Cyprus, the sun-soaked Mediterannean isle, is a fantastic holiday destination brimming with vibrant resort towns and cosmopolitan cities. It’s the most populous island in Europe with one of the oldest cultures in the Med. Deciding to vacation here is easy, but picking between Paphos or Larnaca won’t be such a straightforward choice.
Both port cities, steeped in heritage with palm-lined seafronts and buzzing nightlife, Paphos and Larnaca are two of the most popular destinations in Cyprus. They might be just one hour and a half’s drive away from each other, offering something for every traveler, but they each have a distinct feel and there are advantages and disadvantages to visiting both.
If you’re stuck between the two, you’re in the right place. Our guide compares everything you need to know about Paphos and Larnaca from the beaches to the history and the raging nightlife. There’s no reason you can’t see both, but you’ll need a base for your next trip. So let’s get into it, your Cypriot adventure awaits.
Paphos or Larnaca: General Vibe
Both cities sit on Cyprus’ south coast, with Paphos located 130 kilometers southwest of Larnaca, separated by the Limassol District. Paphos is widely thought to be the mythical birthplace of the Greek Goddess Aphrodite and there are several historical sites pertaining to this cult belief.
The city has been inhabited since Neolithic times and its heritage is at the forefront of the attractions on offer here. In fact, Paphos was one of the 2017 European Capitals of Culture, and it is a fantastic place for history aficionados, solo travelers, and sun-seeking couples to soak up Cypriot antiquity.
New Paphos has a modern center, incorporating the harbor, ancient ruins, theaters, and Paphos Archaeological Park in its compact design. Paphos might be contemporary in parts, but Larnaca is much more bustling. The largest international airport in Cyprus is just 15 minutes from the center of Larnaca so it is a popular starting point for many visitors to Cyprus.
Larnaca is the third-largest city but it is still home to a charming old town with a popular seafront promenade and busy beaches. It’s also well-served by Cyprus’ many motorways so it’s easy to get around and access from anywhere else in the country. Home to numerous cafes, restaurants, and bars, there’s always something going on in Larnaca. However, where Paphos and Larnaca divert is Larnaca’s lack of historical sites, with the city having more of a beach relaxation focus.
If you’re looking for an active holiday with sightseeing and history, it’s Paphos all the way, but Larnaca thrives when it comes to slower-paced city living with a good dose of beach fun and nightlife.
Paphos or Larnaca: Beaches
Cyprus is dominated by lusted Mediterannean coastline and Paphos and Larnaca are both great places for beach-lovers. Turtles nest in the northwest Peninsula of Akamas, while the sun-drenched south coast is dotted with long stretches of white sand, quiet coves, and secluded tidal pools.
There are a few sandy beaches in Paphos itself, although most are a mixture of sand, gravel, and rocky seafloor. Still, most beaches in Paphos have been awarded the coveted “Blue Flag”, a testament to the fantastic water quality and crystal clear seas of the Med. All beaches here are also free and well-equipped with deck chairs and umbrellas which will usually cost less than €10 ($10) to rent for the day.
Petra Tou Romiou is one of the highlights, otherwise known as “Aphrodite’s Rock”. Legend has it that the Greek goddess of love rose from the sea and came ashore at this spot and it’s believed that if you swim around the rock three times you could be blessed by eternal beauty. The unpredictable currents make this very dangerous, but the pebbly beach overlooking the stack of limestone is still very popular. There’s a small café here too with great views, especially at sunset.
And if you do want to swim, the Blue Lagoon, at the northwestern tip of the region, is one of the most magical spots in Cyprus. The vast pool of azure water is calm and clear and only accessible by boat. This helps keep away the masses and makes it a great place to bathe and enjoy underwater marine life.
Still, where Paphos wins on history, Larnaca triumphs on beach life. The thriving city is best known for the popular stretch of sandy beach that reaches one kilometer along the coast from the edge of Larnaca to the airport runway. The clear, calm, and shallow waters make it perfect for families, and the location is also a lot of fun for plane spotting.
Finikoudes Beach, as it is properly known, is the place to be in Larnaca during summer with troves of sunbeds for hire, an assortment of activities, and tall mature palms giving the golden sands a tropical feel. The party resort of Ayia Napa is also just down the coast from Larnaca and you’ll find the luxurious Nissi Beach around the corner.
Nissi’s Blue Fag, white sands stretch for 500 meters and are home to sparkling, clear waters. The beach gets its name from the small islet of Nissi just off the coast which can be reached by a mirage-like walkway that appears when the tide is low. Nissi is a true paradise that can be enjoyed year-round at a healthy distance from the crowded Ayia Napa strip.
Paphos or Larnaca: Things to Do
There’s no shortage of things to keep you and your holiday troops busy in both Paphos and Larnaca. While Larnaca might be the most well-connected city, Paphos arguably has more variety in the surrounding region, so both cities have their triumphs.
As we’ve said, Paphos’ esteemed title as the birthplace of Aphrodite and its historical importance, established by the Greeks returning from the Trojan war, means there are countless archaeological sites, museums, and ruins to satisfy the history buff in all of us. Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, the Tombs of the Kings, the Agia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa, and the Paphos Castle are up there with the best attractions the city has to offer. And if you’re a fan of wildlife, be sure to check out the Tala Monastery Cat Park or Lara Beach for sea turtle spotting.
