The southeastern Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus has long been an attractive holiday destination for sun-seekers looking for a lovely, warm, and relatively affordable place to spend their time off. And despite its relatively small size, Cyprus has a lot of offer visitors with a diverse landscape, beautiful coastline and dynamic cities. Because of this, it can be hard to choose where to visit or base yourself when travelling to this lovely island nation. If you’re struggling to choose between Larnaca or Paphos or Limassol to visit in Cyprus, you’ve come to the right place.
Despite the fact that these three coastal cities are all within close proximity of each other, Paphos, Larnaca and Limassol all have different dynamics and things to offer visitors. Though they are all located on the beautiful Mediterranean and can offer similar things, they are all distinct cities and have both merits and disadvantages depending on what you’re looking to get out of your holiday in Cyprus.
So should you stay in Paphos or Larnaca or Limassol when visiting Cyprus? Read on to find out which city is the best bet for you.
The third-largest city in Cyprus, Larnaca is located on the southeastern coast of the island and is home to the country’s largest international airport — so it is highly likely that you will begin you travels here regardless if you’ve decided to stay in Larnaca or Paphos or Limassol. Known for its seaside promenade and charming old town area, Larnaca is also a popular place for holidaymakers to base themselves when looking for a relaxing escape to Cyprus.
As mentioned above, Larnaca is home to Cyprus’ largest international airport and is the starting point for many travellers holidays to Cyprus. The convenience of being close to the highest-traffic airport is honestly quite a compelling reason that a visitor might choose to stay in Larnaca over Paphos or Limassol.
Along with its proximity to the airport — which is located an easy 10-minute drive from the city centre, by the way — Larnaca is well-served by Cyprus’ many motorways and is easy to get to and around from virtually anywhere in the country. Being the third-largest city (after Nicosia and Limassol), it is also well-connected to most places on the island. You can easily get from Nicosia, Limassol, or Paphos to Larnaca via bus and via car, it will only take about 90 minutes from Paphos (the farthest destination) at the longest.
Larnaca is also one of the few destinations in Cyprus where it probably wouldn’t be necessary to have a car, especially if you only plan to visit Cyprus to get in some quality beach time and are not too interested in sightseeing or ancient history. The centre of Larnaca, the pleasant seaside promenade, and the city beach are all within a few hundred metres of each other and it is also easier to walk to the numerous restaurants and cafes scattered throughout the city as well. Larnaca is more concentrated in one area than Paphos and has a more manageable, small-town feel than Limassol.
Larnaca is also located close to the popular resort town of Ayia Napa, making it a great place to stay if you want to be closer to a proper Cypriot city while still enjoying the resort beaches and tourist amenities of Ayia Napa.
Consequently, if you’re trying to decide between staying in Larnaca or Ayia Napa, note that the latter is generally better if you would rather stay in an all-inclusive resort. There are also arguably better beaches in Ayia Napa and if you’re into nightlife, then Ayia Napa is the place for you as well.
Where Larnaca sees its downfall is that is isn’t located as close in proximity to many of the historical and natural sites as places like Limassol or Paphos — with the exception of places like the Ayia Napa sea caves. This makes Larnaca not an ideal place for visitors who are looking for an active holiday packed with sightseeing and history.
Things to Do in Larnaca
Though it is the third-largest city in Cyprus, Larnaca is fairly small and the town itself isn’t completely packed with tourist sites and incredible things to do. In fact, the majority of Larnaca sightseeing can be done in the span of a few hours, making this place far more suited for a relaxed beach holiday rather than an activity-packed getaway.
Some of the top things to do in Larnaca include strolling along the seaside promenade, visiting the Larnaca salt lake and taking in the Hala Sultan Tekke (and maybe the migratory flamingoes if the season permits!), taking in the pretty Church of St Lazarus, and maybe visiting the Larnaca Castle fortification.
All in all, however, a visit to Larnaca is all about chilling out on the beach, swimming in the warm Mediterranean, and working on your tan. If this is your goal when visiting Cyprus, then I would recommend planning to base yourself in Larnaca rather than Paphos or Limassol.
