular for its deepblue Mediterranean waters, seasideresorts, and silver beaches. Inaddition, it's riddled with relics of ancient history: beehive hutsof primitive peoples, classical Greek and Roman ruins, andeverything in between.
The charms of Cyprus are many and varied. For a start, theweather is sunny and dry for most of the year and the encirclingsea is blue, clear, and enticing. There are modern luxury hotels inthe coastal resort towns, historic restored city precincts toexplore, taverns, and nightlife aplenty.
The country has remote and picturesque mountainvillages and monasteries, beautiful churches, Crusader castles, andfascinating museums. The local people are extremely welcoming oftourists, happy to share their innate love of life andcamaraderie.
In Cyprus, it's possible to mingle with the crowds orseek isolation off the beaten track, even in peak holiday season.For this reason, the island is also a favoured destination forhoneymooners. It has the reputation for being where Aphrodite,Greek goddess of love, is said to have risen from the sea.
While the fascinating history of Cyprus is worth exploring, manytourists come to enjoy the country's beautiful beaches and resorts.Cyprus is home to 49 Blue Flag beaches, which offer fun in the sunthat includes snorkelling and scuba diving, waterskiing, quadbiking, and windsurfing. The top beaches have excellent facilities,with restaurants and bars, hotels, and other amenities within easyreach of those on the shore.
Steeped in ancient culture, it's no wonder Cyprusoffers some of the most exciting and fascinating sightseeingopportunities in Europe. Highlights include a visit to the CyprusMuseum in Nicosia to view artefacts dating back over 8,500 years,as well as exploring the site of the first discovered Neolithicruins of Choirokoitia, just north of Larnaca.
Tourists can also marvel at the striking mosaicfloors in Paphos, dating from the third century AD, before visitingthe mystical catacombs of Agia Solomoni Church, where visitors aregreeted by a pistachio tree laden with pieces of cloth.
Another favourite for visitors is taking a romanticexcursion from Paphos to visit the natural grotto on the AkamasPeninsula near Polis, 30 miles (48km) north of Paphos. Legend hasit that the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, used to take herbaths in the waters.
The public transport system in Cyprus is reliableenough to get to most major cities. However, one of the best waysto get a real feel for the country and to explore everything it hasto offer is to hire a car or moped and take a leisurely tour roundCyprus.
Kition was an ancient city-state on the southerncoast of Cyprus in today's Larnaca. Some of the ruins can still beseen, featuring the remains of five temples dating back to the 13thcentury BC. Of particular interest is the Phoenician Temple ofAstarte, which was built on the ruins of an earlier Bronze Agetemple. The lower part of the northern city walls are also stillvisible, built of huge stones resembling Mycenaean cyclops.Residents in Larnaca are still finding artefacts all over the city,and a number of building projects have been abandoned due to freshdiscoveries.
The 9th-century Church of Saint Lazarus stands inLarnaca as an important religious institution on Cyprus. Lazarus isbelieved to have lived at ancient Kition for 30 years after hisresurrection by Jesus Christ, and was ordained the Bishop of Kitionby Saints Barnabas and Mark. The church was built by the ByzantineEmperor Leo VI above what was believed to be the empty grave ofSaint Lazarus. Subsequently, there are those who believe his finalresting place to be in Marseilles, France. Eight days before theannual Greek Orthodox Easter, the Baroque wood-carved icon of thesaint is carried in a procession through the streets of thetown.
This fascinating and well-stocked museum is housed inthe upper level of the Larnaca Castle on the city's seafront. Thecastle itself is the main attraction, built in 1625 by the Turks todefend the city from invasion. There is still a Turkish inscriptionabove the doorway. Later it was used as a prison during the earlyyears of British rule. One of the most popular attractions inLarnaca, the castle also operates as the Larnaca Municipal CulturalCentre during the summer and hosts local cultural events. Themuseum contains displays from the early Christian, Byzantine,Lusignan, and Ottoman periods.
About 20 miles (32km) from Larnaca on theLefkosia-Lemesos Road, archaeological excavations at Choirokoitiahave revealed one of the oldest Neolithic sites on Cyprus, datingback to around 7000 BC. Also known as Khirokitia, it was home toprimitive farmers who cultivated wheat and barley. Visitors canexplore the settlement's defensive wall, circular houses, andtombs. The site was first excavated in 1934 and work continues tothis day. Four of the beehive-shaped houses made of mud and stonehave been reconstructed to show how these early farmers lived. Mostof the finds from Choirokoitia are displayed in the Cyprus Museumin Nicosia.
