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Cyprus is the third largest of the Mediterranean islands with year round sunshine and one of the best climates in Europe. The island is full of the myths and legends of Aphrodite who rose from the sea at Petra tou Romio in Paphos on the west coast of the island. Strategically placed at the crossroads of Africa, Asia and Europe, the island is an exotic and exciting mix of east and west which is reflected in the cultural traditions and lifestyle we know today. Blessed with sun-drenched beaches and warm crystal clear waters, this is the ideal location for a holiday in the sun! In the spring the island is aglow with flowers, luscious olive and citrus groves and during the summer vineyards overflow with juicy grapes and the scent of jasmine is heavy in the night air. This is the ideal location for weddings and honeymoons or just a romantic holiday in the sun.

Inspirational nature
It wasn't by accident that Aphrodite chose Cyprus as her place of birth. She emerged from the blue waters and made this the island of love. She would still recognise the welcoming waters and the fine Blue Flag beaches. You too can feel the warm sand beneath your feet as you stare out across the azure Mediterranean.

From secluded bays, to lively resorts, from sandy beaches to rocky coves, you are bound to find the right one for you. You can snorkel, dive, play water sports, windsurf or sail, or just relax in the guaranteed sunshine. Waterparks and bungee jumping provide fun for the more extreme minded.

With a wealth of beaches to choose from, you're bound to find one that suits your taste. From the quiet backwaters of the western peninsula, to the lively resorts in the east, the island has something for everyone. The eastern coast is famous for its fine white sandy beaches with shallow turquoise waters. Deep water bays with rocky outcrops are perfect for snorkelling or diving. The long finely packed grey sand of the southern coast lend themselves to long winter walks or jogging, while the secluded coves of the western coast beckon when you want to be alone.

There's more to Cyprus than sea and sand. In the Troodos Mountains you can discover cool resorts and picturesque villages, Byzantine monasteries and churches perched on rocky peaks or hiding away in fragrant valleys. Dozens of vineyards dot the foothills of the range producing some the finest wines you could care to taste. The climate here is ideal for producing grapes and wines have been made here since ancient times. Commandaria, the oldest named wine in the world, was enjoyed by Richard the Lionheart, who married his bride Berengaria in Lemesos. You will find a warm welcome in the small tavernas in any of the hundreds of villages on the island.

Experience the island's culture, history and wonderful scenery from the saddle of a bike. A cycle tour enables you to come across things which you would probably miss from inside a car. A chance encounter with a local, a stunning landscape to linger over, the sights and sounds of nature from up close, an ancient ruin or a secluded cove. Follow one of the many cycling routes or even make your own. Set the pace you desire whether training or leisure and feel your lungs with fresh air while making your bit to fight global warming and protect the environment. Turn your bike into a magic carpet to see the beauties of Cyprus. The climate and the compactness of the island allow you to enjoy a fascinating variety of scenery and conditions in a relatively short distance. Headwinds are rare, making the going even easier.

Perhaps the best way to see a country is on foot. If two feet are more your style, then Cyprus is the perfect place for hiking and walking, with a number of hiking and nature trails set out by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation which will allow you to enjoy the beauties of the island at leisure. Cyprus has numerous signposted paths or nature trails, some more challenging than others, but all are a feast for the senses, especially in the springtime when you can experience the sights, sounds and smells of nature at first hand. Or you can simply go your own way and discover the secrets that Cyprus has to offer.

Millennia of history
It has been rightly said that wherever you dig on Cyprus, you will find evidence that someone else has been there long, long before you. Stone Age settlements, Roman theatres and ruins, Crusader castles and Venetian city walls, Ottoman monuments and buildings dating from Cyprus's colonial era are testament to the myriad cultures and civilisations that have existed here. But the overwhelming cultural influence here is Greek. The Greek language, religion and way of life have formed Cyprus over the centuries. Painted churches, age-old customs and traditional village life make a visit to the island into a fascinating learning experience that you will want to repeat again and again.

If you are seeking history then you are spoiled for choice on this fascinating island. The unique Neolithic site of Choirokoitia is one of the most important and best preserved prehistoric sites in the eastern Mediterranean. Dating back 8,000 years, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1998.

In Pafos, you can see beautiful Roman mosaics and other remains, see the pillar to which St Paul was tied when he brought the message of Christianity and the Tombs of ancient Kings. Not far along the coast is the Roman theatre of Kourion, where musical and dramatic productions still take place against the backdrop of the Mediterranean.

