Larnaca

Larnaca lies to the south-east of the island of Cyprus and its airport is the main entry point for the thousands of annual holiday visitors that choose a Cyprus holiday. Larnaca, also sometimes spelt Larnaka, is the third largest city after Nicosia and Limassol with a population of around 75,000 and one of the biggest beach resort areas of Cyprus. First impressions of Larnaca are not particularly edifying. The airport lies at the edge of a massive and barren salt lake about seven kilometres south of Larnaka town and visitors' first glimpse of Cyprus is often this barren, flat white salt lake that borders the airport perimeter. Thousands of flamingos and other bird migrants can be seen on the salt lake in winter but the lake quickly dries up to a barren wasteland in summer. But things improve in the city itself which is a cosmopolitan blend of old and new with a beautiful Larnaca seafront and clean, sandy beaches. The 'Phinikoudes' is Larnaca's biggest tourist draw - a long strip of palm-shaded cafes, clubs, bars and restaurants that line the long Larnaca beach. Tourist growth along the huge Larnaca Bay has been substantial, with lots of tourist hotels lining the shore, plenty of buzzing nightlife in the town and a variety of tourist sights to see, ranging from impressive churches to historic sites. There is entertainment galore aimed squarely at tourist's visitors, from scuba diving to camel rides.

Travel

Most holiday visitors arrive at Larnaca International Airport which is located about 7km south-west of the city centre. There are regular bus services into the city, plenty of taxi cabs outside the main arrivals hall and car rental desks inside the terminal. Roads a generally good, if a little congested, and motorways meet nearby taking traffic west to Paphos on the A5 and A6, east to Ayia Napa on the A3 and the A2 north to Nicosia. Larnaca has good travel connections with major highways heading east to Ayia Napa and west to Paphos as well as north to Nicosia. Local roads are good and bus services, in Larnaca at least, fairly regular.

Limited public transport outside Larnaca makes visiting nearby resorts and attractions difficult unless you have your own transport. There are buses to villages, but often they are once a day so a visit may require an overnight stop. Tourist development has recently spread south to the cape at Kiti. Taxi services are as   plentiful as you would expect in a major city and there are service taxis that operate on inter-city routes at very reasonable rates. The airport is only a few kilometres from the city and there are any number of taxi shuttle services for holiday visitors.

Bus services in Larnaca

Larnaca has very good road links to other coastal Cypriot cities and to Nicosia which lies just to the north. The A3 highway runs direct to Ayia Napa with Larnaca where it joins the A5 and A1 to Limassol. Larnaca city is a few kilometres north-east of the airport and there is a good road into the resort. Larnaca has reasonably good bus services, much improved since 2010, with routes for all the main cities and tourist resorts such as Limassol, Nicosia, Paphos, Agia Napa and Paralimni and Protaras. Larnaka Urban Bus Station is at Gonia Karaoli & Dimitriou and there are daily services to urban areas of Larnaca and to nearby villages.

Bus timetables and schedules are generally available from tourist offices or directly from the bus companies. Cyprus By Bus has a good online bus route planner and schedules for Larnaca. Also note many Cyprus bus services stop at around 6pm with limited services at weekends and holidays. Bus fares are usually paid direct to the bus driver so you nearly always need the exact fare.


Beaches

One of the biggest tourist draws on Cyprus, Larnaca has a wealth of long sandy beaches packed with every type of tourist facility, from the palm tree-lined main city beach to the sandy strips of far flung resorts. Shallow waters make many of the beaches of Larnaca ideal for families with children.
Phinikoudes (Palm Tree)

Phinikoudes is main Larnaca beach, directly in front of the city and named after the small palm trees planted in 1922, now very much mature. Phinikoudes is the main tourist strip of Larnaca, a large, sandy urban beach backed by high rise hotels and lined with tourist shops, bars, beachside tavernas and plenty of car parking. The busy promenade has shops, bars and restaurants to suit just about every. There's plenty on offer for families and even a small fun park for children. There are the usual ranks of sunbeds, all manner of watersports and the shallow sea makes it good for families. The beach is a 500 metre stretch of pale grey sand stretches and it is very flat, well maintained and The water clean and usually very calm. Lifeguards are on duty over the peak holiday season.

A large 450-berth marina lies to the north of the beach and a smaller one to the south. They offer pleasant walks and also advertise pleasure boat tours, fishing trips and scuba diving. A shipwreck in Larnaca bay adds to the excitement of underwater excursions.

