Though it is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and technically a part of Europe, Cyprus is much closer to the southern coast of Turkey and the western coast of Syria than to the other Mediterranean countries.
This country of 1.141 million people has been a center of controversy due mostly to the troubles between the majority Greek and minority Turkish populations, as well as Greece and Turkey's frequent interference in the island's politics.
However, tensions have eased considerably in recent years, leading to a huge tourist influx to the island. Visitors are attracted to the country's beaches and nightlife, laid-back atmosphere, friendly and hospitable population, as well as the island's unique history and culture, shaped by many different ethnic groups and empires over the years.
As the 81st largest island in the world by area (9,251 km2), Cyprus has no land borders, but its closest neighbors are Turkey to the north, Egypt to the south, Greece to the west, and Syria and Lebanon to the east. The island is 240 kilometers (149 miles) long and 100 kilometers (62 miles) wide.
Cyprus' geography is mostly defined by its two major mountain ranges, the Troodos Mountains that cover a majority of the southern and western parts of the island and make up almost half of the area of Cyprus, and the smaller and lower Kyrenia Mountains, which run along the northern coast. A large plain area known as the Mesaoria separates the two mountain ranges.
The Troodos Mountains stretch from Pomos Point in the northwest to Larnaca Bay in the east, and are quite rugged in appearance with several subordinate ranges and steep-sided valleys to be found. The highest point of the island, Mount Olympus, is part of the Troodos range and stands at 6,404 feet (1,952 meters).
Though the Kyrenia range stands at about half the elevation of the Troodos range, its sloped are much more jagged and inaccessible, and thus usually garner more attention from visitors since they at first glance appear more impressive, rising abruptly out of the plains.
As one of the few flat plains on the island, Mesaoria is the agricultural heartland of Cyprus, and the divided capital of Nicosia lies in the center of this large plain.
Problems with drainage have led to an extensive network of dams and waterways dotting the landscape, as year-round access to water would be almost impossible otherwise. Rivers in Cyprus are mostly seasonal, and the major Yialias, Pedieos and Serraghis rivers flow only in winter out of the Troodos Mountains and dry up in summer.
Greek and Turkish are the official languages of Cyprus. 78% of the population (mostly the Greek Cypriots) identify as Christians, while the minority Turkish Cypriots mostly identify as Sunni Muslim.
The official Greek-influenced Republic of Cyprus as recognized by the international community occupies the southern two-thirds of the island. Turkey has claimed the northern third of the island as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, however that claim has not been recognized by anyone except the Turkish government.
Between the Turkish-influenced and Greek-influenced parts of the island lies the United Nations' Green Line, a buffer zone to separate the contested area from the recognized republic.
Additionally, the United Kingdom has two bases on the south part of the island that are technically under British sovereignty, Akrotiri and Dhekelia.
Political divisions aside, there are six districts (major cities and surrounding areas) identified in Cyprus according to the island's 1960 constitution.
Cyprus has a warm and dry Mediterranean climate, with most rainfall occurring in the winter months between November and March. The island has four seasons: the winters are relatively mild and wed, spring and fall are relatively short, and the summer months between May and September are usually hot and dry with little to no rain.
For current weather conditions in Cyprus, refer to www.cyprus-weather.org.
Cyprus is in the Eastern European Time Zone, which is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Cyprus observes daylight savings time between late March and late October.
Located in the northern central part of the island, in the flat Mesaoria plains, Nicosia stands at an average elevation of 149 meters. The city is divided by a Green Line into northern Nicosia, the cultural center of the Turkish Cypriot community, and southern Nicosia, the official capital of the Greek Cypriot community.
Southern Nicosia has a walled city center with Ledra Street as its busiest central avenue. The old city has three gates in its surrounding walls, but modern Nicosia has expanded its borders beyond the gates. The main square is now Eleftheria Square (Freedom Square).
Northern Nicosia also boasts a walled city, with a central square known as Sarayonu Square, at the center of which stands a tall Venetian column. Outside the walled city, northern Nicosia is much more spread out and spacious, with wider avenues and multi-level concrete buildings instead of historic neighborhoods dotted by Byzantine churches and mosques,
Cyprus is not a large country, therefore the climate in Nicosia is pretty much the same Mediterranean climate as on the rest of the island, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Nicosia is technically classified as having a subtropical-hot semi-arid climate, meaning summers will get even hotter than most others parts of the Mediterranean, with temperatures reaching an average high of 36 to 37 degrees Celsius (97 – 98 degrees Fahrenheit) in July.
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