Perched atop a solitary mountain is the oldestmonastery in Cyprus, Stavrovouni Monastery was founded in the 4thcentury by Saint Helena. Its most treasured relic is a supposedfragment of the holy cross, encased in a silver cross which is notvisible to the public. Another artefact left by Helena at themonastery is the Cross of the Good Thief, which includes the nailand part of the rope said to have tied Jesus to the cross. Themonastery is perched upon the eponymous mountain that used to becalled Olympus. Reached by a winding steep road, the monastery isconsidered the spiritual centre of Cyprus and now houses an orderof monks.
The Cyprus Archaeological Museum was establishedto collect, study, and display archaeological artefacts from allover the island. Located at a different site, the first museum wasestablished in 1888 and some of the exhibits are some 8,500 yearsold. The museum is arranged in chronological order: the first hallcontains pottery and implements from the Neolithic and Chalcolithicperiods whilst the other rooms trace the history of Cyprus throughthe Bronze Age, Hellenic Period, Mycenaean times, Roman Period, andearly Byzantine. A unique feature of the museum lies in thebasement where several graves rest in a dark cellar, complete withskeletal remains and reconstructed adornments.
The Byzantine Museum in the Old City of Nicosiadisplays the largest collection of art on Cyprus. The museumcontains an art gallery exhibiting oil paintings, maps, andlithographs, giving visitors insight into Cypriot culture andhistory. There are around 230 icons on display, dating from the 9ththrough to the 19th centuries and salvaged from all over Cyprus.They are beautifully preserved and make a strong impact onvisitors, especially those interested in religious art andiconography. The museum also has fragments of 6th century mosaics,taken from the apse of the Church of Panagia Kanakaria atLythrankomi.
There is no royalty buried in the Tombs of theKings, a grand mausoleum found one mile (2km) northwest of PaphosHarbour towards Coral Bay. Rather, it's the final resting place ofabout 100 Ptolemaic aristocrats who lived and died in the citybetween 3 BC and 3 AD. The tombs are carved into the solid rock ofthe cliff above the sea and are beautifully situated, with somefeaturing Doric pillars and frescoed walls. Archaeologicalexcavations are ongoing at the site, which also features a churchknown as Paleoekklisia, sporting traces of Byzantine frescoes. TheTombs of the Kings usually feature very high in tourist reviews ofPaphos and are thrilling to discover.
The Mosaics of Paphos are a series of striking floorsin a number of ancient Roman villas, dating from the 3rd to the 5thcenturies. The sites are still being excavated on around 300 metresfrom the Paphos Harbour. The mosaics featuring mythological scenesare visible in the Houses of Dionysos, Orpheus, Aion, and theTheseus. There are also stunning mosaics to be seen in the House ofFour Seasons. All the mosaics were made from small cubes of marbleand stone, called tesserae, with glass paste added to widen therange of colour.
A large pistachio tree marks the entrance to theunderground catacombs of Agia Solomoni in Kato Paphos. A strangesight, it's usually festooned with cloth tied onto it by thefaithful as offerings in the hope the sacred tree will cure variousailments. The catacombs were carved into Fabrica Hill in the 4thcentury BC, below the ancient Roman wall. Underground chapelsfeature frescoes and graffiti left by 13th century crusaders, andthere are numerous legends and stories attached to the patron saintAyia Solomoni. There's little to no guidance or information onoffer at the site so it is best to do some research before you goto understand what you are looking at.
Near the modern Paphos Lighthouse is the Cypriot Acropolis, acomplex of ancient buildings which includes a 2nd century Romanodeon restored and now used for summer orchestral and stageperformances. South of the odeon are the remnants of the RomanTemple of Asclepius, the god of medicine, and north of thelighthouse are the ruins of the ancient town walls. One of Cyprus'sworld-renowned ancient treasures is the stunning set of mosaics ofthe acropolis near the harbour. These incredibly well-preservedartworks often top the list of Cyprus attractions and have beendelighting visitors for decades.
Built in the 14th century, Limassol Castle standsguard over the old harbour on the site of an earlier Byzantinecastle. Today it houses the Cyprus Medieval Museum with a host offascinating exhibits dating back to the Early Common Era (384-650).The museum's collection boasts an array of weaponry and armour,including swords, helmets, and the 500 year old canons which stilladorn the battlements. The castle is most renowned for being theplace where crusader King Richard the Lionheart married Berengariaof Navarre and crowned her Queen of England in 1191.
Within the interior of Cyprus and north of Limassol,the Troodos Mountains offer beautiful scenery, ski trails, andwalks for nature lovers. The Troodos Mountains are the largestmountain range in Cyprus, so it is no wonder that they are also apopular winter destination. They are one of only a handful ofplaces in the world where visitors can ski in the morning, and swimand sun tan in the afternoon. The main ski slopes are on the 6,401foot (1,951m) Mount Olympus, roughly an hour's drive from Nicosiaor Limassol, and the ski season extends from the beginning ofJanuary to the end of March.
