Larnaca or Protaras: Choosing Between Cyprus’s Most Popular Towns

Protaras seaview
Photo by twenty20photos on Envato Elements
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Situated at a crossroads of three continents, Cyprus is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful and peaceful travel destinations on Earth. It’s also home to a vibrant culture, incredibly diverse cuisine, and gorgeous natural landscapes. Still, it can be challenging to choose between its two of its most popular cities, namely, Larnaca and Protaras. 

Like the rest of Cyprus, both islands have rich and varied histories, with pristine, sun-soaked beaches and breathtaking views, but they do have some differences. Larnaca has become an increasingly popular scuba diving destination, and it’s home to bustling nightlife. On the other hand, Protaras is known to be a bit more laid back, with mouthwatering cuisine, unique attractions, and welcoming locals.

If we’re being honest, you’re in for a treat regardless of which one you visit. Nevertheless, we’ve created a guide to help you choose the perfect destination for your needs. Let’s get into it.

Larnaca or Protaras: General Vibe

Larnaca overhead view
Photo by mpalis on Envato Elements

Larnaca and Protaras are just 45 minutes from each other, but they’re more different than you might expect. Larnaca is one of the oldest cities in Cyprus, with a bustling party atmosphere, while Protaras is a firm favorite amongst those looking to escape city stresses.

Even so, Protaras still has a fantastic nightlife waiting to be discovered, and all you have to do is take a stroll into town to discover it. Options include enjoying a glass of world-class local wine at a seafront bar as you watch the sun go down, heading to a nightclub to dance the night away, and lounging out at a resort pool. The area is also historically rich, and there are plenty of monasteries and churches you could visit to learn more about it. 

On top of this, the local cuisine is unparalleled, with influences from the Mediterranean as well as Asia. We highly recommend trying out the mezze, if you want to taste their culinary fusions. Although, it should be noted that this is a meal served up as a selection of around 24 dishes, so make sure you have enough space to savor it.

Larnaca is more suited to fans of lively atmospheres. It’s home to many festivals and events throughout the year, including the Procession of St Lazarus, and the cultural Larnaca Summer Festival which features music, film, and dance. Venues with live music are also quite popular in the city. Like Protaras, it too has a rich history, and several museums you can explore to learn more about it, with the best times to visit being from April to November, when there’s little to no rain. As a bonus, it also has a fairly diverse population and its convenient location makes it a popular base for island hopping, with the furthest destinations being around two hours away.

Ultimately, when it comes to the general vibe, we think Larnaca will have to take this one since it offers both relaxing and lively experiences, while Protaras caters more to family experiences on the whole.

Winner: Larnaca

Larnaca or Protaras: Beaches

Cyprus caves
Photo by twenty20photos on Envato Elements

Protaras doesn’t have any shortage of pristine beaches with crystal clear waters, perfect for kicking back and lounging out. In fact, it’s been ranked among one of the best destinations in Europe by well-known tourist guides on several occasions. Plus, most have excellent facilities with sports and leisure activities on offer.

Surrounded by restaurants, bars, clubs, and cafes, the sensational Fig Tree Bay is the main beach in Protaras. With golden sands and pristine blue seas as far as the eye can see, it’s the perfect place to unwind, and it’s no wonder it was awarded the prestigious Blue Flag for its outstanding water quality. There’s also the bubbly Vrisi Beach, situated right in the heart of Protaras, which stretches out for nearly a mile and is lined with sunbeds and umbrellas. You could even pay a visit to the quaint Konnos Bay, which is less than a quarter of a mile long and surrounded by pine-covered slopes.

In contrast, Larnaca’s beaches have much more of a party atmosphere, and they’re often visited by some of Europe’s best DJs. Even so, there are exceptions to the rule. For starters, you could visit Governor’s Beach. Here you’ll find a small, quiet, and comfortable location perfect for family vacations. The spot has gained quite a reputation for its cocktails in recent years, and, of course, you’ll also find snow-white cliffs, a bright blue sea, and marvelous soft sands. 

Nissi Beach is another option. Boasting mountains, sea cliffs, concerts, and events, it’s certain to melt any party animal’s heart. What’s more, the beach also caters to family vacations and watersports. So, while it might be crowded at times, you can rest assured that you’ll have plenty to do.

All in all, it;s almost bit neck and neck, but we think Protaras is the winner here since its beaches are less catered to the partygoer and more towards a diver crowd of sun-seekers.

Winner: Protaras

Larnaca or Protaras: History

Cypriot history
Photo by CreativeNature_NL on Envato Elements

When it comes to heritage, Cyprus definitely doesn’t disappoint. Larnaca and Protaras both have particularly rich histories, and they’re fairly evenly matched when it comes to opportunities to educate yourself on this. 

Larnaca is one of the oldest cities in Cyprus and was originally known as Kition, or Kittium. Legend has it the town was named after Noah’s son, ‘Kittim’, with it being inhabited since the Phoenician period. One of the best places to learn more about this city’s rich history is The Church of St Lazarus. It’s one of the most revered, historically significant locations on the entire island of Cyprus, and it’s believed that Lazarus himself is buried under the main altar of the church. It’s also alleged that Lazarus lived out the rest of his life in Cyprus after his resurrection.

