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Cyprus Travel Guide

Updated on February 4, 2013
Karpas Beach, Northern Cyprus
Karpas Beach, Northern Cyprus

If you visit Cyprus you will have the opportunity to admire both Greece and Turkey – sunny Mediterranean beaches, lovely villages, ancient civilizations’ ruins and a special local culture. You will also witness a national separation – Cyprus is divided by a territorial dispute between the Greek ethnics and Turkish ethnics. For more than two decades now there haven’t been any violent disputes, but this separation is a problem for the United Nations. Fortunately these tensions do not affect tourists, who receive only friendship and hospitality from both sides of Cyprus.

Even though it’s relatively compact, the Cyprus Island offers a varied landscape, from forests covered mountains to sandy beaches. The best beaches are in Ayia Napa and Protaras, where the turquoise waters are available for water sports. The nightlife is going on in the neon light of the clubs in Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaca. In the Troodos mountains you’ll find villages on vineyard clad hills and tracks for hikers, biking and in the winter, skiing. The Venetian walls, the crusaders’ castles and the Roman mosaics that you can see all over the place, are the witnesses of a 10.000 years old history. After entering the European Union Cyprus became a modern country, but which has kept its stone villages, brilliant resorts, citric coppices and perfumed mountains.

Cypriot Cuisine

The Cypriot cuisine’s specific is given by the Mediterranean climate, geography and history. It has evolved as fusion between the Greek and Turkish cuisine, with a local charm. The sea dishes include squid and marinade octopus in red wine, but the most traditional fish is the cod. The bream is also very popular, because it’s cheap. The squid is covered in dough and baked or filled with rice, fennel, clove, and maybe mint, and then it’s fried. The octopus is made a stew with wine, carrots, tomatoes and onion. The most common used vegetables are the potatoes, in olive oil and parsley, pickle cauliflower, pumpkin, taro and asparagus.

The Cypriots eat meat only once a week, on Sundays. Usually the meal consists of boiled chicken, and then fried in a sauce. Tawas is lamb meat spiced with very much fennel, Afelia is a pork saute with red wine and coriander, Psito is a meat dish with baked potatoes. When it’s prepared there is a lot of oil used. O traditional practice, but less and less preserved, is using pork fat for cooking and for preserving, in large ceramic pot. This is how the meat is preserved, the lamb one being very salty, to avoid spoiling it. This meat, along with the fat, is used for Bastourmas Loukaniko sausages.

Salamis Ruins, Northern Cyprus
Salamis Ruins, Northern Cyprus

Cyprus History

The insular state of Cyprus is located in the place where the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa meet, also the meeting place for one of the greatest nations of conquerors in the whole world – from Phoenicians to Syrians, to Romans, Crusader, Venetians and British; all of them have ruled over this area at some point. Despite all the indulgences, Cyprus has kept its essential characteristics. The coastal cities (Paphos and Limmasol in the south, Famagusta and Kyrenia in the north) are pleasant, but they also have a rich tradition, stories and myths. In Cyprus Cicero used to philosophize, Othello agonized, St Paul was insulted and Aphrodite was created.

In present time the country’s dissensions are a danger to the country’s stability. The turmoil resulted in the island’s separation into the CyprusGreekRepublic in the south and the TurkishRepublic of the Northern Cyprus. Turkey is the only state that recognizes the Northern Cyprus’ independence. Until this separation there were two years of tensions and occasional violence between the Greek ethnics that governed the island and the Turkish ethnic minority. In 1983 the situation reached a halt, even though the contact restrictions between the two communities were somewhat lifted in 2003. The Green Line that cuts through the island has now five places where you can cross to the other side.

Since Cyprus has been a member of the European Union many differences have been noted – the locals say that the prices have increased too much and more and more properties are owned by persons from outside the country. Some locals get rich from the real estate market, but the development is endangering the environment in some areas on the island.

Cyprus Tourist Attractions

Cyprus’ colourful history is reflected in the locals’ rich cultural life. Almost every week a celebration takes place, a wedding, festival, or a saint’s anniversary. The religious celebrations have a great importance in the Cypriot’s lives, the most important one is the Orthodox Easter, even more important than Christmas. In the Easter Saturday most of the locals attend the church service and outside the church a fire is prepared, with Judas’ head and fireworks. In the Easter Sunday all the family members sit and eat together and lamb meat is served.

Spring is a holiday season and in most cities there are carnivals and parades with flower carpets. The biggest carnival takes place in Limmasol. Kataklysmos is another important festival, for the floods, and is celebrated in every city with open-air parties, games and competitions. In the harvest period there are wine festivals, the biggest one taking place in Limassol.

