Fun things to do in Cyprus

  • Agios Lazaros Church
    Agios Lazaros Church
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    @ NISSI BEACH
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Cyprus

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    Purchase Local Delicacies to take back Home

    by greekcypriot Written May 3, 2015

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    Be sure to taste and buy some Cypriot products to take back home before your flight.

    The ladies by the Cypriot kiosk dressed in their Cypriot Traditional costumes at the Larnaca Airport offer local delicacies and wish you a safe trip back home.

    Get to the kiosk, talk to the ladies and try what is the offer of the day.
    Products: Soutzouko, carob syrup, zivania, lountza, koumandaria, and so many more products can make an excellent gift for yourselves and friends as well.

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    Safety and Security - Crossing from South to North

    by greekcypriot Updated Feb 11, 2015

    BE SURE TO READ THIS IF YOU PLAN CROSSiING ANY GREEN LINE

    It is possible to travel to the north of Cyprus from the south (and back again), including via the Ledra Palace and Ledra Street checkpoints in central Nicosia where you can cross on foot.

    If you intend to take a hire car to the north, the main crossing in Nicosia is Agios Dometios.
    Cyprus immigration authorities have confirmed that EU passport holders with a ‘TRNC’ stamp in their passport will not experience difficulties when re-entering the south.

    You can take a hired car through some of the checkpoints. Many cars hired in the south are not insured for use in the north so have this in mind.
    Check with your insurance company - you will not be allowed through a crossing without the correct insurance documents.
    At some of the crossing points it is possible to buy car insurance for the north.

    The cost of insurance varies between €18 - €23 maximum for one day, and €25 monthly.

    PURCHASING GOODS

    There are controls on the quantities and types of goods that can be bought in the north and brought into the south, including from the communal village ofPyla in the buffer zone.
    (Pyla is in the outskirts of Larnaca).

    Goods, including cigarettes, may be confiscated at the checkpoint and you may be fined.
    The Republic of Cyprus currently imposes a limit of 40 cigarettes per person on crossing the Green Line from north Cyprus.

    PROPERTY
    Anyone with documents relating to the purchase of property in northern Cyprus when crossing the Green Line could face criminal proceedings.

    Buffer zone
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    Bring back the fun into diving!

    by Tripack Written Oct 29, 2014

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    What an awesome experience!

    I am just back from a fabulous diving week of 10 dives with the expert diver Mick. He is very professional and always put safety first. At the same time the fun is part of the diving spirit. All my underwater adventure in the Big Blue will be forever in my mind and also on a free DVD thanks to Dragon Divers.

    The price are a real good value for this priceless experience and even get some discount due to the multiple dives.

    From my diver experience all over the world (GBR Australia, Bali, Red Sea, Madeira, Malta, Corsica,...) it is the first time that you could dive as long you have enough air... I broke my longest dive time record with one of almost 90 minutes!

    One of my favorite location was caves and tunnels dive site at Cape Greko. The diving center is very well located and all dive sites are easily reacheable less than 10 minutes by car. Laurie (the real boss ;-) will feel you like at home with an attentive service.

    The Zenobia wreck is also a must do... to complete your top wreck dives bucket list. A truly amazing experience to dive around and in a such huge cargo. An exceptional dive as I experienced before with the SS Yongala in Townsville, Australia and USAT Liberty in Bali, Indonesia.

    Hope to return there soon for more fun. Dive now, work later ;-)

    Sleepy stingray? Hawksbill turtle Tunnel ahead! Smiling moray My local expert dive guide Mick
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    Soli

    by IreneMcKay Updated Sep 22, 2014

    We visited the archaeological remains at Soli a few times. They are located about 2KM west of Lefke. There is an Ancient Greek theatre here, but the most famous remains are Soli's beautiful mosaic floors.

    Soli was founded by the Greek Philosopher Solon who lived from 640 to 558BC. Soli is also believed to be the place where John Mark, an apostle of Barnabas, was baptised. John Mark accompanied Paul on his first journey around Cyprus.

