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Cyprus – History, Climate & Hedonism

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It has been said the very name Cyprus, shimmers with an ages-old mystique. Today, history and hedonism are comfortably intertwined on the island. One of the most impressive archaeological sites, the ancient city kingdom of Kourion, overlooks a magnificent stretch of beaches with a sparkling blue sea beyond. Along the island"s sun-kissed coastline, from Agia Napa in the east to Pafos in the west, world-class beach resorts alternate with settings untouched since antiquity.

Explore Greek Orthodox churches located in the hills whose walls conceal vibrantly painted Byzantine frescoes. Many are found among the pine-covered peaks of the Troodos, where a sublime silence can dissolve all sense of time, not to mention stress. There are old wine-producing villages with atmospheric winding streets and terraced vineyards. You can often stay the night for a song in cozy renovated traditional houses, part of the Cyprus agrotourism programme.

All Eyes on Cyprus

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and an ideal starting point for the discovery of other exotic locales such as the Greek Islands, Egypt and the Middle East - in fact, mini-cruises set off for these places from Cyprus almost every day.

From 1489 to 1571 the flag of Venice flew in Cyprus, until which time the Ottoman Turks moved in. That era ended in 1878 when Cyprus became part of the British Empire. Despite a turbulent past, or perhaps because of it, the Cypriots themselves are a resilient people. They have always remained a distinct culture - different even from their closest cousins, the Greeks - and retained their unique character. The Republic of Cyprus achieved independence in 1960 and is now in line to join the European Union.

Abundant copper in antiquity put small Cyprus on the map. In fact Cyprus (Kypros in Greek) gave copper its latin name: cuprum. In the late Bronze Age, Mycenaen Greeks settled on Cyprus and established trade links with Egypt and the Aegean islands. This is also the period when ceramic art first flourished. As centuries drifted by, the island came variously under Persian, Assyrian, Egyptian, and Roman rule. It was during the latter era that Marc Antony, enraptured by the island"s sweet wines, gave Cyprus as a gift to his lover, the matchless Cleopatra. After a long period of Byzantine domination, European awareness of Cyprus surged with the Crusades. In 1191 a fierce sea storm led Richard the Lionheart to put his ship into port at Lemesos. He claimed the island as his own.

Travellers on business appreciate the fine conference facilities and warm, professional service at more than 64 hotels and resorts, and like incentive groups value the proximity of the beach. And that golden Old World sunshine - there are generally 300-plus sunny days per year - is something few can resist. Add it all up and you have an ideally-situated island that truly has no equal. A place that measures up to its mystique: Cyprus.

Love Goddesses and Sacred Mountains

Throughout Cyprus, the typically Mediterranean landscape is still blessed with the timeless beauty of antiquity. There are crusader fortresses framed by tall cypress trees, Greco-Roman theatres carved out of cliffs and Byzantine monasteries perched improbably on mountaintops. The capital, Lefkosia (Nicosia), is surrounded by Venetian walls with heart-shaped bastions; Larnaka, site of the major international airport, is also home to St. Lazarus Church and the crypt of the eponymous saint resurrected by Christ. Near the animated harbour at Pafos is the Roman floor mosaics of the Houses of Aion, Achilles and Dionysus, their depictions of mythological scenes amazingly preserved.

Along the route that leads from the port city of Lemesos (Limassol) to Pafos, the roadway opens up to reveal a magnificent stretch of coastline where chalky white cliffs stand watch over a dazzling aquamarine sea. Here sun worshippers make detours for a picnic and a swim at Petra tou Romiou, a boulder that marks the spot where Aphrodite emerged from the sea foam in ancient times. In the Akamas region, hikers exploring the area"s rich flora can cool off at the grotto where the love goddess bathed after her amorous interludes.