Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and is situated at the crossroads between Europe, Asia en Africa. According to legend Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of fertility, love and physical beauty, was born here. When see set foot on Cyprus, flowers blossomed under her feet. This beautiful and sunny island has a lot to offer: hospitality, beautiful beaches and a rich past.
The capital of the Greek part of Cyprus is Nicosia, in Greek “Lefkosia”. In this divided city one can feel the recent history of the island. Other important cities are : Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos. The most beautiful beaches are on the eastern part of the island, in Ayia Napa. Nature also offers a lot of surprises on Cyprus. The Troodos Mountains with their pine forests certainly serve the visitor who wants to get away from the beaches. In the interior of the country fruit plantations, vineyards and vast heather plains abound. The island is very large. There are several possibilities for excursions. Those who want to learn more about Ancient Greek culture and history should certainly visit the archaeological sites in Paphos.
Where to go:
1. Nicosia City
Nicosia was founded in the 4th century by Lefkon, son of Ptolemeus I of Egypt. When the Lusignans ruled over Cyprus the city was called Nicosie, which was later changed by the British to Nicosia. In the 7th century AD the coastal towns of Paphos and Salamis where threatened by invaders and the population moved further inland. In this way Nicosia became the most important city of the island. Between the 12th and the 16th century the island flourished which resulted in the construction of splendid castles, churches and monasteries. Also, the Venetian city wall dates from 1567. During the conquering by the Ottoman troops, 20.000 people were killed. In the 19th century the city met regularly with disaster : an uprising that was oppressed by the Turks in 1821, a cholera epidemic in 1835 an a ravaging fire in 1854. In the 20th century, the fiercest fights during the Turkish invasion took place in Nicosia in 1974.
Barbed wire now divides modern Nicosia (Greek : Lefkosia, Turkish Lefkosha) in a Greek and a Turkish sector. About 75% of the entire population of the city lives in the Greek part. Nicosia is a modern, dynamic city with a lot of shops, restaurants and places to go out at night. Even though the city has been often rampaged by conquerors and oppressors there are still a lot of monumental remainders of the past.
The most impressive monument is the Venetian city wall, built between 1567 and 1570. The wall has an outline of 4,5 km and it originally had three city gates. The Famagusta gate is being used today as a cultural center. In some other parts of the wall are services of the city administration. The old center lies within the boundaries of the wall, but the modern Nicosia has grown beyond its original limits. The heart of the city is the Eleftheria Square (or Freedom’s square) where the town hall, the post office and the library are situated. When following Ledra street, one arrives in a vibrant old part of town with plenty of streets, shops, cafés and stands with exotic food.
The Ayia Phaneromeni church was built in 1872 with the stones of an old castle and monastery. Here are the tombs of the archbishop and the bishops who were killed by the Turks during the uprising of 1821. On the Archiepiscopal Kyprianos Square stands the Palace of the Archbishop. It looks old, but it was built in 1956 as a beautiful imitation of the typical Venetian style. Next to the palace is the Agios Ioannis cathedral, built in 1665 on the spot where there used to be an old Benedictine abbey. The cathedral has been built in late-gothic style and has some beautiful wall-paintings.
There are several museums to be visited in Nicosia. The Byzantine Museum with its splendid collection of icons is in a wing of the palace of the archbishop. Other interesting museums in the center of town are : the Folk Art Museum and the National Struggle Museum with pictures, documents and weapons from the uprising against British rule in the 1950’s. Southwest of the Paphos Gate is the Cyprus Museum, with its treasure of archeological findings and works of art that come from the entire history of the island (tombs, statues, votive statues, etc…). Finally, south of the center the visitor can see craftsmen performing their skills and manufacturing typical Cypriote artifacts in the Handicrafts Center.
2. Paphos City
Paphos is rapidly becoming the most important tourist center of Cyprus. It is a small city with about 11.000 inhabitants. The old Paphos is a small village, called Ktima. Today, there is also a modern Paphos, called Kato Paphos, which is the tourist neighborhood. This modern resort has several hotels, a boulevard with different cafés and bars and a 18 hole golf course. Paphos is a romantic city with a vibrant night-life. Close to the harbor are several archaeological sites. In former times Nea Paphos was the most important city of the island, but earthquakes and invasions of the Saracens drove most of the people to the neighboring hamlet of Ktima. For lovers of ancient Greece culture, Paphos is a must. Some place to visit are : the Paphos District Museum (a collection of archeological findings), the Georgios Eliades collection in Exo Vrysis Street (fossils and archaeological objects), the Byzantine fortress of Saranda Kolones (the 40 columns), the house of Dionysus (a Roman villa from the third century that was excavated in 1962 and that has some splendid mosaics), and the house of Theseus (excavated in year 1965).
3. Larnaca City
Larnaca is probably the oldest inhabited place in Cyprus. The present city is built on the foundations of the old city state Kition (founded, according to legend, by the grandson of Noah). During the 20th century the city lost most of its importance to Famagusta. Because of the division of the island and the construction of the international airport at Larnaca, however, Larnaca is again a thriving center. The places to visit are : the Turkish fortress (now a museum), the impressive church Church of Saint Lazarus (after his resurrection Lazarus is told to have become bishop in Cyprus). The church is supposed to have been built above his tomb. About 5 km west of Larnaca is a 4 km² salt lake. On the borders of the lake one can see the Muslim sanctuary Hala Sultan Tekke which contains the relics of Umm Haram, the aunt of the Prophet Mohammed, who died here in 647 AD.
4. Limassol City
Limassol is lies on the south coast of the island, halfway between Larnaca and Paphos. Already in 2.000 BC people lived here, but it was only during the time of the crusaders that it became a flourishing city. Limassol is the second largest city of Cyprus, and certainly the most lively one. Cypriotes sometimes call it “the Paris of Cyprus”. There is always some festival or celebration going on in town. Very renowned is the Wine Festival that takes place in September. On the eastern side of the city are sandy beaches that stretch out for miles. Lovers of night-life fun will certainly not be disappointed in the many bars and discotheques in the old city. The most important monuments are : the Limassol fortress, the museum, the zoo and the wine producing companies. Outside of the city is the former royal town of Amathus (now a ruin, partially submerged by water). The Kolossi Castle is a remainder of the old city state of Kourion (of which also a theater, a basilica and a stadium are preserved).