Because of the mutual hostility of South and North, you formerly had to choose which side of Cyprus to visit on any given trip, as therewas extremely limited provision for crossing between them. All this changed radically in April 2003, when various political and economic factors compelled the North to open the "border" (nobody in the South will use the term other than in inverted commas, as the present situation is viewed as an interim one pending any definitive peace settlement). There is still disinforrnation deliberately promulgated by interested parties, but in effect EU nationals with proper ID are free to cross the line in either direction and stay as long as they wish.
The package industry remains orientated to taking you to one or other side of the island, and either portion has plenty to keep you occupied. When the South's busiest beaches east of sleepy Larnaca pall, there's the popular hill village of Pano Ufkara, unique sacred art at the Byzantine churches of Ayios Andonios and Angeloktisti or the nearby Lusignan "Chapelle Royale", plus the atmospheric Muslim shrine of Hala Sultan Tekke to the west. Ayia Napa, in the far southeast, briefly enjoyed a reputation as a Mediterranean clubbing destination second only to Ibiza, and is still the liveliest summer-spot on the island. Beyond functional Limassol, the Crusader tower of Kolossi guards vineyards as it always has, while still-being-excavated ancient Kourion sprawls nearby atop seaside cliffs, which subside at the sandy bays of Pissouri and Evdhimou. Inland from these, rolling hills shelter the Krassokhoria or "Wine Villages", many of these attractively stone-built and little changed outwardly over the past century.
Of the three main south-coast resorts, Pafos has most recently awoken to tourism, and with its spectacular Roman mosaics and early Christian relics has perhaps the most to offer. The hinterland of Pafos district belies its initial bleak appearance to reveal fertile valleys furrowing ridges sprinkled with brown-stone villages and, to either side of the Akamas peninsula, the last unspoiled stretches of coast in the South. If you don't require lively nightlife, then Polis and Latcm make good, comfortable overnight bases in this area, serving too as possible springboards into the foothills of the Troodhos mountains.
Magnificently frescoed ancient churches and monasteries abound, best of these Ayios Neofytos and the Palea Enklistra, rock-cut rural shrines, Ayia Paraskevi in Yeroskipou, and Ayios Kirykos in Letimbou.
Inland from Pafos or Limassol, the Troodhos mountains themselves beckon, covered in well-groomed forest, lovingly resuscitated from a nadir of the nineteenth century. Platres, the original Cypriot "hill-station", makes a logical base on the south side of the range; to the north, more authentic village character asserts itself at Pedhoulas or Kakopetria. Scattered across several valleys, a dozen or so magnificently frescoed late-Byzantine churches provide an additional focus to itineraries here if the scenery and walking opportunities aren't enough. If time is limited, the most important churches are Asinou, Ayios Ioannis Lambadhistis, Ayios Nikolaos tis Steyis, Panayia tau Araka and Stavros tau Ayiasmati.
The far southeast, briefly enjoyed a reputation as a Mediterranean clubbing destination second only to Ibiza, and is still the liveliest summer-spot on the island. Beyond functional Limassol, the Crusader tower of Kolossi guards vineyards as it always has, while still-being-excavated ancient Kourion sprawls nearby atop seaside cliffs, which subside at the sandy bays of Pissouri and Evdhimou. Inland ttom these, rolling hills shelter the Krassokhoria or "Wine Villages", many of these attractively stone-built and little changed outwardly over the past century.
While not immediately appealing, south Nicosia -the Greek-Cypriot portion of the divided capital -can boast an idiosyncratic old town in the process of revitalization, and, in the Cyprus Museum, one of the finest archeological collections in the Middle East. North Nicosia, on the other side of the now-porous 1974 ceasefire line, is graced with most of the island's Ottoman monuments -and also introduces the Frenchified ecclesiastical architecture bequeathed by the Lusignan dynasty.
For the majority of tourists in the North, however, Kyrenia is very much the main event, its old harbour the most sheltered and charming on Cyprus. Mushrooming residential and resort development is threatening to outpace the town's limited infrastructure, but despite the recent boom the Kyrenia area still lags behind the South in that respect. The hills looming above support three medieval castles -St Hilarion, BufIavento and Kantara -whose views and architecture rarely disappoint. Add villages in picturesque settings north of and below the ridgeline, and it's little wonder that outsiders have been gravitating here longer than anywhere else on the island.
The beaches north of Famagusta are Kyrenia's only serious rival for tourist custom in the North, and hard to resist in tandem with Salamis, the largest ancient site on Cyprus. Famagusta itself is remarkable, another Lusignan church-fantasy wrapped in some of the most imposing Venetian walls in the world -though churches and ramparts aside there's little else to see or do, the town having lain devastated since the Ottoman conquest. North of the beach strip, the Karpaz peninsula points finger-like towards Syria, its fine beaches and generous complement of early churches -most notably at Ayios Filon and Aria Trias -a favourite target of GreekCypriot weekenders since the "border" opened.