Introduction - Virtual Biodiversity Museum of Cyprus

Go to content

Main menu



Cyprus is the third largest island of the Mediterranean, following Sicily and Sardinia, covering an area of 9251 square Km. It is situated at the north-eastern edge of the Mediterranean basin and has northern latitude 34° 33' to 35° 41' and eastern longitude 32° 17' to 34° 35'. Its greater length (from west to south) is 226 Km and its greater width (from north to south) is 97 Km.

Two mountain ranges cross the island running from west to east; these are the Pentadactylos (northern) and Troodos (southern) mountain ranges, which are separated by the Mesaoria plain.

The Pentadactylos mountain range runs parallel to the northern coastline, separating the mainland from the sea. Its length is approximately 80 km and has an average width of 5 km. It is a ridge, consisted of a series of limestone peaks with altitudes between 700 to 1024 m. Based on geological evidence, it is considered to be the southern part of the Alps, which extends from the Pyrenees Mountains at west, up to the Himalaya at east.

The central and southern part of Cyprus is dominated by the Troodos mountain range, which covers an area of 3200 km2 and contains a number of peaks (which quite often are higher than 1300 m). The mountain range consists exclusively of rocks of the homonymous ophiolithic complex. It is worth pointing out that, Troodos is considered to be the most developed and well-studied ophiolithic complex in the world.

The Mesaoria plain is a fertile, treeless area, which is situated between the two mountain ranges and extends from Morphou Bay in the west, to Famagusta Bay in the east. It covers a distance of approximately 88 km. The largest part of the Mesaoria plain lies at altitudes lower than 150 m. The area remained under the sea even after the elevation of Troodos and Pentadactylos, until the very recent geologic past. This is indicated by the presence of many seashells aged between 10 to 100 thousand years, in the area.

The coastal zone of Cyprus is characterised by a variety of different formations ranging from steep inaccessible cliffs and rocky shorelines to gentle sloping sandy beaches. Many areas of the coastal zone are rocky or stony, while in several other areas there are golden beaches with sand, such as Famagusta and Morphou Bays.

Cyprus climate is generally described as dry Mediterranean and is characterized by relatively short, mild and moist winter, which is followed by a long, hot and dry summer. The average rainfall in the whole island is approximately 480 mm and varies between 300 mm at the central plain to 1100 mm at Troodos
' highest peak. As far as the temperature is concerned, during summer, and especially in July and August, the average daily temperatures vary between 29 °C at the Mesaoria plain and 22 °C at the highest peaks of Troodos. The respective temperatures during the winter (specifically January) are 10 °C and 3 °C. There is snow every year at the highest peaks of Troodos, mainly during the period of December - March.

The varied geomorphology of Cyprus and the intense fluctuations of temperature and rainfall in different areas resulted in the creation of many different habitat types. Moreover, the location of Cyprus in the crossroads of three continents makes the island an important migration route. These factors along with the long history of the island, resulted in the formation of a rich and unique biodiversity, which is compared to the richest areas of Europe, in biodiversity terms.

Back to content | Back to main menu