    Soli dates from the sixth century BC. The land around this area was perfect for a settlement as it is very fertile, has a good water supply and a natural harbour for trading purposes. Soli was a very pro Greek city and was in constant conflict with the nearby palace of Vouni which belonged to the Persian overlords of Cyprus. In the 7th century AD Soli was destroyed in Arab raids.

    Soli's basilica dates from the fifth century AD. The basilica was dedicated to St. Auxibius. He was a Roman soldier in the first century AD. He converted to Christianity and was baptised by John Mark. Later he was ordained by Paul and became the first Bishop of Soli.

    The floor of the basilica has been partially excavated and some wonderful mosaics have been found. These mosaics were originally uncovered during the Swedish excavation which took place between 1927 and 1931. When we lived in Cyprus, these mosaics were open to the elements and you could walk on the basilica floor. Now they are apparently covered to preserve them and you walk on raised walkways above the floor so as not to damage it. We had two archaeologist friends who, whenever they visited Soli, used to kick dust and soil over the mosaics in an attempt to preserve them. Of course this probably just lead to other visitors kicking it off again in order to see them.

    Soli's theatre is built into the hillside with seating for approximately 3,500 people. The theatre has a semi-circular orchestra and the open sea as a backdrop. The theatre was rebuilt in 1962.

    Long after we had left Cyprus in 2005 the "Golden Treasure of Soli” was found. This treasure included a fabulous hoard of bracelets, rings, necklaces and a gold wreath. They were found by the water department in a drain behind Soli's theatre. The treasure dates from the 5th to 4th century BC and is displayed in Guzelyurt Museum of Archaeology and Natural History.

    The Soli Swan The Soli Duck Duck and Dolphins With friends in Soli Theatre Soli Swan
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    Crusader Castles - St Hilarion

    by IreneMcKay Updated Sep 22, 2014

    Cyprus is home to three marvellous hilltop castles. The easiest one to get to is St Hilarion. It is located between Girne and Lefkosa. Generally one of our friends would take us here by car, but you could come by taxi and arrange for them to either wait for you or pick you up at a certain time.

    St Hilarion is said to have inspired Neuschwanstein Castle and Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle. I don't know if that is true, but it is in the same sort of style as both of these.

    St Hilarion Castle was first built as a monastery in memory of St Hilarion, a fourth-century Syrian hermit who lived in a cave. He is believed to have been able to banish demons and perform miracles.

    Later in the eighth century the Byzantines converted this monastery into a castle due to its strategic location. They sheltered here during Arab raids. In 1228 John d’Ibelin, one of the Lusignan nobles, extended the castle. He is responsible for most of the buildings still standing today. Under the Lusignans, St Hilarion became home to royalty and was nicknamed “Dieu d’Amour” - The Castle of the god of love. Among others King Peter I and Queen Eleanor of Aragon resided here. St Hilarion was at its peak at this time. In 1489 when the Venetians took control of Cyprus, St Hilarion went into decline and fell into ruins.

    One of the famous sights in the castle is the queen's window where Eleanor of Aragon used to sit and gaze out at the view. Another is Prince John’s Tower. There is a legend associated with this tower.

    On January 17th 1369 Peter I, King of Cyprus, was stabbed to death as he slept in his palace in Nicosia. He was succeeded by his son, Peter II. His widow, Queen Eleanor, was certain that her husband had been killed on the orders of his own brother, Prince John. She decided to avenge his murder. John was living in St Hilarion Castle, guarded by a force of Bulgarian mercenaries. She managed to persuade him that his Bulgarian bodyguards were planning to overthrow him. Enraged, John had several of them thrown to their deaths from the top of Prince John’s Tower. Later Eleanor invited John to Nicosia to dine with her and her young son, the new king. They ate in the room where her husband had been murdered and when the final dish was served, Eleanor pulled off the cover to reveal her dead husband’s blood-stained shirt. This was a signal for her servants to rush out and stab John to death.

