Situated on the southern coast of Cyprus, Larnaca is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities on the island. With unique attractions, wonderful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and breathtaking historical sites, it is a perfect destination for anyone looking for both a good rest and new adventures.
History of Larnaca
Larnaca, originally the city-kingdom of Kition, was established during the Mycenaean period around the 13th century BC. Rich in copper resources and other resources, Kition served as a major trading port. Between the 1200 and 1000 BC, Greek colonists Achaeans settled in the city along with the Phoenicians who arrived at around the same time.
Because of its prime location, over the next centuries, the city was conquered by many invaders, including Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Ottomans, Franks, and Venetians. The Byzantine era was one of the most significant periods for Larnaca as that is when the city started to flourish. Many famous monuments remaining to date were built during this time. Under the Ottoman rule, Larnaca remained an important town of Cyprus.
From 1878 to 1960 Larnaca, along with the rest of the island, was under British control. Shortly after Cyprus gained independence, in 1974, the island was invaded by the Turks. Following the invasion, 40,000 people fled from the north to the south, thus increasing the population of the city. Today Larnaca is a busy port with an international airport and one of the most important cities in Cyprus.
From ancient religious buildings to natural wonders and excellent beaches, there is something for everyone in Larnaca, Cyprus.
Here are some of the top attractions in Larnaca:
- Saint Lazarus Church – a 9th-century church with fascinating wood carvings and icons, built over the tomb of Lazarus. One of the oldest on the island, this church is a wonderful example of Byzantine architecture.
- Larnaca Salt Lake – a complex of four lakes, Alyki, Orphani, Soros, and Spiro, situated near the Larnaca Airport. This unique area is home to approximately 85 species of waterbirds, making it an excellent tourist attraction for nature lovers. Every year around January and February about 10,000 flamingos visit the lake. During the summer the lake dries up, revealing a layer of salt.
- Finikoudes Beach – a lovely sandy beach with a palm tree promenade, one of the most famous spots in Larnaca, Cyprus. Situated in the center of the city, this beach is close to many amazing bars and restaurants.
- Kamares Aqueduct – an old aqueduct, located outside of the city of Larnaca. Built-in 1750 and used until 1939, it remains an interesting historical site.
- Hala Saltan Tekke Mosque – one of the most sacred Islamic places in the world, located in a beautiful place on the west bank of the Larnaca Salt Lake. Hala Sultan Tekke comprises a mosque, cemetery, mausoleum, minaret, and living quarters.
- Larnaca Medieval Castle – a fort built during the Middle Ages to defend the harbor of Larnaca. The castle was later used as a prison by the British and now it is converted into a small museum.
- Mackenzie Beach – located near the airport, this beach boasts the Blue Flag status and is very popular with families. It is also a great place to try water sports like windsurfing and water skiing. Besides, there are many local restaurants and cafés nearby where you can take a sip of Cypriot coffee while watching the planes taking off and landing.
- Pierides Museum – Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation – the oldest private museum in Cyprus, founded with the aim of preserving the antiquities of the island. Its marvelous collection contains more than 2,500 extraordinary exhibits from different eras.
- Larnaca Marina – situated right next to Finikoudes beach, it is a lovely place to relax while watching the sunset or yachts sailing in the sea.
- Panagia Angeloktisti Church – an 11th-century Byzantine church, located in the village of Kiti, 12 kilometers southwest of Larnaca. It is famous for its beautiful frescoes and the 6th-century mosaic of the Virgin Mary.
- Camel Park – a wonderful park located in the village of Mazotos, about 15 minutes from the Larnaca Airport. Camel Park Mazotos boasts the name of the biggest camel park in Europe and is home to more than a hundred different animals, including goats, ponies, alpacas, lemurs, and ostriches. It is a great place for a visit with the family with plenty of activities to offer such as camel rides and animal feeding.
- MS Zenobia Wreck – a 172 meters long Swedish roll-on roll-off ferry that sank in Larnaca Bay on her maiden voyage from Sweden to Syria in June 1980. Lying at a depth of 42 meters, this well-known shipwreck is considered to be one of the top ten dive sites in the world.
Where to Stay in Larnaca, Cyprus
Larnaca, Cyprus has a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget. There are simple self-catering apartments, budget hotels, and hostels all over the city that are perfect for solo travelers and groups of travelers wanting to explore the historical attractions.
Holidaymakers can choose from luxury family hotels, mid-range, and boutique hotels. Also, self-catering villas in attractive locations, offering different kinds of amenities and excellent service.
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For families seeking a relaxing holiday, there are all-inclusive resorts and hotels that take care of everything from your arrival to departure. However, most of them are located in the neighboring towns of Ayia Napa and Protaras.
Those who want a more rural feel should head to nearby villages such as Choirokoitia, Lefkara, and Kato Drys. There you can find traditional stone houses and charming little villas with balconies, courtyards, and swimming pools.
You better book your accommodation in advance if you are planning to visit Larnaca during the summer months as the city tends to get quite busy at this time of year.
How to Get to Larnaca & Visas
If you are a European citizen, you don’t need a visa to enter Cyprus. Although, you must carry a valid passport or national identity card. It is worth noting that the duration of your stay cannot exceed 90 days during any 180-day period.
Larnaca has its own international airport located only 4 kilometers from the city center. It is the largest and busiest airport in Cyprus just like the Ercan international airport in Nicosia, North Cyprus.
Many airlines operating direct flights to Larnaca, making this lively port city accessible from anywhere in Europe. You can easily reach the city center from the airport by bus. One-way ticket costs €1.50.