Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, and one of its most popular tourist destinations. It is situated south of Turkey and west of Lebanon and has an area of 3,571 square miles.
Cyprus has two mountain ranges, that of Pentadaktylos in the north, and the mountain range of Troodos which lies in the southwest of the island; in between the two mountain ranges lies the plain of Mesaoria. With the exception of Nicosia which is built in the center of the island and is Cyprus’s capital, all the other major cities are built on the coast.
As the Neolithic village of Choirokoitia attests, the earliest human activity on the island began around the 10th millennium B.C. Cyprus is home to some of the oldest water wells in the world, and archaeological findings indicate that feline domestication in Cyprus predated Egyptian civilization.
During the early years of the island’s history which was known in ancient times as Alasia, Cyprus was part of the Minoan Civilization. Cyprus was settled by Mycenaean Greeks in the second millennium B.C., and foundation myths documented by classical authors connect the building of numerous Cypriot city kingdoms to Achaean Greek heroes of the Trojan War.
Due to its strategic location in the Middle East, the served as a Phoenician trade post and has been occupied by several empires, including those of the Hittites, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Byzantines, Lusignans and the Venetians, and it became a target for the crusaders due to its proximity to the Holy land.
Cyprus fell to the Ottomans in 1571 and remained under their control for over 3 centuries. In 1878 Cyprus was placed under British administration in exchange for guarantees that Britain would protect the weakening Ottoman Empire against possible Russian aggression. The British were confronted from the very beginning of their administration with the desire of the Greek Cypriots who comprised over 80% of the population, for the unification of Cyprus with Greece. Britain promised to fulfill the commitment of unification provided that Greece would enter World War I on the side of the allies; the offer was withdrawn when Greece declined. Cyprus gained its independence in 1960, after a five years long military campaign that was led by EOKA (National Organization of Cypriot Fighters).
Intercommunal violence among Greek and Turkish Cypriots in 1963, and the subsequent Turkish invasion and occupation of more than a third of the island in 1974, led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Greek and Turkish Cypriots and resulted in on-going political disputes; presently, negotiations under UN patronage aim at reuniting the island. The Republic of Cyprus has by right sovereignty over the entire island of Cyprus and its surrounding waters except over the areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia which were allocated by treaty to the United Kingdom as sovereign military bases. Cyprus joined the European Union on 1 May 2004 and adopted the euro in 2008. EU acquis – the body of common rights and obligations - applies only to the areas under the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot Government; individual Turkish Cypriots who are able to document their eligibility for Republic of Cyprus citizenship also enjoy the same rights.
The total population of Cyprus is slightly over 1 million, comprising of 778,700 in the territory controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus and 265,100 in the occupied north Cyprus, including 150 to 160 thousand of ‘illegal settlers’ from Turkey. In addition to the Greek and Turkish populations there is a Maronite minority community totaling 6,000 and an Armenian minority community totaling around 2,000. As well, there are sizeable communities of Britons, Russians, nationals of other Eastern European states and Palestinian and Lebanese refugees living on the island.
The two official languages spoken in Cyprus are Greek and Turkish; English is widely spoken by most people on the island. The Greek Orthodox population comprises 78 percent of the island's total population, Muslims account for 17 percent and Maronites, Armenian and others for less than 5 percent.
Cyprus has a subtropical-Mediterranean climate with rainy, mild winters and hot long summers. Spring and autumn are short, and sand blown from the Sahara during these seasons makes breathing difficult and limits visibility. Snow falls mainly on the Troodos Mountains. The island experiences recurrent droughts, and because water is provided mostly by dams, at times water shortage makes water rationing a necessity.
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Cyprus’s 2010 total estimate GDP (PPP) was $22.745 billion and the estimate per capita $27,713. The service sector is considered to be the backbone of Cyprus’s economy and accounts for four fifths of the GDP. The sector includes tourism, finance, insurance and business services, trade, restaurants and hotels, transport and communication, education, shipping and real estate. The significant growth of the real estate service in particular, is due to the massive growth in tourism over the years and the increasing demand for property from investors of several offshore businesses who settle permanently on the island. Manufacturing is dominated by small enterprises which may employ up to 10 and not more than 200 people. Agriculture’s share of the national economy has decline dramatically over the years following the 1974 Turkish invasion, that left the Turkish Cypriot community in the north in possession of agricultural resources that produced about four-fifths of the citrus and cereal crops and all of the tobacco. Major exports are pharmaceutical products, clothing, cement, paper and plastic products, potatoes, citrus fruit, wines and furniture; other exports include a wide range of fresh cut herbs, grapes, vegetables and Halloumi cheese. Cyprus’s major imports are raw materials, consumer and capital goods, transport equipment and fuel.
