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Paphos Harbour Boats

Cyprus is as diverse as the weather changes that happen here (you can read about the weather here). There is so much to see and so many places to visit that you might think there’s a continent concealed in this small island.

First off, it is an island in the eastern Mediterranean, more precisely the second largest one around. I has rich, turbulent history stretching back to antiquity, and by saying back into antiquity it means over 10 000 years ago!

Famous for its beaches and great climate, it has mountainous stretches with wine-growing regions and hidden villages. It is nesting home to some of rarest turtles.  

 

Its capital city, Nicosia, is the only capital that is divided in half and has a buffer zone.

Coastal Paphos is famed for its archaeological monuments that we part of cult of Aphrodite, including ruins of palaces, tombs, mosaic-adorned villas and a whooping total of 3 UNESCO sites, with more being discovered regularly.

Here is the general overview of Cyprus from the impressions and experience of an expat living permanently in this paradise, but first some general facts:

  • Cyprus is divided into two by UN buffer zone and generally it is the Southern side that people refer to when they mention the island’s name.
  • There are 0.86 million people permanently living on the island (this number doubles over holiday season)
  • Life expectancy average is of 79.6 years
  • Official language – Greek (though Greeks distinguish it as a Cypriot Greek, a dialect of its own)
  • Capital: Nicosia
  • Size: 9250 square kilometres; roughly half the size of Slovenia and 5 times larger than Lichtenstein.
  • National Day: 1st of April but
  • Independence day is 1st of October
  • Government: Unitary Representative Presidential Republic
  • EU member: since 1st May 2004
  • GDP: roughly 17 Billion Euro (that’s less than half of Zuckenber’s estate /forbs link/)

 

  1. Nicosia

Being the capital of the island, the centre of its functional government, it is also a place and reminder of the division and separation.

Locally known as Lefkosia (don’t be surprised when you see this on the Highway signs), it has been constantly inhabited for over 4500 years! It has been the capital of Cyprus since the 10th century.

 

Nicosia is divided into the southern, Greek Cypriot and the northern, Turkish Cypriot, parts from 1963, following a local war-like fare that broke out in the city. Now, the northern part of the city is the capital of Northern Cyprus, a de facto state that is considered to be occupied territory. There are local borders and a buffer zone that are monitored by the U.N peacekeepers.

 

As a rule, it is very rude, when speaking with Greek Cypriots, to refer to the Northern side as the Turkish area or Turkish Cyprus. It is offensive for the locals and they prefer it to be labelled only as their occupied territory.

 

Being the capital, Nicosia has the best supply-demand structure for products and import. Practically, you can get everything there, whereas in, let’s say Paphos or Polis, items are much more limited. It also has the biggest concentration of services and factories. Embassies and Consulates tend to gather there too.

 

It is also the hottest town on the island. Normal temperatures in summer average 37C/100F, it lasts from June to August, slowly cooling down September reaching average of 10C/50F in winter. 

 

Word of advice, unless you were born and raised in Africa, try to book your first visit to Nicosia either in autumn or spring and ensure that car you reserve online comes with a potent air-conditioner.

 

It’s a pretty city, with its very special character and charm. The old town, based within the fortress walls, has a promenade called Ledra Street. It leads to a walking cross-over check point that allows visits to the occupied north. Bring your passport with you.

  

  1. Larnaca

 

Third biggest on the island, it is a port and marina. It also hosts the main air port of the island.

 

It is a lovely city with stunning beaches and great attractions. Some include The Church of Saint Lazarus, where his relics are presented and venerated by Christians from all over the world, the same Lazarus that was resurrected from the dead by Jesus Christ on the 4th day and the first Episcope of the island. The Mosque of /name/ is also here. It is believed that the mother of prophet Muhammad is laid to rest here. In winter, the Salt Lake of Larnaca is a /stopover point/ for the Flamingos migration. It general, there are quite a few things to enjoy here.

 

The climate is much milder than in Lefkosia though it is still quite hot, with summer temperatures averaging 32C and winters cooling down to about 15C.

 

Larnaca is a very popular destination for British expats, especially skilled immigrants as it offers a rather large range or job opportunities.  /editing needed/

 

  1. Ayia Napa and surroundings

 

This area is simply stunning, it has the best resort-like beaches, beautiful streets, loads of entertainment thus it is named the party-town on the island. All night through you can hear discos and bars competing for customers. The atmosphere is that of any touristic destination that attracts party animals. If you are in your 20’s and early 30’s, this might be a place for you, however, if you are a little more “matured” and loaded with a family, this destination better be kept as a holiday-only location.

 

Outside Ayia Napa is gorgeous but nothing much to do with yourself unless you enjoy reading books 24/7.

 

  1. Limassol

Limassol, also known locally as Lemesos is the second largest town. It is a big port town, with a rather developed harbour and a beautiful marina.

It is vastly populated by Cypriots but the domineering immigration is mostly from the ex-Soviet Union countries, i.e mainly natives of Russia and Eastern Europe.

The current population is roughly about 180 thousand people. Not so much, if you think about it.

 

  1. Paphos

In the Bible, this town’s name is mentioned as Baf and according to that, Paul the Apostle walked the island and departed from here on their way to Greece. Historically, Paphos has been in the books for at least 3 000 years and has held several names such as Paf, Pafo, Baf and Paphos/Pafos.

It is a lovely, relatively small town, with an estimate of 50 000 people permanently residing here. There is a number of surrounding villages that compliment the town and the harbour is a great place to relax under the sun and sip a frappe.

