Larnaka, which was initially known as Kition, is the oldest living city of Cyprus. Legend has it that Noah’s grandson Khittim founded the first settlement. Unlike other ancient cities of Cyprus, which were abandoned by their inhabitants, Larnaka has continuously been inhabited since the city was founded 6000 years ago. Being in the crossroad of civilization from the early dawn of history, Larnaka has attracted many visitors. Some came as colonizers or traders, while others were invaders, conquerors or tourists. Some of the nations that passed through Larnaka include the Greeks, Persians and Egyptians as well as the Romans, the Byzantines, the Franks, the Venetians, the Turks and the British. Today all the three million travellers and tourists that enter Cyprus from the city’s Airport, Port and Marina visit Larnaka.
The Mycenaean Greeks established the Kition City Kingdom in the 13th century. At the time, the city thrived, as it was a copper trade hub as well as home to a rich port. Recent excavations have revealed the city’s Cyclopean walls and a number of Mycenaean temples. The city’s fortified port and shipyards are of a later period. Larnaka is also the birthplace of philosopher Zenon who taught in Athens in the 4th century BC. The Byzantine period was one of the most culturally rich epochs of the city as multiple monuments were built which still stand today such as the 9th century AD Basilica of Saint Lazarus. The town regained its standing during the Ottoman rule when it became the diplomatic and commercial centre of the island. The British, who entered the island from Larnaka, ruled from 1878 to 1960. The recent history of the town follows the very fast development of all of the country. In 1973, the population of Larnaka was 22.000.
In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus and the Turkish army displaced by force about 200.000 Greek-Cypriots, the inhabitants of its Northern part. Larnaka welcomed over 40.000 refugees, thus tripling its population overnight, now at 65.000.
Main Larnaka Attractions
St. Lazarus Church is one of the most important surviving Byzantine monuments in Cyprus. This stone-built church, in the heart of Larnaka was built in the 9th century on the resting place of St. Lazarus. The saint’s tomb lies beneath the church and is visited by tourists.
The 12th century Medieval Castle of Larnaka is an interesting place to visit and enjoy the view from the top roof.
The Larnaka Salt Lake is a protected area that is home to migratory birds, especially the beautiful flamingos. A walk along the nature trail around the Salt Lake is a definite must not only to enjoy the exceptional natural habitat but the breathtaking romantic sunsets!
Museums can literally be found on every corner. However, a visit to the Pierides Museum and the Larnaka District Archaeological Museum are time transportive. Both museums house fascinating collections of Cypriot antiquities, some covering 9000 years.
Larnaka district is the ideal place to experience authentic village life. There are many picturesque traditional villages made up of stone-built buildings and narrow streets such as, Tochni, Skarinou and Kato Drys. One of the most well known is Lefkara, where one can watch women making traditional handmade lace, the reputed “Lefkaritiko” just outside their doorways. This ancient craft is included in UNESCO’s representative List of Intangible Culture Heritage of Humanity.
***Tips: every Wednesday and Friday at 10 am, a 2 hour walking tour with a professional guide is offered for free in the city centre and in the pottery workshop area accordingly. Also, a range of free activities are offered by the Larnaka Tourism Board every winter (November-March) such as traditional dance lessons, beach yoga, excursions to villages, wine tasting, visits to the Camel Park and more!
More information about Larnaka: www.larnakaregion.com