It was 1974 when Turks invaded the northern part of Cyprus. In four days, 160,000 Greek Cypriots lost their homes and became refugees in their own country.
Today, three flags fly in the island: Cypriot for the Republic of Cyprus (the country that is officially recognized by the international community), Turkish for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (a country recognized only by Turkey) and British for the portions occupied by the British Sovereign Bases.
Larnaca, where the main airport of the island is located, holds the distinction of being one of the world’s 20 most ancient continuously inhabited cities in the last 4,000 years.
Paphos, named one of the European Cities of Culture for 2017, is on the official list of cultural and natural treasures of the UNESCO World Heritage.
Mt Olympus, the highest point of the Troodos Range, lies 2,000 meters high. Snow was still on the ground nine weeks ago. It’s a perfect place for a short stroll or a long trek.
Nicosia, the capital, is rarely frequented by visitors. Surrounded by massive ancient walls and gates, it is from here that you can cross to the occupied north at the only foot traffic checkpoint in the island.
Walk through the historic Ledra Street which runs from southern Nicosia to the occupied north. While the government buildings in the capital are a sight to behold, a visit to The Tomb of Makedonitissa is immensely moving.
Limassol, the second most important city next to Nicosia, is a popular place for visitors. Here, you can enjoy a stroll through old town, eat and drink at the marina and take fabulous pictures at the promenade on the seafront.
Most international visitors only visit Ayia Napa and Paralimni-Protaras, the renowned seaside resort towns of the island. But while the beaches are beautiful, do not give the open-air sculpture park at Ayia Napa a miss. It is quite exceptional.
If you dig archaeological sites, visit Paphos. If you love the sea, visit Ayia Napa and Protaras. If you want to shop, drink and dine, go to Limassol. If you want to embrace history, visit Nicosia and dare step into the fringes of Famagusta if only to view the ghost time from behind a barbed-wire fence.
Cyprus’ natural beauty is unparalleled. It has mountains, waterfalls, beaches. It has sparkling crystal waters, powdery golden sand, enchanting sea caves, sea coves and sea bridges. It also has castles, monuments, churches, old towns as well as archaeological finds.
Cyprus has everything except one thing—freedom. The Greek Cypriots who were forced to flee in 1974 are no longer free to return to their homes. For while they may now cross to the Turkish-occupied north to visit the homes they left behind, these homes are no longer theirs.
For as long as the Turkish and British flags fly on the island, Cyprus will continue to be a paradise, occupied and divided.
June 03, 2023
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