There is a great deal packed into a small space on the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. Not only does it abound with good beaches and holiday resorts, but its relatively tiny landmass is riddled with the relics of ancient history, from the beehive huts of primitive man to classical Greek and Roman ruins, and everything imaginable in-between.
A thousand years is but a blip in time in the long history of Cyprus, but it was that long ago that the city of Nicosia (also known as Lefkosia) became its capital. Today Nicosia is unique in Europe because it is divided by the 'green line' that bisects the whole island, dividing north from south. The line, which serves as a United Nations peacekeeping buffer, was drawn in 1974, when the Turks invaded and took over the north. Most of the tourism development since then has taken place in the southern Government-controlled sector, and the political divide, even in Nicosia itself, has not dampened the island's appeal as a major holiday destination.
The charms of Cyprus are many and varied. For a start the weather is sunny and dry for most of the year, and the encircling sea is blue, clear and enticing. There are modern luxury hotels in the coastal resort towns, historic restored city precincts to explore, tavernas and nightlife aplenty. Cyprus has remote and picturesque mountain villages and monasteries, beautiful churches, Crusader castles and fascinating museums. The local people are extremely welcoming of tourists, happy to share with them their innate love of life and camaraderie. In Cyprus it is possible to mingle with crowds, or seek isolation off the beaten track as the mood takes you, even in peak holiday season. For this reason the island is also a favoured destination for honeymooners, a reputation enhanced by the fact that legend has it that Cyprus was where Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, rose from the sea.
The currency was changed to the Euro (EUR) on 1 January 2008.
Major credit cards are accepted at most establishments. Money and
travellers cheques can be exchanged at banks, open from Monday to
Friday. There are ATMs spread throughout the island, operating 24
hours a day.
|EUR 1 =||US$ 1.27||Â£ 0.83||C$ 1.29||A$ 1.23||R 10.70||EUR 1.00||NZ$ 1.60|
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.
No vaccinations are required for travel to Cyprus but hepatitis A and B vaccinations are always recommended for travellers by health authorities. A typhoid vaccination is also recommended but only for travellers who intend to eat and drink outside of restaurants and hotels or mean to travel off the beaten tourist track. Travellers are advised to avoid eating fruits and vegetables unless they have been peeled or cooked and to avoid meat that is raw or undercooked. Travellers should also always be wary of food sold by street vendors. Health services on Cyprus are of a good standard. UK citizens should bring with them a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which enables them to receive free emergency medical treatment. Medical fees are reasonable in Cyprus, but supplies are expensive and it is probably a good idea to take with you any important prescription medications you may require (with the appropriate notes from your doctor to get them through customs). Medical insurance is advised.
Travellers, except EEA nationals, should hold an onward or return ticket and documentation necessary for that journey, as well as sufficient funds for the period of intended stay in Cyprus. It is also advisable to have a hotel reservation. Nationalities that require a visa are recommended that their passport is valid for at least six months beyond the period of intended stay. Extensions are available to visa-exempt nationals. Travellers should note that foreigners entering Cyprus north of the UN-patrolled 'green line' are deemed by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to have entered illegally, and can be fined when crossing to the south (EU). Policies and procedures are subject to sudden changes, and visitors should check on the current situation before departing for Cyprus. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
Cyprus Tourist Organisation, Nicosia: +357 2269 1100 or www.visitcyprus.org.cy
Foreign Embassies in Cyprus
Larnaca is the international gateway to Cyprus, thanks to its busy international airport and seaport. It is only Cyprus's third largest coastal city but it is possibly the most popular tourist hub. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and has plenty of historical sightseeing on offer to complement its deep-blue sea, bright sandy beaches and reliably sunny skies. The city was called Kition in the days of the Old Testament and the ruins of the ancient city can still be seen. Much of its rich archaeological heritage has been preserved and is showcased in two of its main museums. The surrounding area beyond the city is also a treasure-trove of historic ruins from the Neolithic period onwards. Larnaca is therefore a paradise for those interested in ancient history and archaeology, as well as for those who specialise in sun tanning and swimming.
With its 400-berth marina, Larnaca is also a favoured destination for visitors with yachts. Land-based tourists enjoy the palm-lined harbour promenade and the city's international calibre shops, inviting cafes and panoramic ocean views. Larnaca is renowned for its high-quality silverwork and lace, and 'Larnaca Lace' is among the most popular souvenirs from Cyprus.
