Paphos is a treasure trove of ancient archaeological sites and mesmerising historical architecture. Here in Paphos modern beach resorts combine with spectacular heritage.
Medieval Castle Paphos
Medieval Castle of Paphos
This ancient fortress was built by the Byzantines to guard Paphos harbour and was restored and strengthened in the 13th century. The structure was destroyed by the Venetians in 1570, but rebuilt once again by the Turks. Together with the Saranta Kolones, the Medieval Castle provided a formidable obstacle to any sea invaders and is today, one of the most iconic symbols of Paphos. The ramparts offer spectacular views and the square in front of the castle is the venue of many traditional festivals.
Tombs of the Kings
Tombs of the Kings
This impressive network of tombs was constructed from the 4th century BC. The entrances feature magnificent Doric pillars, with the tombs themselves being carved out of solid rock. The name ‘Tombs of Kings’ is a little misleading, as it is high ranking officials rather than royalty that are buried here.
This ancient and magical amphitheatre is one of the most famous in the world despite its tiny size. It was erected in the 2nd century and is still in use to this day, hosting a variety of summer music concerts and performing arts productions.
Paphos is famed for its collection of ancient mosaics, located in five great ‘houses’ dating from the Roman era, situated in the Paphos Archaeological Park. The House of Dionysus is a good starting point for a mosaic tour, with its perfectly preserved collection of mosaic decorations and the mythological compositions dating back to the 2nd century AD. Dionysus, the God of Wine, is depicted in many of the house’s mosaics. Nearby, the contemporaneous House of Theseus has some excellent geometrical mosaics as well as mythological ones including ‘Theseus Killing the Minotaur’ and ‘Achilles Birth’. The 4th century AD House of Aion has more wonderful mythological mosaics, as do the House of Orpheus and House of Four Seasons, both of which date from the 3rd century.
Pillar of St Paul
Pillar of Saint Paul
Saint Paul visited Paphos in 45 AD in an attempt to convert the ruler of the time to Christianity. He was successful in his efforts, but not before being tied and whipped to this otherwise unremarkable lump of stone. The Pillar of Saint Paul is one of several popular stops for pilgrims who come to see the religious sites of this early bastion of the Christian faith.
Temple of Aphrodite
One of the most important religious sites of the ancient world was the Temple of Aphrodite, located amid the Sanctuary of Aphrodite in Kouklia, several kilometres east of Paphos. Although the site is now in ruins, it still attracts many pilgrims and tourists who explore the ancient 12th century BC remains. Excavations at the site uncovered numerous important artefacts which can be viewed in the Lusignan Manor.
Baths of Aphrodite
Baths of Aphrodite
Just outside of Paphos are the Baths of Aphrodite, where it is said the goddess Aphrodite would take a bath in a cave. Located on the Akamas Peninsula, the area is filled with spectacular natural beauty, and there are delightful trails and beaches to explore. The baths are almost 50kms north of Paphos, near the city of Polis.
Paphos has a couple of great museums, although many of the best artefacts have been whisked away to Athens. The highlight is the Paphos Archaeological Museum, which features hundreds of priceless artefacts dating from Neolithic times to the 18th century. Most of the artefacts here are finds from local excavations, although some come from other archaeological digs from across western Cyprus. The most popular exhibits are the tombstone from Mario and the marble statues of Aphrodite and Asklepios. The Byzantine Museum has many stunning artworks including rare icons and other religious artefacts of the era, collected from churches in and around Paphos. The highlight of this museum is the lovely Virgin Eleousa, an icon from the Monastery of St Savvas tis Karonos. The Ethnographical Museum, formerly known as the Folk Art Museum, is home to a private collection of thousands of items documenting the local archaeology, history, folk art and literature. The collection was amassed by Mr George Eliades and is displayed at his house on Exo Vrysi street. The displays are a great primer for anyone intent on exploring the small villages that dot the coastline and mountain regions surrounding Paphos.