Cyprus is an island of legends that basks year-round in the light of the warm Mediterranean sun, with a storied past going back around 10,000 years. It has seen civilizations come and go and the likes of everyone from Alexander the Great to Cleopatra stake their claim for it - but then, people do tend to get possessive when faced with such beauty. Aphrodite made her home on Cyprus, and travellers throughout antiquity came here just to pay her tribute.
Today Cyprus is a modern country that effortlessly marries European culture with ancient enchantment. Here the visitor may discover a compact world of alluring beaches and fragrant mountain peaks, vineyards studded with olive trees and ancient ruins that stir the imagination, citrus groves and old stone villages where sweet wine flows as freely as conversations at the local cafι. A carefree place, where the sense of timelessness is magnified by the kindness of the people.
Indeed, Cyprus seems to have something to offer to every single visitor. Ravishing five-star resorts within walking distance of well preserved Greek and Roman ruins offer every amenity the modern traveller has come to expect and more, from knock-out pools, gardens and beachfronts to state of the art thalassotherapy health spas. One of the most impressive archaeological sites, the ancient city kingdom of Kourion, overlooks a magnificent stretch of beaches with a sparkling blue sea beyond. Along the island's sun-kissed coastline, from Agia Napa in the east to Pafos in the west, world-class beach resorts alternate with settings untouched since antiquity.
Venture away from the sybaritic shore - if you can bring yourself to - and succumb to the slow, seductive rhythms of the interior. There are old wine-producing villages with atmospheric winding streets and terraced vineyards. You can often stay the night for a song in cosy renovated traditional houses, part of the Cyprus agrotourism programme. Explore Greek Orthodox churches nestled in the hills, whose walls conceal vibrantly painted Byzantine frescoes. Many are found among the pine-covered peaks of the Troodos, where a sublime silence can dissolve all sense of time, not to mention stress.
Along the route that leads from the port city of Lemesos (Limassol) to Pafos, the roadway opens up to reveal a magnificent stretch of coastline where chalky white cliffs stand watch over a dazzling aquamarine sea. Here sun worshippers make detours for a picnic and a swim at Petra tou Romiou, a boulder that marks the spot where Aphrodite emerged from the sea foam in ancient times. In the Akamas region, hikers exploring the area's rich flora can cool off at the grotto where the love goddess bathed after her amorous interludes.
Throughout Cyprus, the typically Mediterranean landscape is still blessed with the timeless beauty of antiquity. There are crusader fortresses framed by tall cypress trees, Greco-Roman theaters carved out of cliffs and Byzantine monasteries perched improbably on mountaintops. Sophisticated cities successfully balance the ancient and modern. The capital, Lefkosia (Nicosia), is surrounded by Venetian walls with heart-shaped bastions; Larnaka, site of the major international airport, is also home to St. Lazarus Church and the crypt of the eponymous saint resurrected by Christ. Near the animated harbor at Pafos are the Roman floor mosaics of the Houses of Aion, Achilles and Dionysus, their depictions of mythological scenes amazingly well preserved.
The Cyprus mystique is as much a product of its legendary beauty as it is of millennia of competing empires, all unable to resist the island’s strategic allure. The perfect location, of course, never goes out of style. Nestled into the eastern Mediterranean Sea and a veritable crossroads of three continents, Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and an ideal starting point for the discovery of other exotic locales such as the Greek Islands, Egypt and the Middle East - in fact, mini-cruises set off for these places from Cyprus almost every day. But close as Cyprus may be to the world's center stage, it is a distinctive place that can feel blissfully apart from it all.
From independent travellers to honeymooners, archaeology aficionados to friends of nature, every visitor to Cyprus finds the island offers layer upon layer of discovery. Food lovers delight in farm-fresh halloumi cheese and delectable meze, the local specialty appetizers that mix Western ingredients with Eastern zest. Travellers on business appreciate the fine conference facilities and warm, professional service at more than 64 hotels and resorts, and like incentive groups value the proximity of the beach. And that golden Old World sunshine - there are generally 300-plus sunny days per year - is something few can resist. Add it all up and you have an ideally-situated island that truly has no equal. A place that measures up to its mystique: Cyprus.
If you are considering a visit to Cyprus, or even if you are just looking for more detailed information as to what Cyprus has to offer as a tourist destination, we do recommend that you have a look at the excellent website of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation.
Useful addresses and telephones.doc
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