[b]CYPRUS TRAVEL GUIDE
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, standing at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. An island with great history, and an unlimited treasure not only for its people, but also for the people visiting it. Its multifaceted character makes the island unique.
In 1974 the island was divided de facto into the Greek Cypriot controlled southern two-thirds of the island and the Turkish controlled northern third. Turkey invaded and occupied the northern part of the island. The United Nations however recognizes the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus over the entire island which is divided into 6 districts: Nicosia, Famagusta, Kyrenia, Larnaca, Limassol, and Paphos. Famagusta and Kyrenia are in the hands of the invaders at this moment.
FEEL THE HUMAN TOUCH OF THE PEOPLE
Cypriots have a reputation for being friendly, so don’t be surprised if they invite you into their homes for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. While traveling around the island you will find that the spirit of hospitality is very strong.
The majority of Cypriots, especially younger people speak the English language well, so you will be instantly accepted and given a taste of the local culture and way of life.
Nothing beats Cyprus for a beach holiday. Enjoy the sparkling blue Mediterranean waters, and sink your toes into warm sand. Feel the sun on your skin. With a wealth of beaches to choose from, you are bound to find one that suits your taste. There are fine white sandy beaches with shallow turquoise waters, or deep water bays with rocky outcrops perfect for snorkeling or diving.
Long stretches of coastline lend themselves to jogging, while secluded coves beckon when you want to be alone. In Cyprus the living is laidback; you set your own pace. Lie back and enjoy the island’s magical evenings gazing at the stars through clear skies and lulled by the gentle sounds of the night crickets.
Its rugged coasts and mountain peaks, the sunny vineyards and cool pine forests, the flat expanses of wheat fields, all these will inspire you if you are a nature lover.
It enjoys a Mediterranean climate, so one of its benefits is that it has plentiful sunshine throughout the year. As a year round destination, each season has its special allure. Spring , like an impressionist painting will delight you with its profusion of colour. Autumn is pleasant with its lack of crowds, while the mild winter when everything turns green, is ideal for nature lovers, hiking and cycling. It is a must-visit for birdwatchers as there are several endemic bird species and hundreds of migrating birds passing through. It is one of the few places in the Mediterranean where sea turtles come ashore to breed on the island’s sandy beaches and are strictly protects, as is the elusive mouflon, a rare wild mountain sheep roaming the Troodos mountain sides.
Experience at first hand one of the oldest civilizations of the world going back 10.000 years. Famous for its copper in antiquity, Cyprus (Kypros in Greek) has even given the metal its Latin name, cuprum.
Long coveted by foreign powers due to its strategic position at the crossroad between three continents, the island is like a large open-air museum. There are prehistoric settlements, ancient Greek temples, monasteries, Crusader castles, Gothic churches and Venetian fortifications. In its villages, old customs and traditions are still kept alive, and men in traditional baggy trousers, “vraka”, still congregate at the coffee shop for a game of backgammon.
Cyprus was the first country the apostles Paul and Barnabas visited in their mission to spread Christianity. Many fine examples of Byzantine art survived here. Hidden away in the pine forests, are Cyprus’ painted churches with their colourful frescoes on walls and apses, ten of which have been put on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
If you are looking for an ideal mix of culture, nature and history, then Larnaca is a must visit, and the perfect destination for you.
It was the second home of St. Lazarus, - Jesus friend , who lived here after his resurrection. It is the oldest town in Cyprus with great history and monuments scattered throughout. The city of Larnaca has managed to retain a relaxed and leisurely – never overcrowded atmosphere. Cultural enthusiasts are enthralled by the town’s archaeological sites along with 8 important museums.
25 kilometers of stunning beaches, a perfect destination for holiday -makers who can experience various faces and places of the town.
Its beaches are dotter with seafood restaurants many of them serving exceptional cuisine.
If you are searching for nightlife opportunities, you are best off heading to an area just off the main promenade called Laiki Yeitonia, or to Larnaca Dhekelia Road – 15 minutes away from the city centre – where you will find upscale clubs and bars.
Eight important museums await you, unlimited entertainment, unique architecture, and important monuments and churches existing side by side with mosques.
NICOSIA (Lefkosia in Greek)
Situated in the middle of the island Lefkosia (Nicosia) is a busy modern commercial and business centre. The centre of the city is its old quarter surrounded by a Venetian sandstone fortress wall with a moat and heart-shaped bastions.
Mosques and palm trees give an oriental atmosphere to the old city.
The Cyprus Museum houses the best collection of archaeological artifacts on the island.
Venture out of Nicosia through olive groves and orchards and drive up into the pine forest to the Monastery of Machairas. The picturesque villages abound, such as those of Pera and Fikardou with their cobbled streets and preserved stone and adobe houses, which will give you a glimpse of rural life in Cyprus.