Lemesos district boasts venerable castles and the ancient city of Amathus, while Lefkosia's old city is bounded by the walls built by the Venetian rulers. Here, too, is the Cyprus Museum containing the full history of the island.

Religious tolerance and multiculturalism in Cyprus always characterized Cypriot life, since Greek-Cypriots are Greek Orthodox Christians whereas Turkish-Cypriots are Muslims. The voice of the Muezzin, calling the Muslims to prayer, blends harmoniously with the bells of the churches, calling the Christians to the divine service.

Churches and monasteries, built in the previous centuries, with frescoes and icons of great archaeological value, as well as Muslim mosques are scattered through the island. A visit to an Orthodox Church or monastery is a great experience. A monastery worth-visiting is the Kykkos Monastery, and its chapel with the beautiful gold decoration. Visitors to churches and monasteries should be appropriately dressed; women are not allowed to enter the monastery of Stavrovouni at Larnaka district.

The Hala Sultan Tekke is the most important monument for the Muslims of the island. It is located on the shore of the Salt Lake in Larnaka and in its present form it was built in the 18th and early 19th centuries. It is a complex of structures made up of a mosque, a mausoleum, a minaret and living quarters for men and women.

One way to learn about the soul of Cyprus is to follow one of the cultural routes that have been prepared by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation. These allow you to see a side of Cyprus that you would certainly miss if you spent all your time on the beach. Depending on your interest you can take routes that follow the myth of the goddess Aphrodite, learn about the religious heritage, churches and monasteries or follow Bacchus and discover wonderful wines with visits to some of the dozens of vineyards that dot the landscape. Cyprus wines have been enjoyed for millennia.

The food of Cyprus reflects the rich and turbulent 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 as well as an irresistible temptation. Kopiaste is a word that you are almost certain to hear in Cyprus, it means 'join us' and is always meant sincerely.

One great way to experience a wide range of the foods that Cypriots enjoy is to visit a typical local tavern and ask for mezedes. You will receive dish after dish of different tastes, both meat and vegetable but be warned – pace yourself because the food is so good you could end up too full to go on by the time you get half way through! Cyprus is also rich in fish taverns and here you can experience yet another gastronomic delight surrounded by Cypriot families.

Pastitsio - minced meat in a rich and delicious creamy sauce, afelia – pork in a red wine sauce, are just two of the wide range of dishes you can try, and to follow perhaps preserved fruit or nuts that can be enjoyed with a Cyprus coffee, sketo, metrio or glyko, plain, medium or sweet. Halloumi cheese is one of the few cheeses that can be enjoyed grilled, fried or simply plain. The choice of food is as varied as the landscape.

At your leisure
With one of the best climates in the world, as well as one of the healthiest diets, not to mention a way of life that's geared to the outdoors, Cyprus is the perfect place for healthy living. Wake up in the morning to the sun shining, just what you need to shake off the blues and get you out into the fresh air for some exercise. Go for a jog or take a walk along specially created footpaths through green areas in the heart of town, play a game of tennis and then come back to a breakfast of fresh fruit and juices.

Cyprus attracts an increasing number of visitors for medical purposes, thanks to the high quality care at competitive prices and comfortable recuperation facilities that are available here. And if you just want a temporary boost to relax and rejuvenate yourself, or simply to pamper yourself, book into one of the new health spas offering a wide range of traditional and alternative treatments and therapies guaranteed to ease those tensions away. Guaranteed sunshine almost every day of the year is just one of the reasons why you would choose Cyprus to indulge in your favourite sport.

Whether you just want to play for fun while relaxing in beautiful surroundings, or are professional athletes looking for winter training, there are facilities for everyone, from football and golf to water sports and hiking. Cyprus is an emerging golfer's paradise, a place where you can enjoy the game all the year round in an ideal Mediterranean climate. Clear seas and warm waters make Cyprus ideal for diving. Sea temperatures around the island range from 27 to 16 ºC, resulting in one of the longest diving seasons in the Mediterranean, while the absence of plankton makes for great visibility. The underwater coastal reefs teem with a wide variety of colourful fish, sponges, coral, sea anemones, octopus, mussels and the ubiquitous sea urchin providing a spectacular picture. Sea turtles can be spotted regularly, thanks to a turtle conservation project that has increased their numbers around the island considerably. Spectacular underwater caves and tunnels and a number of interesting paths are just waiting to be explored, while the remains of ancient amphora and stone anchors make it a veritable adventure.

Useful Links
· Cyprus Tourism Organization
· Cyprus Agrotourism Company

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High Commission of the Republic of Cyprus in Canberra
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