Cyprus, officially the Republic of Cyprus, is an eastern Mediterranean island located in western Asia. Clockwise, from 12 o’clock, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, and Greece are the island’s neighbours.
With its history dating back 12,000 years, Cyprus experienced multiple rulers from surrounding neighbours in addition to France and Italy. Ottoman rule survived three centuries from the 1500s to 1800s before Britain became involved.
Turkey still has a hold of the north of Cyprus. Between north and south, a four-kilometre United Nations Buffer Zone separates the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus from the rest of the island. Turkey is the only country to recognise this republic.
Cyprus as a whole is on the radar as a future target destination, but as Emirates fly through Larnaca to and from Malta, we saw a perfect opportunity for a Larnaca Layover.
Here are some tips on where to #eat #drink #explore #shop & #stay in Larnaca.
Larnaca is home to both the island’s International Airport and a shipping port yet it remains a relaxed seaside location.
With the temperate waters of the Mediterranean, a string of beaches, and particularly good F&B options, Larnaca is perfect for a chilled seaside layover.
For the more active among you, there’s also plenty to keep you occupied with Larnaca’s sightseeing, history and diving.
Larnaca Fort & Medieval Museum (Leoforos Athinon, Larnaca. Ph: +357 24 304 576)
Larnaca Medieval Castle, also known as Larnaca Fort, stands proudly at the end of Finikoudis Promenade, guarding the old town and harbour. Now a museum, three rooms are dedicated to preserving the fort’s history and origin.
While some historians place the construction in the 12th century or Byzantine era, others insist King James 1 is responsible for its creation in the 1300s. Another strongly supported opinion places its build during the Ottoman era of the 1600s.
Exhibits of antiques, paintings, weaponry and pottery tell the story of Larnaca Fort’s past.
Admission is €2.50 from 08:00 am weekdays and 09:30 am weekends. Check here for seasonal closing times.
Larnaca Municipal Art Gallery (Old Customs House, Athinon Avenue, Europe Square, Finikoudes Promenade. Ph: +357 2465 8848)
Located in the 1880s built Customs House, Larnaca Municipal Art Gallery’s permanent and temporary exhibitions include Cypriot and International artists.
An exchange programme with galleries in Athens and Dublin produces various temporary exhibitions while permanent exhibitions share the history of Cypriot art.
Admission is free. Opening hours are from 09:00 am – 14:00 pm weekdays and 09:00 am – 12:00 pm weekends. Closed on Mondays.
St Lazarus church. (St Lazarus Square. Agios Lazaros, Plateia Agiou Lazarou Ph: +357 24 652 498)
Buried beneath the impressive church’s Byzantine architecture, lies Saint Lazarus. The story goes, Jesus resurrected him, and he spent the next 30 years in Cyprus before his second demise.
During a procession eight days before Easter each year, the icon of the revered Saint is carried through Larnaca for all to pay their respects. Any other time, visit the tomb of St Lazarus inside the church.
Admission is free and the church is open from 08:00 am – 18:30 pm daily with a break between 12:30 and 14:30 pm.
MS Zenobia (GPS Position: 34, 53.5 N, 33, 39.1 E)
Approximately 500 metres off Larnaca Marina lies the wreck of MS Zenobia. The 10,000 ton, Swedish built Challenger class roll-on roll-off ferry was bound for Syria on its maiden voyage in 1980.
Complications with the computerised ballast system are reported to have caused the ferry to capsize and sink, although rumours of foul-play have become legendary in the diving circuit.
Rated as one of Europe’s top 10 dive sites by Aqua Views Scuba Magazine, Zenobia is suitable for beginner and advanced divers. Resting on her port side at about 42 metres deep the starboard is easily reached at 16-18 metres.
Aside from observing abundant marine life, 120 vehicles remain with the wreck along with cargo in the hull and on deck.
Contact Dive-In Larnaca for more information.
Close to the Marina and Harbour, Finikoudis Beach is also the handiest to Larnaca’s old town and promenade. A beach to avoid during the summer months where space is at a premium but pleasant offseason when most tourists have returned home.
MacKenzie Beach also gets packed in summer, but its one-kilometre length offering sun lounges, umbrellas and popular beach bars make it that much more attractive.
With Blue Flag status along with calm and shallow waters for about 50 metres off-shore, MacKenzie Beach provides relaxation and fun for the whole family.
Taking up the middle ground between Finikoudis and MacKenzie beaches, Kastela Beach is a quieter strip. Dotted with ice-cream and coffee shops, Kastela is the perfect place to park for an early morning beach walk taking in all three beaches and finishing with a rejuvenating coffee.
The mild climate of Cyprus produces fruit, vegetables, nuts, olives and wine-producing grape vines all year round. Surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, Cypriot cuisine relies heavily on seafood. Cooking methods are simple with grilling, baking and pickling being standouts.
Greece and Turkey are the apparent influencers while glimpses of Lebanon and Syria appear in herbs and spices.
