Paphos 

A forgotten backwater before Cyprus was split in two by the Turkish invasion, the region of Paphos, or Pafos has grown into a major tourist holiday destination. The Pafos region can be divided into three main areas. To the south is the popular tourist holiday resort of Paphos Town, served by an international airport and packed with luxury hotels and family apartments that run right along the south coast. The resort town is the fourth largest on Cyprus with about 20,000 inhabitants and a long sea wall promenade packed with tourist shops, cafes, restaurants and boutiques while, in and around the town, are several important archaeological sites. The coastal strip is dominated by a long chain of Paphos hotels that have established their own private beaches leaving just a handful of small, sandy strips for public use. Nearby, on the west coast are the attractive and hugely popular beach resort of Coral Bay and the wilder sands of Lara Bay. Further north, on the horn-shaped coastal peninsula of Akamas, is a deserted wilderness where roads are non-existent and tracks are few while inland are found the quaint hill villages of the Akamas heights. Agriculture and wine-making are the main occupations in the hill villages, although many have suffered serious depopulation in recent years and there is little to see beyond a few ramshackle homes and a cafe or two. The increasingly popular north coast resorts are smaller, less frenetic and more gentrified than those in the south. Here you will find uncrowded beaches, charming village centres packed with cafes and restaurants and many good walking trails into the nearby hills.

Travel

Most visitors to Paphos will arrive at Paphos International airport, a clean, modern and efficient airport located southeast of the Paphos region with good road links to the main holiday centres. The other main arrival point is Larnaca airport which is about 60 minutes away by road. Paphos also has a decent port and marina but there are no regular ferry services to catch from here. For the last few years it has been very difficult to get to Cyprus with a car or by ferry if you don't like flying. A regular ferry service used to run between Athens (Piraeus) and Limassol but that stopped some years ago.

Main roads in the Paphos region are generally good but minor roads may quickly turn into dirt tracks especially in more remote areas line the Akamas peninsula. Bus services are generally good but most tourists rent their own transport or use the Paphos taxis of which there is no shortage.

Beaches
Paphos is a fast growing holiday resort in south-west of Cyprus and the capital of Paphos District. An area with more than 50 kilometres of coastline has nearly 30 beaches, nearly half with blue flag awards for their clean sands. In the south, beach hotels dominate but away from the holiday centres the sands vary from small, deserted coves to windswept dunes of the Akamas and the sedate sands of Polis and Latchi.

Kato Paphos Beach

The port area of Kato Paphos has grown considerably since the airport was built nearby. Tourist hotels have mushroomed along the coast and the centre heaves with tourists from May to October. A palm tree-lined promenade curves right around the bay edged on one side by the busy main road and with a concrete wall on the seaward side. There is just one one small strip of sand, the municipal beach, heavily loaded with sunbeds. The promenade ends at the picturesque, traffic-free harbour area which is stuffed with restaurants and cafes, a small museum and a squat medieval fort are perched on the point. The harbour is usually chock-full of yachts. Cafes, bars, tavernas and boutiques have multiplied to feed the booming tourist trade. To be blunt, Kato Paphos feels about as Cypriot as Clacton. This is a resort tailor-made for the British chasing that foreign tan in a home-from-home setting. Restaurants run the gamut, from mock-British pubs to mock-Continental bars, from Mexican and Indian to pie and chips. And the chips, like the tinned veg, are ubiquitous. Oh, and it has a McDonald's, a KFC and a Pizza Hut - but so does Stoke-on-Trent. It's rather more attractive than Stoke, of course, with a very attractive harbour area that is crowned with a small fort. Pelicans strut around the harbour and among the holidaymakers while scores of boats of all sizes bob in the large enclosed bay. The town beach may be a small, scrappy affair but most visitors tend to spend the day on the hotel beaches to the east and wander into town for a stroll and a meal.

Ano Paphos (Ktima)

The upper part of of the resort at Ano Pafo, also called Ktima, is mostly a suburban sprawl of concrete with narrow main streets a virtual log-jam of cars. It is the city's administrative centre with town hall, library and museums all housed in impressive colonial buildings. For the visitor the main attraction of Ano Paphos (Ktima) is the shops which sell designer wear clothes, shoes and jewellery. The area also has an interesting market with herb sellers and lace shops as well as the usual tourist tat found in street markets.

The main roads are heavy with traffic and there are few cafes and tavernas as not many tourists venture here. Most intercity buses arrive and depart from Ano Pafos and local buses, mainly number 11, will take you down the hill to the harbour.

