Planning a trip to Larnaca and nearby resorts this year? Our Cyprus holidays expert, Marc Dubin, gives you the insider information on planning, booking and enjoying a hassle free holiday you’ll never forget.
Most visitors to Larnaca, the smallest of Cyprus’s resorts, tend to be passing through because they’ve just arrived at Cyprus’s busiest airport. Most Brits are en route to Agía Nápa’s fluffy sands and nightlife or Limassol’s beach strip and luxurious self-contained resort hotels. Whatever your reason for travelling through Larnaca, there’s plenty to please the sun-hungry traveller.
When to go
Many Brits visit Cyprus in mid-summer when 40° C temperatures aren’t unusual. Late June and September can be as busy, but conditions are more pleasant. The best seasons are late April to early June, once spring weather has settled, or late September through to mid-November, when the sea can be warmer than the air. Winter – late November to early March – is often rainy, alternating with many fine days. But few hotels outside of Larnaca town centre and Limassol’s Germasógia strip stay open then.
Getting the best deal
Avoid July and August if possible; late spring and autumn hotel rates often drop (depending on the establishment, and the booking engine you use). Booking a package is usually the most cost-effective strategy, though with operators pricing pre-emptively against possible air-fare hikes, you need to be quick to get a bargain for 2012.
Flight prices, quoted separately, vary considerably; anything under £250 return, at shoulder seasons, is doing well, while summer prices soar above £300 (as against £150 in winter). The no- or lo-frills airlines easyJet, jet2, Thomsonfly, Thomas Cook or Monarch usually prove cheapest, but always check the offerings of fuller-service airlines flying directly from Britain, of which Aegean and BA are generally cheaper than Cyprus Airways. Departures from regional airports can be advantageous compared to the biggest UK hubs.
No special health precautions are needed for visiting Cyprus. An EHIC card (obtain through www.ehic.org.uk) entitles EU citizens to free emergency health treatment (at town general hospitals only). Buy travel insurance to cover more serious medical mishaps requiring repatriation, private medical care and the theft of valuables.
Packing and Baggage
Cypriot supermarkets – typically along town-outskirt approach roads – sell all essentials (including many UK comfort foods), so don’t waste your baggage allowance on such items. If you’re flying with a low-cost airline that strictly enforces baggage weight limits, take only the essentials – Cypriot pharmacies in particular are well-stocked.
Getting to the airport
There are flights to Larnaca from Belfast, Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, London (all airports) and Manchester, as well as 8 regional airports. If you’re lightly laden, public transport is often the cheapest option for getting to the airport. If you plan to park there, book well in advance to get the cheapest deals.
Surviving the airport
Flying from smaller airports is always easier than using big hubs like Heathrow and Manchester. In peak season consider booking lounge access to escape the crowds, or at Gatwick and Heathrow – prior to dawn departures – a Yotel module (www.yotel.com).
Larnaca’s spacious, newish (opened late 2009) airport is linked to town by municipal bus no. 417 from early morning to early evening, with the 440 taking over until almost midnight; the 1 Euro (about 80p) fare includes luggage. Schedules are viewable at www.cyprusbybus.com, but they’re a little bit complicated and presuppose some knowledge of local geography. You might be better off using a taxi into Larnaca centre (11 Euros – about £9).
The frequent shuttle bus Limassol Airport Express (www.airportshuttlebus.eu) takes around an hour to reach Limasson and is reasonably priced at 8 Euros (around £6.70) including luggage. You can buy your tickets from the far left-hand desk in the arrivals hall., However, be aware that the drop off point is at the opposite end of Limassol from its resort strip.
There is no similar shuttle service to Agía Nápa resort. Be aware that Googling ‘Larnaca airport transfers’ is likely to yield duff information (eg, assertions that ‘no shuttle service is in operation at the moment’) or very dear quotes – perhaps £23 per person for the trip to Agía Nápa, which multiplied by two is pretty much the cost of 4 days’ car hire in shoulder season!
Once you are there
How to spend your first night
Evening temperatures stay balmy seven months of the year; thus Cypriots eat where possible outdoors, by the sea. Larnaca has an entire district devoted to the pursuit – the former Turkish Cypriot quarter of Skála – where numerous fish tavernas crowd the water along coastal thoroughfare Piyale Paşa. Recommended is Zephyros at no. 37, it’s the best value and most consistent in quality (and thus popular with locals). At least two Trip Advisor users proclaim it the “best fish restaurant in Larnaca”. Then, go for a nightcap at hard-to-find 1900 Art Café (www.artcafe1900.com.cy; closed Tues), at Stasínou 6 in the town centre. It serves a hundred brands of whiskey, a like number of wines and masses of imported beers amidst film-poster décor and a jazz/R&B soundtrack.
