About Cyprus

Towns and Population

The population of Cyprus is 759.000 of whom 85,2% are Greek Cypriots (including Armenians, Maronites and Latins), 88,000 (11,6%) are Turkish Cypriots and 24,000 (3,2%) foreigners residing in Cyprus. The density of the population is 82 persons / sq km. (2000 figures - for the latest population figures visit the website of the Statistical Service).

The population does not include over 115.000 Turkish settlers illegally residing in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus.

The figure of the Greek Cypriot population includes the 8.000 Maronites, Armenians and Latins who, under the 1960 Constitution where asked to choose between the two communities and opted to join the Greek Cypriot community.

The language of the Greek Cypriot community is Greek and the community adheres to the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. The language of the Turkish Cypriot community is Turkish and the community adheres to Islam. The religious groups of Armenians, Maronites and Latins, in accordance with 1960 constitution, opted to belong to the Greek Cypriot community.

The capital of the island is Nicosia (with a population of 197,800 (1999) in the sector controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus. It is situated roughly in the centre of the island and is the seat of government as well as the main business centre. The 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of 37 % of the island's territory literally cut the capital in half. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nicosia remains the only militarily divided capital in Europe.

The city dates back to the bronze age when it was known as Ledra, the actual name of the most popular commercial street.

The name of Nicosia (Lefkosia, in Greek), probably comes from Lefkos, son of Ptolemy, who rebuilt the city in the 3rd century B.C. Another probability is that the name originated from the white poplar (lefki) which was abundant in the bed of the city's river. The city also bore the name of Lefkothea - the white goddess.

The core of Nicosia is surrounded by 16th century Venetian fortifications. The city is rich in museums and monuments of different periods. Nicosia successfully blends its history with the developed modern administrative commercial and business centre it has become.

The second largest town is Limassol in the south which has around 157,600 (1999) inhabitants. It is Cyprus' main commercial port and an important tourist resort.

Larnaca, in the south-east of the island, has a population of 69,700 (1999) and is the island's second commercial port and an important tourist resort. To the north of the town lies the island's oil refinery, while to the south Larnaca International Airport is situated. The city of Larnaka is well-known for its picturesque sea-front which includes rows of palm trees (oi finikoudes, in the local Greek dialect. Much of the activity is centred around the city promenade during the major festivals. The most important of these for the city of Larnaka is Kataklysmos or the Festival of the Flood, celebrated in early summer with a series of cultural events.

Paphos in the south-west with a population approaching 40,000 (1999) is a fast developing tourist resort, home to the island's second International Airport and an attractive fishing harbour. The Turkish invasion and occupation of the major tourist resorts of Keryneia and Ammochostos led to major investments by the government and the private sector in the district of Pafos. There was rapid economic activity in all fields but especially tourism. The government invested heavily in irrigation dams and water distribution works, road infrastructure and the building of Pafos airport, while private initiative concentrated on hotel, apartment and villa construction and the entertainment infrastructure.

In the Turkish occupied area, the town of Ammochostos (Famagusta), the hub of the pre-1974 tourist industry, is now a ghost town, deserted since 1974 when its inhabitants fled from advancing Turkish troops. The towns of Keryneia (Kyrenia), another important tourist resort on the north coast, and Morphou, situated in the important agricultural area of western Messaoria, are now inhabited almost exclusively by Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers as the Greek Cypriots were forced in 1974 to abandon their homes and properties and move to the south under the threat of guns and armament of the Turkish occupation army.

As a result of the Turkish invasion in 1974, 36% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus is still under the control of the Turkish occupation troops. Moreover, 162.000 Greek Cypriots ( 28 % of the Greek Cypriot population ) have become refugees. Since the Turkish invasion and occupation of over a third of the island, the demographic balance has changed dramatically as a result of Turkey's colonisation policies. There are now 115,000 illegal Turkish settlers in the occupied area while an estimated 55,000 Turkish Cypriots have emigrated.

Travellers may enter the Republic of Cyprus only through the legal ports of entry - Larnaka and Pafos International Airports and the ports of Larnaka, Limassol and Pafos. The ports of Famagusta, Keryneia and Karavostasi, as well as the airports in the part of the island illegally occupied by the Turkish invasion forces have been declared by the Cyprus government as prohibited ports of entry and exit and no passenger should enter or leave the Republic through these ports.

Entry Date 25/10/2001