Larnaca is the third biggest city on the coast of Southern (Greek) Cyprus after Nicosia and Limassol. Its International Airport is the largest on the whole island, and with so many cheap flights to Larnaca these days this makes the city a premier destination for tourists to this stunningly beautiful Mediterranean island.
Apart from its more recent attractions, Larnaca also has a really impressive history going back to the 14th century BC. Because of its central location and importance for trade routes through the Mediterranean it has been fought over by every local and regional power worthy of the name throughout the whole of its history.
Anyone with even a passing interest in archaeology and the ancient Orient will be impressed with Cyprus’s incredibly rich and varied legacy in terms of culture and contribution to civilisation in this part of the world. There are a number of excellent museums to find out more concerning the different peoples who occupied the island down the centuries, and the city and its port themselves constitute a living museum and just the latest phase of its ongoing history.
The Acropolis is practically all that remains of Cyprus’s ancient capital of Krition, which was once rich in temples and palaces. The temples of Heracles and Aphrodite still have a few columns standing as a picturesque reminder of former glories, and there are also some 13th century ivory, gold and bronze tombs that give some idea of the wealth of the ancient city.
The Larnaca District Museum is easily reached on foot from the centre of town and has many interesting exhibits and displays of the numerous antiquities that have been unearthed here down the years. The Neolithic and Roman collections are particularly rich, but you can see things from all periods, including Byzantine coins and even odds and ends left by Crusaders en route to Jerusalem. Richard the Lionheart famously sold the island to the Knights Templar in the 13th century but they gave it back to him because even they were unable to defend it.
Another historical site worth a visit is the Hala Sultan Tekke, an Islamic version of a Christian monastery in which lie the remains of Mohammad’s foster mother, Umm Haram, who died here in 647 AD during an Arab invasion of the island, and later on Ottoman rulers built this attractive mosque in her honour. The Ottomans were also responsible for building another local attraction, the Kamares aqueduct, which most visitors understandably assume to be Roman.
Not all of Larnaca’s attractions however belong to dead civilisations and the city has a thriving contemporary culture as well. There are two art schools here that specialise in design and the fine arts, and also a municipal band with 60 members.
In the Old Town, a range of cultural events and art exhibitions are staged throughout the year at the Carnaro Institute cultural centre. There are also several major festivals, including the famous Festival of the Flood in early summer which takes place along the spacious promenade.
David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.