Amathus – one of the oldest cities of Cyprus – dates back to circa 1100BC. Built on the coastal cliff at the site of a natural harbour, the city flourished and, from early on, traded with the Greeks in sheep and grain. It also boasted a rich copper mine. Over the centuries, it played host to the Greeks, Phoenicians, Persians, Ptolemies and Romans, all of whom left their mark on the site.
By the 8th century BC, a palace had been built here along with a port and a tophet – a Phoenician cemetery. A temple was built on the cliff top which was to become a major cult sanctuary devoted to Aphrodite.
Roll on to the 4th century AD and Amathus is a seat of a Christian bishop. While it seems to have survived the first of the Arab raids, by the end of the 7th century this once prosperous and densely populated city was abandoned.
Today, the ruins of Amathus include several ancient sites, including tombs, an acropolis with a 1st century AD Roman temple to Aphrodite, an agora with some public baths and the remains of the 8th century BC palace of Amathus.
It won’t be the best archaeological site you’ll ever visit but its still special and has great views … I wouldn’t pass it by….
The first impression is of stones – a lot of stones – stacked as walls or scattered about the hillside.
The most identifiable feature is the Agora – the Roman marketplace. Organised around a large limestone-paved square, the main street ran along one side while the other three sides were occupied by porticos or arcades. Nearby were the public Baths, a Nympheum (fountain), cistern and important administrative buildings. Part of the City Walls, Palace and Basilica – as well as the walls and foundations of houses and shops – have been excavated.
Away from the city centre lies the Necropolis (cemetery), while the ruins of the harbour can still be distinguished beneath the sea.
The path winds up to the hill……
The climb offers an opportunity to appreciate the stunning view of the Med as well as the rolling hills behind the city…..
The site seems to be the only thing breaking the string of resorts along the coast – it must drive developers absolutely crazy!!!!
There’s also a chance to better appreciate the astonishing number of cruise ships in the region (and YES – this is during Covid!)
The Roman Temple can be dated between 70 and 100 AD and was the dominant monument of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite – considered one of the great centres of worship in Cyprus. Built over the ruins of an earlier temple, Aphrodite’s Temple was a sacred space for ceremonies – evidence was found of votive offerings around the altar (a votive offering was voluntary rather than one required by Law). It is believed that there were two other temples at the Acropolis – dedicated to Adonis and Hercules.
By the 5th century AD, the area around the temple was being used as a place of worship by the first Christians. In the 7th century the temple was destroyed and, in its place, a large three-aisled basilica was erected.
Very little has survived – a few bits of steps. Nothing remains of the interior and there is no indication of the location or appearance of a statue of the Goddess.
Two gigantic stone urns once stood here. Standing 1.85m tall and weighing 14 tons, each was made from a single piece of stone. They held water which would have been used for ritual ablutions.
In 1865 the French persuaded the Ottoman government to allow them take one of the urns which is now at the Louvre Museum. A replica has been placed on the site.
The first major excavations began in 1893 under the direction of British archaeologists. Over the years, many finds have ended up in the British Museum and the Louvre. Since 1980, joint Franco-Cypriot excavations continue on the site.
Opening Hours: Summer 08.30-19.30 / Winter 08.30-17.00.
Entrance Fee: Access to the Lower City costs €2.50. The Acropolis is actually still outside the site and the hill can be accessed for free.
Accessibility: The Lower City is partially wheelchair accessible.
I suppose, like myself, most people associate the name with the primary airport of the country. I suspect that’s as much as many travellers bother with the town, bypassing it for one of the islands other resorts.
Typical of any resort, the action begins along the seaside promenade – Foinikoude. Busiest when locals and tourists alike enjoy their evening strolls, it is lined with restaurants and cafes. The medieval Larnaca Castle dominates one end of the walkway, while Europe Square is circled with beautifully restored colonial buildings, built by the British administration in late 19th century.
This is MacKenzie Beach, a local favourite. Beds and umbrella cost €2.50 each per day (i.e. €7.50 for 2 beds and umbrella) … I didn’t see any suggestion of a weekly rate.
Where we stayed:
Once again, we were not looking for anything fancy – just within walking distance of everything and with free parking.
Best Western Plus Larco Hotel
Well you won’t pick this place for the view but everything else is fine for a short stay. A new build, in a developing area, it is situated on the airport side of town which makes it a very convenient base. The carpark is tiny but there’s plenty of free on-street parking.