    St Hilarion Castle St Hilarion Castle St Hilarion Castle - the queen's window. St Hilarion Castle St Hilarion Castle
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    Crusader Castles - Kantara Castle

    by IreneMcKay Updated Sep 21, 2014

    Kantara is the most remote and least accessible of Cyprus's three hilltop castles. We only went here once. My lasting memory of it is of me running down a slope towards a dark room near the castle wall. Something luckily made me stop myself just in time, because the room had no floor, just a sheer drop into stagnant water. I suffered nightmares for a while after this experience!

    Kantara Castle was built originally by the Byzantines. In 1191 Byzantine king Isaac Comnenus sought refuge here when Richard the Lionheart invaded Cyprus. In 1373 Prince John, the brother of King Peter I of Cyprus, is supposed to have taken refuge here when the Genoese invaded Cyprus. Later, James I of Cyprus, brother of both Peter and John, strengthened the castle. He is responsible for the parts that remain today.

    At the top of Kantara there is a beacon tower which could send warnings west to Buffavento, which in turn sent warnings further west to St Hilarion.

    Kantara Castle Kantara Castle Kantara Castle Kantara Castle
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    Crusader Castles - Buffavento Castle.

    by IreneMcKay Updated Sep 21, 2014

    We visited Buffavento several times. We were generally taken here by friends in their cars. As well as being a spectacular hilltop castle, this castle was also the site of a dreadful air crash in 1988. A Yugoslav Boeing 727 crashed into the hillside here killing all 15 people on board when its pilot made a misjudged landing attempt at Ercan Airport. There is a monument to those that lost their lives in the crash at the site

    Buffavento Castle is located on a hilltop 950 metres above sea level. Its name means buffeted by the winds.

    Buffavento Castle was probably originally built as a Byzanine watch-tower to guard against attacks by Arab raiders. Under the Lusignans, Buffavento Castle was used as a prison. At that time it was known as known as the Chateau du Lion - the lion's castle. During the Venetian occupation of Cyprus, Buffavento Castle, like St Hilarion Castle was abandonned and fell into ruins. The Venetians preferred to use coastal defences rather than mountaintop castles.

    The year after we left Cyprus, 1995, Buffavento was caught up in the midst of dreadful forest fires which caused huge amounts of damage on Cyprus.

    There are beautiful views from Buffavento. My most memorable visit here was coming here in the snow. It occasionally snows in the mountains of Cyprus, but never on the coastal areas. When it snows, people drive into the mountains, collect snow, build snowmen, place them on the bonnets of their cars and drive them down to Girne or other low lying towns or villages.

    Buffavento Castle. Monument to those killed in air crash. Buffavento Castle. Buffavento Castle. Buffavento Castle.
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    Vouni Palace

    by IreneMcKay Updated Sep 21, 2014

    Not that far from Soli lies another archaeological site - Vouni Palace. I have seen it spelt as Vuni as well. When we lived in Cyprus, most of Vouni had not been excavated. I think this is still the case. There were lovely views from this area across the nearby mountains and over the sea.

    The remains of the palace at Vouni date from around 400BC. The palace was built by Doxandros, king of the city of Marion. He was pro-Persian and wanted a base from which to keep pro-Greek cities such as Soli under control. Vouni Palace had 137 rooms. In 449 B.C. the Persians were driven out of Cyprus and the Greeks took control of the island. Vouni Palace lost its function. Vouni Palace was burnt down by the people of Soli in 380 B.C. It was never rebuilt.

    To the south of Vouni Palace lie the remains of the Temple of Athena built towards the end of the 5th century B.C.

    During the Swedish excavations of Cyprus in the 1920s an amphora blackened by fire and filled with gold ducats, was found under one of the stairwells leading to the first floor of the palace. This is known as the treasure of Vouni.

    Vouni Palace Vouni Palace Vouni Palace Vouni Palace Vouni Palace
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    Lefkosa or Nicosia

    by IreneMcKay Updated Sep 21, 2014

    Lefkosa is the capital of North Cyprus. It is also the capital of South Cyprus and the Greeks call it Nicosia. It is a divided city with the green line partitioning north and south Cyprus going right down the middle of it.

