Larnaca travel guide
Larnaca is the international gateway to Cyprus, thanks to its busy international airport and seaport. It is only Cyprus's third largest coastal city but it is possibly the most popular tourist hub. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and has plenty of historical sightseeing on offer to complement its deep-blue sea, bright sandy beaches and reliably sunny skies.
The city was called Kition in the days of the Old Testament and the ruins of the ancient city can still be seen. Much of its rich archaeological heritage has been preserved and is showcased in two of its main museums.
In addition to its rich history, the Larnaca region is known as a hotspot for partyingon the Mediterranean, and is home to Ayia Napa, one of the most popular resort areas in Cyprus, as well as lively villages like Protaras, Kapparis, and Paralimni.
Away from the action in the towns, the region offers miles of unspoiled wilderness to explore; the Cape Greco peninsula is a government-protected conservation area with dramatic cliffs and abundant indigenous flora and fauna.
Larnaca District Museum
Note: Parts of the museum are closed for renovations as of February 2014.
Address: Kalogreon Square
The lower part of the northern city walls, built of huge stones resembling Mycenaean cyclopean walls, are also still visible. Wooden walkways allow visitors a view of the excavation areas where many important artefacts have been discovered. Residents in Larnaca are still discovering artefacts all over the city, and a number of building projects in Larnaca have been abandoned due to fresh discoveries. It seems that a large portion of the ancient ruins actually lie beneath modern Larnaca. As is often the case with attractions in Cyprus, there is very little information at the site and it is best to do your research before visiting to fully appreciate the significance of what you are seeing.
Opening time: Monday to Friday 9am-2:30pm; Thursdays 3pm-5pm (except July and August).
Church of Ayios Lazaros
Eight days before the Greek Orthodox Easter each year the Baroque wood-carved icon of Saint Lazarus normally stored in the church is carried in a procession through the streets of the town. This beautiful little church is only a few yards from Larnaka Beach and is easy to find. The interior is richly decorated and there is an atmosphere of profound peace. Visitors are asked to be considerate in their dress so be sure to cover up appropriately and behave respectfully in this important place of worship. It is recommended that women wear a scarf or hat on their heads.
Address: Plateia Agiou Lazarou
Larnaca Medieval Museum
This fascinating and well-stocked museum is housed in the upper level of the Larnaca fort on the city's seafront. The fort itself is the main attraction of the museum it houses; it was built in 1625 by the Turks to defend the city from invasion (there is still a Turkish inscription above the doorway). Later it was used as a prison during the early years of British rule. One of the most popular attractions in Larnaca, the fort also operates as the Larnaca Municipal Cultural Centre during the summer and hosts local cultural events. The museum collection itself is fairly small but impressive, containing displays from the early Christian, Byzantine, Lusignan and Ottoman periods, as well as 12th to 18th century pottery, photos of historical sites and a collection of firearms, helmets and swords dating from the 15th to the 19th century. There are great views from the top of the building which offers a lovely opportunity for taking photographs. The fort is so close to the sea that visitors walking around the sea wall might be ankle-deep in water. Beyond the fort there is a long street of restaurants and cafes where visitors can find refreshments and take a break from sightseeing.
Address: Larnaca Fort
Opening time: Open Monday to Friday.
There is plenty to see and do in Larnaca, which offers visitors the chance to relax in a gorgeous Mediterranean setting, and the opportunity to explore a number of impressive archaeological sites. The main attraction in Larnaca is the remains of the ancient city of Kition; visitors can see parts of the excavations and explore the ancient ruins on the lovely coastline. A number of exciting atrefacts from Kition are preserved in Larnaca's museums, the best of which are the Larnaca District Museum and the Larnaca Medieval Museum (located in the thrilling Larnaca fort).
The city is truly rich in ancient history and a paradise for lovers of archaeology: just a little way outside of Larnaca visitors can explore the ruins and excavations of Choirokoitia, a Neolithic settlement dating back to 7000 BC and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Larnaca is also blessed with a number of significant religious institutions. The Church of Ayios Lazaros is a really special place to visit, with a richly decorated interior and a proud history. Another religious attraction in Larnaca is the Hala Sultan Tekke, a striking Muslim monument and mosque set in the beautiful Salt Lake landscape very close to the airport. The famous Stavrovouni Monastery makes for a great excursion from the city; it is the oldest monastery in Cyprus and is said to contain an important relic, a fragment of the Holy Cross. Regrettably, however, women are not permitted inside this Greek Orthodox monastery.
For those more interested in sand and sea the beaches of Larnaca are worthy of any amount of basking and swimming and the main town beach, Finikoudes, is very popular. Larnaca is also a dream destination for divers and boasts numerous worthwhile dives, both technical and recreational, including viewings of the Wreck of the Zenobia.
The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and really worth a visit for anybody interested in ancient history or archeology. You will have to do a little climbing up the hillside to see the excavations and it is probably best to wear decent walking shoes and bring a water bottle; it should, however, be manageable even for the unfit.
Opening time: Monday to Friday 9am to 7:30pm, closes 5pm Saturdays and Sundays (1 April to 31 August). Hours are abbreviated in winter.
The mountain on which the monastery is dramatically perched, with a winding, steep road, used to be called Olympus but is now known as Stavrovouni. The monastery is considered the spiritual centre of Cyprus and now houses quite a number of monks. Recently, the monastery underwent a complete renovation; its small church was fully restored with new frescoes and icons painted by the famous artist, Fr. Kallinikos, a monk from Stavrovouni. The pictures record the legend of the foundation: St. Helena, in a brilliant red garment, finds the True Cross in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, the monastery is only accessible to men; women are not allowed to enter.
Opening time: Daily 8am-12pm and 2pm-5pm (September to March); 8am-12pm and 3pm-6pm (April to August). Men only.
Lefkara is a lovely little town which delights visitors and allows them to explore what seems like an authentic Cypriot village. The people are very friendly and welcoming and it is a good place to meet some locals. Lefkara is also a good base from which to explore a number of other little villages.
Larnaca International Airport
Location: The airport is three miles (4km) outside of Larnaca.
Time: GMT +2 (GMT+3 between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +357 24 816400
Getting to the city: Buses and a few express shuttles provide regular service from the airport to Faros, Tekkes, Limassol, Nicosia and Larnaca. Various shuttle companies offer service from the airport by advance arrangement, and some local hotels offer transfer services for guests.
Car rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include Europcar, Budget and Sixt.
Airport Taxis: Taxi services are available 24 hours a day. Meters are government-regulated.
Facilities: Airport facilities include banks, currency exchange, a café, smoking lounge, charging ports, a business lounge, post office, duty-free shopping, and a gift shop. Snacks and light refreshments are available 24 hours. There are disabled facilities available, including wheelchairs. Tour operators are located in Arrivals.
Parking: There is a drop-off and pick-up zone and short and long-term parking at Larnaca International Airport. One hour's parking in the short-term lot costs €4.50, with a daily maximum of €10.
Departure tax: None.
The most popular way to get around in Larnaca is by bus. The local public bus service is run by Zinonas Larnaca Buses, which has routes that run throughout the city and surrounding areas. Buses are blue in colour and usually have their destination displayed on the front window. Road-side bus stations generally don't display departure information, although buses should arrive approximately every 30 minutes. The city's largest bus terminal is the Dimitras Bus Station to the east of the city, which can provide travellers with route information. Buses are also a popular option for intercity travel and are run by a variety of private operators. Taxis are another option for getting around Larnaca as well as for intercity travel but they are more expensive than buses. For longer distances, shared taxis are a popular, more cost-effective option than taking a regular taxi cab.
The Mediterranean climate in Larnaca is characterised by hot, relatively dry summers and winters with moderate rainfall and thunderstorms. The hottest part of the year lasts from the middle of June until the beginning of October, with average high temperatures between 84°F (29°C) and 91°F (33°C). Minimum temperatures rarely fall below 66°F (19°C), while humidity levels during this period can be as high as 90 percent. The summer heat is, however, offset by fresh sea breezes. The coolest part of the year starts in the beginning of December and lasts until the end of March, with temperatures that generally range between 44°F (7°C) and 66°F (19°C). Light to moderate rains and thunderstorms can occur throughout most of the year; rain is most common from December to March and least likely between the middle of July and the end of August.
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