Cyprus’s Larnaca Airport welcomed the inaugural flight of Qatar Airways on 29 April 2014. Marhaba joins the inaugural flight and will be posting updates from Cyprus.
The rooms at Golden Bay Beach Hotel on Larnaka’s Dhekelia Road are clean, spacious and comfortable. Take a suite and your extra-large verandah also includes a hot tub/jacuzzi! Wherever you are, you’ll enjoy a great night’s sleep in a deeply comfortable bed.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the Golden Bay in the Yacht Club restaurant, with an extensive buffet of varied international dishes. Sit inside or outside; take in the fresh sea air, and take it easy! The staff are all friendly – and the choice is vast.
Our mission on day two was to see the capital, Nicosia, while passing by the Cyprus Handicrafts Centre on the outskirts of the city. The Centre does an impressive job, not only preserving local culture and skills but actually motivating people to lead productive lives in the creative fields of carving, pottery, weaving and embroidery.
Cyprus is a small island, so it is easy to get around and see everything you want to see, from the beach to the hills, and beautiful rural landscapes to urban activity. The drive to Nicosia was lovely, and again it is to be noted how safe and smooth the roads are and how green the island is in spring, autumn and winter.
Nicosia reveals itself to be a pleasant low-rise capital city and a rich cultural hub. It has been the capital for centuries, since the Byzantine period, and now combines historic palaces, churches, mosques, museums, medieval buildings and surrounding Venetian walls with the comforts of a bustling modern city, albeit still with the leisurely atmosphere of yesteryear.
Inside the city walls, enjoy the narrow lanes of the traditional areas with their historic buildings, amazing museums (from Cypriot history and art to Classic Cars), craft shops and restaurants, or the straight Ledra Street with all its retail outlets and trendy coffee shops – even a shawarma or falafel sandwich if you’re missing Doha!
Back to the seaside town of Larnaca, which has a busy port serving cruise ships and commercial vessels, a marina attracting some spectacular yachts, and a palm-tree-lined promenade or corniche (known locally as Phinoikoudes) where you can enjoy the fresh sea air, the beach, and an amazing selection of restaurants, bars and cafes. Don’t forget the Fort, with its frequent musical, folk dance and traditional shadow-puppet shows.
Apart from the ‘normal’ hotels, you can also find boutique hotels, serviced apartments, private villas and traditional houses for rent. Everywhere we found the locals to be friendly and staff to be attentive. The variety of food is vast and pleases both European and Middle Eastern palates.
Larnaca is steeped in history, especially religious history, and it is amazing to be able to contemplate history while gazing at ancient Muslim and Byzantine monuments such as, for example, the Hala Sultan Tekkesi mosque and the actual church where Lazarus (who became Bishop of Larnaca) was buried.
It has also benefited from EU funding for urban renewal and as a result has several attractively pedestrianised squares.
One of the benefits of Larnaca (apart from its proximity to the main airport) is that it is an active year-round town with a very pro-active Mayor and plenty of cultural activities – many of which are either free or amazingly well-priced. No ‘tourism season’ or winter shut-down here!
The day ended with a wonderful dinner at Militzis (The Windmill) one of Larnaca’s most popular restaurants, serving traditional Cypriot dishes – and generally packed-out with locals, always a good sign! There was a never-ending stream of dishes served – from pourgouri with a side serving of traditional sheep’s-milk yoghurt to stifado, fasoula beans, the ever popular kleftiko, souvla (in this instance lamb and chicken rather than the traditional pork), village salad, tzatziki, tahini dip and more!
On the seafront Piale Pasia Road which runs from the Medieval Fort past the FishingHarbour to MakenzyBeach, it has an amazing view of LarnacaBay, and is set in the attractive Skala area of small, traditional houses and craft workshops. This is another road which has undergone almost eighteen months of renovation and upgrading, now offering dedicated pathways and cycle tracks and embellished by attractive street furniture and landscaping.
Authors: Gina Coleman & Terry Sutcliffe