Larnaca is another big favourite with holiday makers, especially those who like to explore. Larnaca’s sandy beaches and lively town centre sit happily beside the 17th century fort and some wonderful churches. The modern city of Larnaka is built on the shores of the Bay of Larnaka in the SE of the island, a few kilometres to the north of the ancient kingdom of Kition. It has a population of 68.800 and ranks third in size among the island’s settlements, after Lefkosia and Lemesos.
Throughout the centuries, Kition had remained one of Cyprus’s main city-states, enjoying periods of prosperity when trade was flourishing. It is connected with important milestones in the island’s history which include the liberation of the city from the Persian yoke by the Athenian General Kimon, and the presence in the city of Lazarus, the man Jesus Christ brought back from the dead. The vulnerability of the city to earthquakes, floods and raids contributed to its decline during the Middle Ages. During the 18th and 19th centuries, under Ottoman and British rule, it gradually regained some of its former importance. Most of the European states of the time had established their consulates in the city, while the port became the busiest in the island, both in terms of passenger and freight traffic. It was during that time that the ancient toponym of Kition was abandoned and replaced by that of Larnaka, which is a derivative of the ancient Greek word “larnax”, meaning sarcophagus, because of the presence of many ancient tombs in the wider area of the city.
The city declined somewhat during the first half of the 20th century partly because Lefkosia attracted most of the foreign diplomatic missions and partly because the port of Ammochostos took over from Larnaka as the main port of the island. The city’s decline continued until independence in 1960. There followed a period of slow and steady development but at all times the city remained in the shadow of the three big cities – Lefkosia, Lemesos and Ammochostos. Tourist development in the city and district was minimal up until 1974 compared to the rapid development in Ammochostos and Keryneia. The situation changed dramatically following the 1974 invasion. With the loss of the port of Ammochostos, the closure of Nicosia International Airport and the loss of the tourist infrastructure in Ammochostos and Keryneia, Larnaka became once again one of the focal points of the island’s economic activity.
Larnaka International Airport (4km to the south) opened up soon after the invasion, the port was upgraded for both freight and passenger traffic, the city acquired an extensive boat marina while new luxury hotels were built along a ten kilometre sea-front. Also to the north of the city limits are located the island’s only oil refineries. The city of Larnaka is well-known for its picturesque sea-front which includes rows of palm trees, oi finikoudes, in the local Greek dialect. Much of the activity is centred around the city promenade during the major festivals. The most important of these for the city of Larnaka is Kataklysmos or the Festival of the Flood, celebrated in early summer with a series of cultural events.