Larnaca, is mostly well known for the International Airport but it offers so much more, and I think the town is really a secret that most people miss.
Paphos and Ayia Napa get all the glory but after spending 3 months living there, we found it to be such a wonderful place, and both Mike and I fell in love with it.
We found ourselves asking, why after all of the years we have been going to Cyprus we hadn't really noticed it before?
It has everything going for it.
It still feels like a lovely original Cyprus town with bucket loads of charm, yet has a gentle holiday feel to it, without feeling tacky.
The "tourist bit" is maintained along Phinikoudes (Foinikoudes), the promenade running parallel with the beach, from the marina end to the fort at the other end and beyond it all the way to Mackenzie Beach and the end of the runway at the airport.
It has bars, restaurants and plenty of places to sit and watch the world go by.
Local Cypriots will be found walking each evening or running and power walking in the morning along the palm tree lined avenue.
Hence the name (Phinikoudes relates to palm trees, and it is shown in the photograph at the top of the page).
Towards the airport...
Go on past the fort and you can walk (if you feel fit) or drive to the fishing shelter and the Mackenzie tourist area with more beaches, cafes and wonderful ice cream parlours but be careful as now road works are in place to improve the narrow street that runs parallel with the sea, or you could slightly detour and walk down the Piyale Pasha district (turkish quarter) to arrive at the same destination in Mackenzie.
Our personal favourite stopping off point is the Pahit Ice Cream Parlour, on the sea front for frozen cherry and strawberry yoghurt! (Pahit are an iced desserts company and you will find them all over Cyprus).
They do great freshly made sweet waffles with cream and ice cream as well! plus some great milkshakes or coffee if you prefer.
Larnaca has contributed a huge amount to the cultural heritage of the island.
It is built on the ancient kingdom of Kition, birthplace to Zeno the Greek philosopher, a founder of the Stoic school of thought.
It was also a second home to St Lazarus (he of being raised from the dead in the bible fame) and a very beautiful church with his name was built in the centre of Larnaca, it is a very popular tourist attraction and well used local church.
The bones of the Saint are held in the crypt.
It is probably one of the most photographed churches in Cyprus.
St Lazarus Church At Night
The town has a few things to keep you interested, we have mentioned the church above, and the marina, though small, makes for a nice start or finish to your evening stroll.
You might also be interested in the fort/castle, which sits at the opposite end of the promenade to the marina.
You can go inside, highly recommended at least once, because you get terrific views down the promenade and out to sea and you are right next to the Kebir Turkish mosque, so if you want to get some interesting photographs, you will have a great vantage point.
Piyale Pasha Area In The Old Town
Piyale Pasha Area
Piyale Pasha area is in the old town here you will find some great pottery places.
You cannot miss them and the one pictured above is part of the Larnaca Scala Cultural Walk, and you can join the walk on a Friday and go inside and learn some local craft skills.
Most of the paintwork on buildings in this area are the classic blue and white of Cyprus, and you will see several places offering ceramics to purchase.
If you go at the right time, you can even some local crafts people creating their masterpieces.
Kastello Beach Larnaca
You are really spoiled for beaches in Larnaca.
You have 3 right on the main drag, Phinikoudes, right between the marina and the fort/castle, which is then attached to Kastello where the fishing shelter is (where you can buy fresh fish straight off the boat!) which joins onto the famous Mackenzie Beach which runs to the end of the airport runway.
It is a brilliant place to take photographs of landing aircraft, descending over the beach if that is your thing, you can get some really good shots.
Either side of Larnaca, heading out east towards Dhekelia, or west past the airport towards Kiti and Pervolia, there are even more beaches.
Larnaca Fishing Shelter
We loved it around the Larnaca Fishing Shelter, close to town, you could walk in morning on certain days to buy fresh fish off the boat, or come down in the evening to watch the sun go down, behind the hotels while waiting for the chugging of the returning fishermen, from a hard afternoons work.
It is a good vantage point as well, by the rocks if you like to watch the planes come in to land.
Larnaca has a couple of really good cultural walks.
They start from the tourist office just by the Sunhall Hotel & Apartments, close to the marina entrance.
Go up the side of the hotel and you will see the tourist office in a single storey bungalow on the right hand side of the street.
There is one that covers the history of the town and you see a lot of the old buildings and there is a little sign on each building that says cultural walk, so if you are out and about you might spot some of the places on the tour.
You will see among others:
...and more besides...!
On Wednesdays @ 10 am subject to enough people showing up
The other walk is more about the arts and crafts of the town.
If you like pottery, and ceramics then this is the walk for you.
Do note, the start of the walk is from the Fort NOT the Tourist Office.
