We learned from our own experience that a lack of pedestrian streets and quality pavements is a scourge of Cyprus in general, not only Larnaca. Local citizens go everywhere by their own cars, while tourists have no other choice than to use a rented car, taxi, or bus, and they use them more for moving around the island rather than within a city. The Cypriots even say that if you see a walking person, it’s undoubtedly a foreigner. The Cypriots go by car even to shops and restaurants in the neighbourhood.
There are a relatively small number of pedestrian streets and ordinary sidewalks. The few promenades present on the island are designed for tourists, therefore they can be found only in the places popular with tourists. These streets are crammed with cafes, restaurants, and hotels. Although Cypriots certainly enjoy strolling along the promenades in the evening as well, because the Cypriot urban environment doesn’t imply any walks. The cities have almost no parks, gardens, or infrastructure for those who would like to spend time under the open sky.
The only convenient way of travelling far in Larnaca is a personal car. It’s common practice in Cyprus that each family member has their own car, therefore city buses are mainly used by pupils and pensioners.
Old buses circulate at 20-30-minute intervals in the city centre. As for suburban buses, people sometimes have to wait for them more than an hour. Talking about Oroklini, the suburbs of Larnaca, where we used to live, a bus circulated there three times a day only. All buses stop working and leave the route at 6-7 pm, so you may forget about the opportunity to come back home by bus after an evening walk. Of course, you can take a taxi which is a common way of coming home in the evening and at night, but it costs a pretty penny to use it every day. Uber could be a good alternative. It’s used all over the world and is much cheaper than local taxi. However, it’s not present in Cyprus due to a fierce opposition of the syndicate of local taxi drivers.
Old Turkish Quarter
One more interesting place that attracted our attention in Larnaca was a Turkish quarter called Skala that starts from the medieval castle and proceeds almost to Mackenzie. Turkish Cypriots used to live here. The architecture and the logic used in building the streets are unique and typical only of Muslims. Their distinctive style can be seen in each element. The houses are put close to each other, inner yards are hidden from prying eyes – it’s a private area. Many buildings are painted white and have green window and door frames. It’s unusual because Greeks paint their windows and doors in blue.
After the island was divided into two parts, the Turkish had to leave their houses. The quarter had been empty for a long time. Later, numerous Cypriot craftspeople, sculptors, and artists opened their workshops here. The quarter is not very large, but it’s definitely worth walking around.
Larnaca Salt Lake
Larnaca Salt Lake is actually situated on the city boundary if you move along Finikoudes towards Mackenzie beach and the airport. To reach the lake on foot, you’ll need about 30-40 minutes. It’s very far for Larnaca, so no one walks there. We drove to the lake a couple of times. It’s very interesting there, however, it’s not the best place for walks.
There’s really a lot of salt in the lake as the water evaporates. It had been harvested and exported to other countries since the Middle Ages. However, in the late 20th century, harvesting stopped. In summer, Salt Lake completely dries up, and there’s nothing to look at. You can just walk on salt. But in winter, the lake gets filled with water and a host of migratory birds gather here. The ones that attract the most attention are naturally pink flamingos. There are hundreds of them!
There’s Hala Sultan Tekke rising on the shore of Salt Lake, which is one of the most famous mosques both in Cyprus and generally in the world. Muslims consider it as important as Mecca and Medina. The mosque has a captivating history. It was erected in honour of a woman named Umm Haram which is unique for the Muslim world. Some say she was the Prophet Muhammad’s foster mother, while others claim she was a wife of one of his companions.