IT’S not exactly true that I’ve been to Larnaca six times – I’ve only flown in and out of the airport.

I’m not alone as many “arrivals” just transit, or hotfoot it off to resorts like Ayia Napa. Any doubts about lingering longer on my seventh arrival were instantly blown away when I learned the Cyrus city is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities and wild flamingos flock to a wee lake right by the runway.

Just a five-minute drive from the terminal, I’m parked by the flamingo-kissed Larnaca Salt Lake. Every winter the intermittent lagoon – whose salt was once a precious commodity prized by the Egyptians – fills with water, bringing life. And thousands of these elegant pink flamingos.

A four-kilometre walkway swirls around, along with bird hides, making the most of a natural wonder recognised by the Natura 2000 organisation.

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Pushing on into the centre of Larnaca (also known as Larnaka), the imprint of man strikes strong too. Larnaca swims in history – an eastern Mediterranean fulcrum colonised by the Romans and the Venetians and more recently the French and British until 1950. One man stands out. You know him – Lazarus.

What could be a better symbol for a city that has shaken off all its historical turmoil than the man resurrected to live again?

Half of his relics lie here in his grand eponymous church. The rest were spirited off to Marseille via Constantinople. It is very Larnaca – the main church is ornate Byzantine, with the elegant arcade on one flank French Gothic; the belltower an Italianate flourish.

“Larnaca is a like a who’s who of Mediterranean civilisations,” explains my guide Christina. “A real town, not just a tourist resort.”

She leads me through the old Turkish quarter, which has recently been revamped with EU help. “Many of the Turkish Cypriots left after the Turkish 1974 invasion of the north of Cyprus, but we are careful to preserve their homes. They are welcome to return and we do not sell them. In the meantime refugees from the occupied north and local artists can make use of them and bring new life and culture.”

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I find one of those artists, Efthymios (above), at Studio Ceramics Cyprus. He says: “It is inspiring to see life and inspiration flourish. There is now a real community of artists who might struggle to afford studio space otherwise.”

He is surrounded by his bountiful work – everything from medieval designs to his own creations. “My big hope is that we can keep drawing Larnaca’s young people to become artists and to develop their talents.”

Efthymios steers me just around the corner to a former rubbish dump that has just been opened as a creative public art space – the Mediterranean Artists’ Park. It has frames for outdoor art exhibitions, outdoor sculpture and a wee amphitheatre that stages cultural events. It is the symbol of the re-flourishing of local art after decades spent in the shadows of bigger Limassol and Paphos.

It’s not just art that is on the up as there are two massive leisure projects. The Land Of Tomorrow development is totally reinventing a three-kilometre coastal strip once blighted by an oil refinery. British uber-architect Lord Norman Foster is involved in a project aiming to put sustainability and aesthetics at its heart. In a city without the high rises of Limassol, this is welcome.

Larnaca also has a sweep of new hotels and since 2018, the Kition Ocean Marina has undergone massive redevelopment. As has the elegant Piale Pasha waterfront boulevard.

The new waterfront section joins Finikoudes, the original palm-fringed promenade. Both are lovely places to walk under big skies by big seas. Yes, there are cheesy bars, but far more coffee houses selling lethal strength Cypriot coffee and modern cafés. The lanes behind it house characterful little cocktail bars and old workshops now reinvented as artisan studios and interesting wee independent shops.

My base is out at the Golden Bay Beach Hotel ( This functional five-star enjoys a handy wee stretch of beach. If you’ve not got your own wheels, it’s quite far out of town, but handy if you want a wee dip in the Mediterranean every morning as I did here.

Larnaca is rightly proud of its superb cuisine. At Militzis, I tuck into a traditional mezze stuffed with chicken, lamb and pork. At Agistri, it’s all about the boat-fresh seafood mezze served up overlooking the sea. But Almar on Mackenzie Beach – named after the Scotsman who first made the sands here popular – is the best of all. This swish restaurant sports views and delicious food – grilled tiger prawns, a lusciously creamy prawn risotto, and perfectly grilled sea bream.

Larnaca has a new slogan for this summer: “Welcome Back”. It’s an apt one as it’s not just flamingos who flock back every year – the city has a very high number of repeat guests.

I’m more than glad that my own return includes time exploring a city that is more than just a resort. And certainly more than just an airport.

EasyJet ( has new flights from Glasgow to Larnaca. Tourist information is here.