Castella Beach

Just south of the main Phinikoudes and past the small yacht marina is Kastella or Castella beach, about a 15 minute walk from Larnaca centre and near the Psarolimano fishing shelter.
Kastella gets its name from Larnaca Castle which lies just over 1km to the east. Fine sand stretches south of the marina for about 400 metres, east facing and well protected by the long marina wall to the north. Ranks of sunbeds pack the grey sand overlooked by a set of low rise apartment blocks.
The sea is shallow, so this is a good beach for families and there are lifeguards on duty over the peak summer season. There is a large car park in front of the marina and there are showers, toilets and changing rooms nearby. There are the restaurants and cafes you might expect of an urban beach as well as the usual watersports.

McKenzie Beach

Variously called Makenzy, Mckenzy or McKenzie, this is one of the best-known beaches in Larnaca Bay and lies about 2.5km south of Larnaca city at the end of the airport runway with a salt lake beyond. Another urban beach just south of Kastella, Makenzy is backed by large hotels, shops, bars and restaurants with a wide promenade and a large municipal car park.

The resort is known for its seafood restaurants. The beach is fine white sand, flat, quite narrow but very long and with shallow water, making it a good beach for families with children. There are the usual watersports at the end of the beach with jet skis, boats, windsurfing and paragliding as well as scuba diving around the Zenobia shipwreck which lies just offshore. There is little in the way of natural shade but there are ranks of sunbeds along the beach as well as beach-side cafes and tavernas, showers, toilets, changing rooms and lifeguard cover over the summer season.

Meneou Beach

South of Makenzy the beaches thin out considerably until you get to Faros on the Kiti cape but, about 7km south of Larnaca and just north of the Possidon Beach Gardens, are a tiny strand of stone and shingle at Meneou. The south-east facing beach is rather steeply sloped and can quickly get deep so it's not great for families with children but this is a pleasant spot for those looking to escape the crowds of the bigger beaches around Larnaca Bay. A small taverna behind Meneou beach supplies the basics and a few sunbeds. It's a nice change to be free of large hotels overlooking the beach which has showers, toilets and changing rooms. The huge salt flats lie behind, over the road and near the airport.

Faros Beach

Faros is the main resort beach on the cape at Kiti in the far south of Larnaca Bay and has only recently been developed as a beach resort. It lies some 12km south of Larnaca near the village of Pevolia and a very short drive away from Larnaca Airport. Faros is a medium-sized but quiet beach, well protected by offshore rock barriers that make it safe for families with children.

Facilities include a beach bar and the usual watersports. Lifeguards are on duty over the summer season and several rows of sunbeds are usually placed well back from the water's edge. There is plenty of car parking space behind and Faros offers a relatively quiet break from the busy beaches nearer to Larnaca.

Lenios Beach

Visitors heading east as far as Lenios, will have left urban Larnaca behind. A string of offshore rock barriers has been created along the whole length of this part of the coast and this is where they begin. Lenios doesn't have much of a beach; this is just a sheltered spot hidden behind the sea wall, north-east facing and not with many facilities. It takes its name from the nearby Lenios Hotel and some will appreciate the quiet location and sedate air.

The beach is very exposed and there is nothing in the way of natural shade but sunbeds are strung along the flat sand shore, the sea is shallow and there are showers, toilets and changing rooms as well as a beach taverna and lifeguards in the summer season. Plenty of parking is available here too..

Yannathes Beach

The long sandy beach at Yannathes is in the beautiful Oroklini area, once notable for its wetland reed beds and eucalyptus trees before developers moved in early 2011 and ripped much of it out. The beach is located about 8km north-east of of Larnaca and well known for its beauty. A path lined with flowers and trees leads to the 2km long sandy beach, suitable for families given the shallow, reef-protected water and it's Blue Flag status.

There are watersports and beach volleyball here as well as a good car park, beach promenade, showers, toilets, snack bar and restaurant. There are also a couple of scuba diving centres along Dhekelia Road. Inland is the small village of Oroklini where many houses have been restored to their original traditional style and with several tavernas in the heart of village.

