If you happen to be in Larnaka just for one day these are top attractions not to be missed. Larnaka is a very beautiful city with deep history and culture and with many picturesque villages. If can not check in in all of them, we chose for you the best top things to do.
The archaeological site of Choirokoitia is a remarkably well-preserved settlement from the Neolithic Age that has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998.
Remains from all phases of the Neolithic Age are evident in the settlement, and provide an insight of living conditions in the region during prehistoric times, as well as how the Neolithic culture was spread throughout the region.
Five characteristic cylindrical shaped dwellings have been reconstructed near the settlement, using the same construction methods and materials used in Neolithic times. The dwellings are fitted with replicas of household objects found inside the original dwellings, thus providing a vivid representation of how they actually were in the past. The vegetation around the dwellings consists of native plants and trees that have grown in Cyprus since Neolithic times.
This beautiful 18th century aqueduct can be found on the road heading towards Lemesos in the area of Kamares, which takes its name from the distinctive arches (‘kamares’ in Greek).
An open-air sight, the aqueduct was built in the Roman style in 1746 by the Turkish governor of Larnaka, Bekir Pasha, who funded it out of his own sources to carry water to Larnaka from a source about 10km away. The aqueduct was abandoned in 1939 and its function replaced by modern pipes.
There are more than 20 arches still intact, and these are strikingly illuminated at night. A cobbled area with benches and a footpath allow you to enjoy the site of this monument, with the path linking up with Larnaka Salt Lake.
Church of Saint Lazarus
Located in its own square in the centre of town, the magnificent stone church of Agios Lazaros is one of the most remarkable examples of Byzantine architecture in Cyprus and lies over the tomb of the saint.
Built by Byzantine Emperor Leo VI in the 9th century, the church was restored in the 17th century. Although the three domes and original bell tower of the church were destroyed in the first years during Ottoman rule, the gold-covered iconostasis has survived to today and is a superb example of baroque woodcarving.
Saint Lazarus came to Cyprus after being resurrected by Jesus. He was ordained as Bishop of Kition by the Apostles Barnabas and Paul and lived in the town for 30 years. His tomb can be seen under the sanctuary.
The saint is so revered that a procession is held in his honour eight days before Easter. During the procession, the icon of Saint Lazarus is carried through the streets of Larnaka (Larnaca).
Next to the church is the Byzantine Museum, which exhibits important religious icons, artefacts and relics.
The Castle of Larnaka is situated on the southern point of the coastal avenue known as “Foinikoudes” (palm trees). Abbot Giovanni Mariti, who lived in Larnaka during the first half of the 18th century, records that the Castle of Larnaka was built by the Turks but that it was already in a semi-ruinous state at the time, even though a garrison was still kept there. 12th-century castle once used as a fort & prison, with a modest museum inside & sea views.
Larnaka’s most famous promenade of Foinikoudes (which is the Greek word for ‘palm trees’) is a 600-metre long stretch that combines coast, entertainment and culture along its palm-tree lined length.
The sands are fine and varying shades of brown and beige, and the seawaters are calm and shallow, flanked by the marina with its pier and fishing harbour on the one end, and a second pier and the Medieval Fort at the other.
Facilities on the beach include toilets, showers, changing rooms, sun beds, umbrellas, dustbins, recycling bins and beach bar, whilst the strip is also lined with cafes, bars, restaurants, kiosks, hotels and entertainment establishments, as well as benches and abundant greenery. The town’s main shopping centre runs parallel.
The Zenobia, a Swedish roll-on-roll-off ferry, was fully loaded with 104 trailers and trucks when she sunk off Larnaka’s fishing harbour in June 1980. Today, she ranks as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world.
Nicknamed ‘The Titanic of the Mediterranean’, the 165-metre ferry was carrying varied cargo on her many articulated lorries when she sank, including cars, military equipment, games, food and telecommunication systems. She now lies on her portside on a flat bed of sand and rocks, 1.5km from the shore. The seabed is at a depth of 42m, and the top of the wreck is 16m below the water surface. The water visibility is up to 50m, with the temperature ranging from 16oC in the winter to 27oC in summer.
The Zenobia wreck has now become a protected artificial reef, with many species of fish making it their home, including grouper, barracuda, kingfish, jacks and trigger fish, as well as moray eels, stingrays, turtles and octopus. Its ferry and much of the cargo are intact, making it fascinating to explore, and some of the one million hen eggs the Zenobia was carrying have even remained intact under water!
If you are not a diver but wish to view the wreck from above, glass-bottom boats from the Larnaka Marina offer daily trips to the site.
Hala Sultan Tekke
Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque is located on the main Salt Lake of Larnaca, 3km west of the city, on the road to Kiti. This historic mosque was built in 648 AD during one of the first Arab raids on the island, at the spot where Umm Haram- the Holy Helper and aunt of Mohamed – died when she fell off her mule.
According to tradition, Grand Chalif Moavia, who was taking part in the expedition, immediately ordered the construction of a mosque at the spot where Umm Haram had fallen and died.
The mosque was first renovated in 1816 and more recently in 2002 by UNOPS, when archaeological excavations also revealed that the place had been inhabited since Neolithic times.
Nowadays, the mosque is considered as one of the most important holy places of worship for Muslims, ranked immediately after Mecca, Medina in Saudi Arabia and Al Aksha in Jerusalem.
Courtesy of the CTO, Praxia Aresti