Breakfast is included in the rate (€86.40 per night – late October). There wasn’t much by way of fresh fruit but the hot counter was good – the usual fare plus haloumi, cubed potatoes, etc…
We got a free drink voucher so could enjoy a tipple at the pool. With a dozen sunbeds and a few tables and chairs, pool furniture might be in demand at high season. Pool towels are provided.
Unable to see the coastline, we didn’t believe the receptionist’s assurance that the seafront was 200 metres away! And of course it was! We were on MacKenzie beach within minutes. It’s about a 20 minute walk into town, via a lovely walkway along the coast.
Would we stay here again? Yes.
Where we ate:
There are plenty of restaurants in and around town My favourite was at the beach – I’d a great seafood salad (€9.50) at Psarolimano
Chicken in Pitta (€6.00) Alexander
How long in Larnaca?
We planned for a beach day here so booked for 2 nights. We visited Amathus in the morning and on to Larnaca – spent a while at the hotel pool and walked into town in evening. Day 2 we spent on the beach and into town for dinner.
If not interested in the beach then one night, or a day trip, would be plenty for Amathus and the town…..
Before you go:
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16 thoughts on “VISITING CYPRUS? 5 FAVOURITES (FROM A FIRST-TIMER’S PERSPECTIVE!) #2 ANCIENT AMATHUS / LARNACA ”
Wow, what an amazing place to explore, Marie. I’ve never been to Cyprus, it certainly looks like a delightful little island in the Mediterranean Sea and an absolutely wonderful travel destination. I wouldn’t mind exchanging the dreary winter weather for a bit of sunshine as we’ve been battered for days! Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx
Oh boy – could have done with some of that blue sky today – miserable here…. !!!
Hi Marie, great read in your usual style. Delighted to see that all your hard work on Ancient Civilisations hasn’t gone to waste. Love the pic by the pool.
There you go Bar – no such thing as a wasted education!!😅 😂 🤣. Bottle some of that Spanish sun and bring it back with ya!
Looks beautiful! I just read a book about Cyprus and now I have pictures to go with it 🙂
It is lovely – a resort is a resort no matter where it is but there’s plenty on the island to balance up a sun holiday with a bit of exploration, history and culture etc….
Cyprus wise, I’ve only ever been to Paphos, and Michaela hasn’t been at all. Given that we love Turkey so much, we would be really interested to see the “other” side of Cyprus
We’re going back in April and I’ve just booked 5 nights in Northern Cyprus – Like yourself Phil, I’ll be very interested to see what its like… We’ve given up trying to sort a car – going to bus it and get a car when we return to the south… Thought we’d get to Turkey in 2020… last there in ’81 and then Istanbul in ’83!!!! Time to go back….!
I’ve had Turkey on my mind now for several weeks and longing to get back there. Of course, it has changed a lot since I’ve been there, sometime in the 80s I think, but it was a magical place and I absolutely adore Istanbul. I’ve been there for long weekends 3 times and never get bored. I miss the cucumbers sold from the ice-cream like vans, the fantastic array of yoghurts, the honeys, and the lovely people.
I’ve never thought of Istanbul for a minibreak – even though Turkish Airlines fly direct from Dublin…. ….mmmmmm …. definitely something to think about!!! Love to go back…
You’ve managed to see quite a lot on your trip. I’m a big fan of Cyprus, I think it offers an awful lot and the scenery is so different in each region. Inland with the old villages has its own special charm and i like that it’s a country where we are made to feel so welcome. The food could be improved but …. can’t have everything, and the whiskey sours are great (and I don’t even like whiskey). I wouldn’t have recognised Larnaca from your pictures, it’s changed a lot since I was there, all those hi-rises. Hope you enjoy the north when you go there. We stayed in Famagusta when it was in the Greek part of the island, now it’s under Turkish control. I should really go back there to see how different it all is.
Most of the food for us was very good – one or two disappointments but otherwise we really enjoyed it… There’s so much development along the coast – tourism is a huge business there.. I’ve booked 2 nights in Famagusta – looking forward to Salamis
This brings back memories of our time there a few years ago.Larnaca was an integral site to visit . We stayed there for a week . The Acropolis was high on list so historic. We crossed the border into Turkey and very interesting . Thanks Anita
Looking forward to doing that also in April – I’ll be very interested in the contrasts with the south… XXXMarie
It looks amazing, I’ve always wanted to visit but have never got round to it – but 2023 is the year for Cyrpus 🙂
That’s not to far away!!