Cyprus: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Cyprus.

  • Cyprus is an island country in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, with a population of about 1.2 million. It is the most populous island in the Mediterranean, and the third largest.
  • About 40 percent of the island is under Turkish control, but is not officially recognized by most countries. The northern part controlled by Turkey is known as North Cyprus or Northern Cyprus.

  • The island’s name may have come from the cypress tree or the Latin name for copper. Cyprus’ flag is one of only two that have a map of the country on it.

Flag of Cyprus

  • Because of its strategic location, the island has been occupied at different times by Greece, Egypt, Persia and the Roman Empire.
  • It was ruled by Britain in 1878, becoming independent in 1960.
  • Britain claimed Cyprus because of its location near the Suez Canal. Britain offered to return Cyprus to Greece if Greece would help them during World War I. Greece refused.
  • People were living on the island as long ago as 10,000 BC and it has some of the world’s oldest water wells. The Neolithic village of Khirokitia is a World Heritage site.
  • Cyprus is often known as the Playground of the Gods. The Greek god of love and beauty, Aphrodite is said to have been born on the island when she stepped from the sea at Paphos.
  • Greek and Turkish are the country’s official languages, although about 90 percent of residents speak English. Many road signs are written in both Greek and English.
  • Nicosia is the capital and largest city, and one of the world’s richest cities. The dividing line between Cyprus and North Cyprus runs along Ledra Street, the main street.
  • The resort town of Paphos has catacombs dating back to the 12th century. It is also known for its monastery carved out of the cliffs, and the 13th century Paphos Castle.