Where to Stay in Larnaca
Because of its seaside location and proximity to Cyprus’ largest airport, Larnaca is one of the most popular places to stay on the island and, therefore, there are many accommodation options to choose from. If you’ve decided that Larnaca is the place for you and are wondering where to stay, then have a look at these suggestions:
Mikes Kanarium City Hotel — An excellent option for travellers on a mid-range budget, this centrally-located hotel has a number of clean and comfortable rooms that are perfect for both families and couples. Situated within easy walking distance between the beach and city centre, there is also breakfast included in the room rate. Click here to check their availability
Les Palmiers Beach Boutique Hotel — This chic and romantic boutique hotel is the perfect place to base yourself for a plush holiday in Larnaca. Located directly on the beach, there are some great rooms available, comfortable amenities, and a fantastic breakfast included in the nightly rate. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to find other hotels in Larnaca
As one of the 2017 European Capitals of Culture (along with Aarhus, Denmark), Paphos is located on the southwestern side of Cyprus and is one of the most popular places to visit on the island. Home to the country’s second-largest airport and believed to be the mythical birthplace of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, Paphos is an excellent choice to visit if you’re an active traveller, history buff, sun seeker, or all three.
Paphos is home to Cyprus’ second-busiest international airport, many visitors will indeed begin their Cypriot travels in this coastal town. As a hub for Ryanair and other budget airlines, Paphos is affordable connected to numerous different European destinations making it very easy to reach from virtually anywhere on the continent, and some places further afield, as well.
The airport is located about 15 kilometres south of the Paphos’ city centre and there is a bus that will take visitors from the airport to central Paphos. Once in the city, it is served by a limited bus system that could be adequate should you only want to get around Paphos itself, however, it is difficult to explore anything in the vicinity using only public transit.
That is why I would say that Paphos is best visited if you have your own car, as most places of interest are far from each other and it can be tiring and inefficient to rely on the bus to get around. There are also certainly some areas in and around Paphos that aren’t accessible whatsoever via public transit.
Even if you do have a rental car (and we recommend using RentalCars.com to get the best deals — also make sure take out an excess insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance in order to save on high deductibles should any damage happen to your vehicle), there are some places to visit near Paphos that are only reachable by unpaved road. While most of these are fine to drive on with a regular car, it isn’t normally a fun experience and you may want to consider having a 4WD instead.
All in all, Paphos isn’t really the most accessible place if you don’t want to rent a car in Cyprus. If you just plan on going from the airport to your hotel and not venturing far from there, then you won’t need to have your own vehicle (and you really don’t need to spend time weighing the differences between Paphos or Larnaca or Limassol, either). However, if you want to see all of the great things that the areas in and around Paphos have to offer, then you’re going to need a car.
Things to Do in Paphos
As one of the most popular tourist areas in Cyprus, there are numerous things to do in Paphos and it is arguably the best place to base yourself if you want the best of everything that this island nation has to offer. As the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite and an important city dating back thousands of years (it is said to have been established by Greeks returning from the Trojan war), there are countless archaeological sites in Paphos that are sure to make history buff swoon.
Some of the top sites in Paphos include the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, the Tombs of the Kings, the Agia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa, and the Paphos Castle. The city isn’t known just for its historical sites, either. If you’re an animal lover, you can head to the Tala Monastery Cat Park or scout for sea turtles at Lara Beach.
There are numerous beautiful natural sites near Paphos, as well. Aphrodite’s Rock (said to be the place where the eponymous goddess was borne from the sea foam) is a lovely beach for swimming complete with gorgeous views. If you like to hike, head to Akamas Peninsula National Park for a coastal walk on the Aphrodite trail. There are also a number of lovely beaches with few crowds here, as well.
There are also a lot of easy day trips from Paphos that you could take that number in visiting mountain villages, lush forests, historic monasteries, or locally-run wineries. All in all, if you want to pepper your beach time with countless fun activities, then I would certainly recommend visiting Paphos over Larnaca or Limassol.
Where to Stay in Paphos
As Paphos is another highly popular place to stay in Cyprus, there are seemingly endless accommodation options to choose from. With everything from private apartments, quaint B&Bs and luxury resorts available, there is something for everyone in Paphos. If you want to know where to stay, then make sure to check out these recommendations:
Casa Mespilea — This small, centrally-located hotel is a great option for more budget-conscious travellers. They have a number of comfortable, air-conditioned rooms and a great buffet breakfast is included in the room rate. Click here to check their availability
Roman Boutique Hotel — This chic boutique hotel is an excellent option for couples looking for a bit of romance in Paphos. There is a lovely swimming pool, it is located within a couple hundred metres from the beach, and the plush rooms are incredibly comfortable. There is also breakfast included in the nightly rate. Click here to check their availability.
Anemi Hotel & Suites — This hotel is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a bit of luxury in Paphos. Boasting a seaside location, a wonderful swimming pool, and numerous other amenities, there are also myriad plush, clean and comfortable rooms available. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Paphos hotels!
