Situated on the southwest coast of Cyprus, Paphos was the capital of the island in Roman times, dating from around 1400 BC. Legend has it that the city is built on the spot where the Greek Goddess of love, Aphrodite, was born.
The city also has many connections to and relics from early Christianity. Over the centuries, it has survived numerous foreign incursions and raids, and even a devastating earthquake in the 4th century. It lost out to Larnaca as a major port in the Middle Ages and experienced a decline during the British colonial period when development of this part of the island came to a standstill.
Today, Paphos is a popular seaside resort with a large population. The Ktima section of the city is the main residential area, while Kato Paphos is the playground of holidaymakers, built around the medieval port with its numerous luxury hotels, tavernas, and entertainment venues.
Most visitors to Paphos stay in one of the many hotels that dot the sandy coastline. The beach around the Rock of Aprodite offers some of the best snorkelling in Cyprus, while Pissouri Beach and Kourion Beach are popular with waterskiers and windsurfers. Paphos Municipal Beach is conveniently located close to the centre of town, and has a long promenade with plenty of restaurants and bars nearby. Paphos also makes a great base for exploring the unspoiled beauty of the Akamas Peninsula, the Diarizos River Valley, and the Ezouza Valley.
There is no royalty buried in the Tombs of the Kings, a grand mausoleum found one mile (2km) northwest of Paphos Harbour towards Coral Bay. Rather, it's the final resting place of about 100 Ptolemaic aristocrats who lived and died in the city between 3 BC and 3 AD. The tombs are carved into the solid rock of the cliff above the sea and are beautifully situated, with some featuring Doric pillars and frescoed walls. Archaeological excavations are ongoing at the site, which also features a church known as Paleoekklisia, sporting traces of Byzantine frescoes. The Tombs of the Kings usually feature very high in tourist reviews of Paphos and are thrilling to discover.
The Mosaics of Paphos are a series of striking floors in a number of ancient Roman villas, dating from the 3rd to the 5th centuries. The sites are still being excavated on around 300 metres from the Paphos Harbour. The mosaics featuring mythological scenes are visible in the Houses of Dionysos, Orpheus, Aion, and the Theseus. There are also stunning mosaics to be seen in the House of Four Seasons. All the mosaics were made from small cubes of marble and stone, called tesserae, with glass paste added to widen the range of colour.
A large pistachio tree marks the entrance to the underground catacombs of Agia Solomoni in Kato Paphos. A strange sight, it's usually festooned with cloth tied onto it by the faithful as offerings in the hope the sacred tree will cure various ailments. The catacombs were carved into Fabrica Hill in the 4th century BC, below the ancient Roman wall. Underground chapels feature frescoes and graffiti left by 13th century crusaders, and there are numerous legends and stories attached to the patron saint Ayia Solomoni. There's little to no guidance or information on offer at the site so it is best to do some research before you go to understand what you are looking at.
Near the modern Paphos Lighthouse is the Cypriot Acropolis, a complex of ancient buildings which includes a 2nd century Roman odeon restored and now used for summer orchestral and stage performances. South of the odeon are the remnants of the Roman Temple of Asclepius, the god of medicine, and north of the lighthouse are the ruins of the ancient town walls. One of Cyprus's world-renowned ancient treasures is the stunning set of mosaics of the acropolis near the harbour. These incredibly well-preserved artworks often top the list of Cyprus attractions and have been delighting visitors for decades.
Built in the 14th century, Limassol Castle stands guard over the old harbour on the site of an earlier Byzantine castle. Today it houses the Cyprus Medieval Museum with a host of fascinating exhibits dating back to the Early Common Era (384-650). The museum's collection boasts an array of weaponry and armour, including swords, helmets, and the 500 year old canons which still adorn the battlements. The castle is most renowned for being the place where crusader King Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre and crowned her Queen of England in 1191.
Believed to have been founded by the Argives, the ancient city of Kourion is one of the most beautifully-positioned ancient sites in Cyprus. It has passed through different phases, including the Hellenistic, Christian, and Roman periods, the (market place), Christian Basilica, and large public bath bearing testament to this city's impressive list of inhabitants. The restored Greco-Roman theatre hosts open air performances and is one of the venues for the International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama. Attractions around the complex include the House of the Gladiators, the Roman baths, the House of Achilles, and the Temple of Apollo.
If you are visiting Limassol and need a break from sightseeing and the Cyprus heat, you should splash in the cool waters and enjoy the fun slides at Water Mania. The water park is suitable for travellers of all ages and is a great attraction for the whole family. If you are travelling in Cyprus with kids, then this is the ideal way to let them blow off some steam. The park has a somewhat cheesy Polynesian theme but it provides good wholesome fun and a safe environment. Don't forget the sunblock.
Paphos has a reliable and inexpensive bus system connecting Kato Paphos and the upper town. Hiring a car is a good way to explore the surrounding areas but the main parts of town can be easily navigated on foot.
Municipal taxis are available and tend to be reasonably priced, servicing Paphos and its surrounds. But it's recommended that these are hailed rather than pre-booked as drivers tend to turn on meters when leaving to pick up passengers. If taxis are unmetered be sure to agree on a fare before setting out for your destination.
For the more adventurous, hiring a scooter can be an exciting way to explore Paphos but accident rates are very high. If you are brave enough to enjoy this mode of transport then be sure to invest in a helmet. In general, Paphos is not a difficult or expensive city to get around.
Paphos is one of the most popular sightseeing destinations in Cyprus and it continues to attract more and more tourists who enjoy its beautiful setting and archaeological treasures. Visitors will find a lot to see and do in Paphos, if they can tear themselves away from the stunning beaches.
Near the Paphos Lighthouse, the Cypriot Acropolis offers numerous archaeological attractions, including the restored Roman Odeon and the remains of a Roman temple. Possibly the greatest attraction of Paphos is the collection of ancient mosaics found at sites around the city. People can see some examples of these ancient works of art at the acropolis. It's definitely also worth making time to visit the Roman noblemen's villas where the best examples of mosaics can be admired.
Two special monasteries close to Paphos are popular as quick excursions out of the city or as a stopover when seeking out one of the gorgeous beaches in the area. The Ayios Neophytos Monastery is a great spot to enjoy some peace and tranquillity away from the bustle of the city, and the Chrysorrogiatissa Monastery has the added attraction of producing its own wine, made onsite by the monks.
Paphos is surrounded by lovely landscapes and attractions like the Rock of Aphrodite; a great spot to enjoy a beautiful swim. There are also a number of attractions in Paphos that capitalise on the mythical significance of the area, like the famous Baths of Aphrodite.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination