Cyprus © Krzysztof Belczynski
There is a great deal packed into a small space on the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. Not only does it abound with good beaches and holiday resorts, but its relatively tiny landmass is riddled with the relics of ancient history, from the beehive huts of primitive man to classical Greek and Roman ruins, and everything imaginable in-between.
A thousand years is but a blip in time in the long history of Cyprus, but it was that long ago that the city of Nicosia (also known as Lefkosia) became its capital. Today Nicosia is unique in Europe because it is divided by the 'green line' that bisects the whole island, dividing north from south. The line, which serves as a United Nations peacekeeping buffer, was drawn in 1974, when the Turks invaded and took over the north. Most of the tourism development since then has taken place in the southern Government-controlled sector, and the political divide, even in Nicosia itself, has not dampened the island's appeal as a major holiday destination.
The charms of Cyprus are many and varied. For a start the weather is sunny and dry for most of the year, and the encircling sea is blue, clear and enticing. There are modern luxury hotels in the coastal resort towns, historic restored city precincts to explore, tavernas and nightlife aplenty. Cyprus has remote and picturesque mountain villages and monasteries, beautiful churches, Crusader castles and fascinating museums. The local people are extremely welcoming of tourists, happy to share with them their innate love of life and camaraderie. In Cyprus it is possible to mingle with crowds, or seek isolation off the beaten track as the mood takes you, even in peak holiday season. For this reason the island is also a favoured destination for honeymooners, a reputation enhanced by the fact that legend has it that Cyprus was where Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, rose from the sea.