NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Dramatic mountain scenery, a rich treasury of
ancient sites, a Mediterranean shoreline dotted with appealing,
deluxe resorts and affordable prices are some of the attractions
that marketers of travel to Cyprus promote.
Although the North American market still makes up a small
percentage of the more than 2 million visitors to Cyprus annually,
the numbers are climbing with the substantial increase in tour
operators that now offer value-packed vacation programs to Cyprus.
A few escorted tours encourage travelers to retrace the footsteps
of figures as diverse as St. Paul, Alexander the Great and Leonardo
Further tourist growth is coming from cruise passengers as major
ship lines have added the port of Limassol to their routings, and
the island's location in the eastern Mediterranean makes it a
natural add-on destination to trips to Israel, Egypt or the Greek
islands. Neophytos Christodoulou is the new director of the Cyprus
Tourism Organization in the U.S. He said there is considerable work
to be done in educating the trade and the consumer about
"Everyone seems to know where Turkey and Greece are. In fact
some seem to think we're another Greek island," said Christodoulou,
as he pointed out that Eastern influences in the culture -- from
Syria, Egypt and Persia -- make Cyprus "different, not exotic."
The people of the Republic of Cyprus speak Greek, or at least
most of them do, as the republic does not include northern Cyprus
(37% of the island), which is occupied by Turkey. A U.N. buffer
zone separates Cyprus from the Turkish-controlled north, and
tourists staying in the Republic of Cyprus can enter the northern
zone for day trips only.
The city of Limassol, 60 miles west of Larnaca, is part seaside
resort and part commercial center.
Other than its sandy beaches, the main attraction is Limassol
Castle, where Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre
and proclaimed her Queen of England. Outside of town, travelers
climb the steep steps of the beautifully restored Greco-Roman
amphitheater at Kourion, established in 1595 B.C. and one of the
most spectacular archaeological sites in Cyprus.
Paphos, 50 miles from Limassol, is a town rich in Hellenistic
and Roman remains, an official member of the Unesco list of
Cultural Heritage Sites. Essential attractions are the Paphos
mosaics that cover floors of what once were second- to fourth
century villas, as well as the Tombs of the Kings in eight massive
underground complexes. But seeing essential Paphos also means
visiting the Archaeological Museum, monasteries and churches.
The Troodos Mountains are dotted with remarkable painted
Byzantine churches, nine of which have been listed by Unesco as
World Cultural monuments. The most famous are Kykkos and
Trooditissa, heralded for their icons, frescoes and inspiring
architecture. Easily reached from Limassol or Paphos, the Troodos
are popular with bird-watchers, mountain bikers and hikers.
Larnaca, the main airline gateway to Cyprus, has one of the
island's most cherished sites: the church of St. Lazarus.
Additionally there are two wonderful museums: the Larnaka District
Archaeological and the Pierides Foundation; both contain
exceptional examples of Mediterranean art.
For information, contact the Cyprus Tourist Organization at