In the mountainous part of Larnaca there are many traditional picturesque villages. The village of Lefkara is famous for handicrafts such as silverwork and the traditional lace, known worldwide as “Lefkaritiko”. It is said that Leonardo da Vinci bought a cloth cover for the altar for the cathedral of Milan. Indeed, the cloth of the “Last Supper” by the painter is very similar to those made by the Lefkara women, who learned the art from the Venetian noblewomen and developed it.
The Archaeological Site of Kition
This archaeological site on Pasicratous Street is one of the first sites that the Cyprus Department of Antiquities excavated after Cyprus independence in the early 1960’s. It is here that it was discovered that the Mycenaean Greeks arrived in Larnaca in the 13th century BC and the Phoenicians in the 9th. Excavations also revealed shipyards at the foot of the hill Pampoula. Its strategic location was ideal for a naval base. In the same area you can see Egyptian style temples of the 18th Egyptian Dynasty, which are older than the Greek temples and served the pre-Hellenic population. The archaeologists uncovered the history of the cyclopean walls here and the history of the town’s copper metallurgy. The most interesting architectural elements are those of the Temple of Aphrodite-Astarte built by the Tyrian Phoenicians who also built the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem in the same period (9th century BC).
Visiting Hours: Mon, Tues, Wed, Fri 08:00-14:30, Thu 08:00-17:00. Closed Sat & Sun
It is located south of the Phinikoudes Beach. The Byzantines founded a first fortification on the spot in the 12th century, as mentioned in Byzantine texts related to Isaakios Comnenus 1186 AD usurpation take over of Cyprus. A second written source about the castle is of the 14th century. Chronographer Florius Boustronius says that in the years of Luzignian King James I (1382-1398 AD), it was upgraded to host a larger guard and protect the harbour of the town. This is the time that the Genovese occupied Famagusta and the Luzignians had to develop another major port for the needs of their kingdom. The Venetians dynamited the castle to prohibit its use by the Ottomans in 1570. Ottoman, 18th century sources mention that the castle was rebuilt by the Turks in 1625 AD. A Turkish garrison was maintained there since 1570 AD. The English used it as police station, prison and place for execution of convicts up to 1948. Today, it hosts a medieval museum and a garden theatre as well as cultural events.
Address: Athens Avenue
Opening Hhours: Mon-Fri 09:00-17:00 (Noe.-May and September-October), Mon-Fri 09:00-19:30 (June – August), Sat and Sun closed
St Lazarus Church and Byzantine Museum
This stone built church, in the centre of Larnaca (St. Lazarus Square), is the most important surviving Byzantine monument of the whole of Cyprus. It was built in 890 by Byzantine Emperor Leo VI the Wise on the resting place of St. Lazarus. The resurrected friend of Christ, St. Lazarus escaped to ancient Kition on 33 AD, and became its first Bishop and Patron Saint. According to St. Epiphanius who wrote in the 4th century, St. Paul and St. Barnavas found him hiding and in 45 AD made him the first Bishop of Larnaca. He died in 68 AD. His tomb lies under the sanctuary and can be visited. In Venetian times (1568) a stone built covered shed (stoa) of Gothic style was added on the south side of the church, by Venetian Governor Vernier. The 3 imposing domes of this Orthodox Basilica Church were destroyed along with the original bell-tower probably in the first years of the Ottoman rule, but the bell-tower was rebuilt in a different style in 1857. In Frankish times the church belonged to the Catholics, but in 1589 the Ottomans sold it back to the Orthodox, as they had no intention of turning it into a mosque. Part of the Holy relic of Saint Lazarus was found in 1972. This small part of the Saint was left at the church in 890 AD when Emperor Leo the Wise ordered the transfer of the Holy body of the Saint to Constantinople. The relic is now on view for the public and the pilgrims. The brilliant Byzantine art of the icons and the unique baroque woodcarving of the golden surfaced iconostasis were completed in 1782. Icon painter Hadjimichael completed the iconography of the iconostasis in 1797. Some furniture in woodcarving and some icons on the walls are of the 17th century. Excavations unearthed marble sarcophagi and tombs in the shape of boxes, urns. The museum is actually in the cells of the patios of the church, used as rental accommodation of travellers and traders and as the early 20th century. In one of the large rooms at the back yard of St. Lazarus church is a museum exhibiting the ecclesiastical treasures of the church of St. Lazarus. Among the exhibits are Byzantine Icons, Gospels, and Crosses, as well as ecclesiastical treasures from the whole District of Larnaca. The exhibits include religious icons, artefacts and utensils.
