Larnaca city museums
The Byzantine Museum is found in the courtyard of the church of Agios Lazaros and houses what priceless treasures didn't disappear from Larnaca Fort when it wasn't under Turkish administration before 1974.
The current collection is pretty extensive with many church artefacts, icons and such, many of which have been donated by Russian churches. It's worth a visit to the church anyway which supposedly has the tomb of Lazarus — he who was raised from the dead by Jesus.
Lazarus' remains were originally entombed here but, after their discovery in 890, spirited away and ended up in Marseilles. The church stands out in the southern half of the town with its prominent bell-tower.
Plenty of pottery and a reconstructed Neolithic tomb make up the bulk of the collection at the Archaeological Museum but it's a poor cousin to its private neighbour, the Pierides. Roman glassware and terracotta figures fill out the displays housed in five rooms.
One of the larger rooms is devoted to limestone and marble statues, busts and some earthenware statuettes.
Interesting examples of the flora and fauna of Cyprus are displayed in eight rooms of the Natural History Museum. Visitors are advised to avoid school hours as the place is hugely popular with school parties and, though well behaved, they can be a problem if you want to see much. It's not easy to find though, in the municipal gardens off Leoforos Grigoriou Afxentiou to the west of the town.
There's a fair amount of competition between the Pierides Foundation and the city's municipal museum. At the moment Pieridies is winning by a mile thanks to a very impressive collection of exhibits all beautifully displayed in a fine setting.
It began life 1839 when wealthy founder Dimitrios Pierides saw Cypriot treasures being plundered by foreign amateur archaeologists, notably the local US consul. He stepped in and grabbed what he could before it all disappeared.
Housed in six rooms of the former family colonial-style mansion, the collection has treasures from all over Cyprus that covers most of the island's history, well arranged and displayed in chronological order.
The most notable displays are of Roman glassware, Cypriot folk art and some excellent ancient terracotta figurines.
The visitor is hard put to find anything of the original Larnaca town of Kition, so much has been dug up and concreted over, but what there is a small and rather nondescript archaeological site known as Area II in the north-west.
Raised walkways take you over some remains of walls but there is little by way of explanation and a visit can be frustrating unless you have swotted up on the place beforehand.
As most of ancient Kition lies under modern Larnaca there is precious little left to see. The Swedes made attempts at archaeological work in the 1920s but the British had done enormous damage around 1880 by carting off much of what had survived above ground to fill in the nearby malarial marshes with what they deemed to be rubble.
Imposing and prominent on the shore Larnaka Fort and Medieval Museum once divided the Greek and Turkish halves of the town. There is little to see in the castle itself which has undergone many changes since it was first built in 1652.
It is square with very thick walls and some battlements. There are some old cannon and field guns to look at. In one of the upper rooms is a small museum of medieval relics. The open courtyard if often used for concerts and cultural events.
Sights around Larnaca
Kiti village and beach
Kiti village is about 7km to the south Larnaka. Visitors often head for the 11th century cruciform church of Panagia Angeloktisti, literally 'church built by angels'. Inside is a 6th century mosaic of the Madonna and Child from an earlier church that was built on the site and which was only 'found' in 1952.
Heading south out of the village brings you to Perivolia where hotels have begun to mushroom offering a quieter alternative to the main beach strip in Larnaka. About 500 meters from the shore is an impressive Venetian tower but you need a ladder to get into it.
The coastline here is generally low and flat, with accumulations of gravel and pebble and few tiny, poor sand and gravel beaches. The lighthouse makes a picturesque addition to what is generally a barren and windblown landscape.
Coastal erosion is a major problem here and many lines of rock have been dumped offshore in a bid to protect the main coastline. The designation of the land for tourist development has led to some new building in recent years but little has yet been done about the poor beaches in the area.
Bus No 6, 7 run hourly from Larnaka but it's a 5km walk to the beach
Lefkara village Larnaca
The pretty mountain villages of Ano Lefkara and Kato Lefkara are about 25km west off the main A5 highway to Limassol (Lemesos).
Both villages are renowned for the exquisite lacework produced by the locals, for which they are justifiably famous throughout the world.
Leonardo Da Vinci is reputed to have taken Lefkara lace home to Italy. The villages are pretty enough even without the lace with cobbled lanes and wooden balconies.
Visitors wandering the cobbled lanes and back streets will be hard put though to avoid offers to 'buy some lace' at almost every corner. Everyone here seems to be making it or selling it.
Buyers however should note that the lace that is put on display outside in the sun and dust is never the best and that the best is never the cheapest. All the really decent stuff is kept indoors out of the sun and expect to pay what it is worth — there are few bargains to be found.
There is a small embroidery museum and a scattering of restaurants can cafes in the village when you tire of lace buying.
Just south of Lefkara on the A5 road to Limassol (Lemosos) is a major archaeological site at Choirokoitia or Khirokitia. The World heritage Site dates from about 7,000BC and is probably one of the earliest human settlements on Cyprus and maybe the only example in the world of a Neolithic settlement.
Built on a hillside site there were once 60 houses inside a circular wall. It is know that they practised agriculture and animal husbandry, and had the remarkable custom of burying their dead under the floors of their houses.
Reconstruction at the foot of the hill make for an interesting visit. Steps and walkways overlook the original settlement and informative signs give lucid descriptions of key features.
A visit to the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia (Lefkosia) will help place the site in a wider context.
Stavrovouni Monastery Larnaca
The big drawback at Stavrovouni Monastery is a ban on women entering the monastery proper. Female visitors are allowed in the bookshop when it's open and in the church outside.
Reputed to be the oldest monastery in Cyprus it is reached by a steep winding road off the main A1 from Larnaca to Limassol (Lemesos). Although the mountain it sits on is not particularly high, about 600 metres, you still get a magnificent view from the top as it's the only mountain in the area.
The monastery dates from 327, allegedly founded by Constantine the Great's mother Helena (making the ban on women rather ironic). She is reputed to have built a cross there with one of the original nails from the cross of Jesus, a common claim of many monasteries.