Another highlight is the Neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia just outside of Larnaca. It was occupied until the 4th millennium BC and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although only part of the settlement has been excavated, it’s very well-preserved, and an excellent place to learn more about ancient civilization in Cyprus. Experts and archaeologists believe the inhabitants of Choirokoitia were farmers who lived in an organized society and protected themselves through fortifications.

Protaras was once known as Leukolla, and it’s believed that the city possessed a small harbor where Demetrius Poliorketes sought refuge in the year 306 BC. To find out more about its fascinating history, you could visit the 500-year-old Venetian monastery in Ayia Napa or even climb the rock formation of the Profitis Ilias church, among others. Here you’ll find magnificent sweeping views of Protaras, in addition to incredible artworks inside the church.

At the end of the day, these two cities have a fairly similar amount of historically significant sites to visit. Every corner of the cities have a story to tell, and their histories are well documented. 

Winner: Protaras

Larnaca or Protaras: Getting There

Larnaca lighthouse
Photo by AntoliySadovskiy on Envato Elements

In terms of location, Larnaca can be slightly easier to manage since its home to Cyprus’ main airport, which is one of the only international gateways to the island. That being said, this doesn’t mean Protaras is hard to get around. 

Traveling to the cities from the airport is a breeze, and you could make use of reliable public transport in the form of busses, or opt for a private ride or airport taxi. There are six bus lines operating this route at a rate of roughly $2 USD, but you could also purchase a day ticket for the entire district for just $5. It’s important to note that these busses stop operating after 9 PM though, so a taxi might be your only option if you have an evening flight. Naturally, the journey from the airport to Protaras will also be longer and a little bit more expensive than the other way round, with the taxi fare costing an estimated $50.

Fortunately, the main area of Protaras is easy to navigate on foot once you’re there. Especially since ​​a newly created, lighted wooden pathway right next to the main sea can take you from the city center in under 10 minutes. Of course, you also have the option of renting cars or motorcycles and catching busses or taxis, but we recommend taking the car route since the motorcycles have poor safety records.

All in all, both cities offer excellent opportunities for island hopping and decent public transport services, but as we’ve mentioned above, Larnaca has to take this one due to it’s airport proximity. It’s slightly more central as well. 

Winner: Larnaca

Larnaca or Protaras: Cost

Larnaca old house
Photo by Sotnikov_Misha on Envato Elements

Larnaca and Protaras are relatively similarly priced cities, but of course, there are still some disparities, and comparing the day-to-day costs between the two can help you make an informed decision on where you want to visit.

Larnaca is well known for being centrally located, and it’s a slightly cheaper travel destination overall. Typically, a modest hotel room at a 2 or 3-star institution for two costs around $63 to $73 per night in Larnaca, but you’ll pay more for luxury amenities and a better location. You’ll pay about $70 to $75 per night in Protaras for a similar room. Taxi trips, drivers, food, and public transportation costs the average visitor about $30 to $66 per day in Larnaca, while you’ll spend about $43 to $75 per day on this in Protaras. Be that as it may, prices can vary, and sit-down restaurant prices are often much higher than fast or street food prices. 

Judging by these figures, we can see that Larnaca is the less expensive destination, albeit only slightly so. When all is said and done, settling on which city offers the best bang for your buck is up to you, but we can confidently say that you’re in for a good time either way. 

Winner: Larnaca

When is the best time to visit Protaras?

Protaras benefits from a Mediterannean climate with long, dry summers and mild winters. Summer highs average around 85 degrees Fahrenheit and you can expect blue skies and little rainfall from June to September. This makes summer the most popular time to visit Protaras, but it brings crowds of tourists and high season prices. If you don’t mind cooler temperatures, consider visiting in the shoulder seasons in October or April for cheaper deals and fewer crowds, but still plenty of sunshine.

Is Cyprus expensive?

Cyprus isn’t a shoestring destination and a vacation to the island will cost you more than visiting the nearby Balkans. Still, it can be traveled on a budget and the country is a great alternative to the luxurious Rivieras of Western Europe and the star-studded Greek isles that cost a fortune to visit. An inexpensive meal in Cyprus costs around €12 ($13) while hotel prices average around €50 ($55) a night across the island, but the cost can depend on the region you visit.  

Is it safe to swim in Cyprus?

Cyprus boasts over 650 kilometers of Mediterannean coastline and the Blue Flag beaches dotted around the island offer great swimming from early May to October. Look out for safe swimming areas marked by red buoys which indicate where boats are prohibited. Beaches that have lifeguards on duty are also your best options if you want to avoid rip tides and strong currents. Always use common sense and don’t swim too far out of your depth if you’re not confident or if the waters look particularly choppy. 

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Esmé is an English literature graduate and freelance writer. Originally from London, Esmé is lucky enough to call Bali home. Her travels have taken her from the far corners of the East to the islands of the Caribbean. When she's not writing, you'll find her lying on a beach somewhere, lost in a crime novel.