Interesting Facts About Cyprus: The EU Country You Never Knew You Wanted To Visit

Interesting Facts About Cyprus: The EU Country You Never Knew You Wanted To Visit

Paris is always a good idea but have you considered Cyprus? This tiny EU country has a little bit of everything from warm sandy beaches, a mix of modern and ancient culture, Greek ruins, wonderful food and an interesting political situation. Here are some interesting facts about Cyprus that might surprise you.

Intersting Cyprus Facts

Cyprus, officially called The Republic of Cyprus, is an independent island nation that’s also a popular tourist destination, especially amongst Europeans, thanks to its beautiful beaches, warm climate, outstanding food and interesting ancient cultural sites.  

Known as the playground of the gods and birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Cyprus has a long and complicated history and stands at a cultural, linguistic, and historic crossroads between Europe and Asia.

Inhabited since the paleolithic era, it’s absorbed the influence of generations of conquerors and occupation by several major powers, including Cleopatra and the Egyptians, the Persians, Phoenicians, The Turks, and most recently the British. 

Here are some interesting and lesser-known facts about this beautiful Island nation. 

Where is Cyprus?

Cyprus is located in the Mediterranean sea. 

It’s 71 kilometres (44 miles) south of Turkey, 105 kilometres (65 miles) west of Syria, and 370 kilometres (230 miles) north of Egypt.

this is a map of Cyprus

Cyprus is part of the EU.

Geographically Cyprus is closer to the middle east; however, since 2004, it’s been part of the EU single market and the eurozone monetary union. 

MAP OF EU: Cyprus is part of EU

There are currently 27 countries in the EU (as of 2021) post-Brexit. 

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

Cyprus is the 9th smallest European country.

After Sicily and Sardinia, Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean sea. However, it’s the 9th smallest European country measuring 5896 sq km (2276 sq mi). The smallest European country is Vatican City, which is less than 0.50 sq km (0.17 sq mi). It’s located in the heart of Rome and is also where the Pope lives. 

Cyprus is an island and a country divided in two:

While the international community considers the Island nation of Cyprus one single country, Turkey sees things differently.

Cyprus is a country divided not only culturally between Eastern and Western ideals, but it’s also divided in two, the north and south, similar to Korea, thanks to an ongoing dispute between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

The dispute is known as the “Cyprus dispute” or the “Cyprus conflict.” 

  1. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus occupies the northern third, where mainly Turkish Cypriots live.
  2. The Republic of Cyprus occupies the southern two-thirds of the island where Greek Cypriots live.

The self-declared country of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey while the rest of the international community considers Turkey’s continued military presence in Northern Cyprus an illegal occupation. 

MAP OF CYPRUS AND GREEN MILE BORDER BETWEEN THE NORTH AND SOUTH

A little history lesson: Greek military coup of July 1974: 

In 1974 the Greek Army attempted to annex the island to Greek control. The Turks responded by invading and taking control of about one-third of the northern part of Cyprus.

When the Turks invaded and took over, they violently forced hundreds of thousands of Greek & Turkish Cypriots from their homes, preventing their return and settling Turks from mainland Turkey.

This act was considered an example of ethnic cleansing by the European Commission of Human Rights, which found Turkey guilty of repeated violations of the European Convention of Human Rights.

At the end of 1974, there was a ceasefire.

The island is kept in a peaceful state by the presence of international forces and the UN buffer zone, also known as the green line, which separates the Northern (Turkish controlled) part of Cyrpus from the Southern part of Cyprus.

If you would like to learn more about the Cyprus conflict, read this. 

What is the official currency used in Cyprus?

Because Cyprus is part of the EU eurozone monetary union, its official currency is the Euro, same as France, Spain, and most (not all) other countries that are part of the EU. 

Since Turkey occupies Northern Cyprus, the unofficial currency is the Turkish Lira. Despite this, most shops and restaurants in North Cyprus will accept pounds sterling and euros notes, not coins; however, If you pay in one of these currencies, you’ll receive your change in Lira. 

What is the capital of Cyprus?

Nicosia is the Capital of Cyprus. (Greek Lefkosía, Turkish Lefkoşa.)

 It lies along the Pedieos River. 

Nicosia is the world’s only divided capital city. 

Nicosia is Cyprus’s capital and is divided by “The Green Line” that separates the North from the south. It’s the only capital city in the world that is divided between two nations. It’s also one of a handful of checkpoints where you can cross over to the Northside and vice versa. 

