Larnaca, on the west of the southern coast of Cyprus, is one of the island’s largest and liveliest cities. An important port for centuries, it is also home to the island’s international airport. In the past, most arrivals have passed through on the way to the many beach resorts, but recently Larnaca has developed its own tourist attractions and is now a frequent stop off or destination in its own right.
The long seafront promenade is being turned into a palm-lined walk- and cycle-way that is will be extended further along the coast. A major port for cruise ships will be completed in 2016-17 bringing more visitors to the city and no doubt more to entertain them. 

Overview

The history is impressive in one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Cyprus is a crossroads of cultures, so as well as the Crusader castle, and 9th-century Agios Lazaros Church, you'll find the important Hala Sultan Tekke mosque. The Pieriedes Museum is a private collection and has some of the most interesting exhibits on the island. There is a small old town around the harbour that's packed with restaurants and bars. Look for Cypriot patrons to find the best value and the most authentic local food. The city is busy at night, with some good nightclubs. Plus, there are a number of cinemas, including a large multiplex that caters to tourists and ex-pats.

Big hotels and apartment blocks sprawl along the coast, offering access to some very good, but usually busy beaches with lots of facilities for visiting families. The area around McKenzie Beach is the most fashionable part of town, with lots of trendy bars, restaurants and clubs. The salt-water lagoon, near the airport, is well worth a visit and in the winter is graced with flocks of pink flamingos. Off-shore, the wreck of MS Zenobia, a huge ferry that sank in 1980, is considered one of the top diving sites in the world. Shoppers today have a growing number of designer stores to pick from and also the products of a burgeoning artisan and craft sector.

When it comes to the climate, Cyprus is very hot in summer and popular for spring and autumn breaks, when temperatures are more manageable.

Key Facts

  • Currency: EUR: Euro.
    Language: Greek and Turkish, English widely spoken
    Approximate flight time from UK: 4.5 hours
    Time zone: GMT +2

Great For

History: Almost everywhere on Cyprus has a rich, long history, and Larnaca's Pierides Museum is one of the best on the island.
City Breaks: Larnaca is really on the up, becoming more fashionable and more engaging year by year. It's still very good value and short flights make it a great destination for a short break.
Divers: The water sports available around Cyprus' coast are generally of very good quality. Larnaca is blessed with access to one of the most spectacular diveable wrecks in the world.
Year-Round Weather: Many northern European visitors find the heat of the Cyprus summer too much. Larnaca's coastal location takes the sting out of the sun and the city is very mild in winter (averages over 10'C). Autumn and spring temperatures are just about perfect, getting up to around 20'C.

Larnaca Salt Lake

This fascinating natural phenomenon is millions of years old and was marooned inland by geological changes around 3,000 years ago. It's been historically important to the city, including as a source of valuable salt, and has produced many significant archaeological finds. Today its chief attraction is to migrating birds and to tourists. The birds - including flamingos - visit in winter; while tourists can enjoy its boat excursions, water-front restaurants and beautiful sunset views all year round.
Address: Leoforos Artemidos, Larnaca, Cyprus
Opening hours: N/A Cost: Free

Zenobia Dive

You can take boat trips over the Zenobia, but to really make the most of this surreal tourist attraction you should book in with one of Larnaca's many diving outfits and get up close. It's rated as one of the best dive sites in the world and, unusually for a wreck, is accessible to divers quite early in their underwater careers. The massive Swedish ferry went down on its maiden voyage (thankfully there were no fatalities) with a full cargo that's still largely in place alongside a rich collection of marine life that's moved in since.
Address: Larnaca City, Cyprus
Opening hours: Take scheduled diving trips from the seafront, including night dives
Cost: Company dependant

Pierides Museum

This is a private collection - the work of the Pierides family - who are bankers who've played an important role in Cyprus since the 18th century. It's one of the largest and best presented collections of Cypriot antiquities on the island, and very good value. There are around 2,500 exhibits here, representing 9,000 years of island life. It's a fascinating story with many chapters - Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Crusader - and this collection tells it brilliantly. The museum shop also includes work by modern Cypriot artists inspired by the collection.
Address: Zenonos Kitieos 4, Larnaca City 6023, Cyprus
Opening hours: Monday - Thursday: 9am to 4pm; Friday - Saturday: 9am to 1pm
Cost: Adults, 3Euros; children/students, 1Euro; groups of 10+, 2Euros per person
Website: http://www.pieridesfoundation.com.cy/

McKenzie Beach

The water here has a Blue Flag rating for cleanliness, and the beach is pleasant and sandy. The development of the Phinikoudes, the seafront promenade, now extends to McKenzie Beach. The area has become one of the most fashionable parts of town, with lots of restaurants, bars and some quite exclusive clubs. The city's other major beach, Finikoudes, is slightly more family friendly.
Address:
1101 Pacific Rim Hwy, Larnaca City, Cyprus Opening hours: N/A
Cost:
Free

Saint Lazarus Church

Agios Lazaros, or Saint Lazarus Church, is one of the best surviving examples of Byzantine architecture on Cyprus, dating back to the 9th century. The interiors are particularly impressive, with a gold iconostasis (a wall covered with religious icons) and impressive wood carvings, and it's a cool, peaceful place to visit in the heat of a Cyprus summer. A colourful festival procession is held in Lazarus' name before Easter each year. The Byzantine Museum is next door and will help add context to your visit.
Address: Plateia Agiou Lazarou, Larnaca, Cyprus
Opening Hours: 1st March until 31st October: 8am - 6:30pm and 1st November until end of February: 8am - 12:30pm and 2:30pm - 5:30pm
Cost: Free

Have you been to Larnaca recently? What are the must-do experiences that you'd suggest? Do you have tips on how to stretch that holiday budget a bit further or know of a hidden-gem that’s easy to miss?


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