Dassoudi Beach

Just off the main Dhekelia Road to the east of Yannathes is a small but deep beach of fine sand, flanked left and right by apartments and hotels and backed with low trees and scrub. Dassoudi beach has a large beach bar that sits slap in the middle of the sands fronted by several rows of sunbeds along the shore and backed by trees and shubbery. The man-mad rocky reef barriers ensure gentle seas and there are showers, toilets, changing rooms and plenty of parking nearby

Pyla (CTO) Beach

Variously called Pyla or Pylo and often CTO beach (after the Cyprus Tourism Organisation) this is a pleasant stretch of deep golden sand that lies off the Dhekelia Road soon after the Dassoudi turnoff.

Pyla beach is a favourite of families thanks to good sand and shallow water offshore as well of plenty of facilities that include a pleasant children's park and playground area behind the beach. There are good restaurants nearby as well as snack bars on the beach. Parking is plentiful and there are lots of sunbeds although the beach is rather exposed with no natural shade other than a few closely-clipped palm trees at the back of the sands. CTO sands are known for the many beach activities, which include volleyball, handball, and loads of watersports. There are showers, toilets, changing rooms and lifeguards on duty over the summer.

Dhekelia (Golden Bay) Beach

Dhekelia beach, also called Golden Bay for reasons best known to marketing people, is the best stretch of sand on this bit of the coast however and is overlooked by a three large hotel complexes that pretty much dominate the skyline.

A couple of large man-made rock reef barriers sit offshore creating two spits of sand with a large sheltered sea pool between them. More soft golden sand stretches both east and west while hotel gardens behind add plenty of greenery around the half dozen hotel swimming pools. The place is packed with every sort of tourist facility and attraction with water sports galore, sunbeds, showers, toilets and changing rooms. The shallow, sheltered waters make this an ideal spot for families with children and the road which runs past the back of the beach is thick with tavernas, cafes and bars.

Cessac Beach

Arriving in Dhekelia proper on the main B3 road, the visitor first comes across a small beach of grey sand called Cessac beach. Well sheltered in the arms of a small bay, the eastern end is protected by a rock outcrop that forms the entrance to a small marina. A large car park sits above the beach where there are a couple of restaurants.

This is a public beach with a narrow shelf of soft grey sand with plenty of sunbeds and pleasant shallow seas. There are water sports here as well as a beach snack bar, showers, toilets and changing rooms while lifeguards are on duty over the summer season.



Sights

Plenty of pottery and a reconstructed Neolithic tomb make up the bulk of the collection at the Archaeological Museum but it's a poor cousin to its private neighbour, the Pierides. Roman glassware and terracotta figures fill out the displays housed in five rooms.

One of the larger rooms is devoted to limestone and marble statues, busts and some earthenware statuettes. Interesting examples of the flora and fauna of Cyprus are displayed in eight rooms of the Natural History Museum. Visitors are advised to avoid school hours as the place is hugely popular with school parties and, though well behaved, they can be a problem if you want to see much.


Things to Do at Larnaca


Ayios Lazaros Church

The Byzantine Museum is found in the courtyard of the church of Agios Lazaros and houses what priceless treasures didn't disappear from Larnaca Fort when it wasn't under Turkish administration before 1974.
The current collection is pretty extensive with many church artefacts, icons and such, many of which have been donated by Russian churches. It's worth a visit to the church anyway which supposedly has the tomb of Lazarus - he who was raised from the dead by Jesus. Lazarus' remains were originally entombed here but, after their discovery in 890, spirited away and ended up in Marseilles. The church stands out in the southern half of the town with its prominent bell-tower.

Ancient Kition

The visitor is hard put to find anything of the original Larnaca town of Kition, so much has been dug up and concreted over, but what there is a small and rather nondescript archaeological site known as Area II in the north-west.

Raised walkways take you over some remains of walls but there is little by way of explanation and a visit can be frustrating unless you have swotted up on the place beforehand.

As most of ancient Kition lies under modern Larnaca there is precious little left to see. The Swedes made attempts at archaeological work in the 1920s but the British had done enormous damage around 1880 by carting off much of what had survived above ground to fill in the nearby malarial marshes with what they deemed to be rubble.

Larnaca Fort

Imposing and prominent on the shore Larnaka Fort and Medieval Museum once divided the Greek and Turkish halves of the town. There is little to see in the castle itself which has undergone many changes since it was first built in 1652.

It is square with very thick walls and some battlements. There are some old cannon and field guns to look at. In one of the upper rooms is a small museum of medieval relics. The open courtyard if often used for concerts and cultural events.