    If I am being honest, Lefkosa was probably my least favourite part of Cyprus. It was hot, dusty and not on the coast. The one thing I did enjoy was going up to the top floor of the Saray Hotel - at eight stories high it was the tallest building there. It had an outdoor roof top bar/restaurant and from there you could gaze across the green line at the, so close and yet so far, south side of the city. The south side was much more developed than the north and was filled with tall buildings.

    Near the Saray Hotel in the centre of a roundabout stands the Venetian Column. This was really one of the columns of Salamis, but in 1489 the Venetians moved it to Nicosia. On top of the column there used to be the lion of St Mark, and at the bottom were the coats of arms of several Venetian noble families. In 1570 when the Ottomans took control of Cyprus, they toppled the column. In 1915 the column was re-erected by the British. The lion of St Mark was lost and the British replaced it with a bronze orb.

    Lefkosa had several former Gothic churches that were converted into mosques in the Ottoman period. They still looked so much like churches I must admit I just found them rather odd.

    The Selimiye mosque is one of these church/mosques. It was originally built as the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Sofia by French masons during the crusades. Construction of this church began in 1209 during the reign of the Lusignan king, Henry I, and continued for 150 years. The church was consecrated in 1326. This church was used for the coronation of Lusignan princes when they were crowned kings of Cyprus. When the Ottomans took control of Cyprus in 1570, they changed the church into a mosque and added a pair of fifty metre high minarets. In 1954 the Saint Sophia Church Mosque was renamed the Selimiye Mosque.

    The Buyuk Han or Great Inn is located in the centre of Lefkosa's old town. It was built during the Ottoman Period to provide accommodation for travellers from Anatolia in Turkey and from other parts of Cyprus. The Buyuk Han is two stories high and has 68 rooms which open onto its central courtyard and 10 shops which open to the exterior of the han. When the British were in control of Cyprus, they used the Buyuk Han as Nicosia Central Prison.

    Nicosia was originally a walled city. Stretches of wall still survive around the old town of Lefkosa. At one time there were three gates through the city walls. The Famagusta gate was in the east, the Paphos gate in the west, the Kyrenia gate in the north. The Kyrenia Gate was built by the Venetians in around 1562. On the walls of the gate you can see inscriptions from Venetian, Ottoman and British times. The Kyrenia Gate was restored in 1994. Nowadays it houses the main Tourist Information office of Lefkosa.

    From looking Lefkosa up on line it seems a lot of restoration has taken place since the time I lived there, so it may be a lot more interesting to visit nowadays. I only seem to have four photos of it, all taken from the roof of the Saray Hotel, a sure sign I was not over fond of it.

    Lefkosa Lefkosa Lefkosa Lefkosa
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    Famagusta

    by IreneMcKay Updated Sep 20, 2014

    We liked Famagusta for a number of reasons. It had a great cake shop. It had a lovely hotel called the Palm Beach Hotel which did special cheap out of season weekend packages that we loved to take advantage of. It had a beach. It had historical remains.

    Famagusta was also rather odd because it was on the dividing line between north and south Cyprus meaning parts of it existed in a weird no-man's land. The area on no-man's land was called Varosha. Before the partition Varosha, was being developed as a tourist resort with lots of high rise hotels shooting up everywhere. Now if you stay at the Palm Beach Hotel and walk along the beach, you will come to a fence which you cannot pass. Beyond the fence you can see a long stretch of beach and several derelict hotel buildings. Once we decided to follow the fence to see parts of Varosha back from the sea. Suddenly we could hear singing and it was coming from the ghost town. We were actually seized with fear thinking we were having a supernatural experience. We were not. The fence does not go completely straight. It dipped behind the line and a school was reclaimed for the Turkish side. The singing we could hear was coming from the children in that school. What an odd place to be educated with barbed wire and derelict buildings surrounding you on three sides!!!

    Some historians believe that Famagusta was founded by King Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt in 285 B.C. It increased in size after the destruction of the nearby City of Salamis, due to earthquakes and raids. This destruction led to the surviving population of Salamis resettling in Famagusta. The Lusignans fortified Famagusta in the thirteenth century and built many wonderful churches including the beautiful Cathedral of St. Nicholas.

    The Cathedral of St. Nicholas is the largest medieval building in Famagusta. Construction of this church began in 1300 and was completed by about 1400. Above the main central door of the church there is a beautiful rose window. At one time the Kings of Cyprus came here to be crowned Kings of Jerusalem. In 1571 when the Ottomans captured Famagusta the cathedral was converted into a Mosque and a minaret was added. The building's name nowadays is the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque.

    Famagusta was a walled city and many of the original city walls survive today. These walls were 60 feet high and 30 feet thick and date back to mediaeval times. They were built originally by the Lusignans and later fortified by the Venetians. Two of the original gates of the city are still standing The Sea Gate and The Land Gate. It is pleasant to take a walk along the city walls of Famagusta

    Famagusta -The Sea Gate. Famagusta Famagusta Famagusta Famagusta
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    Famagusta Continued

    by IreneMcKay Updated Sep 20, 2014

    There are many other sights worth visiting in Famagusta, but my previous tip is getting too long so I will putsome of them here.

    One of these sights is Othello's Tower.

    Othello's tower was part of the medieval fortress which guarded the harbour and city of Famagusta. Above the gateway of the tower is a marble slab with a winged lion on it - this was the symbol of the Venetians. The tower is round as the Venetians did not want it to be vulnerable to gun fire and there were no corners to destroy. Inside the fortress there are several old cannons and discarded cannon balls.

    The Sea Gate is one of the two remaining original gates of Famagusta's walled city. It was built by Nicola Prioli, the Venetian Captain of Famagusta, in 1496. Inside this gate there is a marble lion.

    The Church of St Peter and Paul was built in 1359. In 1571 it was converted into a mosque by the Ottoman Turks and was renamed Sinan Pasha Mosque. During the British Period it was used as a grain store earning it the nickname 'Wheat Mosque'. In 1964 this building became Famagusta's Town Hall. Nowadays it is a public library.

    Between 1300 and 1400, The Golden Age of Famagusta, the harbour used to be protected by a massive chain that stretched from the now ruined chain tower and which could be lowered during attacks.

    After a long day's sightseeing in Famagusta, it is pleasant to go for a swim at Famagusta's Beach.

    Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque/St Nicholas Cathedral Palm Beach Hotel Palm Beach Hotel Palm Beach Hotel Palm Beach Hotel
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    Hazreti Ömer Türbesi

    by IreneMcKay Updated Sep 20, 2014

    Cyprus has been home to many nationalities, cultures and religions. The Tomb of Hazreti Ömer is a Muslim religious site. We visited here a couple of times when we lived on Cyprus. Some friends of ours who came to stay with us liked to go fishing there. On one occasion they witnessed a sheep about to be sacrificed to God during the Muslim Kurban Bayram Festival escape and throw itself into the sea here. It was recaptured and killed despite a valiant effort on its part to remain alive. This site is also mentioned in Lawrence Durrell's 'Bitter Lemons'.

    Hazreti Ömer Tekke is believed to be the final resting place of Commander Ömer and five soldiers from the Muawiya army who died during the Arab conquest of Cyprus in the seventh century. Their bodies were found in a nearby cave and were later buried here. A mosque and shrine were built at the site later. The six dead men are considered to be Muslim saints.

    Hazreti ��mer T��rbesi
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    The Monastery, Church and Tomb of Saint Barnabas

    by IreneMcKay Updated Sep 20, 2014

    The Monastery, Church and Tomb of Saint Barnabas are located near Salamis. We visited a couple of times when we lived in Cyprus. Nowadays the church is an icon museum and the monastery houses an archaeological collection.

    St Barnabas was a founder of the independent Greek Orthodox Church. He is also the patron saint of Cyprus.

    Barnabas was born in Salamis into a family who followed the Jewish Faith. When he was older, he went to Jerusalem to study religion. While he was there, he encountered Jesus and was so impressed by the miracles he saw Jesus perform that he converted to Christianity. Barnabas was made Archbishop of Salamis while he was still living in Jerusalem. In 45AD he travelled back to Cyprus with his cousin John Mark and Paul of Tarsus, later to become Saint Paul. Barnabas, John Mark and Paul wanted to convert Cyprus's Jewish community to Christianity. Barnabas managed to convert Sergius Paulus, the Roman Governor of Cyprus, to Christianity and Cyprus became the first country in the world to have a Christian leader.

