Official name: Republic of Cyprus.

Official name: Republic of Cyprus.

Language: Greek is spoken by most people, while a quarter of the population speaks Turkish.

Population: 860,000 (including Turkish-occupied territory).

Size: 3,600 square miles (including Turkish-occupied territory), about a third of the size of Belgium.

National dish: Local specialities abound and are very diverse - from mountain goat's cheese to characterful Cypriot wines. Meze is a tapas-like meal of up to 25 dishes, including dips, grilled cheeses and meats. Kleftiko, lamb cooked in its own juices with lots of herbs, in a clay pot, is also a well-known local dish.

Best monument: The nine beautifully painted Byzantine churches in the mountainous Troodos region have been declared a Unesco World Heritage site. The Asinou church, covered with 12th-century murals, is typical of this style.

Most famous citizen: Makarios, the Cypriot leader and president of the island from 1959 to 1977. He led the struggle for enosis (union) with Greece and also served as the archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.

Best moment in history: Throughout history, Cyprus has enjoyed periods of great prosperity. During the Frankish era (1192-1489), Famagusta, on the south-east coast, became one of the richest cities in the world.

Worst moment in history: 1974 was marked by conflict, which led to an almost complete collapse of the economy. Encouraged by the ruling elite in Athens, the Greek Cypriot National Guard attempted a coup to establish union with Greece, which was followed by an invasion of troops from the Turkish mainland, leading to the Turkish occupation of the northern third of the island.

Essential accessory: To avoid embarrassment, always take a gift of wine or confectionery if you are invited to a meal by locals.

What not to do: Cypriots are incredibly hospitable. It is viewed as impolite to decline the offer of a cup of local coffee, which is strong and unfiltered.