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The third largest island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus stretches 150 miles (240 km) from the west coast to its eastern-most tip and 60 miles (96 km) from north to south.
Two imposing mountain ranges act as a dramatic backdrop to the sweeping central Mesaoria plain.
There are six major towns in Cyprus. Nicosia, the capital, is situated inland in the middle of the Mesaoria plain, and there are five coastal towns of Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos, Kyrenia and Famagusta.
Cyprus' 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.
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 of Troodos, with delightful hill resorts and traditional hotels.
As the land mellows in autumn there is 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 16C. 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 to 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 flatroofed village houses made of mudbrick 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's repaid with genuine hospitality, summed up in the Greek word Philoxenia: Friendship towards the guest. Their native 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 hlstory.
10,780 km total; 5,170 km paved, 5,610 km gravel, crushed stone, and earth.
Famagusta, Kyrenia, Larnaca, Limassol, Paphos.
1,299 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 21,045,037 GRT / 37,119,933 DWT; includes 10 short-sea passenger, 1 passenger-cargo, 463 cargo, 77 refrigerated cargo, 24 roll-on/roll-off, 70 container, 4 multifunction large load carrier, 110 oil tanker, 3 specialized tanker, 3 liquefied gas, 26 chemical tanker, 32 combination ore/oil, 422 bulk, 3 vehicle carrier, 48 combination bulk, 1 railcar carrier, 2 passenger; note - a flag of convenience registry; Cuba owns 27 of these ships, Russia owns 36, Latvia also has 7 ships, Croatia owns 2, and Romania 5.
Excellent level of telecommunications. 210,000 telephones; largely open-wire and microwave radio relay; broadcast stations - 11 AM, 8 FM, 1 (34 repeaters). International service by tropospheric scatter, 3 submarine cables, and satellite earth stations - 1 Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT, 1 Indian Ocean INTELSAT and EUTELSAT earth stations.
Entry to Cyprus
Larnaca International and Paphos International Airports, and the ports of Limassol, Larnaca, and Paphos are the only legal ports of entry and exit to the Republic of Cyprus. Ships carrying cargo and passengers call regularly at Larnaca and Limassol, the main southern ports.
Fruit and Vegetables
Nurtured by the warm Mediterranean sun, Cyprus fruit and vegetables grow to a size and quantity guaranteed to delight the most demanding palates. The markets and many roadside stalls are a feast of colour, with fruit of every variety, size and colour. They are ripe, juicy, tasty, ready for eating and very inexpensive.
And the same goes for the island's vegetables. Everyone knows the superlative Cyprus potato, but there are giant, shiny aubergines, massive red tomatoes, fat lettuces, elongated carrots, plump atrichokes, delectable avocadoes and many more.
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 meze - meaning mixture which is usually a little of everything that is available that day in that taverna or restaurant.
Besides this typically Cypriot type of meal visitors to Cyprus are offered versatility. There are plenty of charming fish tavernas by the sea and numerous restaurants serving Chinese, Arabic, European and Indian food.
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.
Wines and Local Drinks
Over 100 varieties of grapes, plumped to perfection, yield the fortified and table wines which Cyprus is famous for and which can be traced back over 3,000 years. Sherries, 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 qualities! 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 that's light and perfectly matched to the Cyprus climate.
Nightlife on the island caters to every mood and every age. There are discos and nightclubs. There's ample opportunity to dine and dance romantically under the stars and there is plenty of local atmosphere and lively 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.
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 cooklng facilities. There are youth hostels too and camping sites with good facilities. There are many good websites where you can find information on accommodation in Cyprus and most of these provide an online booking facility too. Alternatively, many local travel agents can help with finding accommodation.
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 yesteryear in remote villages, unchanged and steeped in tradition.
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 watersport possible and the chance to experience the exhilarating speed of parascending, or even explore the mysteries of the deep by scuba diving, under the expert guidance of several professional schools recognised by the British Sub Aqua Club.
Cycling or hiking take 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's 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 Pafos 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 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 and its flowers at various town festivities. The Carnival, chiefly in Limassol (but recently in Larnaka and Pafos 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 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, in the form of jackets, bags or cases, or made to measure for visitors, is a bargain that's hard to resist. And so are textiles.
- Driving is on the left side of the road
- Between 13.00-16.00 hrs is siesta-time in summer (May-Sept)
- The international airports are at Larnaka and Pafos.
- Centrally located banks offer special afternoon facilities for tourists
- The Euro is divided into 100 cents
- Voltage: 240V A C throughout the island. Outlets and sockets of flat 3 pin type are used (as in the UK)
- The population of Cyprus is approximately 706,000
- The typical take away is 'souvlaki stin pitta'- kebab in a pitta envelope.
- Nearly all drugs and medicines are available on the island
- 'Lefkaritika' is the local embroidery
- It is forbidden to remove antiquities from the bottom of the sea
- The Tourist Information office at Larnaka airport provides 24hrs service 365 days
- Cyprus is a member of the European Union
- 'Commandaria' is the local sweet fortified
- The transurban service-taxis are shared taxis connecting all main towns (only during day time)
- Halloumi 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 shops are closed on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons and on Sundays
- 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 tap water is drinkable
- The average day temperature in summer is 32 C and 16 C in winter
- Easter is the main religious feast in Cyprus
- The average sea temperature in April is 18.6 C and in October 25 C.
- 'Koulouri' is the typical sesame bread, excellent with green olives.
- There are two marinas in Cyprus, one in Larnaka and one in Limassol
- The most important Museums of the island are in Nicosia
- Citizens from most of the European countries, U S A, Canada, Australia, Japan etc can enter Cyprus with a valid passport and do not require a visa
- There is no limit on bringing in cheques, travellers cheques and other negotiable documents
- Parakalo means Please
- Kalimera means Good morning
- Metrios is the local coffee with sugar
- Efharisto means Thank you