Larnaca was known as Kition when the Phoenicians first built a settlement here on the southern coast of Cyprus. Modern-day Larnaca lies on the same site, keeping most of the treasures of the past hidden from archaeologists. But in recent years, plenty of evidence of previous civilizations in the area has been found.
Part of the Persian Empire, the city vigorously defended itself from the attacks of the Athenians, most notably from general Cimon, who died at sea trying to take the city. Persian influence ended with the arrival of Hellenistic rule on Cyprus. Zeno – perhaps the city’s most famous son – was born under the Greeks.
The son of a merchant, Zeno followed in his father's trade until he was shipwrecked on a trip to Athens. After discovering some writings about Socrates in the city, he decided to devote himself to philosophy. He studied under the Cynic, Crates of Thebes in Athens before starting his own school of Stoic philosophy. His central belief was to live a simple life in harmony with nature. For that reason, Zeno often cut a rather destitute figure, as he put no stock in appearances or material goods.
The island is also known for being the home of Lazarus, who became bishop of Lazarus after being raised from the dead by Jesus, according to Biblical legend. Larnaca eventually passed into Ottoman hands and gained its current name. From the 18th century onwards it grew rapidly, becoming the most important port on the island and home to many foreign consuls. The port still supplies a steady flow of fresh fish for the city's residents, as well as the thousands of visitors who flock to Larnaca every year.
Catch a flight to Larnaca to visit the city that served as home to so many interesting characters throughout the ages, from the stoic philosopher Zeno to the Biblical figure Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus himself.
Add the clear waters of the Mediterranean on your doorstep, restaurants using only the freshest ingredients, and a ghostly shipwreck to explore, you why so many tourists choose to spend a weekend in Larnaca.
One of the most notable landmarks in Larnaca is the Church of Ayios Lazaros, which dates back as far back as the 9th century. According to the history of the Greek Orthodox Church, it was built on the site of the tomb of Lazarus himself. Lazarus of Bethany is the subject of one of Jesus' most famous miracles: he was raised from the dead after four days. Lazarus was then appointed Bishop of Kittim (now Larnaca) and lived on Cyprus until his death. His tomb was rediscovered in 890, and the Church of Ayios Lazaros was built on its site in commemoration. The building you see today has been added to many times over the centuries. During the last renovation in the 1970s, remains of Lazarus' body were found under the altar.
A stunning sight all year around, this network of four lakes is best visited between December and March, when up to 12,000 flamingos transform it into a riot of pink as they feast on the lakes’ bountiful shrimp. These colourful birds are just one of the 80-plus species to call the lake at least a temporary home. For that reason, Larnaca Salt Lake is a protected wetland area under the Ramsar and Barcelona conventions. The lakes lie west of the city itself, on the road that heads to the airport.
Kition is the name of the ancient city founded by the Phoenicians. Most of the remnants of that settlement lie buried out of reach beneath modern day Larnaca, but excavations have discovered some interesting artefacts. Work started by a Swedish team in the early 20th century has uncovered a shrine to Astarte, the Phoenician goddess of fertility, as well as four other temples.
When driving to Larnaca from the airport, it is impossible to miss the imposing structure of Hala Sultan Tekke, a giant mosque on the site of a very important Muslim shrine. Sitting on the shore of Larnaca Salt Lake, modern-day Muslims believe it to be the place where Umm Haram – the wet nurse of the prophet Muhammad – died. This complex was completed in the early 19th century, and cotains a mosque, a shrine, a mausoleum and a cemetery. Entrance is by way of a small donation.
Tip * Booking your Tours, Transfers & Airport Parking before you go will save your money & time and ensure a stress free start to your holiday
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Just like the famous Irish ocean liner, the MS Zenobia sank on its maiden voyage, just off the coast of Larnaca. With no icebergs to hit in the Mediterranean, this Swedish-built ferry's problems are attributed to faulty on-board machinery. When the vessel sank in June 1980, it took 104 lorries of cargo with it. Since then, the site has become one of the world's finest scuba diving destinations.
The MS Zenobia is 178m long and lies on its side, with the closest part to the surface at a depth of 18 metres and the seabed at 42 metres, making it a great location for divers of different levels. Divers can even sit in the cabs of the lorries that never made it to their intended destination in Syria.
Check out the Camel Park EP Mazotos for a relaxing afternoon with a twist. Located about 15 minutes away in the nearby village of Mazotos, you can take a tour around the grounds on one of the park's camels. Visitors will also enjoy the park’s ostriches, ponies and deer. An on-site restaurant and a pool are great if you want to catch some sun and really make a day of it.
Phinikoudes translates to “little palm trees”, but a visit to Larnaca's main beach will reveal the name to be a little out-of-date. Planted in the 1920s, the little palms in question have grown into massive, towering trees, and the beach is now lined with cafés, restaurants, bars, and shops. The beach itself is one of the cleanest in Cyprus, and has a wide range of water sports on offer. The gentle slope of the seabed makes it very safe for children to swim.
Situated on the Akamas headland to the northwest of Cyprus is the place believed to have helped Aphrodite – the Greek goddess of love and beauty – keep looking her best. She could make a man fall in love with her with just one look, and bathing in this small spring-supplied pool – now known as the Baths of Aphrodite – may have been her secret.
The five-star luxury Golden Bay Hotel sits right in the heart of the Larnaca Bay, just a short walk from the front door lies a long stretch of beach. Complete with landscaped gardens and an imaginatively crafted pool complex, the hotel is ideal for a relaxing holiday. Rooms come complete with cable television, a balcony, Internet access and air conditioning. The hotel’s amenities include a fitness room, a health club, a spa, and a world class restaurant.
For a home away from home, head to the Reginas Exclusive Villas Hotel where guests will find three and four-bedroom dwellings, each of which comes with its own private pool. All units are fully furnished, with a well-equipped kitchen, air conditioning, two bathrooms, and a living room boasting a TV, a DVD player, Internet access, and a CD-based stereo system. Visitors that fancy dining on home-cooked fare al fresco, make use of each unit’s built-in outdoor barbecue, perfect for grilling some of Cyprus' wide range of meat and fish. There is even an on-site tennis court for more active guests.
Visits cannot get closer to the beach than the Flamingo Beach Hotel – guests have barely stepped out of the hotel doors before their feet touch the sand. And the Mediterranean is not the only view on offer, as the stunning Larnaca Salt Lake can also be seen from the hotel.
The newly renovated Livadhiotis Hotel sits directly opposite the church of Ayios Lazaros in the postcard-perfect St Lazarus square. A short walk from the beach, the main shopping area, and Larnaca's countless bars and restaurants, the Livadhiotis Hotel puts you right in the heart of things.
Check out our offers if you want more choice of hotels in Larnaca.
Besides walking, taking a bus is the cheapest way to get around Larnaca. Buses leave frequently and routes cover the entire city, running late into the night during summer months. If you want to explore other parts of the island, there are a number of inter-city services running to Paphos and Nicosia, amongst other destinations.
There are two kind of taxis in Larnaca, private and shared. In private cabs drivers are legally required to use the metre, so make sure it is running when you get in. Fares are cheap and they can be hailed on the street.
Consider shared taxis for longer distances, which run between towns and cities on the island. Some fit up to seven people. Call in advance to book your seat.
To explore Cyprus at your leisure, consider car hire in Larnaca.
Larnaca International Airport is Cyprus' biggest passenger terminal, situated less than 5 kilometres southwest of the city.
Private hire taxis wait outside the arrivals hall to take you into Larnaca, or you can take a seat on a shared taxi, although these should be booked in advance. Buses also run during the week, but are less reliable on weekends. Many hotels offer guest transfers services.
From Larnaca marina, you can catch a water taxi to Ayia Napa or join a boat tour along the island's Mediterranean coastline.
With its traditional Cypriot cuisine and its great location right on the Mediterranean, Militzis (Piale pasha 42, Larnaca 18534) is one of Larnaca's best-loved restaurants. Meat features prominently in the island's cooking, and the cuisine at Militzis is no exception. Make sure to try the kleftiko – slow-roasted lamb cooked on the bone with lemon and garlic. To cook the meat chefs use large outdoor ovens, which can be seen as you enter the picturesque beachside restaurant. Grab a table on the terrace to enjoy the great views of the Mediterranean.
To taste the bountiful fruits of the Mediterranean, head to Zephyros (37 Piyale Pasha, Larnaca 6028). This quaint tavern sits on the harbour and is famed for turning the catch-of-the-day into a delicious delicacy before it arrives at your table. For a range of the delights on offer, try the fish meze, which comes with grilled octopus, fried white fish, and deliciously fresh calamari. Guese can also enjoy the menu’s meat and salad options.
With its walls bedecked with canvases of all shapes and sizes, the Art Café 1900 (6 Stasinou Street) is certainly aptly named. Since Marios Dianellos and Maria Pyrgou opened it in 1993 by, the bohemian charm of this bar and restaurant has captured the imagination of Cypriots and tourists alike. Art Café 1900 is also known for its great menu, which offers local favourites like stifado (beef cooked with onions), Greek salad, and kleftiko, cooked simply but to perfection.
There are no obligatory vaccinations for a trip to Cyprus. Recommended vaccinations include boosters in the vaccination schedule, including polio, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, and hepatitis A.
Cyprus' health infrastructure is decent and most health problems can be treated locally.
Drinking water is potable, but the amount of limestone present means it should be drunk in moderation, particularly in summer when bottled water is a better option.
Petty crime does exist in Cyprus, particularly in the summer season, so bear the following in mind:
- Only carry small amounts of cash on your person
- Be discreet with valuable items like electronics or jewellery
- Refrain from walking unaccompanied at night or in darkened areas
- Refrain from accepting drinks or food offered in bars
Photocopy all travel documents and keep the copies on in case the originals are stolen or lost. Keep the originals in a safe place (like the hotel safe) with a little money. Carry a mobile phone with you and store emergency telephone numbers. If you are assaulted, keep calm and do not resist or retaliate.
Cyprus is a country in two parts, the Turkish north and the south controlled by the Republic of Cyprus. Tensions between the two sides occasionally flare up, so avoid border areas. When talking to locals, refrain from voicing strong opinions about either side.