Kiti village

Kiti village is about 7km to the south Larnaka. Visitors often head for the 11th century cruciform church of Panagia Angeloktisti, literally 'church built by angels'. Inside is a 6th century mosaic of the Madonna and Child from an earlier church that was built on the site and which was only 'found' in 1952.

Heading south out of the village brings you to Perivolia about 500 meters from the shore is an impressive Venetian tower but you need a ladder to get into it.

The coastline here is generally low and flat, with accumulations of gravel and pebble and few tiny, poor sand and gravel beaches. The lighthouse makes a picturesque addition to what is generally a barren and windblown landscape.

Lefkara village

The pretty mountain villages of Ano Lefkara and Kato Lefkara are about 25km west off the main A5 highway to Limassol (Lemesos).Both villages are renowned for the exquisite lacework produced by the locals, for which they are justifiably famous throughout the world.

Leonardo Da Vinci is reputed to have taken Lefkara lace home to Italy. The villages are pretty enough even without the lace with cobbled lanes and wooden balconies. Visitors wandering the cobbled lanes and back streets will be hard put though to avoid offers to 'buy some lace' at almost every corner. Everyone here seems to be making it or selling it.

Choirokoitia Site

Just south of Lefkara on the A5 road to Limassol (Lemosos) is a major archaeological site at Choirokoitia or Khirokitia. The World heritage Site dates from about 7,000BC and is probably one of the earliest human settlements on Cyprus and maybe the only example in the world of a Neolithic settlement.

Built on a hillside site there were once 60 houses inside a circular wall. It is know that they practised agriculture and animal husbandry, and had the remarkable custom of burying their dead under the floors of their houses. Reconstruction at the foot of the hill makes for an interesting visit. Steps and walkways overlook the original settlement and informative signs give lucid descriptions of key features.

Stavrovouni Monastery

The big drawback at Stavrovouni Monastery is a ban on women entering the monastery proper. Female visitors are allowed in the bookshop when it's open and in the church outside.

The monastery dates from 327, allegedly founded by Constantine the Great's mother Helena (making the ban on women rather ironic). She is reputed to have built a cross there with one of the original nails from the cross of Jesus, a common claim of many monasteries.

Reputed to be the oldest monastery in Cyprus it is reached by a steep winding road off the main A1 from Larnaca to Limassol (Lemesos). Although the mountain it sits on is not particularly high, about 600 metres, you still get a magnificent view from the top as it's the only mountain in the area.

Larnaca Aqueduct

The Larnaca Aqueduct was built in 1746 by Koca Bekir Pasha who realised the difficulties of fresh water access faced by the poor in the city. The aqueduct carried water from a source about 6 miles south of the town, with the supply involving a long underground tunnel, 250 air wells, and three series of overland arches. The aqueduct was repaired in 1856 and enabled the aqueduct to remain in use until the 1950s. Today the aqueduct is referred to as "The Kamares" ("The Arches") with the structure being illuminated at night.

Salt Lake - Aliki

This lake is one of the most important wetlands of Cyprus and it has been declared as, Natura 2000 site, Special Protected Area under the Barcelona Convention and an Important Bird Area (IBA).

The Salt Lake attracts a large number of migrating birds besides flamingoes and the latter form a blaze of pink as they gather in the centre of the lake. Flamingoes which always come in December and stay till March are said to be fed with a kind of shrimp that lives in the salt lake. It is the haunt of 85 species of water-birds with estimated populations between 20,000–38,000 and one of the important migratory passages through the country. Among them are 2,000–12,000 flamingoes, Phoenicopterus ruber, which not only stops over but also breeds on this wetland. Other important bird species include Grus Grus, Charadrius Alexandrinus, Larus Ridibundus, Himantopus Himantopus, Burhinus Oedicnemus, Hoplopterus Spinosus, Oenanthe Cypriaca and Sylvia Melanothorax.

When summer comes the water evaporates leaving a crust of salt and a haze of gray dust by the banks. Salt is no longer collected because of the airport which is    very close. There is a nice trail next to the lake starting from the road that leads to the airport very close to Pattichio Park. It extends as far as the Old Roman Aqueduct Kamares.

Zenobia Wreck

Zenovia was a Swedish built Challenger-class ferry launched in 1979 that capsized and sank close to Larnaca, Cyprus, in June 1980 on her maiden voyage. She now rests on her port side in approximately 42 metres (138 ft) of water and was named as one of The Times top ten wreck diving sites in the world in 2003.