Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily and Sardinia. It is situated at the north-eastern corner of the Mediterranean, at a distance of 300 km north of Egypt, 90 km west of Syria and 60 km south of Turkey. The Greek island of Rhodes lies 360 km to the north-west.
Cyprus is a modern country that combines European culture with ancient enchantment. One of the benefits of being a Mediterranean island is plentiful sunshine throughout the year and Cyprus is no exception. In fact, Cyprus epitomizes the ideal weather of the region with sunny days and fine temperatures almost every day. Extremes of temperatures are rare, meaning Cyprus has something to offer every month of the year, whether it's swimming (as late as November) or enjoying cultural sites and festivals (all year long).
The history of Cyprus is one of the oldest recorded in the world and its historical significance is disproportionate to its small size. The first signs of civilisation date to the ninth millennium B.C. The earliest known foreign settlements on the island were mainly of Phoenicians and Greeks, with Phoenician culture dominating the island's eastern and southern parts. As a strategic location in the Middle East, it was subsequently occupied by several major powers, including the empires of the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Persians, from whom the island was seized in 333 BC by Alexander the Great and at which point Greek culture began to dominate. Subsequent rule by Ptolemaic Egypt, the Roman Empire, the Byzantines, Arab caliphates for a short period, the French Lusignan dynasty, and the Venetians, was followed by over three centuries of Ottoman control. Cyprus was placed under British administration in 1878 until it was granted independence in 1960.
Cyprus occupies an important role in Greek mythology being the birthplace of Aphrodite and Adonis, and home to King Cinyras, Teucer and Pygmalion.
The island figures prominently in the early history of Christianity, being the first province of Rome to be ruled by a Christian governor in the first century and providing a backdrop for stories in the New Testament.
The population of the Republic of Cyprus is 952.100 (2012) of whom 681.000 belong to the Greek Cypriot community, (71,5%), 90.100 (9,5%) to the Turkish Cypriot community (estimate) and 181.000 (19,0%) are foreign citizens residing in Cyprus. The language of the Greek Cypriot community is Greek and the community adheres predominantly to the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. The language of the Turkish Cypriot community is Turkish and the members of the community are Sunni Muslims.
English is understood and spoken by almost everybody. Many other languages (including French, German, Russian, Spanish, Arabic) are spoken on the island.
The Republic of Cyprus has been an official member state of the European Union since May 1st 2004. In January 2008 it officially joined the Eurozone, adopting the Euro (€) as the official currency. All banks operating in Cyprus offer foreign currency exchange services and quote the exchange rates of the Euro against all major foreign currencies daily. Foreign currency can also be exchanged at hotels.
Cyprus has a Mediterranean climate: hot, dry summers from June to September and mild, wet winters from November to March, which are separated by short autumn and spring seasons. Sunshine is abundant during the whole year, particularly from April to September when the daily average exceeds eleven hours. Winds are on the whole light to moderate. Gales are very infrequent and heavy storms rare.
Snow hardly falls in the lowlands and on the northern range, but is a frequent feature every winter on ground above 1.000 metres in the Troodos range. During the coldest months it lies in considerable depth for several weeks, attracting skiers.
Food and Drink
The food of Cyprus reflects the rich history of the island and its indelible Greek culture. You will find tastes influenced by the Middle East, Asia Minor and the Venetians, all using fresh local ingredients, herbs and spices and olive oil. The Mediterranean diet, with its grains and pulses, sun-ripened fresh fruit and vegetables, high-protein fish, lean meat and poultry and wine is a healthy option.
Cyprus has a long tradition in winemaking that goes back over 4,000 years. Commandaria is acknowledged to be the oldest wine in the world and was probably the first to be given an 'Appellation d' Origine' (label of geographical origin). Legend says that Commandaria was originally made for Richard the Lionheart and the Crusaders.