East meets West in Larnaka (Larnaca) as both Christianity and Islam have revered religious sites here, with the mosque of Hala Sultan, an important Moslem place of pilgrimage, and the church of St Lazarus, Jesus’ friend whom he resurrected from the dead.
The mosque of Hala Sultan Tekke, built in honour of the Prophet Mohammed’s aunt, who died here after falling from her horse, is an important place of Moslem pilgrimage. Its minaret rises up amidst a copse of tall palm and cypress trees, shimmering like an oasis mirage on the edge of the salt lake, a favourite winter habitat for flamingoes and other migratory birds.
Larnaka (Larnaca) was the second home of St. Lazarus, who lived here after his resurrection and later became its first Bishop. The impressive 10th century Church of St Lazarus in the centre of the town was built over the saint’s tomb and is one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture in Cyprus.
The town of Larnaka (Larnaca) is built over the ancient city kingdom of Kition, a rich sea port and major centre of the copper trade and later a Phoenician stronghold. Its remains can be seen today in its cyclopean walls made of giant blocks of stone and a complex of 12th century BC Mycenaean Greek temples.
Stroll along the palm-lined sea-front promenade, known as “Phinikoudes”, and indulge in some people-watching at one of the many pavement cafes or restaurants. The nearby marina is a favourite haunt for a friendly community of local yacht owners as well as yachtsmen from all over the world.
The mountainous area of Larnaka (Larnaca), is dotted with charming villages and has the largest concentration of traditional houses available for rent. The listed village of Lefkara, is perhaps the most picturesque, with its narrow streets and stone houses with red-tiled roofs and central courtyards, and a history of producing wonderful handicrafts such as filigree silverware and a traditional kind of lace known the world over as “lefkaritika”. Legend has it that Leonardo da Vinci himself came here and bought an altar cloth, which he donated to Milan cathedral.
Amongst archaeological sites worth visiting, Choirokoitia is one of the best preserved sites of a prehistoric settlement brought to light in the Eastern Mediterranean, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The church of Angeloktisti, in the village of Kiti, has one of the finest examples of Byzantine art of the Justinian period, a rare 6th century mosaic of the Virgin and Child between two archangels, while perched dramatically on a rocky peak with a panoramic view over the surrounding hillsides, sits the solitary monastery of Stavrovouni, one of the oldest monasteries in Cyprus.