As the second-largest city in Cyprus, Limassol is a coastal metropolis and is certainly much more built up and cosmopolitan than either Larnaca or Paphos. If you want a busy, big-city vibe while still being right on the coast and in close proximity to numerous interesting historical sites and traditional villages, then Limassol is a good choice for you.
Contrary to Larnaca or Paphos, there is no international airport in Limassol, however, the city is more or less equidistant between the two cities, meaning that it is easy to reach whichever airport you may fly into or out of.
You can get to Limassol by bus connection from either Paphos or Larnaca, however, much like most other destinations in Cyprus, it is best to have a car if you want to see anything or go anywhere that isn’t within direct walking distance from your accommodation.
The city of Limassol, in general, does have a public bus system that can help you get around the city, but it doesn’t connect you to the sites and villages located a little bit further afield. Again, if all you plan to do when in Limassol is hang out at your hotel and bask on the beach, then a car isn’t really necessary.
However, beyond that, you will find that a car is going to be infinitely more convenient than trying to rely on public (sometimes non-existent) transport and more friendly to your travel budget than relying on organised tours.
Things to Do in Limassol
Limassol is quite a large and busy city and definitely has more things to do in it than a smaller city like Larnaca, however, I do believe that Paphos takes the cake for the most things to do when wondering where to visit in Cyprus.
That isn’t to say there are numerous things to do in Limassol — there are — and that it isn’t well-suited for a number of different day trips — it is! Limassol is actually incredibly well-situated to venture into the beautiful Troodos mountains, where you can explore charming villages and sample some incredible local wine. In fact, the worlds oldest named wine — the sweet Commandaria — is only allowed to be made in the Limassol district in the Troodos foothills.
If you want to learn more about Cypriot wine, there is a wine museum in Limassol, as well. As for historical sites, just outside of Limassol lies the Kurion Archaeological Site, which is similar to the archaeological park in Paphos. You can also visit the Amathus Archaeological Site located just to the east of Limassol. There are also some of the most stunning beaches in Cyprus that are located within easy reach of Limassol, which is great news for those looking for a lovely beach with fewer crowds.
Limassol also has a fairly diverse population meaning that there are more international restaurant options available in this Cypriot city compared to what’s on offer in places like Larnaca or Paphos. Because of the city’s size, there is more choice for restaurants in general in Limassol compared to Paphos or Larnaca.
Limassol is far more developed than Larnaca or Paphos, and it is a busy port. However, it also has a wonderful seaside promenade and an extensive city beach, meaning that it’s easy to head out for a swim just about anywhere in the city.
Where to Stay in Limassol
Being the second-largest city in Cyprus, there are numerous options to choose from if you decide that Limassol is the place for you. If you’re wondering where to stay in Limassol, have a look at our top suggestions:
Pefkos City Hotel — This locally-owned mid-range hotel is a great option for those staying in Limassol. Located close to the Old Town, there are a range of rooms available for any type of traveller, a buffet breakfast included, and a swimming pool to lounge by. Click here to check their availability
Curium Palace Hotel — This colonial-style luxury hotel is located within easy walking distance from the beach. There are numerous plush and comfortable rooms available, a great breakfast included, and there is also a swimming pool and restaurant on site. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to find other hotels in Limassol
Larnaca or Paphos or Limassol: The Verdict
So should you plan to stay in Larnaca or Paphos or Limassol when you visit Cyprus? The answer really depends on your travel style and individual preferences.
Larnaca is a good option for travellers looking to stay in one location, who are visiting Cyprus for a beach holiday and a beach holiday only. It’s a charming city, however, it is lacking in sites and it is far more suited for days spent lounging on the beach rather than exploring.
Paphos, on the other hand, is the city for you if you’re an active traveller or if you’re looking for a great mix between outdoor activities, beach time, and visiting historical sites. There are a seemingly endless array of archaeological sites in and around Paphos along with beautiful beaches and numerous day trip options.
Limassol is the destination for you if you want to be by the sea but still want a big city vibe. Though it is the most built-up of the three cities, it is close to the charming villages in the Troodos mountains and also within a stone’s throw of some of the nation’s best wineries, as well. There are also numerous archaeological sites nearby and it is well-located for day trips to other areas of Cyprus.
Choosing between Paphos or Larnaca or Limassol can seem like a truly difficult decision until you realise that each city can appeal to a different type of traveller. Whether you’re interested in beach time, ancient history, or local wine, there is something for everyone when choosing where to stay in Cyprus.
When travelling in Cyprus, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you struggling to decide between Limassol or Larnaca or Paphos? Have you been to Cyprus? Let us know in the comments!