The third largest of the Mediterranean islands, Cyprus is one of the most popular holiday destinations with Britons. Families go for the beaches, couples to get married and/or honeymoon and older folk to retire in the sun. Good weather year round, nearly five hundred miles of coastline, with sandy beaches and rugged outcrops, olive and citrus groves, and a history that can be traced back over 10,000 years combine to make the island in the Aegean a welcoming place.
Cyprus’s past has been turbulent, with invasions by the Greeks, Romans, Ottoman Turks and British among others. The country still faces struggles in the present, with the island partitioned into north and south. Most holiday resorts are in the southern, Greek-Cypriot Republic, and flights to Cyprus arrive here. Turkish-Cypriot North Cyprus is more remote and less visited by tourists, though independent travel is possible.
But millennia of invasion have left a rich cultural mosaic. There are ruins of ancient temples, Crusaders Castles and ornate Byzantine churches. Legends also cling to Cyprus – Aphrodite was supposed to have risen from the sea by the island, perhaps one of the reasons it is so popular with honeymooners today.
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Cyprus has lots of sunshine and lovely sea breezes. The winters are hot and the summers mild. Good weather lasts all year round.
Car hire is the most popular way of getting around the island. Cypriots drive, as in the UK, on the left.
Buses criss cross the island – frequent, efficient and fairly cheap. There are also service taxis.
What is good to know if travelling to Cyprus?
- The site of the main international airport and the second port, Larnaca is a bustling town and a busy holiday resort, popular with those mooring yachts. Even if the city itself seems too touristy to spend much time in, it can provide the perfect base from which to explore the island. It is easy to reach Nicosia, Limassol and Paphos (all are within a two-hour drive), and just outside the town are many other place of interest – with far fewer visitors.
- Paphos was the island’s capital in Roman times and mosaics from the 3rd century BC can still be found here. This fun-loving region has excellent swimming in clear water beaches, hillside villages, catacombs, the Baths of Aphrodite and palm-lined boulevards by the port. To visit the best beach of the area, though, drive 15 minutes out of Paphos to Coral Bay.
- The stunning Troodos Mountains run along the west of the island. Perfect to visit if the weather is too hot on the beach, the cool breezes and mountain air mean the area is always cooler than the coastal resorts. Visit one of the nine Unesco listed Byzantine churches, have a picnic, or just take a walk in the pine-scented forest. The Troodos region is especially beautiful to visit in Spring, when the almond blossoms are out.
- Ayia Napa is the party capital of the island. The town is popular with package tours and those wanting to party. The clubs are world class. Perhaps surprisingly, the beaches and town are pretty good too. Despite being crowded, the long beach at Ayia Napa is clean and attractive and the town has excellent shopping and some beautiful buildings.
- Lefkosia, also known as Nicosia, is the inland capital of Cyprus, though it is often ignored by tourists as it has no beach. Divided down the middle by the “green line” into North and South, it is the last remaining partitioned city in the world. Well worth a visit, Lefkosia is the place to see what the “real” Cyprus is like.