    In 75AD Barnabas returned again to Cyprus. He was arrested for preaching and was imprisoned in the synagogue in Salamis. While he was imprisoned, a furious mob stormed the prison and stoned him to death. His cousin John Mark took his remains and buried them secretly in a tomb to the west of Salamis. John Mark placed a copy of The Gospel of St Matthew on Barnabas's chest. The secret grave was forgotten about. Then in the 5th century AD when the Christian Church was once more established on Cyprus ,Bishop Anthemios had a dream in which the location of Barnabas's Tomb was revealed to him. When he woke up, he went to the location and found the tomb. He took the Gospel of St Matthew from Barnabas's chest and presented it to the Byzantine Emperor, Zeno. Zeno was very pleased with this gift and granted independence to the church in Cyprus. Emperor Zeno also funded the building of a church on the site of the tomb. This church was badly damaged during the Arab raids of the 7th century. Nowadays only the church's foundations remain The church on the site now dates from the 1750s.

    At one time there were many monks in the Monastery of Saint Barnabas, but by the 1950s only three remained: Charitan, Stephanos and Barnabas.These three looked after the church from 1917. They built the church a bell tower in 1958. They also painted most of the church's icons and frescoes. In 1976, two years after the partition of the island, these three remaining monks moved to the south of the island as they were too old and sick to keep caring for the site.

    About 100 yards from the monastery there is a small mausoleum on the site where Barnabas's remains were found.

    The church, monastery and tomb were restored in 1991.

    The Monastery, Church and Tomb of  Saint Barnabas The Monastery, Church and Tomb of  Saint Barnabas The Monastery, Church and Tomb of  Saint Barnabas The Tomb of  Saint Barnabas The Monastery, Church and Tomb of  Saint Barnabas
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    Karmi

    by IreneMcKay Updated Sep 18, 2014

    Karmi is a little hillside village. Its population was at one time mainly Greek. When Cyprus was divided, there was an exchange of populations. Most Turkish Cypriots were not interested in living in Karmi, as it was remote and many of the houses had been damaged in the fighting. The government of Northern Cyprus encouraged foreigners to live there by charging low rents if the foreigners were willing to renovate and repair the houses. Most of the residents of Karmi nowadays are British or German.

    For us Karmi was a place we often hiked to at the weekend. As well as having nicely restored houses with colourful gardens, it also had a restaurant called Duckworth House.

    We would walk to Karmi carrying our swimming stuff with us, reserve a table for lunch at Duckworth House and swim in their pool until our meal was ready. The pool was wonderful, the restaurant's setting was wonderful and the food was wonderful.

    I looked on-line and nowadays it would seem Duckworth House is no longer a restaurant. It is now a holiday villa available for rent. When we used to go there it was a restaurant and family home.

    Karmi Karmi Duckworth House Duckworth House Karmi
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    Limassol

    by grayfo Updated Jan 19, 2014

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    Limassol is the second largest city in Cyprus with a deep-water port where regular cruises set sail for the Holy City in Israel or the Pyramids of Egypt. Home of the Keo distillery and winery Limassol is the second largest town in Cyprus; it has a large port, which is busy with ships visiting from all over the world. There are no real beaches in Limassol town centre but there are a few man-made ones, such as Ladies Mile situated west of the new harbour. There is a vast array of accommodation along the sea front, ranging from: the most luxurious hotels to the more humble apartments, all offering a good standard of accommodation depending on what you want. Must see sights include: the medieval castle, the Archaeological Museum, the Folk Art Museum and the Public Garden to name but a few.

    June 1997

    See My Travel Page for more information.

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Your first priority upon arrival to the Island  is to get to the nearest Tourist Information Centre. You will be amazed with the material you will be given. (Colorful booklets,...

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