Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, after Sicily and Sardinia, with an area of 9.251 sq. km (3.572 sq. miles).
It is situated at the north-eastern corner of the Mediterranean, at a distance of 300 km north of Egypt, 105 km west of Syria, and 75 km south of Turkey. Greece lies 380 km to the north-west (Rhodes – Karpathos).
The landscape varies between rugged coastlines, sandy beaches, rocky hills and forest-covered mountains. The Troodos Mountains in the centre of the island rise to almost 1950m (6400ft) and provide good skiing during the winter. Nicosia (Lefkosia), the capital of Cyprus, is situated at the heart of the Messaoria Plain. The old city has many quaint and ancient shops. Nicosia District extends westwards into the vine-covered Troodos Mountains, where magnificent forests and valleys feature hill resorts such as Kakopetria and Byzantine churches in Galata. Limassol (Lemesos) is the island’s main port and centre of the wine industry. In September the town has a wine festival, during which wine and food are served free. Cyprus is becoming established as a winter destination with both Platres and Kakopetria conveniently placed for the skiing season on Mount Olympus. Local dishes include kebabs (lamb or other meat skewered and roasted over a charcoal fire) and dolmas (vine leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice).
The population of Cyprus is estimated at 885.600 (December 2008) of whom 668.700 belong to the Greek Cypriot community (75.5%), 88.700 (10.0%) to the Turkish Cypriot community and 128.200 (14.5%) are foreign nationals residing in Cyprus.
The capital of the island is Lefkosia (Nicosia) with a population of 234.200 in the sector controlled by the Cyprus government. It is situated roughly in the centre of the island and is the seat of government as well as the main business centre.
The second largest town is Lemesos (Limassol) on the south coast with a population of around 185.100. Since 1974 it has become the island’s chief sea port, an industrial centre and an important tourist resort.
Larnaka, also on the south coast of the island, has a population of 82.700 and is the country’s second commercial sea port and an important tourist resort. The Larnaka International Airport is located to the south of the city.
Finally, Pafos, on the south-west coast, with a population of 55.900, is a fast-developing tourist resort, home to the island’s second international airport and an attractive fishing harbour.
The towns of Ammochostos (Famagusta), Kyrenia and Morfou as well as part of Nicosia, have been under military occupation by Turkey since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.