Hotel beach strip south coast Paphos

Most Paphos holiday hotels are strung along the coast to the east of the centre and form the main Paphos hotel beach strip. A modern road runs into Kato Paphos and there are regular buses, while taxis cruise the hotel strip looking for trade. Most hotels have a small beach area but most of the shore is rock and shingle with small patches of sand here and there. Rock barriers have been built to provide shelter and anchorage for boats. The waters around Paphos are as clean and inviting as anywhere on the island, particularly compared to the relatively dreary beaches of Limassol and Larnaka. Just about all the local beaches have Blue Flag status which means they are both clean and safe. Most of the beaches have been commandeered by hotels but there are a couple of public beaches along the coast just out of town. The shore is generally free of the big breakers you get on the north coast and, being close to the hotels there are plenty of tourist facilities such as sunbeds and sea sports.

Coral Bay Beach

The popular beach at CORAL BAY is 4km north of Paphos and well marked from the coast road. If you don't mind regimented ranks of sunbeds and heaving crowds it's a splendid beach of good sand sitting beneath a small, steep cliff bluff. Large car parks on both sides of the road above testify to its popularity and the crowds can be fearsome in high summer. Seas are shallow and sandy so it's fine for children and this is a popular family beach.
There is no shortage of watersports and other entertainment - you can even get massage. There is also a large cafe overlooking the beach that offers chips, burgers, cola and irritating pop music - oh, and chips. The resort is aimed at the family package holiday so there are plenty of activities on offer - jeep safaris into the hills, walking, cycling and sailing are all available as well as scuba diving. About 1km before you get to Coral Bay there is a road sign pointing to the Adonis Falls where there is a 10ft waterfall that cascades into a small pool. You can pay to splash about in it.

Agios Georgios Beach

Further north from Coral Bay is the small beach at Agios Georgios in a beautiful setting below steep cliffs. The small sandy beach is sheltered from the sea by a large enclosed harbour. It looks good for swimming but a sign warns of stiff fines for anyone taking a dip. To the south of the harbour is an expanse of flat rock and to the north, for those seeking solitude, there are cliffs path and beach coves to explore. The rocky islet of Geronisos adds offshore interest and a taverna overlooks the whole lot sitting on the edge on the cliff above and next to the splendid Agios Georgios chapel.

Lara Bay Beach

North of Agios Georgios the road turns into a dirt track and Lara Bay heralds the entrance to the wild region of the Akamas peninsular. The beach of sand and shingle is very long and deep with wide scrub-littered flatlands behind.

This is a major turtle nesting site and visitors are asked to take extra care on the beach. There are few facilities here and no sunbeds but there is a large taverna at the southern end of the bay that puts out brollies in a small cove over the headland. Lara beach is ideal for those looking to escape the crowds.

Polis Beach

The main resort on the north coast has been spared the rampant tourist development of the south and POLIS caters more for the independent traveller although there are plenty of big-name tour operators here. It has a pleasant, genteel, laid-back air.
The compact village is 2km from the coast and has a traffic-free centre packed full of very fine tavernas and cafes. The number of pavement tables testifies to the popularity of the place with day trippers. The long, sandy beach at Polis is backed by pine woods and in the shade is a large beach cantina, showers, toilets and a few sunbeds scattered over the beach of mostly soft sand and a few pebbles. There is a large campsite nearby. There are more beaches to the east but they tend to be scruffy and isolated. At the strung-out village of Pomos there are a couple of restaurants behind a sheltered pebble beach and at Kalinoussa , just over the headland, there is better swimming to be found and some beach umbrellas for hire.

Sights

Once the neglected coast of Cyprus, Paphos has mushroomed in recent years into a major tourist resort. But behind the tourist developments are ancient archaeological sights that have been well excavated and faithfully restored.

The remains of the ancient city of Nea Paphos, founded in the 4th century BC, is sited to the west of the harbour and offers a whole day of delightful exploration with well-marked paths through the ruins and wooden walkways across some remarkably well-preserved floor mosaics.Other attractions in the Pafos area include the Akamas wilderness, a must for experienced walkers and trekkers. This part of Paphos is completely undeveloped and ideal for getting away from the tourist crowds in the south. The north coast too, offers notable attractions with the Baths of Aphrodite on almost every Paphos tour itinerary.


Things to Do at Paphos


Nea Paphos Ruins

The ancient city of Nea Paphos, founded in the 4th century BC, sat on the bluff to the west of modern Paphos Town overlooking the sea. Various archaeological sites are dotted around the cliffs and the around modern city itself. All are well signposted and well marked. Nea Paphos was a strategic outpost for seven centuries until it was ravaged by earthquakes and its significance declined. The main archaeological sites are the Paphos Mosaics and Tombs of the Kings (both described below). But also of note are the Agora, Asklipieon and Odeion near the lighthouse on the headland. The semi-circular Odeion theater was restored in 1970. Also near the mosaics' site are the remains of the medieval Saranta Kolones Fortress, now reduced to a few unimpressive archways. There is a fairly boring tomb complex at the Christian Catacombs where the ghostly frescoes are just visible and some underground burial chambers at Agios Lambrianos, notable for their size more than anything else. A fairly extensive site is still being excavated at the 4th century Hyropolitissa Basilica where St Paul's Pillar can be found, so-called as he is reputed to have been tied to it before being whip-lashed by the local Roman governor for his religious teaching.

Ano Paphos Mosaics

One of the most popular attractions is the impressive collection of well preserved and colourful mosaics found in Kato Pafos. The mosaics were unearthed in 1962, completely by accident, as the large site was being leveled. Extensive mosaics - mostly Roman - decorated the homes of wealthy inhabitants, particularly in the House of Dionysus (named after the god not the occupant). There are 34 rooms in total with a striking variety of mosaics in many of them.

Unfortunately they don't look so good in the dry, dusty atmosphere so the colours in the guides are brighter than you are likely to see. But a set of wooden gantries over the mosaics allows good overhead views.
There are more mosaics in the rebuilt villa of Theseus and in the House of Aion. If you want to view all the mosaics properly allow yourself at least two hours.

Tombs of the Kings

Only they weren't kings, just local notables - but it doesn't stop making this one of the most popular attractions in Pafos. The sprawling World Heritage Site is located on a rocky ledge overlooking the sea on the edge of Paphos town.

The impressive underground tombs were used from 300BC to 300AD and, though scattered over a wide area, they are all are accessible to the public. The most impressive is No 3, recently restored, with an underground atrium enclosed by Doric columns. Niches in the walls are where the bodies were placed.
Most of the treasures have been snaffled by grave robbers - and the 19th century American consul of Larnaka who looted the best of them. It's a good idea to get there early to avoid the heat and the crowds and to allow at least two hours for a good look around.

Akamas Peninsula

The horn-shaped piece of land north of Lara Bay is one of Cyprus's last remaining wilderness areas. This is largely thanks, if that's quite the right word, to British commandos who used the Akamas Peninsula as a firing range for many years.

Its relative remoteness and the lack of roads have also kept the crowds away. It is now a favourite target for hikers and there are four major hiking trails that run through the northern part of the region.
If you like walking see Foxy's guide to Akamas Hiking for the Aphrodite, Smigies and Adonis Trails. The area is also a major attraction for botanists with more than 600 plant species, 35 of them found only here.

Akamas Heights

Two roads (B7 and E709) run from Pafos City on the south coast over the hills to Polis on the north. Both routes skirt the Akamas peninsula and pass through or around a series of attractive hill villages, known for their cooler climates and wine growing.

Kathikas on the E709 north of Coral Bay is known for its fine vineyards and good restaurants. Further north, just off the B7 are Pano Akourdalia and Kato Akourdalia, both picturesque villages with accommodation and restaurants.

Staying north on the E709 brings you to the popular villages of Inia and Dhroussia with wonderful views and small tavernas.

Baths of Aphrodite

On the north coast of the Paphos region is the island's much advertised Baths of Aphrodite which sound rather grand but turn out to be less appealing on closer inspection.

This is reputed to be the spot where the famous beauty Aphrodite arose naked from the sea (á la Botticelli) to found an Cyprus island cult that is still, somewhat surprisingly, in existence today.
The baths turns out be a rock pool fed by a small waterfall and not much else. Dense greenery surrounds the pool that has become an essential on day trip itineraries.Apart from the refreshing sight of cool pool shade on a hot summer's say there is little to recommend. Even more disappointing is to find that public bathing is forbidden anyway. A well-marked trail leads to it from the large car and coach park on the main road.

Petra tou Romiou

Also known as Aphrodite's Rock is a sea stack in Pafos, Cyprus. The combination of the beauty of the area and its status in mythology as the birthplace of Aphrodite makes it a popular tourist location. According to one legend, this rock is the site of the birth of the goddess Aphrodite, perhaps owing to the foaming waters around the rock fragments, and for this reason it is known as Aphrodite's Rock. Gaia (Mother Earth) asked one of her sons, Cronus, to mutilate his father, Uranus (Sky). Cronus cut off Uranus' testicles and threw them into the sea. Similar the local version indicates that Aphrodite's Rock is a part of the lower body of Cronus! This legend says that Cronus ambushed his father and cut him below the waist with a scythe. Uranus as he tried to escape flying, lost parts of his truncated body and testicles into the sea. A white foam appeared from which a maiden arose, the waves first taking her to Kythera and then bringing her to Cyprus. The maiden, named Aphrodite, went to the assembly of gods from Cyprus. The Romans widely referred to her as Venus. Aphrodite attracted a large cult following in Pafos, which was eventually crushed by the Romans. This is evident from the Sanctuary of Aphrodite in Old Pafos Kouklia. A local myth is that any person who swims around the Aphrodite Rock will be blessed with eternal beauty.