On Fridays @ 10am subject to enough people showing up
Both of the walks are free and if you want to download the official programme and map for the walks, then you can get them here: #link_2279127
It also covers the Aphrodite Cultural Walk as well, which covers other parts of the island as well, but in Larnaca, you will be walking around the salt lake and taking in the Kamares Aqueduct, on the edge of the town and some relevant historical sites in town.
The rest of Larnaca has a charm of its own.
On the outskirts of the town, and close to the airport, you will find the salt lake, home to thousands of migrating pink flamingos, wild swans and other migrating birds, who make their annual appearance over the winter and create an amazing colour spectacle that would be a shame to miss.
If you want a stunning sunset picture, then this is the place to get it, with the colours of the evening sky, shimmering across the water from the west.
If the winter has been a bad one with lots of rain, then the water level stays quite high over the summer.
If the winter has been dry then the water level evaporates and leaves a strong level of salt on the surface of the ground. It looks as though snow has fallen, but it is the salt.
It looks quite odd on first glance.
Larnaca Salt Lake
The region also has some interesting places to visit, especially Byzantine and Muslim monuments such as the very beautiful stone Hala Sultan Tekke.
You can see it from the road, and it is absolutely worth a visit, you can just go inside and take some respite from the heat of the summer.
There is a good road so even in the winter if raining, access is good.
It is a wonderful place for peace and contemplation, when we have visited it has usually been empty, but you do sometimes get tour buses that go.
Take your camera because you will want to photograph the wonderful architecture of the building and the surrounds.
Entrance I believe is free (I have never paid) and you just have to take off your shoes before entering.
We wore shorts in but there were robe type garments available, hanging up inside if you feel the need to cover up.
Hala Sultan Tekke
Here are some highlights of some other places to go in the Larnaca District...
The Sculpture Park
The Sculpture Park, recently opened is something we had never contemplated, assumed we wouldn't like, but actually fell in love with the place.
It is on the road between Zygi and the Camel Park, another very well know destination.
Well worth a visit, especially if you think you won't like it!
Lefkara Village is completely worth a trip out too.
Know as the lace village, is very pretty with an abundance of charm, and no trip to Larnaca would be complete without going to see it.
Also famous for its silverware too.
There is an upper (Pano) and a lower (Kato) village, and it is a photographers dream, with old houses, doors, shutters and people to photograph.
Pano Lefkara is the more commercial bit and has a lovely church, & Kato Lefkara is smaller, quieter but has the Lace Museum.
Oroklini Village (Voroklini)
Head out towards Dhekelia and will find this village.
Once you get past the modern villas and apartment blocks you will eventually find the old town.
Not very big but you can find some charm still here.
Small enough to walk round in about an hour, you can have a drink, a quick photograph and be on your way back to the beach.
Nice, authentic looking restaurant, but quite expensive in town but you can find a couple of little coffee shops too, if you just want a drink or snack.
Zygi Fishing Harbour
Zygi is the place to go for fish meze, if you like to eat it.
Yes it is a bit of a trek out from Larnaca, BUT for us, it is well worth it.
Not cheap but worthly of at least one meal when you are visiting the island, in our opinion.
Your only problem will be which restaurant to choose because there so many of them.
You can have a quick walk around the newly built harbour area and then head home.
Pyla Mixed Village
Pyla is one of only 4 villages situated in the buffer zone and is classed as a Mixed Village because both Greek and Turkish Cypriots live there together.
You can see their respective coffee shops and places of worship on different sides of the village along with separate schools for the children defined by the flag that flies over them.
There is a a very noticeable UN post in the centre of the square and some friendly UN soldiers.
Please note: You are NOT permitted to take photographs of the village or the village and if you are in doubt ask the soldiers in the lookout post.. it is disrespectful not to comply.
I did take the photograph of the tower above, but it was the only photograph I took, as I asked permission to take more and it was not granted.
This tower is one of 3 left in Cyprus, the other 2 are in different places.
The first, called Pyrgos Tis Regainas (Tower Of The Queen) is west of Larnaca heading out towards the airport near the village of Pervolia and the 3rd is in the occupied town in Famagusta near the harbour wall.
It is said to be OTHELLO Tower from William Shakespeare fame.
Pyla Village is approx 20 kms east of Larnaca as you head towards Ayia Napa.
The outside of Pyla is pretty average with a holiday complex dominating the space so you need to go further in to see the older part of the village and you can see a pretend turkish soldier keeping guard near the tower, across the buffer zone on the hill, some kind of cut out, which had us foxed for short while.
Call by on your way to Ayia Napa or somewhere else, because you probably won't spend a lot of time here.