27 interesting facts about Cyprus

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From the world’s oldest pet cat to the only capital city to straddle two nations, these are the most interesting facts about Cyprus.

Ancient ruins above a glistening sea
Interesting facts about Cyprus include its ancient ruins (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Cyprus
Population: 1.3 million
Area: 9,251 sq km
Capital city: Nicosia
Major languages: Greek, English, Turkish
Major religions: Christianity, Islam
Time zone: UTC+2 (Eastern European Time)
– Source: CIA World Factbook

Interesting facts about Cyprus

1. Cyprus is an island nation located in Europe in the Mediterranean Sea south of Turkey.
– Source: Britannica

2. Archaeological evidence suggests Cyprus has been inhabited for around 12,000 years with the first known settlement at the UNESCO-listed site of Choirokoitia dated to around 9,000 years ago.
– Source: Britannica

3. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 after Turkey invaded the north following a Greece-backed military coup.
– Source: New York Times

A map of Cyprus showing the partition
Cyprus has been partitioned since 1974 (Shutterstock)

4. Since then, the island has been partitioned, with the northern third run by a Turkish Cypriot government and the southern two-thirds by the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government. UN peacekeepers patrol the ‘Green Line separating the two regions.
– Source: New York Times

5. As a result of the partition, Nicosia is the world’s only capital city split between two nations.
– Source: The Guardian

6. There is also a small farm trapped in the buffer zone where the owners raise horses, cows, chickens and a donkey; grow figs and pears; and produce a unique form of extra virgin olive oil.
– Source: BBC Travel

7. The flag of Cyprus has a white background with an orange silhouette of the island above a green olive wreath which symbolises peace. It was the first country to incorporate a national map into its flag and one of just two to do so – the other being Kosovo.
– Source: Wanderlust (2021) Flags, Capitals and Countries of the World: The Complete Handbook. Wanderlust Press: London

Cyprus flag flying against blue sky
The flag of Cyprus features a map of the island (Shutterstock)

8. Cyprus is home to the world’s oldest manufactured wine. The sweet dessert wine of Commandaria can be traced as far back as 2000 BC.
– Source: Guinness World Records

9. Cyprus has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the ancient town of Pathos which features temples dating from the 12th century BC.
– Source: UNESCO

10. Legend has it that Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty, came from Cyprus. She supposedly rose from the sea foam near a rock off what is now called Aphrodite’s Beach.
– Source: Lonely Planet

Aphrodite’s Beach with sea stacks and rock formations
Aphrodite’s Beach (Shutterstock)

11. Halloumi cheese is registered as a protected designation of origin by the EU. This means that only halloumi made in Cyprus has the right to carry the name halloumi.
– Source: European Commission

12. Elephants and hippos used to live on the island of Cyprus. Fossils of pygmy hippopotami and elephants have both been found dating from around 12000 BC
– Source: All About Limassol, The Guardian

13. Cyprus’ national symbol is a wild sheep called the mouflon. It was nearly hunted to extinction with as few as 15 remaining by the 1930s. Fortunately, conservation efforts have led to its resurgence but they still remain wary of humans.
– Source: CIA World Factbook, Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment (PDF)

A mouflon with big horns sitting down in the woods
The Cypriot mouflon (Shutterstock)

14. The Ottomans ruled Cyprus for over 300 years until Britain occupied the island in 1878. However, it was not officially annexed by the UK until 1914.
– Source: BBC News

15. Following five years of guerrilla war against British rule, Cyprus gained independence in 1960.
– Source: BBC News

16. One of the top five wreck dives in the world can be found in Cyprus. The Zenobia is a cargo ship that sank off the coast of Cyprus in 1980 which – along with the trucks spread across the seabed – attracts an array of marine life.
– Source: Lonely Planet

Divers approach trucks at the bottom of the sea
The trucks of the Zenobia (Shutterstock)

17. There are more cats than people in Cyprus with estimates suggesting there are up to 1.5 million stray cats.
– Source: Cyprus Mail

18. In fact, the remains of the oldest known pet cat were found in Cyprus. In 2004, a complete cat skeleton was unearthed next to a 9,500-year-old human burial, suggesting that the cat was domesticated.
– Source: National Geographic

19. Cyprus has some of the cleanest water in Europe. In 2021, it ranked top of the 27 countries of the European Union for having the cleanest swimming waters.
– Source: Associated Press

A drone shot turquoise waters and a sandy beach in Cyprus
Nissi Beach in Cyprus (Shutterstock)

20. Over the millennia, Cyprus has been ruled by the Greeks, Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Genoese and Venetians, Ottomans and British.
– Source: Britannica

21. The origin of the name Cyprus is unknown but may have come from the Latin word ‘cuprum’ for copper due to the extensive mining of the metal on the island in antiquity.
– Source: CIA World Factbook

22. The UNESCO-listed Painted Churches in the Troodos Region of Cyprus is a complex of 10 churches and monasteries from the former Byzantine Empire. The monuments are filled with detailed decorations with murals. They date from as far back as 1280 AD.
– Source: Lonely Planet, UNESCO

Inside on eof th churches showing intricate painitngs
Panagia Forviotissa in the Troodos Mountains (Shutterstock)

23. Cyprus enjoys 326 days of sunshine a year.
– Source: The Telegraph

24. Cyprus is the third largest Mediterranean island, after Sicily and Sardinia.
– Source: Britannica

25. One of the most impressive sights in Cyprus is the Kourion Archaeological Site. The ancient ruins date from around the 13th century BC and enjoy a spectacular view position high on a hill overlooking the coast.
– Source: Visit Cyprus, Lonely Planet

Ancient ruins above a glistening blue sea
Ancient Kourion (Shutterstock)

26. The world’s oldest perfumes were found in Cyprus. In 2007, archaeologists unearthed the remains of mixing bowls, funnels and perfume bottles more than 4,000 years old and were scented with extracts of lavender, bay, rosemary, pine or coriander
– Source: The Telegraph

27. The only Cypriot Nobel Prize winner is Christopher A. Pissarides who was jointly awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for Economics. A special edition stamp was created by the Cyprus Post Office in his recognition.
– Source: Nobel Prize, Britannica, Cyprus Post

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about Cyprus using primary sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please get in touch.