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Paphos, an ancient port city in western Cyprus, is steeped in Greek mythology. As the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite, it is evocative of romance and tinged with legend. Although its palm-fringed seafront and buzzy scene have put Paphos on the map, a sense of timelessness remains in the city, from its crumbling ruins to its traditional mountain villages. Backstreets lead to medieval baths and catacombs while, inland, vineyard-carpeted hills cradle wineries and Byzantine monasteries. It’s an incredibly interesting place to visit. This Paphos travel guide covers everything from when to visit, to what to do while you’re there.
Cyprus is a year-round destination: summer is hot but busy; spring and autumn are warm enough to swim but cool enough to sightsee, and winter is mild (even January temperatures often reach 20C). May is the best time to beat the crowds who flock to the best beaches in Paphos.
Airlines offering direct flights to Paphos include British Airways, Ryanair and easyJet, with regular shuttle buses to the town.
Cypriot cuisine is aromatic and flavoursome, with influences from the Middle East, Turkey, and Greece. Locals linger over shared plates of mezze, followed by classic dishes that draw on the bounty of the land – souvlakia (grilled meat kebabs), kleftiko (slow-cooked lamb) or stifado (beef and wine stew). Try authentic Cyprus cuisine at Koutourou, a traditional tavern set on a pretty square. Fresh fish features heavily along the coast; two of the best harbour-front seafood restaurants are Ouzeri and Theos – don’t miss the mezze of swordfish, calamari, whitebait and prawns.
Paphos has the longest coastline of any district in Cyprus, winding northwards from Aphrodite’s Rock to the Baths of Aphrodite and beyond. Among the best beaches in Paphos are Lara Bay, a secluded sliver where sea turtles nest on the sand, and Blue Lagoon, whose jewelled waters beg to be dived into.
This is a Cypriot destination where mountain meets sea. Thanks to this glorious collision of landscapes, expect traditional mountain villages, sprawling vineyards, long coastal trails and beautiful beaches. The Akamas Peninsula and Tilliria forests are crisscrossed with trails for hiking and cycling.
Paphos was the Cypriot capital in Greco-Roman days, and its legacy can be seen in intricate mosaics, frescoed tombs and crumbling theatres. The city is rich in ancient Greek mythology, particularly the legend of Aphrodite. No trip to Paphos would be complete without a visit to Aphrodite’s Rock – go at sunset when the love goddess’ mythical home is shrouded in golden light. To learn more about the history of the island, visit the Cyprus Museum, a trove of archaeological treasures.
• Ignore the tourist traps and dine with the locals in Ktima, the old town. Fettas is a traditional tavern serving up wonderfully simple dishes like local favourite stifado (beef and red wine stew) and platters of mezze.
• If you ask any local what to do in Paphos they’ll suggest hiking through the Akamas Peninsula, home to remote nature trails, unspoiled beaches and gorges. Aim for Avakas Gorge, one of the last untouched areas on the island, with tall rocky formations sculpted by the river.
• While Lara Bay is famed for its nesting loggerhead and green turtles, its remoteness prevents over-tourism. It’s accessible only by 4WD or as part of a jeep safari – many of which call at the Lara Bay Turtle Conservation Station to see its work in protecting the creatures.
Kato Paphos, or Lower Paphos, is known for its palm-fringed seafront and harbour, in the shadow of a medieval fortress. Duck into the backstreets to discover medieval baths and archaeological sites. The island’s cultural heritage can be seen in the remains of Nea Paphos, an ancient city founded in the 4th century BC. Wandering around the timeworn villas, palaces, fortresses and theatres is one of our favourite things to do in Paphos; don’t miss the glittering mosaic floors of the House of Dionysos. Just as intriguing is Tomb of the Kings, outside the northern walls of Paphos, a necropolis of caves and sandstone tombs – not for royalty, as you might think, but local nobility.
Ktima, or Upper Paphos, is the historic core of the city and unfurls up a sloping hill. Here, you’ll rub shoulders with locals as they go about their everyday lives, as they did centuries ago. This is where to stay in Paphos if you want to live like a Cypriot. Elegant colonial buildings line the streets, several of which house museums; a couple worth visiting are the Ethnographical Museum and the Paphos Archaeological Museum.
The quaint harbour is flanked by seafood taverns and waterside bars – the perfect spot for Cyprus food. Wash it down with a glass of Commandaria, the local “wine of kings and king of wines” grown in the Troodos mountains. Paphos Castle was originally built as a Byzantine fort to protect the harbour, and is now the backdrop for cultural events such as the Aphrodite Festival in September.
The hills evoke a sense of timelessness, with 10,000 years of history wrapped into their folds. Spectacular churches are cradled among the Troodos mountains, many splashed with intricate Byzantine frescoes. Mountain villages cling to flower-carpeted slopes: some of the best are Omodos for its wine and lacemaking traditions, and Kakopetria where time appears to stand still.