The Conference League knockout stages are finally here, with West Ham United flying out to Cyprus to face AEK Larnaca.
The game is expected to excite a lot of the travelling fans, mainly due to the hot weather, sandy beaches and a trip to party hotspot Ayia Napa. However, this part of Europe has more to see than just the summer favourites.
The city of Larnaca has a rich history dating back to the Ancient Greeks, and the city has since gained influence from the Romans and the Renaissance period. There are many churches, wildlife reserves and ancient buildings to explore. It is encouraged that you visit these.
QUICK FACTS – CYPRUS
Name in Official Language Κυπριακή Δημοκρατία/Kıbrıs Cumhuriyeti
Dialling Code +357
WHERE IS LARNACA?
Larnaca is on the South coast of Cyprus. It is the third-largest city in Cyprus after Nicosia and Limassol, and it has a population of 144,000, with an extra 1,600 West Ham fans adding to that total for a few days.
The Ancient Greeks initially occupied Larnaca in around 1000 BC, with many Greek structures and buildings still found in the area today. Two earthquakes hit Larnaca in the fourth century and caused damage to the city, and this forced its residents to move further South. The Ottoman Empire took control of Larnaca in the 1400s and had control in Cyprus for under 500 years. The Ottomans constructed new ports and the Kamares Aqueduct.
WHAT CAN I DO THERE?
Phoinikoudes Beach is one of the most-visited beaches in Cyprus. It is 600 metres long and located close to downtown Larnaca. Large crowds visit the beach on a daily basis to enjoy warm weather or to relax. Because of its shallow waters, it is a family-friendly beach with access to activities and water sports.
Larnaca Salt Lakes
Four salt lakes surround the city. The lakes are considered a “Special Protected Area” under Cypriot law, as it hosts up to 85 different species of birds. It is believed that the population of water birds is at least 20,000.
Birdwatchers and naturists tend to visit the lakes frequently throughout the year to observe birds, as well as to take in their natural beauty. If you plan to visit, make sure to take photos – you may even be lucky enough to see flamingos.
Church of Saint Lazarus
The church is for Greek Orthodox with a long and interesting history. It was built in 649 AD and eventually gained control from Venetian rule between the thirteenth to sixteenth century. The church became Roman Catholic during this time, with a new gothic style being added to its infrastructure.
The Ottomans tried to convert the church to a mosque, but the plans to do so never fully came into fruition. Today, it has many Catholic artifacts and Greek-designed bell towers.
WHAT IS THE STADIUM LIKE?
AEK Arena – Georgios Karapatakis
AEK Arena opened to the public in 2016 and has a capacity of over 8,000. It is named after the father of the club’s president.
How To Get There
From Central Bus Station, take the 443 bus. It goes through Phinikoudes Beach to New Hospital. If you get off at the hospital, you will see directions to the light towers and the stadium. Both are a five-minute walk away.
WHAT SHOULD I KNOW BEFORE I GO?
Obey Coastal Warnings
Coastal waters can be dangerous, and flags are used to inform the public of the water’s conditions. A red flag means that you should not enter the water. If you have any questions, ask the lifeguards on duty.
Watch For Aquatic Life
Coral and jellyfish are often found in marine areas. These kind of creatures can attack you if they are touched or stepped on, causing injury. Ask local authorities about the presence of these kinds of animals, and seek medical attention immediately if you are stung.
Walk Carefully On The Street
Pavements in Cyprus tend to be very narrow. As a result, pedestrians have a habit of walking on the side of main roads. Moreover, drivers do not always obey traffic laws and can cause accidents. Make sure the road is absolutely clear before you cross.