An island in the far eastern Mediterranean Sea, below Turkey and to the west of Syria, Cyprus is is actually two countries - the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (recognised only by Turkey) and the southern Republic of Cyprus. There are two large mountain ranges on the island: the Kyrenian Range in North Cyprus and the Troödos Massif in the centre of the Republic. The northern mountains are mainly limestone, the southern are volcanic rock. These ranges are separated by the Mesaoria Plain.
Cyprus has always been an island, and many Cypriot species, particularly plants, are found nowhere else in the world. There are three main habitats in Cyprus: the mountain ranges, the coastal plains and the cultivated lands. The coastal plains are irrigated by seasonal streams, and some support citrus orchards, but native flora and fauna have been largely displaced by tourism. The best areas to see wildlife are the mountainous areas of the island and the Akamas Peninsula (which, although not a national park, has been managed for conservation). The North, being less touristed, also has a larger population of native flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for griffon vultures, foxes, fruit-eating bats, sea turtles and moufflon, a wild sheep endemic to Cyprus.
The Cypriot climate is typically Mediterranean, with very hot summers in July and August. Most of the year is dry, with unpredictable rains falling in December, January and February. Cyprus often suffers drought years, and water is such a scarce commodity that it is often rationed.
Total area includes 3355 sq km in North Cyprus.
771,657 (July 2003 est.)
9,250 sq km (of which 3,355 sq km are in the Turkish Cypriot area)
Greek 85.2%, Turkish 11.6%, other 3.2% (2000)
Greek, Turkish, English
Greek Orthodox 78%, Muslim 18%, Maronite, Armenian Apostolic, and other 4%
This is the mountainous area of Larnaka district, characterized by white earth dotted with olives and carobs. The low undulating hills hide picturesque villages for the discerning traveler to discover. They include Lefkara, Kato Drys, Lageia, Ora, Odou, Agioi Vavatsinias and Vavatsinia.
The largest and probably the best known is Lefkara, famous for its local face and its filigree silverware. Divided into Upper (Pano) and Lower (Kato) Lefkara, is an architecturally protected village with picturesque houses with stone walls, red tiled roofs and inner courtyards.
Of the different types of traditional embroidery in Cyprus, Lefkara lace is the most famous with a world-wide reputation. This form of needlework has survived and flourished in almost its original form from the period of Venetian rule of Cyprus in the 16th century and is made primarily in the village of Lefkara, which was the principal summer resort of wealthy Venetians. The lace is made using mercerized cotton thread and with a technique that involves counting the threads of the fabric, resulting in strictly geometrical shapes. Sights include the Museum of Traditional Embroidery Silver-smithing, housed in a beautiful old house (Patsalos Residence), whose exhibits include some exquisite examples of the lace for which the village is famous, and the Church of Archangel Michael in Kato Lefkara, a single-domed 12th century Byzantine church with frescoes.
Elsewhere the Rural Museum at nearby Kato Drys village, notable for its local architecture, is well worth a visit. A little further the convent of Agios Minas has a dominant position over the area, with castle like architecture; its nuns specialize in icon painting. Continue driving through the hills to discover an area off the beaten track with villages which have kept their traditional charm. The region is ideal for mountain biking and for angling in the Lefkara dam.
The area also has small hotels and agrotourism establishments for overnight stays and a number of good restaurants.