Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, with spectacular scenery and an enviable climate. An island of beauty and a country of contrasts with its cool, pine-clad mountains forming a complete scene-change compared to the golden sun-kissed beaches. Its tranquil timeless villages are also in striking contrast to the modern cosmopolitan towns, luxurious beach side hotels and large areas of natural unspoiled countryside. Cyprus may be a small country, but it is a large island with a big heart; an island that gives its visitors a genuine welcome and treats them as friends.
Strategically located, Cyprus is a natural meeting place. It has two International Airports in Larnaca and Paphos that are served by all major international airlines, with worldwide connections. An island drenched in sun and mythology at the crossroads of ancient civilizations, had numerous visitors through the years, all of whom left their mark. Some built temples to their Gods, others castles to their Kings, while the Crusaders used Cyprus as a staging post and the pirates for a plunder. Storytellers refer to the magnificent royal weddings and incomparable works of art created by its artists. Those who visited Cyprus were enchanted by its splendor since the island’s beauty is the legacy of Aphrodite, Goddess of beauty and love.
Aphrodite, one of the most ancient goddesses in the Olympian Pantheon, emerged from the gentle jade-coloured sea foam at Petra tou Romiou, a boulder that juts up from the south coast of Cyprus as majestically today as it did then. The island counts more than 11,000 years of history, yet remains eternally young.
The town’s carefree atmosphere, wide seafront promenade and bustling little shopping streets, trendy restaurants and bars, are matched by the lively character of its people. With its fun-loving reputation and the best nightlife on the island, Limassol stages some of the island’s best-known festivals: the annual Wine Festival in September, the pre-Lenten Carnival; with masquerade parties, balls and grand parades, the Limassol Festival during summer and the ancient Drama Festival at Kourion theatre.
Paphos has an air of holiday charm combined with history, while olden-day elegance is lent to the town by its classical style buildings in the upper part of the town which leads to the shopping area. The lower part of the town, known as Kato Paphos, has a life of its own near the sea. It is home of the harbour, fish taverns, souvenir shops and several beautiful hotels with important archaeological sites scattered around them.
The town became the capital of Cyprus under the successors of Alexander the Great, and in those days its harbour was a busy, thriving port. It continued as the island’s first city for more than seven centuries, retaining its importance under Roman rule.
Paphos is entwined with Greek mythology, and the legendary birth of Aphrodite on its shores brought fame and worshippers there to follow the cult of the Goddess. Landmarks associated with Aphrodite are the chunky, rugged rocks of her beautiful birth shore known as the Aphrodite Rock or Petra tou Romiou, the evocative sanctuary of Aphrodite at Kouklia Village, once a shrine and scene of pagan festivals for thousands of years, the Baths of Aphrodite at Polis, as legend has it, the source of fertility and the Fountain of Love, or Fontana Amorosa at the tip of the Akamas peninsula.
The focal point of the resort is the small harbour, where the tavernas specialise in fresh fish harvested by the colourful fishing vessels. Cape Greco, on the very tip, has its own share of beaches and coves. With its contrasting rugged countryside, the dramatic fiery glow of sunsets from this spot is unique.
Seat of Government, Diplomatic headquarters and cultural centre of Cyprus, the capital presents two distinct faces: the old, original part of the city, surrounded by sturdy Venetian walls over 400 years old, and a busy modern metropolis which has a population of 350,000 including the surrounding metropolitan area.
Within the large area encircled by the strong bastion walls that served to protect the town for centuries, are many places of great historic interest. The central Eleftheria Square links old Nicosia with the elegant modern city that has grown up outside the walls, where hotels, offices, restaurants and gardens blend happily with the fine old houses and colonial buildings of this cosmopolitan city.
Much smaller than Nicosia or Limassol, Larnaca has a population of 150,000 and has managed to retain a relaxed, leisurely atmosphere. Its main shopping area is Zenon Kitieos Street, a typically busy road of small shops, with a wonderfully colourful fruit and vegetable market at the far end.
Larnaca was originally known as Kition. The town’s heyday was as an ancient city kingdom established by the Mycenean Greeks in the 13th century BC, when it enjoyed the dual position of rich sea port and major centre of the copper trade. Remains of that period excavated in recent years can be seen in its Cyclopean walls and a complex of Mycenean temples at the ancient Kition site.
Birthplace of the stoic philosopher Zeno, Larnaca was also the second home of St. Lazarus, who arrived there after his resurrection and later became its first Bishop. The Church of St Lazarus standing in the centre of the town is well worth a visit. The tomb of St Lazarus, who is still the patron saint of Larnaca, is under the sanctuary.
Rural Cyprus is scattered with small and picturesque villages, each with its own character and local legends. From the wine producing villages outside north of Limassol and Paphos to the forest encircled communities of Platres and Kakopetria, Troodos is home to hundreds of churches, monasteries and heritage sites as well as leading wineries, restaurants and tavernas that give the visitor a taste of the real Cyprus.
In the winter, ski slopes can be snow filled by late November to early March while the distance from the slopes to the Limassol coast is less than forty minutes making it an urban legend among Cypriots that one can ski in the morning and surf in the evening all in the same day.