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.

Northern Cyprus: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Northern Cyprus.

  • Northern Cyprus is the name given to that part of the island of Cyprus occupied by Turkey. Turkey occupied the northern part of the island in 1974, following an invasion.
  • Almost no other country recognizes Northern Cyprus as its own country. Ongoing attempts by Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus to resolve the dispute have been unsuccessful.

  • Northern Cyprus occupies about 40 percent of the island, and has a population of about 300,000. Its capital is North Nicosia, the northern section of the city of Nicosia.

Flag of Northern Cyprus

  • Nicosia’s Selimiye Mosque took 150 years to build and parts of it date from the 12th century. Other landmarks in Nicosia include the 500 year old Turkish baths and the Bandabulya bazaar.
  • Northern Cyprus is known as the Island of Sun and enjoys about 340 sunny days every year. The country has been voted one of the healthiest destinations in Europe.
  • The beautiful and rugged Karpaz Peninsula is one of the island’s most scenic spots. It is home to several rare animal and plant species, as well as about 500 wild donkeys.
  • Famagusta is an ancient city, almost completely enclosed by thick stone walls. St. Paul once preached nearby and the city once had 365 churches, one for every day of the year.
  • Near Famagusta are the ruins of the Roman city of Salamis. The site has the island’s largest ampitheatre, which could seat 15,000 people, as well as baths, villas and temples.
  • Northern Cyprus was once a major centre of silk production, exporting it as far as the Middle East. Some older residents still make silk, and a silk festival takes place each summer.
  • The flag of Northern Cyprus is based on the flag of Turkey, with the colours reversed.
  • A 420 metre wide painted flag can be seen on the Kyrenia Mountains.