A multi-million makeover is changing the face of Larnaca. Jeannine Williamson reports

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With year-round sunshine, short flight times and historic links with the UK, the Mediterranean island of Cyprus has long been a firm favourite with Brits. Adding to its eternal appeal, Larnaca, is halfway through a major multi-million euro makeover.

SELL: CONVENIENCE AND QUALITY



Just 15 minutes from the island’s main airport, Larnaca can be sold as a short break as well as a traditional one or two-week holiday.

And the town’s huge facelift means there’s plenty more to encourage visitors to stay in the town.

Four new museums, improved beaches – including the trendy McKenzie beach hot spot with its shallow waters that are ideal for families – adrenaline-fuelled watersports, a new winery and Olympic-standard shooting range are just some of the projects that have been completed as part of the five-year investment.

“Larnaca has benefited from the fact its tourism development has been planned carefully and consistently over the last few years,” says Orestis Rossides, UK and Ireland director of Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO).

“The waterfront development has created a pleasant environment and visitors can experience a beautiful contrast of a modern and traditional way of life.

“The renovation of the Piyale Pasha coastal road from the castle to McKenzie beach is progressing well. It will include a cycle lane, walkway and green area and is scheduled for completion later this year. Larnaca has also designated a beach for kitesurfing that provides perfect wind and wave conditions all year round.”

Ongoing schemes include the redevelopment of the marina, a championship golf course, revamped marketplace, new amphitheatre for concerts and information centres at the salt marshes and hillside village of Skarinou outside the town.

While Paphos, Limassol and Ayia Napa attract greater numbers of UK tourists, Larnaca is a worthy alternative, says Photis Lambrianides, Olympic Holidays’ commercial director.

“With its attractive, palm-lined promenade, home to a large number of restaurants, tavernas and bars, Larnaca has lots of visitor appeal,” he says.

“It is also the resort closest to the island’s major gateway airport, which opened its new terminal a couple of years ago and has the greatest concentration of flights from the UK.

Importantly, the transfer time to the main beach area east of town is a mere 15 minutes by taxi, great for families with young children itching to get on the beach.”

The CTO organises regular trade initiatives, including fam trips and marketing events, on mainstream and special-interest products, to keep agents updated.

STAY: ACROSS THE BOARD



While Cyprus is not generally viewed as a budget destination, and prides itself on the quality of its accommodation, there are rooms to suit all pockets, from self-catering apartments to luxury resorts.

Olympic Holidays offers a selection of four and five-star hotels in Larnaca plus self-catering in its Winter Sun, Summer Sun, upmarket Gold and Platinum Collection and budget Smart Choice programmes.

Among the properties recommended by Sunvil is the family-run Palm Beach Hotel & Bungalows (pictured below). Set in large gardens, the property, which has recently refurbished its 228 rooms, boasts a spa, tennis and watersports facilities.

It also offersagro-tourism excursions during the autumn harvest season and is well placed for active visitors who want to hire bikes and explore the island’s excellent cycling routes.

The 193-room, five-star Golden Bay Beach Hotel, also featured by a number of Cyprus specialists, is a luxurious retreat for families with a dedicated children’s club and family mini suites with private terraces and shared whirlpool baths, four restaurants and a health and leisure club.

A good three-star choice for families and mature clients is Crown Resorts Henipa with a swim-up bar, children’s pools and play area, gym and watersports facilities at the nearby beach. The hotel’s 164 rooms include bungalows and eight accessible rooms for disabled guests.

The stylish Amorgos Boutique Hotel is an ideal property for couples. Featured by operators such as Cyplon, the newly refurbished 46-room hotel is in a quiet street but close to Larnaca’s promenade and shops.

Larnaca

SEE: HISTORY AND NATURE



Larnaca may be half the size of Limassol, but it is big on historic attractions including an impressive medieval castle, the Hala Sultan Tekke – one of the world’s most sacred mosques – and Pierides Museum covering 9,000 years of Cyprus history.

For clients with an interest in churches and Byzantine art, Larnaca is an open-air museum and the Church of Saint Lazarus is one of the most important surviving Byzantine monuments on the island.

Between the airport and the town is a large salt lake, one of the area’s most distinctive landmarks, which will interest nature lovers and bird watchers. Rare plants and flowers grow there and it is particularly colourful in the winter and early spring when it is home to large flocks of migratory birds.

Alexis Josephides, Sunvil Cyprus product manager, says Larnaca is an excellent base for people who want to explore the island. “It’s close to the airport and has good road links,” he adds.

“Within 25 minutes, you can be on Nissi beach, within 45 minutes marvelling at the Venetian walls in Nicosia and strolling through the only divided capital in the world, and less than an hour’s drive takes you to the villages of the Troodos Mountains.”

In villages such as Lefkara, Kato Drys, Tochni and Psematismenos, visitors can take part in events that have changed little over the years and become acquainted with the Cypriot way of life, from learning about food and wine production to basket weaving, or simply take part in the time-honoured tradition of sitting at a cafe in the village square to watch the world go by.