It is one of only three Commonwealth member countries located in Europe, all of which are island states and members of the European Union.
Cyprus has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the Commonwealth: 997 infants survive every 1,000 births.
Cyprus is an oval-shaped island with ‘pan-handle’ north-east peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean. Its closest mainland neighbours are Turkey (to the north) and Syria and Lebanon (to the east).
Nicosia (Lefkosia, capital, pop. 334,120 in 2011, with a further 61,378 in the occupied north), Limassol (239,739), Paphos (91,200), Larnaca (53,500). In the occupied north, other main towns are Famagusta (40,920), Kyrenia (33,207), Morphou and Lefka.
There is a good road network in the Republic, extending to 12,480 km (65 per cent paved), with motorways between Nicosia, Limassol, Paphos and the Famagusta area; comprising 2.2 per cent of the total network. Cyprus has no railway.
Major ports are at Larnaca and Limassol.
Nicosia airport was closed in 1974. There are international airports 5 km south of Larnaca, and 15 km east of Paphos.
Cyprus is a member of the Council of Europe, European Union, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, United Nations and World Trade Organization.
The Troodos Mountains, in the central and western part of the island, rise to 1,951 metres at Mt Olympus. The Troodos, of infertile igneous rock, are characterised by steep slopes, narrow valleys and precipices. The Kyrenia Mountains (also known as the Pentadaktylos range), along the north coast, rise to 1,024 metres and are mainly limestone. Passes and valleys allow access to the north coast. The fertile Messaoria Plain lies between them. About half of its 186,000 hectares is irrigated. Most water sources are in the south – all major rivers originate in the Troodos and flow east, south or west. Many rivers dry up in the summer. There are sandy beaches on the south of the island and some rugged rocky coastline in the north.
Mediterranean type. Hot dry summers (June to September) and mild wet winters (November to March).
The most significant environmental issues are limited water resources – due to lack of rain in the summer and pollution of the island’s largest aquifer by sea water; water pollution by sewage and industrial wastes; coastal degradation; and loss of wildlife habitats due to urbanisation.
Mediterranean scrub, succulents and pine woods, adapted to the dry summers, with 1,800 species and subspecies of flowering plants. Forest covers 19 per cent of the land area. The mountains are forested and less than 15 per cent of the land is arable and permanently cropped, about 20 per cent of which is irrigated. The occupied north is generally more thickly vegetated and fertile.
The only large wild animal is the agrino, a species of wild sheep, which is now protected. Snakes, once so abundant as to give the island its old name Ophiussa (‘abode of snakes’), are now comparatively rare.