The Green Line that divides the country is a shocking disruption. For instance, one moment, you’re walking around beautiful historical streets in Nicosia; the next minute, you’re facing a police blockade with barbed wire and guns. 

You can cross the border, however:

Despite the tensions, over 4 million tourists still flock to Cyprus each year; however, barely 10% attempt to cross the border into Northern Cyprus. 

Anyone who enters Cyprus through the north Turkish controlled part of Cyprus, such as via the Ercan airport, is considered by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus in the South to have entered Cyprus through an illegal port of entry.

The Government of the Republic of Cyprus may fine you for illegal entry if you try to cross into the south, and they may refuse you entry into or exit from the Republic (source UK government website).

Residents of Cyprus are called: 

If you live in Cyprus, you’re called a Cypriot. If you live in the south, you might be called a greek Cypriot and in the north a Turkish Cypriot. 

You can drive across Cyprus in a couple of hours:

 Cyprus is 240 km (149 miles) long from east to west and has a maximum width of 100 km (62 miles) from north to south.

What is the official language of Cyprus?

  1. Greek (Cypriot dialect)
  2. Turkish

The main language spoken in the southern part of Cyprus is Greek, and much of its culture resembles Greece’s culture.

In the Turkish-controlled North, Turkish is mainly spoken.

ENGLISH: From 1878 to 1960, the Island of Cyprus was colonized by the British, and it’s estimated that nearly 80 percent of the population can also speak English.

National Anthem of Cyprus

The National Anthem of Cyprus is “Hymn to Liberty,” the same as Greece. 

 Cyprus is the first country in the world to display a map on its flag.

Technically, Cyprus’s national flag has a map of the island with two olive branches that are supposed to signify peace and harmony between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

However, the flag is not recognized by Turkey, who created a flag of their own for Northern Cyprus, which uses the inverted colours and design of the flag of Turkey.

Flag of Cyprus, north and south

The current flag of Cyprus is fairly new.

It was adopted in 1960 under the Zurich and London Agreements when Cyprus gained its independence from Brittain. 

Before 1960, under British rule, between  1920-1960, Cyprus had a different flag from. 

Flag of cyprus under British rule 1920-1960

Giant Mountain Flag

In the northern part of Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriots made a giant flag in the mountains wich you can see with Google maps if you zoom in.

The exact location is 35.282902, 33.376891

giant mountain flag northern cyprus

Easter is the most popular holiday in Cyprus.

With almost 80% of the population following the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox faith, Easter is the main holiday in Southern Cyprus.

Shipwreck turned tourist attraction.

 A 15 min drive from the center of Paphos is the shipwreck Edro III, an 80m long merchant ship that ran aground off of Pegeia on the 8th of December 2011 in heavy seas. 

shipwreck Edro III, off the coast of Cyprus that's become a tourist attraction

 The ship is now very much a popular tourist attraction and brings a lot of business to the owner of the Oniro By The Sea Restaurant and bar.

The largest water theme park in Europe is in Cyprus.

Waterworld is a giant award-winning Greek-themed waterpark in Ayia Napa.

You’ll see plenty of greek architecture, old ships and Greek statues at this fun park flat is very popular especially during the hotter months. You’ll also find fun places that remind you of Ancient Greek civilizations: The Fall of Icarus, Apollo’s Plunge, Drop to Atlantas, and Odyssey River. 

Largest water theme park in Europe is in Cyprus: WATERWORLD

The birthplace of “Aphrodite,” aka Venus

On a beach on the southwestern coastline of Cyprus near the city of Pafos (Paphos) is Petra Tou Romiou or Aphrodite’s Rock.

It’s the legendary birthplace of the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty, known as “Venus” in Roman mythology.

Aphrodite rock, birthplace of Aphrodite (Venus) in Paphos, Cyprus

According to legend, Cronus (aka Saturn), Castrated his father Uranus (aka Caelus) and threw his father’s testicles into the sea, which caused the sea to foam.

Aphrodite rose out of the white sea foam on a scallop shell in the waters of Paphos, Cyprus and was carried to the shore by the crashing waves. 

“Aphro” is the Greek word for foam.
“Aphrodisiacs”—food, drink or drug that stimulates sexual desire or pleasurable—are named after Aphrodite.

The area is a popular tourist location thanks to the beauty of the surrounding area and status in Greek mythology.  

Although the sea in the area is generally rough, and visitors are not encouraged to swim or climb the rock, a local myth is that you’ll be blessed with eternal beauty if you swim around the Aphrodite Rock. 