  • Take a walk through the capital Nicosia and visit the CyprusMuseum, a deposit of the archeological treasures from the island, the TraditionalArt Museum, the NewArchiepiscopalPalace, St John’s Cathedral, the Byzantine churches, the MakariosCulturalCenter and Omeriye Mosque.
  • Take a trip from Nicosia to the royal tombs and the Agios Irakleidos monastery in Tamassos, the five-domed church and the mosque in Peristerona and the Panagia Chrysospiliotissa church built on a cliff near Deftera.
  • In the resort-city Larnaca you can visit the Agios Lazaros church and the Byzantine Museum, the Larnaca Fortress, the Archeology Museum, the Tornaritis-Pierides Paleontology Museum and the Kition remnants.
  • Near Larnaca airport you can find the Sultan Tekke Hall, a historical mosque, with beautiful gardens, near the salty lakeLarnaca.
  • On the western hills you can venture to the Lefkara village, famous for the lace made by the local women and the Agios Minas monastery. Near the Limassol-Nicosia road you’ll find the Stavrovouni monastery and the Royal Chapel that date from the crusades’ period, near Pyrga.
  • The LimassolCastle watches over the old port and houses the CyprusMedievalMuseum. There is also a traditional art museum, an archeology museum and a small zoo.
  • In the old city of Kourin, on a hilltop near Episkopi, discover a gorgeous Greek-Roman theatre, where Shakespeare plays are performed every summer. Visit the Eustolios’ House, which has beautiful mosaics, the Acropolis, a Roman forum’s ruins and the Christian basilica.
  • Pass Kurion, unto the west, there is the old city stadium and the Apolo Ylatis Sanctuary. All these are located in the area of Great Britain’s Suzerainty Base Akrotiri-Episkopi.
  • Don’t miss Pafos, the main tourist center in the western Cyprus. Pafos has many ancient sites, particularly remarkable due to a group of a Roman villas near the port that have been enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • The legend says that the goddess of love, Aphrodite, bathed in the Aphrodite’s Baths, a cave with a sweet water pool, located at the AkamasPeninsula’s end.
  • In Kouklia you can visit the old Palaia Pafos’ ruins and the Aphrodite’s Temple. On the coastline you’ll find Petra tou Romiou (Aphrodite’s Rock).
  • Explore the Troodos wooded mountains. The PlatresPeak (1200m) is an ideal base for hiking. Close by you can find mountOlymp (1952m), the highest one in Cyprus.
  • Visit the restored village of Omodos, where the Stavros Monastery is located and a small museum of traditional art. Foini is a traditional ceramic arts center.
  • Visit the nine Byzantine churches in the Troodos mountains, enlisted as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, famous for the magnificent interior frescoes.
  • The Venetian port of Gime and the ancient port of Kyrenia are located in the north, lined with restaurants that sell fresh fish (caught in the same day).
  • Even though it’s celebrated in the whole country, the Kataklysmos festival has a special charm in Larnaca, where the crowds gather on the shore for water sports, singing, dancing, eating and drinking.
  • Take hiking trips through the main areas of Cyprus. The recommended tracks include Atalante, Kaledonia and Persefona in the Troodos area, Aphrodite and Adonis in the Akamas area and other tracks in the Machairas and Limassol forests.
  • Both Platres and Kakopetria are excellent ski resorts located on mountOlymp. The season usually lasts from January to the mid-March. On mountOlymp there are four gondolas.
  • The Cyprus’ seaside offers facilities for windsurfing, kite-surfing, scuba diving and swimming. The recommended beaches include Geroskipou, Dasoudi, Larnaca, Governors, Dassoudi and Germasogeia (the last two are located in Limassol).
  • On the coastline south of Famagusta you’ll find crowded resorts, filled with golden sand beaches, ideal for families and children – the FigGulf and the FlamingoGulf.
  • Agia Napa resort’s reputation for being a center for parties and night clubs is continuously growing. The beaches here attract also families.
  • In September you can enjoy free wine, during the Limassol festival.
  • Taste the best that Cyprus has to offer – Prodromos apples, the highest village in the country, Pedoulas cherries, Moutoullas mineral water, rose water and wine from Agros and sweet wine and grapes from the Commandaria region.

Useful Info

When you are in Cyprus, show respect to the religious customs. A hand shake is common when you meet someone. It’s considered a lack of respect refusing a Turkish coffee or a cold drink. Taking photos of military objectives is forbidden and to take photos of the museum’s artifacts you need to have a special permission. The camera’s flashlight is not permitted in churches that have icons or wall paintings. The local hour is GMT+2 and GMT+3 (summer time). Voltage: 240V.

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