Cyprus, officially the Republic of Cyprus, is a small island nation in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. For a country of its size, Cyprus sure packs in a lot. Within its borders, you’ll find splashing mountain streams, shady forests, ancient ruins, secluded mountain monasteries, and quaint stone villages virtually untouched by time. Here are some interesting facts about Cyprus.
Facts about Cyprus
1. Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia, both of which belong to Italy. It is located south of Turkey, west of Syria and Lebanon, northwest of Israel and Palestine, north of Egypt, and east of Greece. Cyprus has a total area of 9,251 km² (3,572 sq mi), which makes it roughly one-third the size of the US state of Massachusetts.
2. Cyprus has a 648 km (403 mi) long coastline.
Along Cyprus’s 648 km (403 mi) long coastline, you’ll find plenty of pristine beaches.
3. Throughout its long history, Cyprus has been ruled by a succession of empires.
Due to its strategic location at the crossroads of the eastern Mediterranean and rich natural resources, Cyprus has long been coveted by surrounding lands. Cyprus has been ruled in turn by the Mycenaeans, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Persians, Ptolemies, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Franks, Venetians, and Turks.
The biggest change in local island culture came about in 1200 BC with the arrival of the Mycenaeans from Peloponnese Greece. The Mycenaeans were the first Greeks to settle on the island and introduced Greek language, customs, art, gods, and culture. Cyprus was then subsequently ruled by Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, and the Persians.
In the 4th century BC, after Alexander the Great released Cyprus from the Persians, it remained part of the Greek-Egyptian kingdom until the 1st century BC when the Romans conquered Cyprus. Roman rule lasted in Cyprus until the end of the 4th century AD when the Byzantines took over Cyprus.
For almost 300 years from the end of the 12th century to the end of the 15th century, Cyprus was under the rule of the Franks or Lusignans. Cyprus was then ceded to the Venetians, who, despite building heavy fortifications around the island’s major cities were not able to stop an Ottoman onslaught in 1571. Cyprus remained under Ottoman rule until 1878.
4. The word “copper” is derived from Cyprus.
One of the most intriguing facts about Cyprus is that the country lent its name to the metal “copper”. In the Bronze and Iron Ages, Cyprus was the largest producer and exporter of copper in the Mediterranean. Copper got its name from the Romans, who called it the “ore of Cyprus” since Cyprus supplied almost all Rome’s copper.
The word copper comes from the Latin ‘Cyprium aes’, meaning ‘Cyprus metal’, since the island of Cyprus was where copper was mined. The Romans soon shortened that to cyprium and later corrupted it to ‘cuprum’ and eventually it was anglicized to “copper”.
5. Cyprus is a former British colony.
In 1878, the Ottomans ceded the occupation and administrative rights of Cyprus to Britain. This relationship was cemented by the Cyprus Convention, whereby the Ottoman Empire granted administrative control of Cyprus to Britain though the island would continue to be a Turkish possession, in return for Britain protecting the Ottoman Empire against possible Russian aggression.
Britain formally annexed Cyprus. following Ottoman Turkey’s 1914 entry into World War I as one of the Central Powers. The island officially became a British colony in 1925. British rule saw the introduction of the English justice system and the development of infrastructure.
6. Cyprus gained independence in 1960.
On 16 August 1960, Cyprus attained independence from the United Kingdom. However, the UK still retains the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, British Overseas Territories which cover approximately 3% of the land area of Cyprus.
7. A person from Cyprus is called a Cypriot.
Cypriots can be divided into two main ethnic groups, Greek and Turkish. The Greek Cypriots, who constitute around 75-80% of the Cypriot population, are descendants of the aboriginal inhabitants and immigrants from the Peloponnese Greeks who colonized Cyprus in the 12th century BC and assimilated subsequent settlers up to the 16th century.
