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Birthplace of the Greek goddess of beauty and love, this sun-drenched island is worthy of such an accolade

Year-round warmth and sunshine tempt travellers, while azure seas, white sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and rolling hills complete Cyprus' roll call of dramatic scenery.

Cross the border on foot in the capital Nicosia (Lefkosia) to experience two cities in one, explore the Tombs of the Kings in Paphos and soak up the atmosphere in the island's historic castles, churches and mosques. Cyprus' two distinct cultures serve up some delicious cuisine, from sweet, sticky baklava to irresistible mezze and kebabs.

Despite all their differences, one thing the people of Cyprus do have in common is their welcoming and friendly nature - prepare to be charmed.

 

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Culture and history

Cyprus was a British colony for many years and most Cypriots understand and speak some English - many Cypriots have family in the UK - and they drive on the left too.

As a society, the Cypriots value family, are respectful to their older relatives, welcome children and are hospitable to visitors. The Greek Orthodox Church plays an important role in society and church attendance is high. When visiting churches or monasteries, modest dress is required - for men, this means long trousers and longer sleeves; women will need to cover legs and shoulders.

Cyprus has a rich and varied history with evidence of human habitation dating back to 10,000 BC. Throughout the late Bronze Age there was a brisk trade in pottery, jewellery and copper between Cyprus, Egypt and the Islands of the Aegean Sea, and it was around this time that Greek settlers first arrived on the island.

Over the centuries Cyprus was ruled by a procession of empires, including the Egyptians, the Persians, the Romans and the Ottomans. In 1878 the British, keen to establish a strategic base in the Middle East, signed an agreement with Turkey (the then rulers).

Though the British had a presence, the Turkish retained sovereignty of the island until 1914 when the island came under full British rule. The Greek population initially welcomed this change, but a few decades later rioting broke out. Independence of sorts was eventually granted in 1960.

After a series of skirmishes Cyprus was divided into two parts in 1974. Although the move solved certain problems it resulted in many Turkish and Greek people finding themselves on the wrong side of the divide, and subsequently losing their homes and livelihoods.

Despite several attempts at reuniting the island, it remains divided, although travel restrictions between the two sides were lifted in 2003.

Things to do

Our holidays to Cyprus take full advantage of some of the island’s top beachside hotels in Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos, or you could join one of our tours and explore the island's towns, beaches and countryside, from the red soil villages of Ayia Napa to the lovely Cape Greco and the Baths of Aphrodite.

History buffs can delve into Cyprus' many museums, temples and historical sites; while garden enthusiasts and walkers can discover sweet smelling herbs and colourful Mediterranean flowers on a combined botanical and walking tour in Agros.

Last, but not least, the fleet footed can invite a partner to dance the balmy nights away on a ballroom and Latin American dance holiday.

The Greek south

The southern portion of the island is home to the stunning Mediterranean resorts of Paphos, Larnaca, Limassol (all three boast inviting beaches and seafront promenades), as well as the popular beach and party hotspot of Aiya Napa.

In contrast to the coast there are the mighty Troodos Mountains and Mount Olympus: in their foothills you'll find delightful sleepy villages such as Lefkara, famed for its lace making, and the lovely, lofty Agros nudging heaven at 1,100 meters. Beyond the Troodos Mountains, the city of Nicosia (Lefkosia) is divided in two and forms the capital of both sides of the island.

The Turkish north

As well as half of the capital city of Nicosia (Lefkosia), the Turkish-ruled northern portion of Cyprus includes the long thin arm of the ruggedly beautiful Karpas Peninsula.

Lively Protaras on the east coast contrasts starkly with neighbouring Famagusta, whose main beach remains deserted and its hotels derelict since the Turkish army sealed it off in 1974. Further north you'll find the richly historical towns of Lefka and Morphou.

Flight time

From London to Cyprus is around 4 hours 15 minutes.

Currency

Euro - The currency is the euro.

Passports and visas

It’s a good idea to take a photocopy of your passport showing your passport number and photograph. Bring this with you on holiday but keep it in a different place from your passport just in case it gets lost or stolen.

Phrases

The Greek Cypriot dialect is different from mainland Greek but learning a few words of Greek still won’t go amiss…

Please - Parakalo

Yes - Ne

No - Ochi

Thank you - Efcharisto

Good morning - Kalimera

Good evening - Kalispera

Good night - Kalinikta

Goodbye - Adio

Toilets - Toualeta

How much does it cost? - Poso kani afto?

Timezone

Cyprus is two hours ahead of GMT.

Electricity

Mains voltage in Cyprus is 230 volts AC (50 cycles). Most British appliances can be used without an adaptor as sockets take the standard three-pin.

Language

Greek, Modern - The majority of the population (80%) speak Greek as their first language and 20% speak Turkish. However, most Cypriots speak some English.

Tipping

As a rule of thumb, service is included in the bill for hotels and restaurants but feel free to leave a 5-10% tip if you’ve had good service, and tip drivers and local guides at your discretion.

Climate

Cyprus has a typically Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters.

From late May to mid-September rainfall is rare. Spring and autumn have more rain but even then stormy or wet weather tends not to last more than a couple of days.

The main attraction is sunshine – the average is six hours in the winter and up to 12 in midsummer.

Health

Tap water is safe to drink. It’s advisable to carry the name, address and telephone number of your local GP, as if you become unwell, your insurance company may require this information. Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide.

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre – see www.nathnac.org, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad at www.fco.gov.uk/travel.

Population and size

Cyprus has a population of around 1,172,000, a little smaller than the population of Northern Ireland.

The entire island is 9,261 square kilometres but southern part of the island, ruled by the Cypriot Government, is 5,896 square kilometres, less than half the size of Northern Ireland (13,483 square kilometres).

Smoking

Since January 2010, smoking in the workplace, bars, restaurants and nightclubs is illegal.


Places in Cyprus

Limassol

A city blessed with warm sunshine, sandy beaches and wonderful promenades...

Paphos

Rich in archaeological treasures, Paphos lies on the south-west coast of Cyprus


Climate

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An insider's guide to Cyprus

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