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Larnaca Salt Lake
Larnaca Salt Lake is the second largest salt-lake in Cyprus and measures 2.2 kms. In 1997 it was declared a protected area under Cypriot Law for the Protection and Management of Nature and Wildlife and under the European Habitats Directive. It is a Natura 2000 site; one of the most significant habitats in Europe for freshwater birds.
Archaeological finds show that the Salt Lake area and that of the nearby mosque have been inhabited since the 2nd century BC. In prehistoric times, the Salt Lake was a harbour that served the town, close to where the Hala Sultan Tekkesi mosque stands today. The town was one of the large urban and commercial centres of Cyprus during 1650-1050 BC. When the town was abandoned, the creek dried up and the harbour was demolished.
Legend has it that the lake’s saltiness comes from a conversation Saint Lazarus (Agios Lazaros) had with an old woman, whom he asked for food and water; to which she refused, exclaiming that all her vines had dried up, to which Lazarus replied “may your vines be dry and be a salt lake forever more”. The better explanation is that the salt water infiltrates through the permeable rock between the lake and the sea, making the water extremely salty.
Not to be Missed
During the winter months, the lake fills with water and is home to migrating birds, including thousands of pink flamingos that can be spotted between November and March, along with wild ducks and other water birds that find refuge here on their migratory journeys.
Winding through the lake area is a nature trail that is approximately 4 km long, which leads all the way up to the old aqueduct of Kamares. If you enjoy horticulture, along the route take time to look at all the native plants, trees and flowers as they are all labelled with name plaques and detailed information about the plants origin. There are also periodic benches in nice spots, making the path popular for walkers and joggers, take a picnic if you want to be prepared for the day.
Throughout the Middle Ages, salt was so abundant that it became one of the primary export commodities of Cyprus. Its gathering and selling were stringently controlled and taxed. The last time the salt was harvested for trading was in 1987.
Located southwest of Larnaka town and east of the Dromolaxia village, the Salt Lake – known locally as ‘Alyki’ and collectively covers a total area of 1760 hectares. The best way to visit the lake is by car, however if you arnt driving you can catch the 407 bus route from Larnaca bus station.
Photo Credit: Nicolas Ktorides