In the foothills of the Troodos Mountains,Patsilia is renowned for its fine wines, honey, and cheeses. Thereare a couple of wine routes in the area and this is a fun way toexplore the countryside and hop from town to town. There are fournoteworthy Byzantine Churches in the area which have been jointlydeclared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is beautiful,heavily forested, and mountainous, making it enticing for hikers.Known as the 'Orchard of Cyprus' due to its wealth of fruit, one ofthe best times to visit the region is in spring when everything isin bloom.
Perhaps one of the most famous attractions on theisland of Cyprus, the Rock of Aphrodite is an ocean outcropsurrounded by myth and legend. Said to be the birthplace of theGreek goddess of love, it was also supposedly put there by theByzantine hero Basil to keep out invading Saracens. Seeming tobubble with divine energy, the waves are quite forceful and sotourists are encouraged to neither swim nor climb the rockformations. The area is also known as Petra tou Romiou, meaning'Rock of the Roman'.
The natural beauty of Cape Greco makes it one of thefirst locations in tourists' itineraries. The unique headlandstretches out into the gorgeous blue ocean, with fascinating shapespeeling off from the cliffs into the shore waters. There are alsotrails which will appeal to hikers, exploring the surroundingnational park filled with a wide variety of flora and fauna. Forthose more inclined to adventure, there are also opportunities forcliff jumping, diving, and swimming in sea caves.
Also referred to as Lefkosia, the bustling city ofNicosia in the northern interior has been the capital of Cyprussince the 12th century. It stands today as Europe's only dividedcity and is split in two by the Green Line, a United Nations bufferzone that divides the government-controlled Republic of Cyprus inthe south from the Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus. The favouredtourist sector is the Old Town, which is being extensivelyrenovated. The Old Town is a picturesque fusion of 16th-centurywalls, pedestrian precincts, pavement cafes, and squares, brimmingwith charm, character, and sightseeing opportunities. The city, onthe Mesaoria Plain, is the centre of the Nicosia District thatincludes the valleys of Solea and Pitsilia and parts of Marathasa,with its mountain villages, orchards, hill resorts, and plethora ofByzantine churches and monasteries. These are within easy reach andmake for pleasant day trips from the city. While Nicosia doesn'thave the stunning Mediterranean beaches to offer visitors, it is agreat base from which to explore the mountainous regions of Cyprus,which are very beautiful in their own right and offer numeroushiking trails.
Believed to have been founded by the Argives, theancient city of Kourion is one of the most beautifully-positionedancient sites in Cyprus. It has passed through different phases,including the Hellenistic, Christian, and Roman periods, the (market place), Christian Basilica, and large publicbath bearing testament to this city's impressive list ofinhabitants. The restored Greco-Roman theatre hosts open airperformances and is one of the venues for the InternationalFestival of Ancient Greek Drama. Attractions around the complexinclude the House of the Gladiators, the Roman baths, the House ofAchilles, and the Temple of Apollo.
If you are visiting Limassol and need a break fromsightseeing and the Cyprus heat, you should splash in the coolwaters and enjoy the fun slides at Water Mania. The water park issuitable for travellers of all ages and is a great attraction forthe whole family. If you are travelling in Cyprus with kids, thenthis is the ideal way to let them blow off some steam. The park hasa somewhat cheesy Polynesian theme but it provides good wholesomefun and a safe environment. Don't forget the sunblock.
Cyprus enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with abundant sunshineall year round. Long, dry summers and mild winters are separated byshort autumn and spring seasons. Summer is a time of hightemperatures with cloudless skies, but the sea breeze creates apleasant atmosphere in the coastal areas. Winters are mild, withsome rain and snow on the Troodos Mountains.
Cypriots are fond of saying that 11 out of the 12 months aresunny in their country and it is no idle boast: the 'summer'holiday season lasts about eight months in Cyprus, beginning inApril with average temperatures of 70-73°F (21-23°C) during the dayand 52-55°F (11-13°C) at night; and ending in November when averagetemperatures are 72-73°F (22-23°C) during the day, and 54-57°F(12-14°C) at night. The remaining four months of the year are by nomeans freezing either, with temperatures still sometimes exceeding68°F (20°C).
These enviable statistics make Cyprus a year-round holidaydestination, particularly as European winter sun-seekers oftenchoose to vacation here even in the cooler months. However, peaktourist season is summer (June to August).
The official currency is the Euro (EUR). Major credit cards areaccepted in most establishments. Money can be exchanged at banks,open from Monday to Friday. There are ATMs spread throughout theisland, operating 24 hours a day.
The majority of Cypriots speak Greek, and a smallpercentage speaks Turkish. The Greek Cypriot dialect differs frommainland Greece. English, German and French are spoken in touristareas.
Electrical current is 240 volts, 50Hz. UK-style threesquare-pin plugs are used.
US nationals must have a passport valid for three months beyondthe period of intended stay in Cyprus. A visa is not required for astay of up to 90 days.