Oil has been discovered recently in the seabed between Cyprus and Egypt and talks are underway between Lebanon and Egypt to reach an agreement regarding the exploration of these resources. According to government reports, however, the Turkish Navy does not allow the exploration of oil in the region.
Major Cities of Cyprus and their Landmarks:
Places of Interest:
Τhe massif of Troodos Mountain stretches across most of the southwest part of the island and is divided into the districts of the Krassochoria (wine villages), the Troodos National Forest Park and the Limassol Mountain Resorts that include Platres, the Region of Pitsilia, the Solea and Marathasa Valleys and the Forest of Paphos. Troodos is easily accessible from all major cities and is truly a magnificent region. Its peak at mount Olympus reaches up to 1,952 metres and provides panoramic views of the north, as well as the south coasts of the island. The Troodos Resort consists of the Troodos Square where one finds several shops and restaurants, the Troodos National Forest Park Information Center and the Mount Olympus Ski Resort. Visitors have the opportunity to explore one of the many nature trails in the Troodos National Park where grow 750 species of plants, some of which are found only in Cyprus, and to see trees that are over 1,000 years old. Troodos is the habitat of the mouflons (agrino) of Cyprus and one has the opportunity to see these graceful creatures at the enclose park near the Platania Forest Station. The region is doted with Byzantine monasteries and churches on mountain peaks and picturesque villages clinging to terraced hill slopes. Although is hard to choose which village to visit from among the magnificent villages of the Troodos Mountain regions, some of the villages and attractions one shouldn’t miss are the almost deserted village of Fikardou (it has 4 permanent residents) which received the Europa Nostra Award in 1987. Askas village with its traditional stone houses; the Mountain Resort of Platres; the church of Agios Nicolaos tis Stegis in Kakopetria; the church of Archangel Michael in Pedoulas; Panagia tou Araka in Lagoudera; and the Kykkos Monastery, one of the richest monasteries of Cyprus. The monastery houses one of the most exquisite museums of religious artefacts on the island.
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Pancyprian Annual Events
International Historic Car Rally: a rally competition of cars manufactured before 1982. The event has been taking place in Cyprus for about two decades and attracts locals and foreigners of all ages. The old cars compete on the streets of Larnaka, Limassol, Paphos and Nicosia and includes drivers from all over the world. Anthestiria: anthestiria (Flower Festival) is held in May and is inspired by the ancient festival in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility and celebrate the re-birth of man and nature and the return of the spring. Ancient Greek Drama Festival: the festival is held in the months of July and August in ancient theatres across Cyprus. The festival attracts thousand of local and foreign audience and the performances of ancient tragedies and comedies are presented either in Ancient or Modern Greek. Kataklysmos: the Flood Festival takes place in June (50 days after the Orthodox Easter) and is connected to the ancient ceremonies organized in honour of Aphrodite and Adonis. Because water is the main focus of the festival, all coastal cities organize music concerts, games and other events near the waterfront; the largest event is organized in Larnaca. Kypria: an annual international festival of arts which takes place in September and October in several locations across Cyprus. Musical collectives, theatrical and ballet troupes, artists, film directors and actors from Cyprus and from many countries from around the world participate in the festival. Europe Day: the day is celebrated with special events all over Europe on the 9th of May and commemorates the founding of the European Union. Krassochoria Cultural Festival: the festival celebrates the end of the grape harvest and is celebrated in September at the Krassochoria (the wine villages) of Omodos, Koilani, Lofou, Vasa, Arsos and Pachna. Cumandaria Festival: the festival celebrates the end of the grape harvest and is celebrated in September at many of the villages of the Limassol district found on the southern slopes of Troodos, and the vilagges of the Pitsilia area.
Things to do in Cyprus
Walk and hike in Cavo Greco, in the Akamas National Park, or the Troodos National Forest Park. Explore the island by bike; the European Path E4 goes across the island. Go reservoir fishing for perch, trout and bass. Learn to scuba dive and explore the Zenovia shipwreck and Cyprus’s marine life. Take a cruse to a nearby destination. Play golf. Go horseback riding. Enjoy the sandy beaches. Explore Cyprus magnificent villages.
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There is a vibrant night life scene in every coastal city of Cyprus, with hundreds of clubs and bars to choose from.
Driving in Cyprus is on the Left
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