Facts, travel tips and tourist information.
Population: about 788.000
Size: 9.250 km2 (of which 3.355 km2 are the Northern Turkish part).
Language: Greek and Turkish. Most people in the Southern Greek part speak English.
Area Code: 357
Time: GMT +2 or Central European time + 1 hour.
Maps: of cities and districts can be found at www.map-cyprus.net
More facts: The CIA World Factbook about Cyprus. Wikipedia the free encyclopedia.
Map from At Rejse Er At Leve
There are airports in Larnaca and Paphos. The old international airport in Nicosia (Lefkosia) is in no-man's-land between the Greek and the Turkish zone. The airports are small, and Larnaca's in particular has more traffic than it was designed for (it is an old military airport).
Cyprus has good roads. It was once a British colony there is still left-hand driving. There is no railroad, but buses go almost everywhere, and there are many taxies. Hired cars have red plates so you can watch out for tourists :-)
Rental cars have red plates. Then you are warned that it might be a tourist, who is used to right-hand driving.
Where to Stay?
This really depends on what you want from your holiday. In Larnaca there is a hotel area west of the city close to the airport, but if you want local colour it is better to stay in the city itself. There are many hotels and apartment hotels. Larnaca has an excellent beach and is more tranquil than the other popular tourist destinations.
In Paphos tourists are concentrated in Kato Paphos, the district by the harbour, but there are also tourist areas to the north (for instance Coral Bay). Paphos and the south-western part of the island has the most to offer when it comes to historical sights, but the tourist concentration is significantly higher than in Larnaca.
Ayia Napa and Fig Tree Bay are pure tourist destinations with only 2000 and 1000 local inhabitants. I guess this is where you go if you just want sun, pool and beach during the day and disco and parties in the night.
We haven't been to Ayia Napa or Fig Tree Bay, but we definitely prefer Larnaca to Paphos. Larnaca has about 64.000 inhabitants and Paphos about 27.000. Larnaca has much more 'daily life' to experience, while Paphos is geared almost 100 % to mass tourism. The price levels reflect this difference - for instance it is cheaper to eat out in Larnaca.
Many tourists visit Cyprus and many are English. The English tourists prefer Limassol and Paphos. Regrettably a few English tourists behave terribly with heavy drinking and public brawls and havoc. This naturally influences the attitude towards tourists in these areas.
The Weather in Cyprus
Cyprus is in the Mediterranean's southeast corner. Summers are hot (very hot!) and have almost no rain. Winters are mild. Spring and autumn are the best seasons, and the island is prettiest in the springtime before the merciless sun scorches everything. Weather forecast.
Restaurants in Larnaca and Paphos
In Larnaca there is only one place for us: Militzis. Here they serve good traditional Cypriot food at reasonable prices. It is no coincidence that many locals eat here. You find the restaurant on the beach road to the west of the small fort. See my travelogues from 2002 and 2004 for a description of Militzis and other restaurants in Larnaca.
There are many restaurants in Paphos. The very best is Seven St. George a bit outside Paphos (take a taxi). See my Paphos travelogue for descriptions and reviews of the restaurants we visited.
At restaurants tips are usually included and not expected, but it is not unusual to pay a round figure or leave some coins as thanks for good service (if it was good!). If not included, 10% is appropriate.
Tap water in Cyprus is desalinated sea water or rain water collected in huge reservoirs during the winter. It is chlorinated and doesn't taste good. It will not make you ill, but bottled water is recommended. Water is precious in Cyprus, so use only what you need.
The most interesting historical sight are in Paphos and the area west of Limassol (Kourion). In Larnaca there are ruins of the ancient city Kition. In the winter Larnaca's salt lake is home to many birds. The lake dries out during summer and many birds migrate. If you are interested in churches there is ample opportunity to visit Greek orthodox churches in Cyprus. A visit to the split capital Nicosia (Lefkosia) is also interesting.
During the winter the salt lake outside Larnaca (near the airport) is home to many birds. The lake dries out in the summertime.
It is definitely worth your while to visit some of the villages in the Troodos Mountains. Here you get a good impression of an older and more original Cyprus. The mountains are beautiful (especially in the springtime), and the temperature can be more comfortable. If you don't want to drive yourself you can take a bus or go on an organized tour. It is also possible to make an arrangement with a taxi.
Sports and Activities
Being an island Cyprus offers all sorts of water sports like diving, sailing, fishing, wind surfing etc. There are golf courses in the Limassol and Paphos area and you can go mountain hiking or biking. For more information about sports and activities see Sports & Recreational Activities at Cyprus.com.
Or what about a ski holiday in Cyprus? No, it is not a joke! The highest mountain, Mount Olympus, has several pistes, and skiing can usually be enjoyed from January to the end of March. Read more at The Cyprus Ski Club.
Plugs and Sockets
The electricity plugs and sockets in Cyprus are the same kind as in the UK, Ireland and Malta (picture here), and you may need an adaptor. There may be an adaptor in the room, or you can borrow one at the reception. If not you can buy one. I don't know the price today, but I bought one in 2004 for 1 pound, which is less than 2 Euro.
Banks and Money
There are many ATMs that accept the usual credit cards. There are also ATMs in both airports, so you can get some local cash when you arrive.
Shopping and prices
Some things are cheap in Cyprus. If you have restaurants in mind, prices will always be higher where the tourists go. For instance eating out is more expensive in Paphos than in Larnaca.
Things to buy:
- Gold and silver (jewellery)
- Glasses. Opticians are said to be good. Order your glasses when you arrive and save money.
- Wine. The Cypriot dessert wine Commandaria is famous. I higly recommend the orange liqueur Filfar.
- Lace from Lefkara is famous, but pretty expensive.
Cyprus has a long and exciting history. Traces of settlements as far back as 8200 BC have been found. In the bronze age they learned to work the copper mines, and about 1500 BC Egypt became an important trade partner.
Through history Cyprus has been conquered several times and has had different masters. Read much more at Wikipedia.
I haven't read any English books about Cyprus, but there are many web resources and then of course my own travelogues:
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Updated 13th January 2013