British passports must be valid three months beyond period ofintended stay. For holders of passports endorsed British Citizen,no visa is required for 90 days. No visa is required for atouristic stay of up to 90 days for holders of passports endorsedBritish National (overseas), British Overseas Territories Citizen(and containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abodeissued by the United Kingdom and UK residence stamp), BritishSubject (and containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Rightof Abode issued by the United Kingdom and UK residence stamp), orBritish Overseas Territories Citizen issued to residents ofGibraltar.
Canadian nationals must have a passport valid for three monthsbeyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required for staysof up to 90 days.
Australian nationals must have a passport valid for three monthsbeyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required for staysof up to 90 days.
South African nationals must have a passport valid for at leastthree months beyond the period of intended stay. A visa isrequired, except for those carrying multiple-entry Schengen C visasthat have already entered the Schengen area or been issued byBulgaria, Croatia, Romania or a Schengen Member State. Thisexemption lasts for 90 days.
Irish nationals must hold a passport valid upon arrival. No visais required.
US nationals must have a passport valid for three months beyondthe period of intended stay in Cyprus. A visa is not required for astay of up to 90 days.
New Zealand nationals must have a passport valid for threemonths beyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required forstays of up to 90 days.
Travellers, except EEA nationals, should hold an onward orreturn ticket and documentation necessary for that journey, as wellas sufficient funds for the period of intended stay in Cyprus. Itis also advisable to have a hotel reservation. Extensions areavailable to visa-exempt nationals. Travellers should note thatforeigners entering Cyprus north of the UN-patrolled 'green line'are deemed by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to haveentered illegally, and can be fined when crossing to the south(EU). Policies and procedures are subject to sudden changes, andvisitors should check on the current situation before departing forCyprus. It is highly recommended that your passport has at leastsix months validity remaining after your intended date of departurefrom your travel destination. Immigration officials often applydifferent rules to those stated by travel agents and officialsources.
No vaccinations are required for travel to Cyprus but hepatitisA and B vaccinations are always recommended for travellers byhealth authorities. Health services on Cyprus are of a goodstandard. UK citizens should bring with them a European HealthInsurance Card (EHIC), which enables them to receive free emergencymedical treatment. Medical fees are reasonable in Cyprus, butsupplies are expensive and it is probably a good idea to take withyou any important prescription medications you may require (withthe appropriate notes from your doctor to get them throughcustoms). Travel insurance is advised.
A 10 percent service charge is levied in hotels and restaurantsso a tip is not obligatory, but small change is always welcome.Taxi drivers and porters appreciate a small tip.
Crime against tourists is rare and the area is generallysafe.
Avoid taking photographs near military establishments. Religiouscustoms such as Ramadan should be respected, particularly in thenorth where most of the Turkish Cypriots are Muslim; avoid eating,drinking, smoking and chewing gum in public during the holy month.Women should dress modestly.
Business in Cyprus is best conducted face-to-face, as developinga working relationship based on trust is important. Business isconducted formally, and dress should be smart and conservative (asuit and tie are the norm). Greetings are usually made with ahandshake, and business cards are exchanged. It is common for womento hold high positions and they are generally well respected in thebusiness world. Punctuality is important, but meetings may notbegin on time. Business hours can vary according to the season, butare usually 8am to 1pm and 4pm to 7pm Monday to Friday in summer,closing at 5pm in winter.
The international access code for Cyprus is +357. The outgoingcode is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for theUnited Kingdom). Area codes are required.
Travellers to Cyprus over 17 years arriving from non-EUcountries do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 100cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g smoking tobacco; 1 litre spiritswith higher than 22 percent alcohol volume or 2 litres spirits oraperitifs with less than 22 percent alcohol volume, or 2 litres ofwine; 50g perfume or 250ml eau de toilette; 500g coffee; 100g tea;medicines for personal consumption; and other goods to the value of€175. Prohibited items include fresh fruit, meat, and dairyproducts.
Cyprus Tourist Organisation, Nicosia: +357 2269 1100 orwww.visitcyprus.org.cy
Cyprus Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 4625772.
Cyprus Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7321 4100.
Cyprus Consulate General, Toronto, Canada: +1 416 944 0998.
Cyprus High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 3463298.
Cyprus High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsiblefor New Zealand): +61 (0)2 6281 0832.
Cyprus Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 676 3060.
United States Embassy, Nicosia: +357 2239 3939.
British High Commission, Nicosia: +357 96 390076.
Consulate of Canada, Nicosia: +357 2277 5508.
South African Embassy, Athens, Greece (also responsible forCyprus): +30 210 617 8020.
Australian High Commission, Nicosia: +357 2275 3001.
Irish Embassy, Nicosia: +357 2281 8183.
New Zealand Embassy, Rome, Italy (also responsible for Cyprus):+39 (0)6 853 7501.