You can visit the famous armless Greek statue of Aphrodite at the Louvre, where she is called Venus de Milo (Venus from Milo). This statue was discovered in 1820 on the volcanic Greek island of Melos (Milos in modern Greek) by a French soldier who gave it to French King Louis the XVIIII who in turn donated it to the Louvre the following year.

Ancient greek goddess Aphrodite aka Venus de Milo at the L'ouvre

Cyprus has the world’s oldest wine label.

Commandaria is an amber-coloured sweet dessert wine that’s been made in Cyprus since 800 B.C., which makes it the oldest wine label in the world that’s still in production today.

Commandaria is the oldest wine label still in production and it's from Cyprus

It’s named after the region where it’s made, located in the high altitude of the Troödos mountains from two different types of grapes.

Only 14 villages are allowed to make the wine to be called Commandaria.

Cypriot food

Cypriot Meze Meal

Because of the island’s geographic location and being colonized and controlled by other countries, Cypriot food, was is influenced by not only Greek food, but also Turkish, Arab and European influences. 

You’ll find a lot of fresh seasonal vegetables, such as cucumbers, eggplants, parsley, tomatoes, as well as herbs such as coriander, cumin, and fresh herbs. 

Olive oil is also an essential ingredient in Cypriot food. Olive trees have been part of Cyprus’s history since the Neolithic period. 

Be sure to try “Meze,” which is usually served before a meal and consists of 10 to 15 different small dishes. It’s a great way to try many different dishes if you are not sure what to order as your main plate.

Cyprus is the home of Halloumi.

 Greece may be the official home of feta, but Halloumi, sometimes called the “squeaky cheese,” belongs to Cyprus.

This salty, rubbery cheese is made from goat and sheep milk and is the only cheese that I know tof that is meant to be grilled or fried. 

Cypriot authorities have spent years trying to get the European Union to recognize halloumi as a traditional product of Cyprus. In doing so, they would receive the EU’s top-quality mark – “protected designation of origin,” and the only halloumi made in Cyprus could be marketed abroad under that name.

Cyprus is home of Haloumi cheese

The National Dish of Cyprus is a bean stew/ soup.

Cyprus’s national dish is Fasolada- a white beans stew made by simmering beans with tomatoes and other vegetables such as carrots, onion, parsley, celery, and bay leaf. It’s often enriched with olive oil either while cooking or at the table. 

Variations of this dish are also eaten in Egypt, Italy, Spain, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan but go by different names. 

If you’re interested in reading more about typical Cypriot food, take a look here

The National drink of Cyprus is a Brandy sour

Cyprus’s national drink is a popular cocktail called ‘Brandy Sour,’ which consists of lemon squash, Cypriot brandy, Angostura Bitters and Soda water.

Use Cypriot Brandy such as Keo Five Kings, and for each drink, use the following amounts.

Ingredients

  1. 1 or 2 measures of Cyprus Brandy depending on taste
  2. 1 measure of Cyprus lemon squash (again add to taste)
  3. A few drops of Angostura Bitters
  4. Soda water or lemonade
  5. Ice cubes
  6. Fresh lemon to decorate

Top with ice cubes and a slice of lemon for decoration.

Hala Sultan Tekke (mosque): the fourth most important Muslim shrine in the world.

Situated on Larnaca Salt Lake’s west bank in Cyprus is the fourth most important mosque for Muslims after Mekka, Medina and Jerusalem. This is where the Prophet Mohammad’s aunt and companion, Umm Haram, died after she fell off the mule she was riding. 

Hala Sultan Tekke mosque in cyprus

Famous People of Cypriot descent

Peter Andre (born Peter James Andrea)

is a famous English singer, songwriter, businessman, and television personality born in London who is of Greek Cypriot descent.

George Michael: Born Georgios Kyriacos Panagiòtou.

If you grew up in the 80’s you probably know George Michael, the famous pop singer made famous for singing in the 80’s group WHAM.  George Michael’s father is a Greek Cypriot making him half Cypriot. 

George Michael was British but his father was Cypriot descent which makes George Half Cypriot

Stelios Haji-Ioannou: Founder of EasyJet Airlines

Stelios is a Greek Cypriot who founded Easy Jet at the age of 28. He is one of a handful of Cyprus billionaires.

Easy Jet Founder of Cypriot descent

 

It’s illegal to eat or drink while driving in Cyprus.

