Larnaka

On the edge of Larnaka Bay the palm-lined seafront of Larnaka town bustles with cafes, tavernas, shops and bars. Historic charm is lent to the scene by its fortress castle, now used as the town's summer cultural centre. Larnaka is an excellent base from which to get to know the central and eastern section of Cyprus, and its proximity to the International Airport and a number of luxury hotels that have been developed along its

beautiful sandy beaches make this a popular holiday choice. Larnaka was originally known as Kition, or Khittim, and legend has it that the first settlement at the spot was founded by Noah's grandson Khittim. But the name Larnaka probably comes from the Greek word "Larnax", which means sarcophagus many of which have been unearthed in this area.

The town's heyday was as an ancient city kingdom established by the Mycenean Greeks in the 13th century BC, when it enjoyed the dual position of rich sea port and major centre of the copper trade. Remains of that period excavated in recent years can be seen in its Cyclopean walls and a complex of Mycenean temples at the ancient Kition site.

Birthplace of the stoic philosopher Zeno, Larnaka was also the second home of St. Lazarus, who arrived there after his resurrection and later became its first Bishop. The Church of St Lazarus standing in the centre of the town is well worth a visit The tomb of St Lazarus, who is still the patron saint of Larnaka, is under the sanctuary.

The town was not to regain its standing until the 17th century, when it became the consular and commercial centre of Cyprus, and i's port once again flourished with trade It was here that the British landed in 1878 to begin their rule of the island.

Much smaller than Nicosia or Limassol, Larnaka has a population of 62.000 and has managed to retain a relaxed, leisurely atmosphere. Its main shopping area is Zenon Kitieos Street, a typically busy road of small shops, with a wonderfully colourful fruit and vegetable market at the far end.

Larnaka is known for its annual celebration of the Feast of Kataklysmos Greek Orthodox Whitsun - which is an important holiday The occasion is marked by enthusiastic water sports, feasting, singing and dancing.