The Republic of Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, standing at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Asia. While the oldest known settlements in Cyprus date from the Neolithic Age, the ancient Mycenaeans established the first Greek roots more than 3,000 years ago. The Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Crusaders, Venetians, Ottomans, and British also left their footprints, thus the story of Cyprus is told through its historic sites: ancient Greek temples, Roman ruins, early Christian churches, Byzantine monasteries, Crusader castles, Gothic churches, and Venetian fortifications. Many fine examples of Byzantine art have survived on the island, which you can see in the painted churches of Cyprus with their colorful frescoes, and many of the old customs and traditions are still practiced: the art of lace-making, pottery, and hand-woven goods.
In a nutshell
- Lefkosia, the only divided capital of the world, is steeped in history and culture. It is a beautiful old city surrounded by massive Venetian walls and boasts many museums with wonderful collections of artifacts spanning the ages. The modern city that developed outside the walls is host to many more as well as to many important churches and monasteries.
- The entirety of Paphos is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site as well it should be. Here the cult of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, once flourished. You can swim in the sea by the rocks known as Petra tou Romiou where it is believed Aphrodite rose from the waves, make a pilgrimage to her sanctuary at Kouklia, or visit the grotto near Polis where she bathed. Beauty stretches beyond the sites of Aphrodite, however. The mosaic floors of three villas dating from the 3rd to 5th century AD are among the finest examples of mosaics in the Mediterranean, and the Tombs of the Kings are impressive underground tombs dating back to the 4th century BC. A bit further afield on the Akamas Peninsula is Lara Beach, an uninhabited beach that is an essential Green Turtle and Hawk’s Bill turtle breeding ground.
- The ten painted churches in the Troödos Mountains comprise another UNESCO World Heritage site. Dating from as early as the 11th century, they are covered with colorful frescoes. Further, the region is home to the Kykkos Monastery, the most famous and richest monastery in Cyprus, and the village of Omodos, a wine-producing village. The region is also noted as a widely studied geological formation that has, in fact, contributed to a richness of flora and fauna. It contains nearly 800 plant species, 72 endemic to Troödos of which 12 are found nowhere else in the world. The area abounds with hiking and walking trails, wine routes, an excellent cycling route, charming villages… even skiing in the winter.
- History buffs will want to visit Kition, one of the most important ancient city-kingdoms, near Larnaka. Its architectural remains date back to the 13th century BC. It is noted for its cyclopean walls and complex of temples. Choirokoitia, which was inhabited as early as 7,000 BC, is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the eastern Mediterranean; it is another World Heritage site. The village of Lefkara, also near Larnaka, is well-known for its local lace and silverware.
- Limassol, on the southern coast of Cyprus, is the principal port of Cyprus and has developed into a center of tourism and commerce. It satisfies the lover of history as well as those seeking the sun and the sea. The Sanctuary of Apollo Ylatis (god of the woodland) dates to the 8th century BC. The Kourion, an important ancient city-kingdom, is now one of the most stupendous archaeological sites on Cyprus. The Greco-Roman Theater there has been completely restored and is currently in use for theatrical and musical performances. The remains of the ancient city-kingdom of Amathus and the Kolossi Castle, first built in the 13th century, are both important sites well worth a visit.
- Tombs of the Kings
- Mosaics Park
- Aphrodite’s Birthplace
- Lara Beach
- Greco-Roman Amphitheatre in Kourion
- Sanctuary of Apollo
- Kolossi Castle
- Lefkara Village
- Kykko Monastery
- Omodos village
- Cyprus Archaeological Museum
- Venetian walls