In recent years, Paphos has been growing tremendously when it comes to tourism and it has been already confirmed that in near future a marina will arise near probably the most famous beach of Paphos, the Coral Bay.  

Climate here is much milder than Nicosia and Larnaca and certainly less than Limassol. The summers are still rather hot with sea water temperatures reaching 28C. The numerous villages around Paphos town offer much cooler environment and thus, for example Tala or Tsada are very popular with expats who wish to stay out of the heat of the day in the cooler hills of the mountains.

The truth here is that weather is not quite the same around the time. The local joke is that if it is storming on X avenue, there is bright sunshine literary around the corner. And somehow this reflects pretty accurately the local weather conditions. Due to all the small hills and different elevations all over this area, the weather ranges and changes quite irrationally. / erratically/

 

  1. Polis

One of the smaller, shore towns on the North-West of the island. It is under the jurisdiction of Paphos though it is about 25 miles away towards North West. It is a quite area with pretty views, quiet neighbourhoods and nice climate although the sea stays cool even in summer.  It has some of the best shore lines and a vast variety of water sports. Children’s playgrounds are also very popular around this town.

 

It is located on the “top” side of the Akamas peninsula, the biggest nature reserve in Cyprus. The air is always clean here and sand storms are much weaker than those on the South-West part of the island.

 

  1. Troodos

These charming mountains are of such breathtaking beauty that, not to visit them, it just as much of a faux-pas as it is to miss the beach.

In summer, the mountains offer lovely shade and the freshest air one could possibly imagine. In winder, unbelievably enough, they are covered with immaculately white snow and the slopes are ready to receive the numerous skiers and just random visitors.

The small villages scattered all over the mountains are so enchanting and captivating that one hardly finds it easy to leave. The abundant Monasteries and little churches add some kind of indescribable allure to this area and you just want to dwell here for the rest of your earthly life. The Byzantine era villages on mountain peaks, nestling in its valleys and clinging to terraced hill slopes have  been known since antiquity for its mines, which for centuries supplied copper to the entire Mediterranean. In the Byzantine period it became a great centre of Byzantine art, as churches and monasteries were built in the mountains, away from the threatened coastline.

 

The Troodos mountains, with highest peak being the Mount Olympus reaching top height of 1952m above sea level,  are well known all over the world for their geology and the presence of an undisturbed ophiolite sequence, the Troodos Ophiolite. An ophiolite /ˈɒfiəlaɪt/ is a section of the Earth's oceanic crust and the underlying upper mantle that has been uplifted and exposed above sea level and often emplaced onto continental crustal rocks (a mouthful for non-geologists).

These mountains slowly rose from the sea due to the collision of the African and European tectonic plates, a process that eventually formed the island of Cyprus. The slowing and near-cessation of this process left the rock formations near intact, while subsequent erosion uncovered the magma chamber underneath the mountain, allowing a viewing of intact rocks and petrified pillow lava formed millions of years ago, an excellent instance of ophiolite stratigraphy.

 

Point in case: if ever in Cyprus, do yourself a favour and take one day to visit these stunning slopes, regardless of the time of the year.  And if you plan to move to Cyprus, make this your holiday destination of choice for a weekend or two each season.

 

  1. The Northern Territory

Being such a sensitive topic, it is still worth mentioning a few things about it.

First off, yes, Cyprus has been “illegally” divided and the only country to recognize this separation is Turkey. Reason is quite simple. The Northern territory is mainly occupied by, what is called a Turkish Cypriot community. I will not include any details of how the separation happened. There is plenty information about it all over the net.

But, I will talk about what I learnt from experience living on the South side and frequenting the North.

There are many legal issues with these two “states” but as a tourist, this is what you should remember:

  • Firstly: it is NOT “the Turkish side”. Even though I will admit that this is exactly what I like to call it, the locals, i.e  Greek-Cypriots, get utterly offended and not-so-politely  remind you that it is the “occupied north”.
  • You can go on a day trip and cross either by foot at Ledra Place in Nicosia, or a few other locations that allow vehicle cross over (Dyrenia, Agios Nicolas and Nicosia)
  • To cross you need to have your passport with you. If you are from non-EU country, a valid visa/visitors permit/pro-visa are required (mainly to be able to return back to the South)
  • If you are taking a vehicle, you need to purchase extra car insurance at the border. Prices range between / find online/ Documents for the car are required too.
  • /check for other requirements/

 

Word of advice: try to avoid peak hours at the borders, especially when coming back. This is mostly true about late afternoon on Sundays through Nicosia check-point (when the Greek-Cypriots are heading back). You can spend up to a few hours at the check point if travelling with a car!

  

  1. In between

Well, the “in between” relates to all the charming, little villages all over the island. There are hundreds of tiny, cute and sometimes completely frozen in time, villages that could grad your attention and steal your heart. It is worth taking a few days and just “get lost”.

 

Conclusion

Cyprus is gorgeous and has a lot to offer! It is also one of the easiest places when it comes to immigration regulations. Choosing a place to settle needs some research based on your preferences. Learn about the local culture /needs link/, look for areas with big expat communities

When travelling, remember that a GPS does not always cut it here. Mainly because the spelling in Greek does not always relate to sounds in English. Half of the streets are not even on Google maps! The names are often translated. And if you can read a paper map, you are much better off with one of those.

When in the mountains, do not expect road indicators to tell you direction to big cities, most often they will point to the nearest village so keep that in mind when planning a route, unless, of course you are going to the popular locations such as the Troodos village, the Kykkos Monastery or Omodos village.  Frankly, it is quite easy to get lost here at first, but the good news: you are bound to come out at certain point. You can only drive so far, it is an island, after all!

 

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