Arriving on a late flight into Larnaca, we stayed at the Livadhiotis Hotel in the town centre. Not only was this ideal for a late arrival, being just a few minutes from the airport, but it also put us well placed right in the heart of the town centre. Larnaca is a harbour town with a history that dates back to 10,000 BC and here we were just a stone’s throw from historic sites such as the late 9th Century Saint Lazarus Church and within easy walking distance of the many shops, cafes and restaurants.
We took advantage of the location by visiting Larnaca fort which is thought to have originally been built in the late fourteenth Century to protect the town’s harbour. We also called in at Larnaca Municipal Art Gallery which hosts various exhibitions by local and international artists, before moving just outside of Larnaca to what was to be our prime base on the island – the Palm Beach Hotel & Bungalows.
The hotel is made up of 184 rooms, 6 suites and 38 bungalows. We stayed in one of the hotel’s more spacious garden studio bungalows with access to a more secluded shared pool at the rear.
We were made to feel very welcome, with a bottle of fizz on ice waiting our arrival.
This is a well-equipped hotel with direct access to an ideal beach for families or cautious swimmers where the sea is generally very calm and you’re only around waist-deep in water even when you’re 50 metres out. Next to the beach is an independent watersports centre where you can hire a pedalo with a slide for as little as 10 euros or, if you prefer, there are more active pursuits to enjoy (having said that, the pedalos themselves can be fairly tiring!).
Back at the hotel, facilities include multiple swimming pools (one heated indoor pool for the winter months), a health and leisure club (with sauna, steam bath, solarium and gym), tennis and squash courts, a small kids’ club, a couple of dining options, the public Adelphi Lounge with free WiFi (it’s extra to have in-room access) and a piano bar.
The Sea Breeze Tavern is open for a variety of lunchtime snacks. We tried the meze, pictured below.
During the season, themed nights (eg seafood night, French night, Middle Eastern night etc) with live entertainment are the order of the day at the Omega Restaurant in the evenings.
If that’s not your thing, there are restaurants immediately across the road from the hotel or, if you’re looking for a more authentic Cypriot experience, head for the nearby village of Oroklini (or Voroklini) and seek out Voreas or Grada.
Mornings at the hotel offer guests a buffet style breakfast with anything from fruit or Cypriot cheeses to a variety of cooked options including freshly made omelettes – perfect preparation for a hard day lazing around the hotel.
If lounging on the beach or by the pool makes you restless,though, there is plenty to see and do. On the other side of Larnaca, at the village of Mazotos, we visited the excellent Camel Park.
Camels are not renowned for being the most accommodating of creatures and the park has brought in trainers from Egypt specially so that visitors can enjoy a short ride on one of these fascinating beasts. I missed out on the opportunity to ride a camel in the Sahara some 23 years ago because I was unwell and suffering from dehydration, so it was great to be able to finally share this experience with my family.
Younger children can also enjoy pony and donkey rides and there’s a wide range of other animals to look at and/or feed, such as ostriches, kangaroos and more.
There’s also a room made up to show how a traditional Cypriot farmer might have lived with items that once belonged to the park guide’s grandfather, as well as an on-site cafe and shop.
We also enjoyed a memorable boat trip on MV Doremi run by A.A.K. Larnaca Napa Sea Cruises out of Larnaca Marina. It included a spot of fishing where between us (around 30 or so passengers) we caught 20-something grouper (the same family of fish that sea bass belongs to) and 3 octopuses (or octopodi – it is a Greek word afterall – or octopodes if you prefer) which also formed part of our on-board lunch. Here’s the captain of the boat with the first octopus catch of the morning:
Unlike sea bass, these groupers are quite small.
They were lightly fried and added to our on-board feast of salad and barbecued chicken.
Also included were various beverages including Zivania, a traditional alcoholic drink from Cyprus dating back to the fourteenth Century, reputed to be a great cure for sea sickness when taken with a slice of lemon.
After lunch we cruised a little further before stopping over Zenobia, the shipwreck of a huge Swedish ferry that sank – along with more than 100 lorries – off Larnaca harbour back in June of 1980. This vast shipwreck is rated as one of the top three wrecks in the world to dive and is owned by A.A.K. Larnaca Napa Sea Cruises so they hold exclusive diving rights.
We were able to swim in the water with masks and snorkels but experienced PADI qualified divers will want to explore the wreck in more detail from one of the many diving boats.
We also took a day out to visit Fasouri Watermania at Limassol.
As well as the many rides, assault courses and pools, and places to eat on the site, there is also a massage area, a nail salon and even a Garra Fish Spa.
There was a lot here for children to enjoy, all on a relatively compact site. Even relatively extreme rides – such as the Kamikaze Slide which many an adult would think twice about – had a minimum age requirement of just 8 years old.
Returning to the hotel after our days’ exertions and catching the last few rays of the day before the sun set was always a pleasure. It was just a pity that our week on the island seemed to fly by so quickly.
Thanks go to Cyprus Tourist Organisation and Larnaca Tourism Board for their assistance with the trip. Next time we visit, I expect we’ll see some significant changes as big plans for Larnaca lie ahead. An environment centre is nearing completion at the salt lake close to the airport where up to 12,000 flamingos spend the Winter. A new golf club and tennis centre is also on the cards. But perhaps most significant of all is a complete redevelopment of the port and marina that will bring with it a new 5 star hotel and almost 1,000 marina berths, as well as luxury villas, commercial and recreational areas.
These developments are likely to mean that we’ll be hearing a lot more about Larnaca as a destination in the years to come.