Cyprus, an island set in the midst of the Mediterranean Sea, is a country of Gothic mosques and Byzantine architecture, white-sanded seashores and frescoed monasteries, winemaking villages, and much more. From a capital which has the unfortunate distinction of being the only divided city in the world to breathtaking beaches along the Mediterranean, Cyprus should not only prove a pleasant and enjoyable holiday, but also an education in itself.
The country, however, is slashed in two by a turbulent history and a troubled past. Cyprus gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960 and despite a constitution that guaranteed a degree of power-sharing between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority, the two populations – with backing from the governments of Greece and Turkey, respectively, clashed in 1974. The end result was a country divided into Northern Cyprus with a predominant Turkish population and South Cyprus – which houses the Greek Cypriotes. In 1983, the Turkish-held area declared independence as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Cyprus is yet to resolve its conflicts but still offers the visitor a moving and unique experience.
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CYPRUS QUICK FACTS
As the two regions are virtually completely separate from a traveller's point of view, this page predominantly provides information on the southern territory governed by the Republic of Cyprus.
Currency: Euro (€)
Area: 9,250 km²
Population: 1,17 million (2018 estimate)
Language: Official: Greek, Turkish; English widely spoken.
Religion: Greek Orthodox 78%, Muslim 18%, Maronite, Armenian Apostolic, and other 4%
Electricity: 240V, 50Hz (UK plug)
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CYPRUS PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
6 January, Epiphany
25 March, Greek Independence Day
1 April, EOKA Day
1 May, May Day
20 July, Peace and Freedom Day (North Cyprus)
15 August, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1 October, Cyprus Independence Day
28 October, Ochi Day
15 November, Republic Day of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (North Cyprus)
26 December, 2nd day of Christmas
Business openings and work schedules may be significantly affected by Eastern Orthodox Christian holidays, including Green Monday (beginning of Great Lent), Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday, and Holy Ghost (the Monday after Pentecost). Also, many businesses are closed for the summer vacation in July and August.
BEST TIME TO VISIT CYPRUS
Cyprus has an intense Mediterranean climate with the typical seasonal rhythm strongly marked in respect of temperature, rainfall. Hot and dry summers from mid-May to mid-October and mild, rainy, rather changeable, winters from November to mid-March.
Though Cyprus welcomes tourists throughout the year, it would be best if you plan your trip, during April – May or September - October. The months of July and August can be uncomfortably hot and dry. If you are price conscious then most hotels lower their prices between November and March, but be aware that it can get cold and wet at this time of the year.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN CYPRUS
The snow sports season in Cyprus is from January to April, when you can go skiing on Mount Olympos in Troodos.
HIKING & CYCLING IN CYPRUS
You can enjoy outdoor activities in Cyprus throughout the year. This means that there is no need to visit during the peak tourist season!
BEACH OPTIONS IN CYPRUS
Cyprus has loads of beautiful beaches with a summer beach season stretching from April to November with June to August being the busiest months.
SURFING IN CYPRUS
Cyprus has pretty good surf all year round, but the waves are best in the months of March and November.
KITESURF IN CYPRUS
You can Kitesurfing in Cyprus pretty much all year long. If you want to ride nice big waves, the winter season is best, especially in Curium & Ladies Mile beach - just know that it will be cold!
For more details on kite surfing in Cyprus expand this section!
CYPRUS TRAVEL COSTS
A good way to travel within the country is by car. General road conditions between the bigger cities is good, although routes between the smaller places can be somewhat rough.
A shared taxi is a good option to use while travelling between cities. These taxis have to be booked in advance and run throughout the week with decreased services on Sundays. Buses, however, are by far the cheapest way to get around the cities as well as between cities. In Nicosia, buses run till 7 pm and in the tourist areas during the peak summer season till about midnight.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF CYPRUS
From the 16th century Venetian fortifications around southern Nicosia to the scenic sea cliffs and famous mosaics of Paphos, Cyprus is indeed a beautiful blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavour. Once you can get past the tension and the divide of the political atmosphere, you will find much to explore and enjoy in this land of ancient vineyards, frescoed monasteries, and endless citrus orchards.
In southern Nicosia, the Old Town is perhaps the most alluring section. Enclosed by the ancient Venetian fortifications, this maze of municipal gardens and ancient architecture is the central part and attracts much of the tourist crowd. Be sure not to miss the 16th century Ayios Ioannis Cathedral which has a series of paintings depicting Cypriot history through the ages. The Cyprus Museum just outside the city holds archaeological remains from Neolithic and Roman times.
One of the stellar attractions of Cyprus is the many Mediterranean beach resorts along its coast, which are not only serene getaways but are also full of history and culture. Paphos, on the west coast, is perhaps one of the most popular locations. Apart from the natural beauty, such monuments as the Tomb of the Kings (a stunning lair of tombs carved onto the soft rock next to the shore) or the famous mosaics, which are dedicated to Dionysus and which the Romans laid down in the 3rd century BC.
The mountainous splendour of the Troodos mountains in south Cyprus is sure to take your breath away with its rocky landscape punctuated with pretty villages and vineyards and monasteries. Nature lovers, as well as adventure seekers, should both find relief in the Troodos Massif from the hustle and bustle of the packed beach resorts.
Home to the island's biggest airport, Larnaka is the inevitable starting point for many visitors to Cyprus. However, its elegant promenade, beautiful Agios Lazaros cathedral, ancient ruins, and a vibrant resort are reason to linger.
Cyprus's second city, Lemesos, has a reputation for great restaurants and transformed itself recently into the definition of laidback Mediterranean living.
The most beautiful harbour town on the island, Girne (Kyrenia), and a good introduction to life in North Cyprus has a stunning castle, a relaxed atmosphere and offers wonderful days out to St Hilarion Castle and Bellapais Abbey.
Gazimağusa (Famagusta) is an ancient port city defined by its elegantly ruined old town, pounded by the Ottomans in 1571. Nearby are the magnificent ruins of Ancient Salamis and also the unsettling sight of Varosha, derelict since 1974.
Once the archetypal 18–30 resort, Agia Napa has morphed into a more sophisticated destination with a surprising smattering of museums, street art and other attractions.
Explore the villages and small-scale sights of the Karpaz Peninsula. Look out for its wild donkeys, and press on to lonely Apostolos Andreas monastery, both the easternmost and the northernmost point on the island.
You could spend an entire day exploring the ancient city of Salamis, the nearby Royal Tombs, Monastery of St Barnabas and the ruins of Enkomi-Alasia – all within a couple of kilometres of each other.
WHAT TO EAT IN CYPRUS
Food in Cyprus reflects the division of the country as you would expect. In the north, you will find mostly Turkish cuisine, in the south Greek. But wherever you are in Cyprus you will come across kleftikó or küp kebab - lamb or goat barbecued with vegetables in an outdoor oven. Cyprus is also famous for its fruit: you will find juicy strawberries, stone fruit, melons, prickly pear, citrus, and grapes at the markets.
LGBTQ IN CYPRUS
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Cyprus may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Cyprus, and civil unions which grant several of the rights and benefits of marriage have been legal since December 2015. Attitudes towards members of the LGBT community are evolving and becoming increasingly more accepting and tolerant, with recent opinion polls showing that a majority of Cypriots support legal recognition of same-sex couples in the form of civil unions.
The LGBTQ scene continues to grow in Cyprus. Bars, clubs and other gay-friendly establishments are found in several cities, including Paphos, Limassol, Larnaca and Nicosia.