Paphos also has no shortage of natural wonders such as the aforementioned Aphrodite’s Rock as well as the Akamas Peninsula National Park for a coastal walk along Aphrodite’s trail. From lush forests, rustic mountain villages, crumbling monasteries, and family-owned wineries, the region offers unlimited excitement.
In comparison, most of Larnaca’s sightseeing can be done is just a few hours, if you don’t count the gorgeous beaches, making it perfect for a weekend break or beach getaway. Take a stroll along the promenade, and check out the picturesque Church of St Lazarus which dates back to the 9th-century and contains the tomb of the said saint who supposedly rose from the dead, before exploring the Larnaca Castle and catching the sunset at a bustling bar on Mackenzie beach.
If you’re into diving, there’s the MS Zenobia wreck too, a luxury Swedish-built ferry that capsized and sank in Larnaca Bay in 1980, taking her £200 million worth of cargo with her. Larnaca also has the Larnaca Salt Lake with the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque sitting on its west bank. If you arrive at the right season, you might just catch the hoards of migratory flamingoes here which makes for a spectacular sight.
Larnaca knows entertainment, but the swaying palms and seaside atmosphere draws unadventurous crowds, while Paphos is the undoubted winner on things to do.
Paphos or Larnaca: Nightlife
Paphos might be the more action-packed city of the two, but when it comes to nightlife, you’ll find a much more laidback vibe. Cyprus is one of the most happening islands in the Med for partying, with some of the rowdiest resorts and evening entertainment to cater to all crowds, but Pathos is distinctively quiet compared to some other areas.
You’ll find stylish hangouts, beachfront bars, and dimly lit cocktail lounges to wet your whistle, but things quieten down after midnight and there are limited options when it comes to clubbing. The bars and European pubs can stoke up a lively atmosphere on weekends, but if partying is your thing, Paphos isn’t the place to go.
Not only is Larnaca home to a more diverse set of stylish cafes, music bars, chic lounges, and pumping dance clubs, but it’s also within easy reaching distance of one of the most vibrant party resorts in the Med. Ayia Napa is just a 30-minute drive from the city and tourists seeking a good time can easily make the trip multiple times in one holiday.
There’s something going on every night of the week in Ayia Napa and the infamous strip attracts a young and energetic crowd of partygoers who stay raving until the early hours. If you want your taste of some of the best events and clubs that European nightlife has to offer, but you don’t want to be in the center of the action, Larnaca is a great base.
Paphos or Larnaca: Places to Stay
Because of its lusted seaside location and close proximity to the island’s largest airport, Larnaca is one of the most popular places to stay in Cyprus and accommodation comes in all shapes and sizes. From beachfront high-rise hotels to private apartment rentals and all-inclusive offers, you can find it all, with most accommodation options being catered towards the growing tourist community.
If you’re after a budget option, within easy reaching distance of everything the city has to offer, Mikes Kanarium City Hotel is perfect for young couples and families. Breakfast is included in the rate and you’ll be right in the center of the action. And if you’re after sea view rooms, expansive pools and all-inclusive, ie stress-free, fun, the Golden Bay Beach Hotel offers private beach access and great deals.
There is also no shortage of places to choose from in Paphos but the accommodation on offer tends to be slightly more upscale than in Larnaca. Boutique hotels, timeshares, and quaint B&Bs replace high-rise hotels, but there is also a handful of luxury resorts for the lovers of finer things.
If you’re traveling with a big group, a luxury sea-view villa with its own pool could be a great fit. With less going on at night in Paphos, you might want somewhere with a bit of seclusion to carry on the party or host dinners with your friends. Still, if you’re after something more quintessentially resort-esque, check out Leonardo Cypria Bay with its swaying palms and beachfront location. You even have the option to go all-inclusive here. And for adults-only luxury, the five-star, boutique Ivi Mare has its own infinity pool and an exclusive vibe.
Paphos might have more authentic accommodation options, but Larnaca has plenty of variety and also works out as slightly cheaper, with hotels averaging between €40 and €80 a night compared to €70 to €120 in Paphos. This makes the two cities on par when it comes to places to stay.
Which is nicer Paphos or Larnaca?
Both Paphos and Larnaca have something for every crowd. The latter is bigger but more concentrated in one area, yet Paphos offers a lot more to do, especially if you want your dose of culture from Cyprus and to explore some of the world-renowned historic sites. Larnaca is more about beach relaxation. There’s a quaint old-town and palm-lined promenade, but the action resides on the expansive city beach where there’s more of a party atmosphere. For families, history buffs, and adventurous couples, it is Paphos all the way, but for beach-lovers, young adults, and big groups, Larnaca steals the win.
Which is hotter Paphos or Larnaca?
The temperatures in these two cities are much the same, being located just 130 kilometers apart. Larnaca is on the southeast coast of Cyprus while Paphos lies on the southwest. Larnaca might be a degree or two hotter when it comes to year-round averages, but Paphos is slightly more humid. Still, all of Cyprus benefits from a dry, Mediterranean climate with long, sunny summers and mild winters that can be enjoyed across the whole island.
When is the best month to go to Cyprus?
Cyprus is a sun-soaked island that remains warm all year round. The Mediterranean climate allows for mild and windy winters, but temperatures rarely dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and you can expect average highs of 85 degrees all summer long. This means the months from June to September are the most popular for visiting, but school holidays bring the crowds and Cyprus is the most expensive at this time. If you don’t mind compromising a few degrees, visit in April, May, or October for plenty of blue skies but fewer crowds and low season discounts.