Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, is one of the oldest cities in this part of the world. Today it is sophisticated and cosmopolitan place, combining its historic past with the amenities of a modern city. It lies roughly in the centre of the island in the Mesaoria Plain, flanked by the beautiful northern range of Kyrenia Mountains with its distinctive 'Pentadaktylos" - the five finger mountain. There are various suggestions as to the origin of the name Nicosia - or 'Lefkosia' in Greek - but the most likely one is linked to the popular tree, the tall 'Lefki', which once adorned the city.
Nicosia is the last divided city of Europe. It is today divided into Turkish-occupied north and Greek sectors by a boundary known as the `Green Line' which runs in an east-west direction. The people of Cyprus hope that one day the city will be reunited.
Huge, thick ramparts, built by the Venetians in 1570 encircle the city. The city walls are three and a half miles long and have eleven towers and three gates. Within these walls are numerous remains from the Middle Ages and later periods. Outside, there is no trace of the medieval settlement that once existed as materials from those buildings were used at various points in time to restore and maintain the walls. To walk through the old city is to step backwards in time. Narrow streets and old houses with ornate balconies jut from weather-beaten sandstone walls and craftsmen in small workshops practice trades that have remained unchanged for centuries.
The heart of the city, within the 16th century Venetian walls has a number of interesting museums and art galleries as well as Byzantine churches and a number of medieval and neo-classical buildings. The narrow streets retain a romantic atmosphere of the past. Much of the charm and beauty of Nicosia is to be found in the old city with its labyrinthine alleyways and elegant courtyard houses. Outside the walls the new city with its modern facilities is a cosmopolitan centre of a modern European capital.
During the British domination (1878 - 1960) the city started to spread beyond the walls. The British first built administrative premises outside the walls but since then residential regions developed beyond the fortifications and joined with the surrounding villages, resulting in a change of the city's housing network.
The city of Nicosia has a great variety of tourist attractions. The Lefkosia Jewellery Museum, the Museum of the History of the Cypriot Coinage and the Municipal Arts Centre, are all worth a visit. The Cyprus Museum houses the island's most important collection of Cypriot antiquities and treasures from the Neolithic Age to the Roman.
Modern Nicosia offers all the facilities you would expect - excellent hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and shops. In Platres and the surrounding villages you could find no greater contrast to a conventional beach holiday! These villages are situated high in the Troodos mountain range famous for its refreshing mountain air, magnificent pine, cedar and oak forests, orchids, lavender and mineral springs. It is ideal for walking and horse riding, while the August festival of arts, crafts, folk singing and dancing also provides fascinating entertainment.