Cyprus holds a special place in my heart, I spent 4 summers in this beautiful country in my early 20’s and I consider it a second home. Cyprus is very dear to me because I really connect with the Greek Cypriot culture and its ancient history that fused with ancient Egypt and other countries of the Middle East. This is the island of Aphrodite, where she was born of the sea and rose from the foam in Paphos and therefore this place is symbolic of love and beauty.
I was given the opportunity to revisit Cyprus for a friend’s wedding. Having not seen this close friend for over ten years, I jumped at the chance! I figured this would be a wonderful way to celebrate the end of my travels, with being in Bali for 2 months and Australia for 3 months. Good friends opened their homes to me and I was able to stay in Cyprus for a month and relive moments from my twenties with the eyes of a woman in her early 30’s.
I spent most of the month in Larnaca and places situated nearby. In the near future I intend on going back (obviously) and visiting other towns and go on even more day excursions so that I can blog about it for you all!
Larnaca is considered as Cyprus’ oldest soul with its history dating as far back as 10,000 years. It is a thriving coastal town in the south coast of Cyprus and is defined by its bustling promenade lined with huge palm trees, beautiful beaches, old neighbourhoods, shopping centers with traditional architectures, and fish taverns. It is a city where old meets new in perfect harmony.
Just walk around and you’ll find yourself walking along beautiful cobblestoned roads amidst old structures and the beach. There are very interesting places to see such as the Palm Trees Promenade, Larnaca Medieval Castle, the fortress, the marina and Museum. There are also plentiful boutique shops and businesses like Bohemian Treasures clothing shop, Frozen Yoghurt parlour called YogArtist, and Savino rock bar to name a few.
Dive at the Zenobia Wreck and try other water sports
Divers from all over the world come to see this mysterious 170-meter long ship on the 7th of June 1980. On the dive site, there are still more or less 100 trucks to see. Open Water Divers are welcome to see this fascinating beauty amidst the tragedy. This will surely be an exhilarating and thrilling dive of a lifetime so don’t miss this on your visit to Cyprus. Jet skiing, wind surfing, snorkeling and boat tours are also fun options.
Head on to this beach if you’re looking for some quality time and great food at an affordable price. It is great for swimming. It is also shallow so if you have kids, then this could be a great way to spend the day
Salt Lake and Hala Sultan Tekke
Larnaca Salt Lake (Greek: Αλυκή Λάρνακας, Turkish: Larnaka Tuz Gölü) is a complex network of four salt lakes (3 of them interconnected) of different sizes to the west of the city of Larnaca. The largest is lake Aliki, followed by lake Orphani, lake Soros and lake Spiro.
Once part of an ancient international harbor, it’s now an all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet for flamingos and other water birds. This place is truly stunning and during the drier seasons you can walk on it as if walking on a white sanded beach. At a certain time of year the sun also sets over the salt lake, creating beautiful sunset photography. During the winter months you can watch the flamingos rest here.
The lake also features prominently in Christian and Muslim lore. Christians believe that a hungry and thirsty Saint Lazarus asked a wealthy vineyard owner for nourishment, and she lied, saying that her vines were dry. For her coldhearted greed, Lazarus supposedly cursed her land to become a salt lake.
For Muslims, the area is important because Hala Sultan Tekke, also known as the mosque of Umm Haram, sits on the edge of the lake. This mosque serves as a shrine to Ubada bint al-Samit, a companion (some say wet nurse and foster mother, though this is disputed) of Mohammed. She is rumored to have died here by falling off a mule during the caliph Muawiyah I’s invasion of Cyprus in 647. Later, the mosque became a residence for Sufi dervishes, who were known for worshipping God through beautiful dancing and chanting.
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 (Agios Lazarus)
Located in its own square in the town centre, 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 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.
Next to the church is the Byzantine Museum, which exhibits important religious icons, artefacts and relics
Located at the end of the Foinikoudes promenade, the Medieval Castle of Larnaka (also referred to as Larnaka Fort) is believed to have been originally built during the Middle Ages, and took its present form during Ottoman rule, although there is some contestation regarding its origins.