LIMASSOL (Lemesos in Greek)
Limassol is the island’s second largest city spreads out between two ancient city – kingdoms, Amathous to the east and Kourion to the west, two of the most spectacular archaelogical sites in Cyprus. It is the island’s main port, the centre of the wine industry and a bustling holiday resort.
A large number of hotels and hotel apartments line a 15 km coastline interspersed with eucalyptus groves and linked by a promenade popular with walkers or joggers.
Wander round the narrow streets of the old town radiating out from the fishing harbour. The medieval castle was the site of the royal wedding in the Middle Ages between Richard the Lionheart and Berengaria of Navarre, and now houses the Cyprus Medieval Museum.
The town’s inhabitants are renowned for their love of fun so not surprisingly the nightlife is varied, with all sorts of tavernas, discos and clubs.
A short drive out into the surrounding countryside will take you through vineyards and quaint wine producing villages. The castle of Kolossi is where the sweet dessert wine “Commandaria”, the world’s oldest named wine was produced by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem who had their headquarters here in the Middle Ages.
Germasogeia dam and Akrotiri salt lake, at the edge of which is the Monastery of St. Nicolas of the Cats, are unique wetlands ideal for observing nature and wildlife and peaceful places to relax, go for a walk or indulge in some angling or bird-watching.
PAPHOS (Aphrodite’s realm)
In antiquity Pafos was the centre of the cult of Aphrodite. Swim in the sea by the rocks known as Petra tou Romiou where the goddess was believed to have risen from the waves, make a pilgrimage to her sanctuary at Kouklia, or visit the grotto near Polis where she was supposed to have bathed.
Paphos, with its pleasant harbour and medieval fort, combines a cosmopolitan holiday resort, spectacular countryside and historical sites.
It was the capital of Cyprus for 600 years in ancient times and its archaelogical legacy is such that UNESCO put the whole town on its World Cultural Heritage List. The intricate floor mosaics in villas dating back to the Roman period depicting scenes from Greek Eastern Mediterranean. Equally impressive are the underground Tombs of the Kings carved out of solid rock and decorated with Doric pillars. The Museum at Maa-Paleokastro near Coral Bay has an interesting collection of artifacts from the period of Mycenean Greek colonization of Cyprus.
The Akamas peninsula is an area of natural wilderness with dramatic coastlines and sandy coves. Here you can explore the various picturesque villages, walk along one of the many scenic nature trails or take a boat trip along the dramatic coastline that all form part of Aphrodite’s playground.
THE TROODOS MOUNTAINS
Take a trip into the mountains for a refreshing break from the heat of the central plains and the coast. Rising to almost 2.000 metres above sea level, the Troodos peaks provide panoramic views and a place to go skiing in winter.
Charming villages, some with cobbled streets and preserved folk architecture, nestle on terraced slopes amid vineyards and orchards of almon, hazelnut and cherry trees. Spend the day walking along one of the many nature trails, resting at a picnic site along the way, or visit the Visitor Centre in the Troodos forest park area. The Cedar Valley is home to an unusually large number of Cypriot cedars and so far from the madding crowds that the only sounds you will hear when you switch off the engine of your car are those of nature. In the evening nightingales songs will lull you to sleep.
The Troodos mountains are where the painted churches of Cyprus, superb examples of Byzantine art, can be found. The church of Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis in Kakopetria, together with those of Asinou Lagoudera, are considered to be some of the most outstanding on the island.
Kykkos Monastery, the largest on the island, has an excellent Byzantine museum and a golden icon of the Virgin Mary, allegedly painted by St. Luke.
TYPICALLY CYPRIOT PRODUCTS
A host of products unique to the island will fascinate you.
Get to the heart of Cypriot culture by exploring its delicious cuisine, an exotic blend of Greek and oriental dishes. Do as the locals do by dipping a slice of village bread into a bowl of cracked green olives with coriander seeds. Try Cyprus’ ‘halloumi’ cheese with watermelon, for an unusual combination of flavours. Or go for everything by ordering ‘mezedes’ , a lavish feast of local delicacies.
Wash it all down with one of the local beers or wines. You will love the taste of the sweet Commandaria wine, whose origins go back to the depths of time. If you are brave enough, have a shot of ‘zivania’ straight from the fridge. Made from highly-distilled grape juice, it is almost pure alcohol and packs a neat punch.
Other grape products include the rubbery ‘shoushoukko’ that you can see hanging from roadside stalls in mountain villages from where you can also buy jars of ‘glyko’ , the preserved fruit sweets traditionally served to all guests.
Cyprus handicrafts will delight you.
Check out the wide selection available at the Handicraft Centre of Nicosia and many souvenir shops. You will find ceramic replicas of ancient pots found in the museum, intricately carved wooden bridal chests with Mediterranean motifs, colourful basket-ware, silver and copperware, as well as Lefkara lace and embroidery.
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The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~St. Augustine