Practical considerations for planning an itinerary
- Larnaca has a good road infrastructure – by fast motorway neither Limassol nor Nicosia are more than an hour away, while Agía Nápa is just 45 minutes distant. So logistically it doesn’t matter much which coastal resort you choose as a base if you plan to hire a car. Nicosia and Limassol have the best dining overall, while Agía Nápa has the best beaches.
- Car hire off-season can be ridiculously cheap – online quotes of under £80 per week for a compact model aren’t unknown, and at the time of writing petrol is affordable at about €1.25 (£1.04) per litre. Local driving habits are on the aggressive side – expect to eat dust from other motorway users if you aren’t exceeding the speed limit (100km/hr) by 20 percent!
- Despite the foregoing, Cyprus is trying to encourage more use of public transport with increased bus frequencies both within and between towns, and attractive fares – including a variety of bus passes (see www.cyprusbybus.com/busfares.aspx).
- Most museums and historical churches shut by 3 or 4 pm, sometimes 1pm on Saturday or Sunday – so best go in the morning. By contrast archaeological sites stay open all day until sunset. The Cyprus Department of Antiquities website is quite current as to museum and site hours and fees.
- Peak times for meals in restaurants are 12.30–2.30pm for lunch, 7–9.30pm for dinner.
- Among beaches around Larnaca itself, the best and least crowded are those either side of Cape Kíti to the south, and the Cyprus Tourism Organisation’s manicured beach northeast at Voróklini, just past the hotel strip. At Agía Nápa, scenic Krýo Neró beach stretching east from the fishing port is long enough to accommodate all comers except maybe in August. Most others to the west are small and often buzzed by jet-skiers and parasailers, but on a calm day Lánda cove and Makrónissos (both accessible by bike path as parking is tricky) are idyllic.
- In Larnaca itself, the only absolute must is the quirky Pierides Museum, with everything from ancient pottery to contemporary Cypriot painting. Out of town, Kíti village (10km away) has Byzantine Angelóktisti church, with its rare mosaic of the Virgin and Child.
The motorway system runs to the edge of the airport grounds, and traffic jams are rare. Rental cars are returned to a moderately remote car park at the airport, so allow 5–10 more minutes to get inside the terminal. Luggage trolleys require a 2-euro coin (refundable) to free from the rank – British 2p coins (and Turkish 1TL coins!) will also work. Flights (check status on www.cyprusairports.com.cy) depart Larnaca around the clock, though peak hours are 3–7pm. There are 13 cafés, snack bars and restaurants, with all tastes catered for (including Italian and Asian), though they’re not cheap.
Make your holiday last a little longer by uploading your photos to Facebook for the benefit of Facebook friends, or adding them to one of the many the Cyprus Flickr group pages.
Don’t forget to share your holiday experiences here on the Directline Holidays blog or on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DirectlineHolidays
- The TripAdvisor Cyprus forum – www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Tourism-g190372-Cyprus-Vacations.html: The busiest forum, with thousands of posts, though Attractions reviews are paltry.
- The VirtualTourist Cyprus forum – http://forum.virtualtourist.com/forum-417-1-Travel-Cyprus-1-forum.html: Reasonably useful and current.
- The Cyrpus forum – www.cyprus-forum.com/cyprus-tourism.html: a good, candid site.
- The local quality English-language newspaper - www.cyprus-mail.com: well written and opinionated.
- Telepgraph Travel - www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destination/cyprus/35362/Cyprus-travel-guide.html: Good quick guide, emphasising Limassol and Larnaca.
- Telepgraph Travel - www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destination/cyprus/48478/Cyprus-itineraries.html: Day trips from Limassol, though could just as well be reachable from Larnaca.
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office Cyprus page – http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/europe/cyprus: Official warnings and advice, mostly useful.
- EHIC – www.ehic.org.uk: Apply here for a European Health Insurance Card.
- Airport shuttle buses - www.airportshuttlebus.eu: All about the shuttle to Limassol.
- Cyprus museums website – www.mcw.gov.cy/mcw/da/da.nsf/DMLhistory_en/DMLhistory_en?OpenDocument: Links on left for museum/site hours and fees.
- Cyprus airport website – www.cyprusairports.com.cy: Track your flight, arriving or departing.