Chronographer Florius Boustronius dates it to the years of Lusignan King James I (1382-1398AD), who built it to protect the harbour of the town. During the same time, the Genovese occupied Famagusta and the Lusignans had to develop another major port for the needs of their kingdom. 18th century sources insist that the castle was built by the Turks in 1625AD, even though a Turkish garrison was stationed there since 1570AD. Other references by travellers confirm that the castle was constructed before 1625.
After the end of the Ottoman era in Cyprus, the British converted the fort into a prison and it was used during the first years of their rule. The western chamber of the ground floor in the east was used for the execution of prisoners. The gallows – which must have been constructed in the room – were in use until 1948.
The architectural ruins of the ancient city-kingdom of Kition provide the first clear evidence that the Mycenaean Greeks arrived in Larnaka in the 13th century BC, and the Phoenicians in the 9th.
Achaeans redesigned and rebuilt the city around the end of the 13th century, fortifying it with cyclopean walls made of giant blocks of stone, whilst the Phoenicians settled in the area in the 9th century. In 312BC, Kition was occupied and then destroyed by Ptolemy 1st Soter, though habitation continued into Christian times.
Kition was well known for its harbour during antiquity, from which many agricultural products were exported to the eastern Mediterranean, Egypt and the Aegean. Moreover, its strategic position rendered it an exceptional naval base. Of particular interest at the ancient port are the drawings of ships etched into the walls of buildings.
The most interesting architectural remains are those of the Temple of Aphrodite – Astarte, built by the same Phoenician masons that built the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, both originating in the 9th century BC.
Egyptian-style temples of the 18th Egyptian Dynasty – which are older than the Greek equivalents and served the pre-Hellenic Cypriot population – have also been found nearby.
The site is one of the first that the Cyprus Department of Antiquities excavated after independence in the early 1960’s, and is linked to the Aphrodite Cultural Route.
Lefkara is where the Cypriot folk needlecraft art is born – the famous “lefkaritiko” – which the reputation of has gone beyond the frontiers of Cyprus and has become known in most of the European countries but not only there. Lefkara owes its welfare and prosperity as always spotted to this needlecraft art and to its trade launched in the late 19th century, flourishing during the 20th century first thirty years.
The village is situated at the foot of the Troodos Mountains in the south eastern region, 650m above sea level, 45 km from Nicosia, 30 km from the Larnaca airport and just 12 km from the Nicosia – Limassol highway.
It is not really far from the sea, yet, it is located high enough for the moist air coming in from the sea to get dry by the time it reaches the village.
Therefore, Lefkara becomes an excellent destination during summer time because of the relatively low humidity from May to October and also the mild temperatures in the region.
This is a lovely little place to add to your intinary, spend a few hours here in the afternoon.
Cyprus is a small island and staying here for a week to ten days you can visit many places. Larnaca is pretty central and I highly recommend basing yourself here in order to easily take day trips elsewhere. Nicosia is only a 45 minute drive from Larnaca. With Paphos being an hour and half away and Limassol being under an hour. The Troodos mountains are also an hour and half away from Larnaca too. Already you have 4 day trips sorted and the rest of the time you can potter about Larnaca, lounge on the beach, explore ancient ruins, enjoy water sports or the water parks and at night experiance bouzoukia, traditional Greek dancing and Meze or because Cyprus is so close and therefore influenced by the middle East you can also enjoy narguile (sheesha) whilst watching a belly dance performance!
I was seriously considering living in Cyprus and setting myself up as an online English ESL teacher to Chinese students (as long as you have strong wifi connection, it does not matter where in the world you live). However I met my current partner and plans have changed. That being said, Cyprus and Bali are the only two places I have visited that I would continue to revisit for the rest of my life and I want my partner to experience Cyprus so he can grasp why I love the culture so much! Luckily for me, he is a history nerd and loves learning about ancient Greece and Rome, so I am sure he will fall in love with Cyprus too.