Roughly 20% of the Cypriot population are Turkish Cypriots, descendants of the soldiers of the Ottoman army that conquered the island in 1571 and subsequent immigrants from Anatolia who came during Ottoman rule. There are also small communities of Maronite Cypriots and Armenian Cypriots.
8. Cyprus has been divided since 1974.
The long-dormant rivalry between Cyprus’s two principal ethnic groups was reawakened after World War II, Greek Cypriots pressed for énosis (unification with Greece), which was strongly opposed by the Turkish minority. The Turkish minority favored taksim (partition of the island between Greece and Turkey), which was strongly opposed by the Greek majority. When Cyprus gained independence in 1960, its constitution explicitly forbade énosis or taksim.
Disputes over the proper civic roles of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, and lingering advocacy of énosis, or taksim by extremists in each camp, provoked animosity, resulting in communal violence. On 15 July 1974, the Greek military junta carried out a coup d’état in Cyprus, to unite the island with Greece. The coup triggered an invasion of the island by the Turkish army five days later. The Turkish forces seized the northern half of Cyprus, which effectively partitioned the island.
International pressure soon led to a ceasefire that resulted in Greek and Turkish Cypriots caught on the “wrong” side of the ceasefire line compelled to leave their homes. In November 1983, the Turks in the north unilaterally declared the independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is recognized only in Turkey. The Republic of Cyprus has de jure sovereignty over the entire island.
The Republic of Cyprus occupies the southern two-thirds of the island (60%) while the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus occupies the northern third (35%). The “Green Line” buffer zone still divides the Turkish-occupied North from the South and continues to be patrolled by UN troops.
9. The capital of Cyprus is Nicosia.
Nicosia is the world’s only divided capital city, with the northern half of the city being under the de facto control of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Nicosia is also the largest city in Cyprus and the nation’s financial hub.
10. The highest point in Cyprus is Mount Olympus.
Located in the center of the Troodos Mountain range, Mount Olympus is the tallest mountain in Cyprus rising to an elevation of 1,952 m (6,404 ft).
11. Cyprus has two official languages.
Greek and Turkish are the two official languages of Cyprus. However, the spoken language of Greek Cypriots is Cypriot Greek and that of Turkish Cypriots is Cypriot Turkish. Both Cypriot Turkish and Cypriot Greek differ from Standard Turkish and Standard Greek significantly.
Armenian and Cypriot Maronite Arabic are recognized as minority languages. Although English doesn’t have official status, it is widely spoken throughout Cyprus.
12. Cyprus is not part of the Schengen Area.
Although Cyprus became a member of the European Union (EU) in 2004, it is not part of the Schengen Area due to the complicated situation with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
13. Cyprus drives on the left.
One of the interesting facts about Cyprus is that it is one of three countries in the European Union (EU) where vehicles keep to the left side of the road. The other two countries are Ireland and Malta.
14. Christianity is the dominant religion in Cyprus.
About 75-80% of Cypriots follow Christianity. The majority of Greek Cypriots are
devoutly Greek Orthodox. About 15-20% of the population practices Islam, almost all of whom are Turkish Cypriots. The remainder of the population adheres to other religious denominations or is irreligious.
15. There are no operational railways in Cyprus.
From October 1905 to December 1951, Cyprus did have an operational railway line. However, it was closed down due to financial reasons.
16. The official currency of Cyprus is the Euro (EUR).
Cyprus adopted the Euro in 2008 when it joined the Eurozone. Before the Euro, the Cypriot Pound was the official currency of Cyprus. In the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the Turkish lira is the official currency. However, the euro is widely used there.
17. The oldest record of a cat’s association with humans comes from Cyprus.
This is one of the most fascinating Cyprus facts. In 2004, French archaeologists found the remains of a person buried with a cat at the Neolithic village of Shillourokambos in Cyprus. Dating back about 9,500 years, these are the oldest-known remains of the much-beloved feline. This predates early Egyptian art depicting cats by 4,000 years or more and throws open the debate about when and where exactly cats were first domesticated.
