Cyprus

by Cristina on May 12, 2010

by Cristina | May 12th, 2010  

cyprus-mainCyprus is a popular stop on a European vacation. Although its history is far from being calm, Cyprus is a very safe country to visit. And thanks to being in the European Union, it is also very easy to plan a vacation here.

The island is blessed with great weather – scorching hot in July and August though -, beautiful beaches and interesting archeological sites.

Location

Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, located south of Turkey. From a political point of view, Cyprus is divided into two regions: The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus, located in the south of the island, which is a European country, member of the European Union.

A little history

Cyprus gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960. Despite the fact that there were attempts to share the power between the two major ethnic groups, in 1974 the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority clashed. In 1983, the Turkish-held area declared itself as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The United Nations however only recognizes the Republic of Cyprus over the whole island. Thankfully, there haven’t been any clashes between the two groups and they are working towards a reunification of some sort.

How to get to Cyprus

Cyprus is a member of the Schengen Agreement but hasn’t fully implemented it. EU citizens, EEA and Swiss citizens only need their ID card for entry. There’s no need of visa regardless of the purpose of the visit.

The main airport in the country is Larnaca International Airport (LCA), located at the outskirts of Larnaka. It is served by many airlines, including Cyprus Airways. There are links with major European cities via the low-cost carriers. There are direct flights from both Athens and Thessaloniki to Larnaca.

The second airport serving the island is Paphos International Airport (PFO) which receives mostly charter flights. Many tour operators use this airport. There are also scheduled services offered by British Airways and Cyprus Airways. There are direct flights from both Athens and Thessaloniki to Paphos.

On the northern side of the island there’s Ercan Airport, which is not recognized by IATA so all flights have to touch down in Turkey before flying here. Cyprus Turkish Airlines and Turkish Airlines offer flights from various Turkish cities into Ercan.

Another way to get to Cyprus is by ferry from Greece. There are connections from Athens (Piraeus), Rhodes and Ayios Nikolaos in Crete to Limassol.

>>Read more about Ferries in Greece

Weather and best time to visit

Cyprus is the hottest and driest island in the Mediterranean. But is also receives more sun than all other island in the area. The rainy season (“winter”) lasts from November until March. While early May can be windy, by the end of the month the temperatures start to shoot up and the weather feels like summer already. The hottest months are July and August, with average daytime temperatures at 33C. The sea is warm from May until October.

If you want to avoid the hot summer plan your vacation in May (avg air 27C, avg water 21C) or October (avg air 27C, avg water 25C). June and September are quite hot (avg air 30C).

Things to do

Nicosia, the only divided capital in the world, is a very interesting place to visit. The preserved Venetian walls surround the city and create a beautiful atmosphere in the Old City. Several museums will keep you busy for sure; Cyprus Museum – which showcases the best of Cypriot archaeology from the 9th millennium BCE to the end of Antiquity- and Byzantine Museum – which houses one of the world’s best collections of Orthodox icons and other artworks – are just two of the most interesting ones to visit.

You can also plan to do a bit of shopping here. In the Old City the shopping district runs along Ledra street and boasts a wide variety of traditional jewelers, shoe and fabric shops. It has a very Middle East feel to it.

paphosPaphos, located at the southern-west tip of the island, is known as the birthplace of Greek goddess Aphrodite. You can visit some interesting places such as Paphos Archaeological Park which houses several interesting places, The Tombs of the Kings and Paphos Fort.

In the northern part of the island you can check out St. Hilarion Castle in Fivefinger Mountains, the Salamis Ruins in Famagusta, as well as Kyrenia Harbour and Castle.

The island’s coastline is superb. Aside from sunbathing you can also try scuba diving. Some of the islands which are worth checking out include:

22 Blue Flag Beaches in Ammochostos Region: Makronisos Beach, Lanta Beach, Nissi Beach
11 Blue Flag Beaches in Paphos Region: Coral Bay, Annasa Beach Hotel, Chrysohou Bay
5 Blue Flag Beaches in Larnaca Region: Phinikoudes, Alaminos
14 Blue Flag Beaches in Limassol Region

Cuisine

The traditional cuisine is a blend of European, Balkan and Middle Eastern influences. Whether you crave Greek or Turkish dishes, you’ll find them here. In Nicosia, the café culture is a way of life. You’ll find the posh cafés lining Makarios avenue.

Tip:

Although the national languages in Cyprus are Greek and Turkish, thanks to the previous British occupation English is widely spoken by locals of all ages. Other common languages on the island are French, German and Russian.

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