Address: St Lazarus Square
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 08:30-12:30 and 15:00-17:30, Wed afternoon and Sa closed
Hala Sultan Tekke
This historic mosque is 3 km west of Larnaca near the airport terminal, on the central salt lake. It is connected with the first Arab attempt to occupy Cyprus in the year 649 AD. The Arab armies landed successfully in Larnaca. Τhe Holy Helper and Aunt of Mohamed, Umm Haram, died here as a result of an accident. Grand Khalif Moavia, who was taking part in the expedition, immediately ordered the construction of a Mosque on the spot, which is now considered to be the fourth most important religious place in the world for the Muslims and the first most important religious place for the Turkish Cypriots. It is the only surviving Arab monument in Cyprus. The Mosque was renovated in 1816 and took its present day appearance. In Ottoman times, it was a Tekke. In the year 2002 a new renovation and reconstruction was undertaken by UNOPS. Extraordinary archaeological excavations in the same year revealed that the place was inhabited since Neolithic times. Nowadays, the monument receives thousands of pilgrims and tourists.
Visiting Hours: Daily 08:00-19:30 (Jun.-Aug.), 08:00-18:00 (Apr.-May and Sep.-Oct.) 08:00-17:00 (Nov.-Mar.).
Pierides Foundation Archeological Museum
At 4, Zenonos Kitieos str. the Pierides museum exhibits a fascinating private collection of Cypriot antiquities acquired over the years from 1839 by five generations of the Pierides family, one of the most well known families of Larnaca. It is housed in an old family mansion built in 1825. It includes exhibits from the Neolithic times, Copper Era, Mycenaean, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Frankish, Venetian and Ottoman periods. This unique museum covers 9000 years of Cypriot art. The rarest collections at the museum are the Neolithic times art pottery, the collection of Roman and Hellenistic glass and the Byzantine collection of ceramic utensils, which are decorated with the first abstract art of the contemporary world. The museum exhibits ancient, medieval, Byzantine and modern objects and important collection of old maps of Cyprus and Eastern Mediterranean, belonging to the Pierides family and give a representative picture of the entire history of the island.
Address: 4, Zenon Kitieos
Visiting Hours: Mon-Thu 09:00-16:00, Fri-Sa 09:00-13:00
Larnaka District Archaeological Museum
At Parides Square (ex Kalogreon. T +357 2430 4169) this government museum houses a collection of archaeological findings from the Larnaca town and District. It includes exhibits of Neolithic times, Copper Era, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods. Besides the large collection of locally made pieces, it also displays some unique items found in the Larnaca area, but they are of Egyptian, Mycenaean, Phoenician, Assyrian and Persian origin or have been imported from some of the other great nearby civilizations.
Opening hours: Tue-Wed-Fri 08:00-15:00, Thu 08:00-17:00, Sat 09:00-15:00, Sun and Mon closed
Legend holds that the church was built by angels at night, along with human activity. This is a very special building, built in the 11th century. The temple is the Byzantine icon of Archangel Michael, crafted in the 15th century, recognized by Unesco as the first of its kind, and the mosaic of the Virgin in the apse of the sanctuary is a rare example of Byzantine art.
This wetland is located next to the Hala Sultan mosque and consists of two lakes and a wetland. Here you can see flamingos and over 100 species of birds. Its past as a natural habitat of sea life is traced to 3-5 million years BC and fossil life of that age can be found in the surrounding hills. The central salt lake in prehistoric times was a small gulf open to the sea. From 1700 BC it was a secure natural port in the service of the large prehistoric town next to Hala Sultan Tekke. It was abandoned by its population at about 1050 BC, around the time the fiord was closed. Following that, the natural port was destroyed and the central salt lake was formed. As excavations in the area show, this is perhaps one of the first natural ports of Cyprus that facilitated trade between Cyprus and the great civilizations of the area at the birth of international seafaring exchanges. Salt was valuable expensive prehistoric product of the lake, which was exploited to a high degree through the centuries till a few years ago. Historians of Hellenistic, Roman, Frankish and Ottoman times report the great quality of this salt and its great income due to exports. The most interesting thing about the salt lake today is the migration of birds in winter. These migrations include flamingos, ducks, swans and various other flying species. Such a rich hunting place did not escape the attention of the ancient residents, who had built one of the most famous temples of Artemis- Paralia (Diana of Artemis the sea front), goddess hunting, on the shores of the salt lake. Hunting is no longer allowed, but bird watching, walking through the interesting surroundings and enjoying the famous red sunsets of the spot are strongly recommended. The wider salt lake area covers about 5 square kilometres. There are 4 remarkable lakes, an enchantment of nature to behold. These are cared for by the Committee for the Protection of the Larnaca Salt Lakes, authorized under a relative Cyprus Law. The lakes are also protected under the Ramsar Treaty.