18. Cyprus is one of only two nations to include its map on its national flag.
The national flag of Cyprus features an outline of the island of Cyprus above twin olive branches on a white field. The flag’s design makes Cyprus one of only two countries (the other being the partially-recognized state of Kosovo) to include its map on its national flag.
The copper-orange color of the map symbolizes the once-famous copper deposits on Cyprus while the white color in the flag’s background represents peace. The two crossed green olive branches signify the hope for peace and reconciliation between the Greek and Turkish communities residing on the island.
19. Cyprus is home to the most southerly ski slopes in the European Union.
One of the most surprising facts about Cyprus is that European Union’s southernmost ski slopes can be found in the Troodos Mountains, located in the center of the country. The snowfall here is difficult to predict but usually, it occurs from January to March.
20. Cyprus is the only foreign venue where an English Royal Wedding has been hosted.
On 12 May 1191 King Richard the Lionheart married Queen Joanna at Limassol Castle in Cyprus. This occasion marked the only time that a foreign venue has hosted an English Royal Wedding.
21. Cyprus is home to the world’s oldest wine in continuous production.
According to Guinness World Records, Commandaria is recognized as the world’s oldest wine in continuous production. This sweet dessert wine has been grown in Cyprus for over 5,000 years but is originally believed to have been given its name by crusading knights in the 13th century. Legend has it that King Richard the Lionheart was so besotted with Commandaria that he called it ‘the wine of kings’.
22. The national animal of Cyprus is the mouflon.
The mouflon is a kind of wild sheep that roams free in the extensive forests of the western Troodos Mountains. Mouflons are normally red to brown in color on the backside of the body and have a white coloring on the belly and lower parts of the legs. They are famous for their distinctive spiral horns.
23. The popular Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus.
Halloumi cheese was invented as early as the medieval Byzantine period and the first certification of the cheese can be found in a 14th-century Egyptian cookbook. Halloumi cheese is traditionally made from either sheep milk or goat milk or a mixture of both, but cow milk is nowadays commonly used for production.
24. The world’s oldest perfumes were found in Cyprus.
One of the most obscure facts about Cyprus is that the world’s oldest known perfumes were found in the country by archaeologists in the mid-2000s. The scents were discovered in an impressively large perfume factory from the Bronze Age.
Lab experts were able to break down the composition of the fragrance contained in alabaster jars. The perfumes were scented with extracts of lavender, rosemary, bay, pine, almond, bergamot, anise, parsley, and coriander.
25. Football is the most popular sport in Cyprus.
Like in most of Europe, football is the most popular sport in Cyprus. Unfortunately, the country’s men’s national football team has tasted very little success at the international level and has never even qualified for the FIFA World Cup or even the UEFA European Football Championship.
26. Cyprus had to wait until 2012 to win its first Olympic medal.
Although Cyprus has sent athletes to every Olympic Games (both Summer and Winter) since 1980, Cyprus had to wait until 2012 to win its first Olympic medal. The nation earned its first Olympic medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London when Pavlos Kontides earned a silver medal in the men’s laser sailing event. No athlete from Cyprus has a medal since.
27. There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Cyprus.
The three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Cyprus are Choirokoitia, the Painted Churches in the Troodos Region, and the town of Paphos.
28. Cyprus shares its national anthem with Greece.
One of the most unique facts about Cyprus is that it doesn’t have its own separate national anthem. It shares its national anthem, “Hymn to Liberty”, with Greece. “Hymn to Liberty” is also the longest national anthem in the world by length of text.
29. Cyprus has produced one Nobel Prize winner.
Cypriot economist Sir Christopher A. Pissarides won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economics.
30. Aphrodite was born in Cyprus.
Legend has it that Aphrodite — the Ancient Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty was born of sea foam at ‘Petra tou Romiou’ rock formation in Paphos.