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Overview

Cyprus is typically Mediterranean in many ways, with year-round sunshine, splendid beaches and countryside of olive groves, vineyards and citrus trees. Yet in many more ways, it's uniquely Cypriot. Originally settled by Stone Age tribes from Asia Minor (Turkey), then in the Bronze Age by peoples from Anatolia (Turkey) and Mycenae (Greece), Cyprus has been Turkish and Greek from the start. Although it's been settled, invaded, occupied, bought, sold, returned, and given away ever since — by the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Franks, Genoese, Venetians, Ottomans, Greeks, Turks, British, all leaving their ...

Cyprus is typically Mediterranean in many ways, with year-round sunshine, splendid beaches and countryside of olive groves, vineyards and citrus trees. Yet in many more ways, it's uniquely Cypriot. Originally settled by Stone Age tribes from Asia Minor (Turkey), then in the Bronze Age by peoples from Anatolia (Turkey) and Mycenae (Greece), Cyprus has been Turkish and Greek from the start. Although it's been settled, invaded, occupied, bought, sold, returned, and given away ever since — by the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Franks, Genoese, Venetians, Ottomans, Greeks, Turks, British, all leaving their mark on the architecture, culture, cuisine, handicrafts, folk music and dance, and handicrafts. Ask a Cypriot if he's Greek or Turkish and he'll proudly say he's a Cypriot first and foremost, no matter what language he speaks. Divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded to protect Turkish-Cypriots following a military coup in Greece threatening the country's stability, Cyprus looks set to pull down its borders following the 2008 election of a pro-unification Greek-Cypriot President whose first act in office was to meet the Turkish leader to discuss reunification. Long a popular package-tour destination, Cyprus is now developing its nature trails, cycling circuits, eco-tourism, and traditional villages, offering visitors a wide choice of activities beyond the beach. The best thing to do is to hire a car and just drive — to UNESCO World Heritage-listed archaeological sites, Byzantine churches covered in frescoes, Gothic churches converted to mosques, crumbling castles perched on hill-tops, charming traditional villages, mountains dotted with monasteries, and through fields carpeted with wildflowers. And then you can relax on the beach.

Lara Dunston
About the Expert

Lara Dunston and Terry Carter have traveled to over 60 countries and written more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Rough Guides, Footprint, and others on destinations in the Middle East, Europe, and South America.

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Lara Dunston for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Situated in the eastern Mediterranean south of Turkey, west of the Levant, north of Egypt, and east-southeast of Greece.
  • Language: Greek, Turkish, English
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel