With influences from Asia, Europe and Africa over the centuries, Cyprus has developed a rich, fascinating history that can be relived through its architecture. The capital Nicosia is surrounded by walls built in the 15th century, when the Venetians ruled the island, and is bisected by the ‘green line’. This divide was set in 1974 when the Turks invaded the northern part. Since the Berlin Wall came down, Nicosia is the only divided city in the world. Other historical highlights include the Crusader stronghold of Kolossi Castle near Limassol and the underground Tombs of the Kings near Paphos, carved out of rock in the 4th century BC.
With a history of human habitation dating back to the 6th century BC, year-round sunshine and stunning scenery, it’s no wonder that Cyprus is among the most popular holiday destinations in southern Europe. It attracts more than two million tourists each year, and with many operators offering holidays deal to Cyprus, there has never been a better time to discover the island. Below are some of the highlights of this jewel of the Mediterranean.
Most holidays deal to Cyprus take advantage of Limassol’s status as the biggest port to make it the arrival point for many travellers. It is arguably the island’s tourist hub. It combines Byzantine castles with a lively night-life scene, public sculpture and a wide range of annual festivals, celebrating everything from wine and flowers to Greek drama.
The varied landscape of Cyprus, from mountains and rolling hills to scrub land and forests make for ideal hiking terrain. There are hiking routes accessible from most places on the island. Striding into the hills also allows you to visit the small rural villages that dot the island, where the locals are renowned for their friendliness. The countryside is where many monasteries are located. The Kykkos Monastery near Pedoulas is one of the most famous.
The crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean, their relative calmness and the fact that they never fall below 10 degrees Celsius, make Cyprus a haven for scuba divers and snorkellers. Limassol, Paphos to the west, and the south-eastern coastline stretching from Agia Napa and Cape Greco up to Famagusta are the main spots from which to dive. You may spot octopus, sting rays and sea turtles among other large fish. The calm ocean waters are also ideal for sailing, jet skiing and, of course, swimming.
Blending ingredients and techniques from Greek, Italian and Middle Eastern cuisines, Cypriot food is another tempting reason to visit. Spiced meats and vegetables cooked over coals, seafood and goat’s cheeses are accompanied brandy and zivania, a grape spirit. And the Cypriots never need an excuse for a feast!