Don’t even think about taking a sip of water or a bite of your croissant while driving in Cyprus. It’s prohibited, and if you’re caught, you could get a fine. 

Other driving rules are: 

  • No smoking in a car with a person under 16 years.
  • No speaking on a mobile phone while driving.
  •  You may not use your car horn between 10 pm and 6 a.m. or near hospitals. 

illegal to eat or drink while driving in Cyprus

There are more stray cats than residents in Cyprus.

Legend has it, hundreds of years ago, Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great introduced cats to control the snakes and vermin which infested the area.

The cats did their job, and now it’s estimated that the stray cat population is a staggering 1.5 million and outnumber humans.

Cat shelters are overwhelmed; however, many towns have their own “cat ladies,” women who feed the local cat population and often pay for vet bills out of their own pockets. 

stray cat outnumber citizens cyprus

The Malcolm Cat Sanctuary

St. Nicholas of the cats is a holy monastery on the Island of Cyprus known as a sacred cat haven. hundreds of cats roaming the monastery, all cared for by nuns through donations and a special grant from the Cypriot government.  (warning, many of the cats are supposedly very scrawny looking and not well looked after).

Malcolm Cat Sanctuary is another place that cares for cats. 

If you go to either of these places, please be sure to bring plenty of treats and plenty of love because the cats love to be pet and fed. You can also donate by visiting their website www.malcolmcat.org.

Ancient Tombs and Archaeological Sites

Cyprus is an archaeologist’s dream come true. Every year archaeologists from around the world visit the island, hoping to uncover stories of lives from the past and discover new secrets of an ancient civilization.

You don’t need to be a historian or archaeologist to enjoy or imagine how the ancient people of Cyprus and Romans lived. There are plenty of places for the average person to visit.

Evidence of the oldest domesticated cat was found in Cyprus.

evidence of the first domesticated cats were found in Cyprus

In 2004, French archaeologists discovered human and cat skeletons that were buried together in an ancient gravesite. The bones were around 9500 years old from the Neolithic period. 

According to a story in National Geographic, it was believed that cats were domesticated in Ancient Egypt. These new findings make a strong case that cats had a special place in the daily lives and the afterlives much earlier than we first thought. 

Tombs of the kings

tombs of kings in Cyprus

Archaeological site “Tombs of the kings” is an underground tomb carved out of SOLID ROCK, which dates back to the 4th century is one of many archaeological sites you can visit.

Many of these places are on rough terrain in isolated areas, so be prepared to walk and wear comfortable shoes.

House of Dionysus

The entire town of Paphos is a UNESCO world heritage site. 

Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Paphos, the House of Dionysus dates back to the end of the 2nd century and occupies 2000 square metres.

This restored Greco / Roman villa’s main attractions are the mosaic floors decorated with mythological, vintage and hunting scenes, which account for over 500 metres in the villa. 

The worlds oldest perfume found in Cyprus

Although France is known for perfume, the French didn’t invent it. 

Around 2003, a team of Italian archaeologists unearthed the world’s oldest perfumes and perfume bottles to date. The Italian archaeologist also discovered evidence of an enormous factory that existed over 4,000 years ago. The sheer size of these perfumeries indicates that perfume manufacturing was on an industrial scale.

At least 60 stills, mixing bowls, funnels and perfume bottles were perfectly preserved at the site, which had been covered with earth after a violent earthquake around 1850BC.  The finds are now on display at the Capitoline Museum in Rome, along with several modern re-creations of the old scents.

Archaeologists say that the original perfumes were a mixture of olive oils and essential oils gathered from herbs, flowers, and extracts of lavender, bay, rosemary, pine or coriander and kept in tiny translucent alabaster bottles.

Today you can find perfumes created using similar ingredients as the original perfumes in the Ayia Napa markets in Cyprus.  I hear the smell is very strong.

You can also visit the Perfume them park museum

You can ski on Mount Olympus.

The highest ski resort has an altitude of 1,951 metres (Troodos – Mount Olympos).

Mount Olympus exists on the island of Cyprus as a physical mountain and a metaphorical place. Greek and Roman mythology imagined it as the home of their 12 primary gods and goddesses, and throughout history, several peaks in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus have been named Olympus.

ski Mount Olympus in Cyprus

 

Too many beautiful Beaches to mention

cyprus-beaches

If Greek mythology, cats or archaeological digs are not your “cup of tea,” there are, of course, miles and miles of beautiful beaches with clear blue water and golden sand that are just waiting to be explored by you. 

Here are a handful of beaches. 