Begin the meal with meze – a selection of small dishes served with bread and olives. A range of dips, grilled halloumi, pickled octopus, stuffed vine leaves and fresh greens dressed with lemon juice, salt and a little olive oil.
Move on to seafood – calamari, octopus and cuttlefish. Grilled whole fish is also popular. Souvlaki, whether chicken, lamb or pork are firm favourites while single pot baked dishes of meat and vegetables are perfect with that fresh bread from earlier to soak up all that flavour.
Sundays are family days in Cyprus where nothing is open but churches, souvenir shops and restaurants. At lunchtime, long tables are full of regulars from three if not four generations. A tip to avoid disappointment; make a reservation if you plan to lunch in Larnaca on a Sunday.
KomaTouGiaLou (Tasou Mitsopoulou Avenue. Larnaca. Ph: +357 24 400776)
Not the prettiest restaurant you’ve ever seen standing brand new and shiny on the side of the road, but one that serves up outstanding dishes.
A “mixed grill” here includes a lamb chop, bacon, skewers of lamb and chicken, pork sausage, kidney and grilled tomato – all pretty much expected. Expect the unexpected, though, with grilled field mushrooms, halloumi, a side of fries and a large salad.
Also recommended at KomaTouGiaLou is the fried cuttlefish. Tiny whole cuttlefish in a light tempura style batter, deep fried but drained so well there’s not a speck of oil left on the plate. The crisp batter crunches while the cuttlefish meat is soft and tender.
Psarolimano (Piale Pasa 118. Πιαλέ Πασά 118, Λάρνακα. Larnaca. Ph: +357 24 655408)
Located at the Psarolimano Marina next to Kastela Beach, Psarolimano is a popular restaurant serving the usual suspects with an emphasis on seafood.
My recommendation; the seafood skewers. Served with the best chips (2nd to my Mum’s), prawns, cod, scallops, and other seafood are threaded on an extra long skewer and char grilled. Simple and delicious!
Oak Tree Wine Cellar (9, G. Drousiotis Street, Larnaca. Ph: +357 24 815044)
The Katodritis family have been in the wine industry since the 1950s. Promoting small producers and indigenous varietals, they offer a wine tour inside Oak Tree Wine Cellar.
For €10 you can sample 10 wines and determine your favourite region or specific winery.
Beach Bars (The roundabout at Piale Pasa, MacKenzie Beachfront. Larnaca.)
MacKenzie Beach’s beach bars are many and varied. Cocktail bars offering shisha, day and nightclubs belting out tunes to rival any dance party and quieter spots with dining menus. A wander along the walkway is required before making your decision.
Wander the Old Turkish Quarter between Larnaca Fort and St Lazarus Church, and you’ll find a host of talented potters, jewellers and painters. Closed Sundays, you’ll see them the rest of the week producing unique pieces for you to take home.
Michael S. Michael Antiques on the Mihail Paridi is worth a look for jewellery, unusual glass paintings and trinkets.
You can find detailed lace and silverware from the neighbouring village of Lefkara quite easily.
Close to the seafront on Hermes (Ermou) Street, surprisingly affordable watchmakers and jewellers line the street.
MacKenzie Beach Zen by the Sea (MacKenzie Court #1, Piale Pasa. Larnaca. Ph: +357 99 888062)
MacKenzie Holiday Apartments, directly opposite MacKenzie Beach, provide a convenient location for families, friends and couples to take advantage of self-catering.
Zen by the Sea, in particular, is a clean and bright two bedroom, one bathroom, open living apartment decorated perfectly for a beach vacation.
The lovely Guytane meets you on arrival to familiarise you with everything that opens and shuts. Formalities completed, you’re left to enjoy the Zen environment until checkout.
An easily accessed convenience store on the ground floor of the property provides anything Guytane may have missed, although what that could be, I couldn’t surmise.
Walking distance to Larnaca’s attractions, MacKenzie Beach Zen by the Sea is a highly recommended property for your Larnaca layover.
Emirates Airline flies daily from Dubai to Larnaca on the way to Malta. Combine the two destinations for a twofold Mediterranean adventure.
When to go.
Due to the position of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, the climate is attractive all year round. Summer is undoubtedly party time with the highest tourist traffic and winter can see some chilly temperatures in the mountains.
If the plan is to plonk yourself by the sea, then go off-peak when accommodation prices reflect, and there’s a spare sunlounger or 3 on the beach.
Larnaca offers much in the way of beach-lounging. Monuments and museums open a window into Larnaca’s past. Dozens of restaurants serve delicious Cypriot cuisine and the night (and day) life would entertain any seasoned party-goer.
Larnaca, by all accounts, isn’t the prettiest of Cyprus districts but that’s all the more reason to discover the rest of Cyprus as a target destination. For a layover, Larnaca offers all you could want and more. A Larnaca layover on the way home from Malta: it’s a thing we love….
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