The Island of Cyprus is divided into two independent parts, roughly one-third of the island to the north is the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). The remaining two-thirds of the island is the Republic of Cyprus and is often referred (perhaps not politically correctly) to as the "Greek" part of the island. Despite there having been no major hostilities between the two communities for over a decade there are still UN peacekeepers maintaining a buffer zone between the two communities. This means that travellers unfortunately have to choose between visiting the TRNC part of the island or the Greek side. Crossing the border is very difficult and nigh on impossible. Most tourists choose to visit the Greek part of Cyprus and this guide will focus predominately on this region.
The Republic of Cyprus attract visitors in the summer for its fantastic Mediterranean climate but still manages to attract plenty of skiers to the Troodos mountains which provide good skiing for a couple of months during the winter. Visitors can also find fine examples of Byzantine churches, crusades era castles and fantastic vineyards, as well as the usual beach resorts expected of Greek Islands.
- Currency: Cyprus Pound (C£) = 100 cents
- Time Zone: GMT + 2
- Language: Greek, some Turkish
- Telephone Services: Country code 357, International dialing code 00
- Emergency Numbers: All services 199
Cyprus benefits from a typical Mediterranean climate. As can be expected the summers are very hot and dry. What precipitation Cyprus does get is sporadic but normally occurs in the winter. In the mountain regions there is enough snow to support some modest skiing resorts but the rest of the island experiences very mild winter conditions. It should be noted that Cyprus has been known to suffer the occasional drought years to the extent that water is rationed during the height of summer between July and August. Before you plan a trip to Cyprus it is therefore advisable to check the weather forecasts to make sure you are not planning to go in an unusually dry year.
Things to see and do
The capital of Cyprus is indicative of the somewhat divided nature of the country. Both sides of the island share the same city as a capital, the city itself is divided by the green line into the Greek half (Lefkosi) and the Turkish half (Nicosia). In Lefkosia you can find several museums including the Leventis Municipal Museum and the cultural Dragoman Hadzigeogakis museum. Between the two these can give you a good overview of the history of the city ranging from prehistoric times right up to the present day. Also of interest is the St Johnís cathedral and the Archbishops palace which contains a fantastic Byzantine exhibit. The northern Turkish part of the city, Nicosia boasts the excellent Turkish Museum which is housed in a still used 17th century monastery. The heart of the northern part however is undoubtedly the Atatuk square which is situated at the end of the main street opposite the Kyrenia Gate.
Many tourists are also drawn to the west coast to see the famous Pafos mosaics. The mosaics date back to the 3rd century during Roman occupation and were only uncovered during the 60s. The ruins of Sarant Kolones fortress are well worth a look, this once mighty Lusignan fortress was toppled by an earthquake and now lies in ruins. Just 5 minutes away from the city proper is the fantastic Tombs of the Kings. These are an extensive complex of sinister tombs dug into the sea cliff itself.
The Troodos Mountains in the south are an excellent place to visit, especially if you want to avoid the package tourist crush of the beach resorts. In the winter the resort boasts some good skiing but even in the summer there are some worthwhile sights in this region. There are dozens of 15th century monasteries and vineyards, of particular interest if the Kykkos Monastery which has been extensively renovated and contains plenty of religious exhibits. This region also offers good walking and cycling trails so is perfect for those who prefer a more outdoorsy experience.
If you really want to get away from the crowds however you couldnít do much better than visiting Lemesos. This city is a good base for visiting the Kolossi Castle built in 1210 by the Hospitaller Knights. The castle was extensively restored by the British and is now well worth a visit. While you are here you can also visit some of the excellent markets, citrus orchards or the sugar factory.
Due to the small size of Cyprus there is no rail system in place at all. The best way to travel is either by public bus which are generally very comfortable or by service taxi. Car rental is reasonably cheap but your budget is probably better spent on other things if you are happy to get around by bus.
Buses are run by a variety of local companies with Clarious and Larnaka being two of the larger operators. Generally there is a separate winter and summer timetable and it is also worth remembering that bus services stop running at 5pm or 2pm at the weekends so make sure you donít end up stranded. Schedules and timetables for all operators are freely available at Tourist offices anywhere on the island. Fares are generally quite cheap and shound be more than a few pounds for single journeys.
Due to the limited operating hours of the buses many tourists make extensive use of the service taxiís. Fares are more expensive than buses and you will often have a pound or so on the meter before even setting off. Also bear in mind that after 10:30pm prices rise by as much as 25%.
There are over 500 hotels spread throughout Cyprus but most are geared towards package holiday makers and many hotels are completely chartered by travel companies. The provisions for the casual traveller especially in the beach resorts but you may still be able to find some basic un-graded (no star rating) hotels that are reasonable value for money. A reasonable way to stay is in guest houses, in particular there is a reasonable number of countryside family run guesthouses that are worth the extra you would pay over a youth hostel. Agrotourism maintains a list of some traditional guest houses and you will also be able to find booking information on their comprehensive web page.
The cheapest way to stay is in youth hostels, there are hostels located in Nicosia, Larnaka, Pafos and Troodos. They are open to members of the Internatinoal Youth Hostels but most will eccept non-members provided you sign up for one of their "guest passes". The Cyprus Youth Hostel Association can provide information on every aspect of youth hostels, you can find their address in the useful addresses section below.
Cyprus is not part of the EU so the E111 form is not recognised, in addition the UK has no reciprocal health agreement with Cyprus. This means that all costs must be borne by the traveller for healthcare. For this reason it is absolutely essential that you have comprehensive travel insurance arranged before you leave for Cyprus. You will not normally be allowed to leave Cyprus until any medical bills are settled.
All in all the status of health care in Cyprus is quite good and there are no particular health risks present on the island. The tap water is considered safe to drink and normal precautions should be observed when purchasing food and drink.
Agrotourism maintains a list of some traditional guest houses and you will also be able to find booking information on their comprehensive web page.
CyprusTourism.org contains a wealth of tourist information and is the official web page of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation.