If you’re looking for a holiday where you can sunbathe on sandy beaches and also delve into history, then Cyprus has to be on your must-go list. And Larnaca, where your plane lands, is a great place to start. Set on the southern coast of the island, Larnaca is the third largest city in Cyprus, after the capital Nicosia and Limassol. The city is home to Cyprus’ main airport and the only one flown to from Qatar.
The city is named after the many larnakes – sarcophagi – that are found in the area. There are supposedly around 3,000 tombs. It is built on the historic site of Cition and ruins are still seen today. With a moderate climate year-round, it’s a pleasant place to visit with highs of about 32°C in summer. With a palm tree lined seafront there are plenty of swanky beach clubs, while the town centre houses a number of historical buildings as well as a bustling nightlife scene and some traditional tavernas.
Sightseeing and Culture
If you’re a wildlife-lover, don’t miss a trip to Larnaca Salt Lake (www.larnacareguin.com). Made up of four salt lakes with a surface area of 2.2 sq km, from November to March it fills with water and is visited by up to 12,000 flamingos on their migration path. It is home to more than 80 species of bird, and it’s one of the most important wetlands in Cyprus. On the banks lies Hala Sultan Teke or the Mosque of Umm Haram, an important historic Islamic landmark. From here take a stroll along a 4km nature trail that leads all the way up to Kamares Aqueduct, which was built in 1747 to transport water up to six miles.
Other historic sites include Larnaca Castle, which was built in the Middle Ages to defend the southern coast of Cyprus. It has since been used as a prison, a store for weapons and is now a museum, housing antiques and paintings from Byzantine Cyprus, as well as medieval pottery, utensils and weapons. There’s also the Larnaca District Archaeological Museum if you fancy learning some more about the history of the city.
For a more active break, the Troodos Mountains are just a two-hour drive away, where you can ski in winter. Cyprus Ski Club (www.cyprusski.com) caters to everyone from beginner to advanced skiers, plus you can hire equipment. There are also a number of kite surfing schools along Bervolia beach where you can hire equipment or book lessons. You can also scuba dive and explore the MS Zenobia, which sank in 1980 just 1.5km off the Finikoudes coast. If you’re more into sunbathing than exploring, then there are plenty of beaches, including Makenzie Beach, with a sandy coastline and a host of great restaurants and clubs.
While you’re in the area, it’s worth renting a car and driving an hour and a half to Paphos, the 2017 European City of Culture. Paphos Archaeological Park (www.visitpafos.org.cy) is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the remains include four large Roman villas complete with mosaics, as well as a theatre and tombs.
Food and dining
If you’re after a grab-and-go kind of meal, head to one of the many bakeries around the city to get a Cyprus loaf with feta and olives. For a romantic meal visit Zephyros Beach Tavern (+357 24 657198), a fish tavern behind the old fishing shelter. It’s a bit of a walk from the centre, but worth the trip for the seafood mezze. If you’re downtown, longstanding eatery The Blue Pine Bar & Restaurant (www.thebluepine.com, +357 24 646553) has dimly-lit wooden interiors and serves international cuisine. For something more traditional visit seafront restaurant Militzis (+357 24 655867), a low-key taverna with authentic Cypriot mezze and views over the Mediterranean. For other authentic eats, head to To Kazani Traditional Tavern, which is all whites and blues and serves up classic dishes. If you’re after something a little different, head to 1900 Art Café (www.artcafe1900.com.cy). Set in an early 20th century building there are heaps of traditional dishes and a massive selection of drinks at the bar.
The party capital of Cyprus is undoubtedly Ayia Napa, which is hugely popular from June to August, with everything from hip-hop and house to R&B and cheesy tunes. Famous clubs include The Castle Club, which has five different arenas (www.thecastleclub.com), and longstanding disco spot Carwash (www.carwashcyprus.com). Larnaca shouldn’t be sniffed at when it comes to nightlife though, boasting a large range of bars, clubs and pubs. Ammos (www.ammos.eu, +357 24 828844) at Makenzie Beach is popular. Lounge in the sunshine, or dine at the chic restaurant and after dark the party picks up. Lush Beach Bar (www.lushbeachbar.com, +357 24 658088) is also a good choice in the same area. Similarly, it’s all white furnishings, chilled-out beats and, by night, popular DJs playing mainstream hits. Both have an exclusive vibe if you’re looking for something upmarket. If you’re after cutting some shapes on the dancefloor then Club Deep (+357 70 007950) in the centre of town plays mainstream, R&B, house, old school and Greek hits.
Where to stay
There are plenty of decent hotels in Larnaca at a range of prices. If you’re looking to stay in the centre of Larnaca, then Hotel Opera (www.operahotelcyprus.com) with 13 en-suite rooms should be on your list. With pretty décor, white-washed walls and Cypriot hospitality, you’ll have a comfortable stay. Prices start at around QR350 a night. It’s in a prime position, too, in the heart of Old Larnaca on the square of Ayios Lazarus, making it the perfect place to explore from. Also in the town centre is Rise Hotel (www.therisehotel.com), another boutique spot boasting modern luxury. With rooms starting at around QR400 a night, it’s just a short stroll to Finikoudes promenade and the main shops. If it’s luxury you’re after then beachside resort Palm Beach Hotel & Bungalows (www.palmbeachhotel.com, +357 24 846600) is for you. The longstanding four-star hotel has recently been renovated and boasts 184 rooms and six suites, as well as lush gardens, beach loungers, a gym, three restaurants, coffee shop, bars, tennis courts and three swimming pools.
Larnaca is an easy city to walk around, however there are also public buses and taxis, which are metered.
Qatar Airways flies direct to Larnaca airport from around QR3,460 return. Middle East Airlines flies via Beirut from around QR2,250 return.