Why Ayia Napa?
The Cyprus Mystique

The very name Cyprus, it has been said, shimmers with an ages-old mystique. Today, history and hedonism are comfortably intertwined on the island. Ravishing five-star resorts within walking distance of well-preserved Greek and Roman ruins offer every amenity the modern traveller has come to expect and more, from knock-out pools, gardens and beachfronts to state of the art thalassotherapy health spas. One of the most impressive archaeological sites, the ancient city kingdom of Kourion, overlooks a magnificent stretch of beaches with a sparkling blue sea beyond. Along the islands sun-kissed coastline., from Agia Napa in the east to Pafos in the west, world-class beach resorts alternate with settings untouched since antiquity.

Venture away from the sybaritic shore - if you can bring yourself to - and succumb to the slow, seductive rhythms of the interior. There are old wine-producing villages with atmospheric winding streets and terraced vineyards. You can often stay the night for a song in cozy renovated traditional houses, part of the Cyprus agrotourism programme. Explore Greek Orthodox churches nestled in the hills whose walls conceal vibrantly painted Byzantine frescoes. Many are found among the pine-covered peaks of the Troodos, where a sublime silence can dissolve all sense of time, not to mention stress.

Love Goddesses and Sacred Mountains

Along the route that leads from the port city of Lemesos (Limassol) to Pafos, the roadway opens up to reveal a magnificent stretch of coastline where chalky white cliffs stand watch over a dazzling aquamarine sea. Here sun worshippers make detours for a picnic and a swim at Petra tou Romiou, a boulder that marks the spot where Aphrodite emerged from the sea foam in ancient times. In the Akamas region, hikers exploring the area\'s rich flora can cool off at the grotto where the love goddess bathed after her amorous interludes.

Throughout Cyprus, the typically Mediterranean landscape is still blessed with the timeless beauty of antiquity. There are crusader fortresses framed by tall cypress trees, Greco-Roman theatres carved out of cliffs and Byzantine monasteries perched improbably on mountaintops. Sophisticated cities successfully balance the ancient and modern. The capital, Lefkosia (Nicosia), is surrounded by Venetian walls with heart-shaped bastions; Larnaka, site of the major international airport, is also home to St. Lazarus Church and the crypt of the eponymous saint resurrected by Christ. Near the animated harbor at Pafos are the Roman floor mosaics of the Houses of Aion, Achilles and Dionysus, their depictions of mythological scenes amazingly well preserved.

All Eyes on Cyprus

The Cyprus mystique is as much a product of its legendary beauty as it is of millennia of competing empires, all unable to resist the islands strategic allure of the island. The perfect location, of course, never goes out of style. Nestled into the eastern Mediterranean Sea and a veritable crossroads of three continents, Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and an ideal starting point for the discovery of other exotic locales such as the Greek Islands, Egypt and the Middle East - in fact, mini-cruises set off for these places from Cyprus almost every day. But close as Cyprus may be to the worlds center stage, it is a distinctive place that can feel blissfully apart from it all.

Abundant copper in antiquity put small Cyprus on the map. In fact Cyprus (Kypros in Greek) gave copper its latin name: cuprum. In the late Bronze Age, Mycenaen Greeks settled on Cyprus and established trade links with Egypt and the Aegean islands. This is also the period when ceramic art first flourished. As centuries drifted by, the island came variously under Persian, Assyrian, Egyptian, and Roman rule. It was during the latter era that Marc Antony, enraptured by the islands sweet wines, gave Cyprus as a gift to his lover, the matchless Cleopatra. After a long period of Byzantine domination, European awareness of Cyprus surged with the Crusades. In 1191 a fierce sea storm led Richard the Lionheart to put his ship into port at Lemesos. He claimed the island as his own.

From 1489 to 1571 the flag of Venice flew in Cyprus, until which time the Ottoman Turks moved in. That era ended in 1878 when Cyprus became part of the British Empire. Despite a turbulent past, or perhaps because of it, the Cypriots themselves are a resilient people. They have always remained a distinct culture - different even from their closest cousins, the Greeks - and retained their unique character. The Republic of Cyprus achieved independence in 1960 and is now in line to join the European Union.

From independent travellers to honeymooners, archaeology aficionados to friends of nature, every visitor to Cyprus finds the island offers layer upon layer of discovery. Food lovers delight in farm-fresh halloumi cheese and delectable meze, the local specialty appetizers that mix Western ingredients with Eastern zest. Travellers on business appreciate the fine conference facilities and warm, professional service at more than 64 hotels and resorts, and like incentive groups value the proximity of the beach. And that golden Old World sunshine - there are generally 300-plus sunny days per year - is something few can resist. Add it all up and you have an ideally-situated island that truly has no equal. A place that measures up to its mystique: Cyprus.

Cyprus: The Cruise Centre of the Eastern Mediterranean

Before the armies of Alexander the Great made their famous thrusts east toward lands unconquered, their ships called into port at Cyprus to be readied and refitted. The same strategic location, at the crossroads of three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa, that made Cyprus a crucial starting point for Alexanders expanding empire makes the island a desirable centre today for a calmer kind of maritime activity: cruising. Whether for a cruise that originates there, as a port of call or a fly and cruise option, today Cyprus is among the premier cruising destinations in the Mediterranean.

As the easternmost island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus is a natural point of departure for exploring this amazingly diverse region. Throughout the year locally based cruise lines help locals and tourist alike get a first hand perspective of the splendors of ancient Egypt, major attractions in Israel and Lebanon and, of course, the Greek Islands. Every year there are around 800 such mini-cruises leaving from the port of Limassol (Lemesos), one of the leading cruise ports in the Mediterranean, carrying around 250,000 passengers.

Port of History and Civilisation

Many international cruise ships utilize Cyprus as a major port of call on their international European and Mediterranean itineraries. Every year more than 30 of the finest international cruise ships make more than 80 calls at the ports of Limassol and Larnaka carrying in excess of 100,000 passengers to visit the major attractions of Cyprus.

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