The bustling city of Nicosia (Lefkosia) in the northern interior has been the capital of Cyprus since the 12th century. It stands today as Europe's only divided city, being split in two by the 'Green Line', a United Nations buffer zone that divides the government-controlled Republic of Cyprus in the south from the Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus.
The modern city centre of Nicosia is surrounded by elegant tree-lined suburbs, but the favoured tourist sector is the Old Town, which is being extensively renovated. The Old Town is a picturesque fusion of 16th-century walls, pedestrian precincts, pavement cafes and squares, brimming with charm, character and sightseeing opportunities. There are many things to see and do in Nicosia, with a variety of museums, performance venues, cinemas, restaurants, bars and nightclubs to choose from.
The city, on the Mesaoria Plain, is the centre of the Nicosia District that includes the valleys of Solea and Pitsilia and parts of Marathasa with its mountain villages, orchards, hill resorts and plethora of Byzantine churches and monasteries. These are within easy reach and make for pleasant day trips from the city. While Nicosia doesn't have the stunning Mediterranean beaches to offer visitors, it is a great base from which to explore the mountainous regions of Cyprus, which are very beautiful in their own right and offer numerous hiking trails.
The city of Paphos on the southwest coast of Cyprus was the capital of the island in Roman times, and dates from 1400 BC. Legend has it that the city is built on the spot where the Greek Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, was born. The city also has many connections to and relics from early Christianity. Over the centuries it has survived numerous foreign incursions and raids, and even a devastating earthquake in the 4th century. It lost out to Larnaca as a major port in the Middle Ages and experienced a decline during the British colonial period when development of this part of the island came to a standstill.
Today, however, Paphos is reviving on the strength of tourism and government investment in infrastructure such as dams, roads and airports. Private initiatives have also resulted in a boom in the construction of hotels, apartments and villas. The city has become a popular seaside resort with a large population. The Ktima section of the city is the main residential area, while Kato Paphos is the playground of holidaymakers, built around the medieval port with its numerous luxury hotels, tavernas and entertainment venues.
During the Crusades Richard the Lionheart visited the Cypriot city of Limassol (then known as Lemesos) to free his betrothed from the Byzantine sovereign. The subsequent wedding became a party that remains legendary today, which is probably why modern Limassol is still a centre of nightlife and joie de vivre. This lively ambience is also aided and abetted by the fact that Limassol is the centre of winemaking on the island.
The city has concentrated its efforts in recent years on mercantile development and modernising its buildings. Unlike other Cypriot cities it has not protected its architectural or cultural heritage, but with its many excellent hotels it does offer a good base for visitors who can head for the hills after whooping it up under the city's bright lights. The foothills of the Troodos Mountains lie north of the city and offer charming country walks that meander through friendly villages. There are also some good beaches on the outskirts of the city, most of which belong to hotels which charge an entrance fee for non-guests. The sandy beach of Avmidou, located on the grounds of the British military base of Akrotiri, is open to the public.
Although much of the world recognises the Republic of Cyprus as an authority over the whole island, Northern Cyprus has declared itself The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and is vastly different in culture and tradition. The culture of Northern Cyprus is a blend of Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern, which is evident in the music, food and historical attractions.
The tourist infrastructure of Northern Cyprus, the area beyond the 'green line', is less developed than the south and the unspoilt countryside and numerous historic sites make a visit worthwhile for those adventurous enough to explore. Historic Gazimagosa (formerly known as Famagusta) on the east coast, for example, dates from 285 BC and has held an important place in Mediterranean history through the ages. The Medieval walls still stand and the remains of some ancient buildings are visible in the old city.
Girne (Kyrenia) on the north coast has an interesting castle and picturesque harbour as well as a Shipwreck Museum, which houses the oldest trading ship yet found and raised from the sea bed, having sunk around 300 BC. Gazimagosa has some modern tourist resort hotels, offering luxury accommodation and safe swimming or diving in the Mediterranean Sea, while the dramatic harbour of Kyrenia is the most popular tourist destination in Northern Cyprus.
Travelling to Northern Cyprus from the south involves a bit of paperwork. Tourists in Northern Cyprus need to pass through TRNC immigration, which is separate from the visa requirements for the Republic of Cyprus, and the recognised currency in Northern Cyprus is the Turkish Lira. Getting to Northern Cyprus is not difficult however, as there are regular flights and ferries from Cyprus and the mainland.
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