One of two on the island, Larnaka (Larnaca) Salt Lake is a unique area of natural beauty and an important habitat that has been declared a protected area. Its wetlands are a magnificent site for bird watching, providing a feeding and roosting area more than 80 species of birds. A stopover for thousands of migratory birds, the Salt Lake is particularly noted for its flamingos that winter on the island feeding off the brine shrimp. Completing the picture postcard beauty of the glimmering water dotted with pink specks is the oasis-like backdrop that is the home to the Hala Sultan Tekke, one of the holiest Moslem sites that houses the tomb of Umm Haram.
In the summer, the water evaporates and the crusty white surface shimmers in the glaring sunlight recalling the dried up lake’s former role as an important source of salt. The salt used to be collected on donkeys and stacked up for export until the mid-1980s when this activity was abandoned.
The area is actually a network of four salt lakes, covering a surface area of 2.2 square km and lie west of Larnaka, a stone’s throw from Larnaka International Airport. Legend has it that the lake owes its salinity to St Lazarus who – when refused food and drink from an old woman, replied: "May your vines be dry and be a salt lake forever more." A more scientific explanation is that the salt water penetrates the porous rock between the lake and the sea, making the water very salty.