  1. Blue Lagoon Akamas
  2. Coral Bay
  3. Episkopi (popular with kitesurfers)
  4. Fig Tree Bay
  5. Golden Beach (virtually untouched beach)
  6. Green Bay (a somewhat secluded hidden gem)
  7. Konnos Bay
  8. Kourion Beach (near restaurants, facilities)
  9. Latchi
  10. Landa Beach (near Nissi beach but away from the party atmosphere)
  11. Lara Bay
  12. Mackenzie Beach (near snack bars)
  13. Makronissos Beach
  14. Nissi Beach (popular, sometimes crowded but beautiful with restaurants nearby)
  15. Akti Olympion

CITIZENSHIP BY INVESTMENT CYPRUS

Finally, if Cyprus looks like a place you want to live in, you can buy citizenship. 

All you have to do is purchase real estate totalling 2 million Euros and donate around 100k Euros to the Government’s Research and Development fund and another 100k to the Land Development Organisation. Supposedly, it takes just a few months to get your new golden passport. 

Since Cyprus is part of the EU, you’ll also have the freedom to work, travel, study and live anywhere within the EU, including countries such as France, Germany, Spain and many more. 

Don’t have 2 million lying around? There are other ways to get a passport from other EU countries

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  1. Cool, great post about Cyprus – would like to check it out sometime, but not if the government is going to take 10% of my savings ;P

  2. I’m glad I read this. With so much information about Cyprus’s financial crisis going on, it’s good to round things out and show a fun side to the island.

    The thing that most caught my eye was the sacred cat haven. I love cats. It actually reminds me a little of Morocco. There were cats everywhere!

    By the way, are there really people who think Cyprus is a part of the middle east? The two halves are Greek and Turkish. Neither of those countries are in the middle east. Ok, maybe I should set my geography nerdness aside.

    Anyway, it looks like a beautiful place to visit. The beaches and culture would be fun to see and you just highlight that here.

    1. Hi Steve,
      The financial crisis is what brought Cyprus to my attention. I had no idea how wonderful and interesting a place it is. Too bad we only see the bad news or shocking news when it comes to certain countries.

    2. And yes, some people think Cyprus is in the middle east. I think it’s because Geographically it’s closer to the middle east and in all fairness, Cyprus is a relatively new member of the EU.

  3. Hi Annie, your post made for interesting reading and you are perfectly correct I am sure Cyprus would not have been high on the priority list for many people. But I have always loved to try something different when traveling and you have whetted my appetite now, so I’m going to do a bit more exploring about Cyprus, and who knows I might get to pay a visit soon.

  4. Hi Annie,

    I don’t think you’ve forgotten anything there. I’ve never been to Cyprus, but of course heard of it.

    I love cats but I would hate to see cats not well looked after, that would make me so sad.

    The food really looks great. I don’t like all of the Greek food, but most of it.

    This is a great place for those who enjoy history and archaeology.

    Thanks for this trip to Cyprus.

    1. Hi sylviane,
      I understand what you mean about certain greek foods but the food of cyprus is so much more than just greek food. it actually has influences from many of the surrounding areas including Africa and the middle east.

  5. with every your post you open a new world to me. I certainly knew that Ciprys could be a good place to visit but now I’m pretty sure) Thanks for sharing the info!

  6. You find the coolest places Annie, I’ve never heard of this island.

    Now what I found the funniest is that you mentioned the place is overrun with cats and that they must have been brought over. Then they find the oldest set of bones dating back over 9,500 years of a cat buried next to it’s owner. Wow, that’s so cool. I know, I’m weird that of all things I’m pointing that out.

    Okay, the tombs and the perfume scents are cool too.

    Neat find!

    ~Adrienne

    1. One of the benefits of living over here in Europe is that I get exposed daily to new places that many people in North America never come in contact with. Cyprus is actually a very popular vacation spot especially and pretty affordable.
      And yeah, those cats, wow!!

  7. Awesome Annie!

    What a lovely description about Cyprus and it’s a place that any of us would visiting, especially after reading all that you wrote about it. :)

    So many cats! I guess my kids would have gone wild seeing so many of them, and not to mention the perfumes too. Ah…great looking men and I didn’t know George Michael was from there too. Their food too looks like something like ours – spicy I guess. No wonder they call it the playground of the Gods!

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a nice day ahead :)

    1. Harleena,
      I was thrown off by the cats too. And surprisingly enough, spicy food is not really part of the Cyprus diet which I find odd considering it’s location.

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