24 Hours in Larnaca, Cyprus!
Our first flight in 2019 was from Athens to Larnaca, Cyprus. Unfortunately, Jared and I were quite sick and if you’ve ever travelled while under the weather, you know how tiresome and hard it can be. I would say that if you survive each other’s company in a foreign country while sick, your relationship can survive anything! We had 2 full days in Larnaca, that quickly became one because we took the first day to rest and regroup.
We were bummed that we were losing a day in a new city, but it was the best decision for us. After a good night’s rest, we started our day bright and early. Because we were sick, we weren’t all too hungry so we missed out on experiencing Cypriot food. Such a huge bummer for us! But we dragged our sick butts all around Larnaca, seeing as much as we possibly can! If you ever find yourselves in our situation, or if you so happen to be in Larnaca for just 24 hours, here are some things you can do to take on the city!
CYPRUS, WHAT’S SHE ALL ABOUT?
Located south of Turkey, north of Egypt, and west of Syria, Cyprus is one of the oldest countries in the world. But is Cyprus in Europe or Asia? Cyprus is geographically closer to the Asian continent. Culturally speaking, Cyprus is more European (it’s also part of the European Union). Some even consider this Mediterranean country part of the Middle East. Cyprus is a transcontinental country. And a fun fact: Cyprus is also the birth country of Aphrodite. Pretty cool, right?
Built on the ancient ruins of Kition (Κίτιον), Larnaca is a seaside city, making it the perfect summer destination. But you guys probably know by now that that’s not how we roll. Not only are tickets in the summer the highest they’ll be, Jared and I travel on the off season to avoid the herds of tourists. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It felt like we had the whole city to ourselves! We did not get to sunbathe and swim in the ocean, but we still got to visit the beach. Instead, we spent our time checking out the historical monuments of this ancient city.
Larnaca is incredibly walkable if it weren’t for the lack of sidewalks. Meaning, it’s easy to get from place to place by foot but do be careful if you choose to do so! It is also pretty small. Visiting the major monuments and landmarks is easy and you’ll be able to hit them all in less than a day. The perfect layover plan if you ask me. Here’s what you should do (in this order):
HALA SULTAN TEKKE (the mosque of Umm Haram)
If you’re limited on time (say by a layover), the first thing you should do when you hop in a cab is go to the Hala Sultan Tekke, or the Mosque of Umm Haram. Located about 5 minutes away from the airport, this is the first landmark you’ll see in Larnaca. The Hala Sultan Tekke is considered to be one of the holiest places for muslims. Although it’s no longer functioning as a mosque, this unique site has a rich history worth investigating. Keep the meter running on the cab because it will be nearly impossible to catch one there (and Uber isn’t available in Cyprus).
2. WILD FLAMINGOS AT LARNACA SALT LAKE
On your way to the Hala Sultan Tekke, you’ll pass the Larnaca Salt Lake, or Larnaca Salt Flat. I don’t know about you, but I was THRILLED to see flamingos in the wild. What?! These birds are gorgeous and so impressive, that it seemed unreal that I wasn’t at an animal enclosure. The Larnaca Salt Lake sees about 85 different species of birds every year, however flamingoes are there only in the winter months feeding on brine shrimp. Although these flamingoes tend to stick to the middle of the lake (pack those zoom lenses guys), please be careful and courteous of the area. Please do not leave your trash on the ground or in the lake, and please do not feed or approach these birds!
3. CHURCH OF SAINT LAZARUS
Another incredible religious monument in Larnaca, the Church of Saint Lazarus was founded in the 9th century. The Church of Saint Lazarus is built over the second tomb of Saint Lazarus, a must-see if you were travelling to Larnaca. Now operating as a Greek Orthodox church, the Church of Saint Lazarus has seen a lot of changes throughout history. Like the Hala Sultan Tekke, it is a site rich in history and a location worth reading about prior to your visit.
4. FINIKOUDES BEACH
If you’re there on the off season, Larnaca’s most popular Finikoudes beach will be empty. This is a spot you just know will be booming with people in the warmer months. Truth be told, Larnaca’s winter weather is not too cold (especially compared Greece), so if all you want is to sit by the ocean and enjoy the ocean air and view, this is the time to do it! Finikoudes beach, named after the small palm trees that were planted there in 1922, is considered to be a Blue Flag status beach. The Blue Flag is a certification that a marina or beach has met the stringent standard requirements regarding safety, cleanliness, quality and environmental education. So please be careful of leaving your trash and litter behind!
5. MEDIEVAL CASTLE OF LARNACA
Not your typical ornate European castle, this impressive fortress was built to protect the southern coast of Cyprus. Now operating as a museum, you can get up close to antiques dating all the way back to the early Christian, Byzantine and Post Byzantine eras. It’s also an amazing place to catch the sunset.
I’m not encouraging anyone to travel to Cyrpus in the off season, but if you’re like me and are restricted to time and budget, there are plenty of things to do that aren’t beach related during the winter months! Overall, I enjoyed my time in Cyprus. Although I did not have the time I thought I would have, I’m glad I could see all the major sites in one day! I have a feeling that Cyprus will be in my travel plans in the next few years (Cypriot food, I’m coming for you). Don’t overlook Larnaca as a destination to visit! Even if you only had a 5 hour layover in Larnaca, take that opportunity to check off as many of these locations as possible!
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Till next time!