With its diverse geography and climate, Paphos has everything from warm beaches covered with velvety sand to cool pine and cedar forests covering vast areas of mountains and gorges. The region of Paphos feels like small country in its own right, with its distinct local dialect and people’s character: Paphians are known across Cyprus for their stubbornness, but also for their good heart and hospitality. Whether you’re looking for a secluded retreat by the beach, or you’re after some adventure surrounded by unspoiled nature, Paphos has you covered from all sides! And no matter how you choose to spend your day, a glorious sunset will be awaiting for you, preferably with a glass of local wine, freshly prepared mezedes and good company.
The town of Paphos is a small but modern urban centre where cultures have been meeting and mixing for centuries. Paphos was in fact two different cities in antiquity: Old Paphos, or Palepaphos, which is situated near the village of Kouklia, and New, or Kato Paphos, which is by the harbour of the city as we know it today. Old Paphos used to be the most famous centre of worship for the cult of Aphrodite in the ancient world: the temple of Aphrodite there predates even Homer, since it’s mentioned in the Odyssey as an already famous and sacred place surrounded by a holy grove. For the Greeks, Aphrodite was born just off the coast of Paphos, hence her title as Kyprida — born in Cyprus. The importance of the temple at Palepaphos persisted through Hellenistic and Roman times, and pilgrims used to come here from far and wide to leave gifts to the goddess and ask about their fate at her oracle.
The modern city of Paphos is founded on another very ancient settlement, which was an important administrative centre and port for the Greeks and later the Romans. Paphos was such a wealthy city in Roman times that the local governor’s villa, whose foundations are still visible at Paphos Archaeological Park, is considered one of the lushest and most intricate of its kind. Paphos Archaeological Park indeed boasts some of the best-preserved mosaic floors from Roman times, and is included in UNESCO’s illustrious catalogue of cultural heritage sites. The medieval castle nearby, proto-christian religious monuments, Ottoman-era mosques and fine samples of British colonial architecture further reveal the long and kaleidoscopic history of Paphos — which, just like the rest of Cyprus, has always been a welcoming place for different peoples from all the points of the horizon. Local museums, galleries and other attractions complete the picture of a city that is currently reinventing itself as a cultural destination, all the while embracing its layered and multicultural identity.
Centrally located in Cyprus’ western district and with its own international airport and marina, Paphos is the gateway to a region that is surprisingly varied and rich with experiences. To the south one will find impressive white cliffs and the famous Aphrodite’s Rock, while to the north small coves ideal for swimming line the coast all the way up to the Akamas peninsula, a national reserve home to indigenous plants and animals. The sandy beach of Lara Bay is where sea turtles come to lay their eggs every year, so make sure you follow the signs should you decide to visit. Further up north is Latchi, a tiny fishing village that transforms into a busy holiday outpost during the summer; further to the east is the town of Polis, with its many traditional restaurants, eucalyptus forest and its own archaeological museum. Up on the mountains around Polis one can find small, traditional villages where agriculture and traditional arts and crafts are still alive. Make sure you visit Fyti, a village famous for its woven tapestries using a technique that dates back to the middle ages, as well as the village of Panagia with its fine local wine and the ancient monastery of Panagia Chrysorogiatissa.
For 2017 Paphos shares the prestigious title of Cultural Capital of Europe with the city of Aarhus in Denmark! Visit our dedicated article here and discover the full programme of exhibitions and performances during this highly anticipated event that will last a whole year.
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