Paphos: A one day sightseeing guide
Paphos (Pafos) is a fantastic place to stay and take a vacation on the western side of Cyprus (Greek side). It has the beaches, resorts, good restaurants and bars, fantastic local people who will always greet you with a smile and of course, sometimes the sounds of Greek music and smashing plates can be heard (I was actually surprised to hear this on the island but I did). I spent most of my time in Paphos actually relaxing and getting away from the stress of work back home but on my seven day trip here whilst staying at the Louis Imperial Beach hotel on the eastern seafront of town, I did actually go and do some sightseeing.
I can tell you now I wish I did even more sightseeing as I left this towards the end of my trip. There is so much history here in Paphos so I am wondering what the rest of the island is like and because of this, I am already looking at doing a second trip to Cyprus.
Here are the top sights I saw and recommend to anyone checking out Paphos:
Located next door to Paphos Harbour is the castle and can be seen anywhere along the coastline when approaching from the north and east. Built in the Byzantine era to protect the harbour then an earthquake came along in the 13th century and was destroyed. Eventually the area was dismantled by the Venetians (a nice bunch they were I hear), but after they were booted out by the Ottomans, they restored the castle. The castle which stands here today is how the Ottomans built it. Since then it has been used as a fortress, a prison and when the British Empire came along and took the island in the 19th century, the castle was used as a warehouse to store salt. When Cyprus gained independence from the British in the 1960s the castle is now just a tourist attraction and sometimes serves as a backdrop to a cultural festival which is held annually in the summer months.
Paphos Archaeological Park
This has to be the highlight for me as I got a lot of interest in history. This park did surprise me as I walked around the area and seeing the different types of ruins and historical monuments I was looking at. Quick introduction, the park entrance is next to the harbour, a stone throws away from the castle and when I came here, only cost €4.50 a person. This was a bargain I felt. The park (which excavations are still taking place) has remains from when the Roman Empire took the island. The park itself is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is what I discovered in the park (with my family in tow. Despite having a three-year old, she loved running around and spotting the different types of buildings and artwork).
The area (according to historians) was built by Nicocles, the last king of Paphos way back in the 4BC and by 2BC, the area became the capital of the island. There have been a few finds from this era but most of the ruins are from the Roman Empire and they do make up the main sights.
After walking up the long stone staircase from the main entrance, I turned right at the top and right again and came across the ruins of Saranda Kolones, a castle built in the Byzantine era. The castle was built to protect the nearby harbour and this part of Paphos which was known as Nea Pafos (New Paphos) from a lot of Arab raids. The castle was destroyed by an earthquake in the 12th century.
North of the ruins is the Agora, where only the foundations are preserved today. Just to the west of it is an Odeon (but I like to call it an outside theatre) and is still used for cultural events today. The complex around here dates back to the 2AD. At the top of the Odeon I found this to be a great viewing point to look at Modern Paphos to the east and also imagined what it was like to sit at the highest stone slab and watching a performance from down below. The odeon is well preserved and one of my favourite places to visit in the park.
Just behind the Odeon is Paphos Lighthouse. Not part of the historical monuments I know but is still worth a visit. Built in the late 19th century by the British Empire, the lighthouse was built here as the island was a key military base protecting ships which were traveling from the United Kingdom to the British colonies in Asia via the Suez Canal. Next to the lighthouse is a shed (as I call it) which acts as a little museum and has displays on the walls of the history of the lighthouse but to be honest, I only came here to get away from the midday heat of the summer sun to keep cool.
Heading south now I came across the House of Dionysos which was built in 2AD but after earthquakes hit the area around 4AD, the house was abandoned. After a good clean up operation and restoring some of the building, a lot of mosaics were found in very good condition and shows scenes of hunting, the old times and some stories which were mythological. At the entrance to the building there is a pebble mosaic which shows the mythical sea-monster Scylla which I thought was pretty cool. There are two other buildings nearby, the house of Orpheus, the house of Aion and the villa of Theseus which also displayed some fantastic mosaics and columns.
I spent a couple of hours here and didn’t explore the whole area (thanks to a little one who was very tired and needed food…sigh) but one place I did regret seeing and hope to see on my next visit to Cyprus inside the park is the Tomb of Kings which is slightly north of the main area of the park and are basically underground tombs set inside caves.
The best sunset spot in Cyprus
There is even a sign claiming this next to the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodoxy church on the eastern side of the town beside the sea. I have to admit, the sunset was fantastic to see over the rocky shoreline and the waves calmly hitting the rocks. The church itself is quite small but when I walked inside, there was chill-out music being played, not a soul in sight and saw some beautiful artwork which describes the religion and its role in Cyprus as well as the usual saints being painted high up on the ceiling. The best way to get here from Paphos harbour and if you got time is to walk it. It would take about an hour each way but the walk is nice, easy and there is a nice breeze in the evenings. There are a few bars on the way if a drink is needed but there are some beautiful rocky shorelines to take in as well as the four and five star resorts which the path walks through.
And last of, for the children
I can’t forget something for the kids can I? Well, I got one now (and one on the way) so we had to check out Paphos Luna park. The fun area for children (aged under 10’s) is located right on the eastern outskirts of Paphos (not to far from Saint Nicholas Church), the place has food, bar, gift shops but more importantly, rides to keep the little ones entertained. The pricing system is a bit weird but to keep it cheap (and to get the money’s worth), we paid €25 for Kiddo to use as many rides as liked and we paid a few extra euros each to go on the Big Wheel with her. All the other rides which require very small children like Kiddo, the adults get to go free. So it wasn’t too bad, I think I paid €30 in total. There was the caterpillar train (the most popular ride for the little ones, a roller coaster which goes around the course three times and does go fast in places), a carousel, bumper cars, another train ride, and a pirate ship which goes up and down. After spending a couple of hours here, the little one sure had fun and fell asleep in the buggy on the way back to the hotel.
I really loved my day out from escaping the resort and to get a taster of the city and to be honest, there is still more to cover and by the looks of it, the rest of Cyprus has a lot to offer, so I am already looking at a second trip to the island. Definitely recommend a visit to the city if you love history, the food, the sea or even if you have children. They would totally love the place, I am sure of that.
Have you been to Paphos? What was your favourite thing about the area? Any good tips you can give? I would love to read your tips and views.