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Last Minute Holidays to Paphos, Cyprus

paphos-cyprus

Travel Paphos and discover dramatic, unspoilt countryside, authentic Cypriot cuisine and incredible history! The southwest coastal town was once the capital of Cyprus during Roman times and remains an important part of the island for agriculture, as well as a popular place for visitors.

Despite growing as a tourist destination, the area still boasts unspoilt beaches and countryside, and is well known for its immense natural beauty.

The town is most famous for being the birthplace and home of Aphrodite Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty and this often draws travellers to Paphos.

Aphrodite was known as ‘The Paphian’ as she was born along the area’s dramatic coast, and because of this Paphos was a place of pilgrimage and the centre of fertility rituals in ancient times. Aphrodite’s legend still lives on in the area today through the popular attractions associated with her life and cult.

The lower town of Kato Paphos Cyprus with its small, picturesque harbour is not as developed as Ayia Napa or Limassol despite its nightlife zone complete with several clubs, bars and fast food take outs, or its line of hotels along Leoforus Poseidonos. It is here where you will also find the ruins of the ancient city Nea Paphos (New Paphos).

It is a great place for visitors to enjoy the best of both worlds – modern facilities combined with authentic Cypriot flavour.

The surrounding villages, which are wealthy in agriculture, provide exposure into modern day rural life in Cyprus, while the local countryside is a haven for the nature lover with its dramatic gorges, rugged coastline, rustic architecture and wide array of flora and fauna as you will discover when you travel Paphos.

The region is steeped in history, with the Venetians, Greeks, Byzantines, Turks, Romans and Arabs among its many rulers and you can see evidence of their presence in the many museums and excavation sites of Paphos.

Villages ravaged by earthquakes, ruins of destroyed Turkish Cypriot villages and Greek Cypriot refugee settlements all add to the landscape as a reminder of the island’s turbulent past.

The Legend of Aphrodite

Many visitors to Cyprus are fascinated by the island’s connection to Aphrodite Greek Goddess of love and beauty. Not only did the birth of Aphrodite take place off the Paphos coast, but it was here on the island where many famous Aphrodite myths took place.

The Birth of Aphrodite

Cyprus is infamous for being the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite Greek Goddess of love (also known by her Roman name of Venus). Her story begins when the angry Kronos cut off the genitals of his father Uranusand cast them into the sea. This created a white foam from which appeared Aphrodite at the site of Petra Tou Romiou near Paphos. Her name comes from the word afros, which is Greek for foam. The artist Botticelli famously depicted her birth with a painting of Aphrodite emerging from the sea on a scalloped shell.

About Aphrodite Greek Goddess

The goddess Aphrodite is rightly associated with passion, and unlike many of the other Greek goddesses such as Athena, Aphrodite was very promiscuous. This is why her name has given us the word ‘aphrodisiac’! Aphrodite’s Roman counterpart Venus rules over the astrology sign Taurus. Those born under this sign are said to be particularly romantic!

Her beauty and charm was viewed a threat, so to stop any jealousy or unrest Zeus arranged for her to marry the ugliest God of all, Hephaestus. She was unhappy in her marriage, and started a love affair with Ares, the Greek god of war.

Aphrodite was an animal lover and did not approve of ritual sacrifices, favouring gifts such as flowers, perfume and jewellery. Many women left gifts of jewellery at the Goddess’s temple in the hope that she would preserve their beauty from the effects of age and nurture their marital relationships. Gold jewellery was especially important to Aphrodite, as she enjoyed luxury.

It’s a lesser known fact that Aphrodite is also the Greek goddess of flowers, and she is most commonly connected with roses. This may be why roses are given as a symbol of love and affection and given on occasions such as Valentine’s Day. It is also said that Aphrodite gave the rose its thorn, to remind us of the pain and suffering that we must endure with love. She is also credited with first planting pomegranates in Cyprus. The goddess was also mother to Cupid (also known as Eros). The relationship between Aphrodite and Cupid was tested by her interference in his love for Psyche but later returned to normal.

Aphrodite and Adonis

Aphrodite discovered Adonis as an orphaned baby and gave him to Persephone, Queen of the Ancient Greek underworld, to care for. When Adonis grew up, Aphrodite returned for him and was so struck by his beauty that she fell in love with him.

Unfortunately, Persephone is also besotted with Adonis and refused to give him up causing a furious argument between the two women.

To regain peace, Zeus commanded Adonis to split the year into three parts; four months with Aphrodite, four months with Persephone and four months alone. Adonis instead spent most of his time with Aphrodite.

Adonis was later killed by a boar, believed to be the jealous Ares in disguise, whilst hunting in the Akamas Peninsula in western Cyprus.

Aphrodite was consumed with grief and declared that everywhere his blood was spilt, anemones will grow. Sure enough, wild flowers appear all over the peninsula in springtime, making it a beautiful place to visit in Cyprus at the right time of year.

Despite her hatred of animal sacrifices, pigs were slaughtered during ritual ceremonies to commemorate Aphrodite’s lover Adonis and the way that he died from the boar attack.

Aphrodite Greek Goddess Attractions in Cyprus

Paphos is well known as the playground of Aphrodite Greek Goddess of love, and is full of Aphrodite attractions. Come and see where the Goddess bathed and lived, her birthplace, and where she was worshipped….

Petra tou Romiou – The Birth of Aphrodite

The infamous birth of the Goddess Aphrodite arising from the waves and sea foam, as depicted by Botticelli in his renowned painting, originates at this spot which is also known as the Rock of Aphrodite.

Today, this legendary of Aphrodite attraction is popular with tourists, and it is a lovely place to visit at sunset if you fancy some Cyprus romance! On windier days and nights you can also enjoy the scenic view from a pavilion slightly inland. Just remember that although this a fantastic spot for fans of ancient Greek mythology, this is one of the stonier beaches in Cyprus.

The Baths of Aphrodite

In the Akamas peninsula, a known playground of the Goddess, you can find this famous spring which appears from inside the rocks, spilling into a natural pool. Aphrodite is said to have bathed here, where the water is considered to be a source of fertility, as well as the key to eternal youth.

Entering the pool is now prohibited, but it is still one of the main Aphrodite attractions and a beautiful and tranquil place to visit. I have always enjoyed coming here with family.

Close to the baths, which can be reached via a designated hiking trail, is another spring known as Fontana Amorosa (fountain of love).
Its believed that anyone who drank from the water here would immediately fall in love with the next person they saw. Unfortunately, this attraction doesn’t quite have the same beauty that it did in ancient times, and is quite marshy and muddy.

The Temple of Aphrodite Greek Goddess

The temple of Aphrodite is located in the village of Kouklia. It was originally built in the 12th century BC as a sanctuary to followers of the cult of Aphrodite. In spring, cult members from around the world would embark on a pilgrimage to the temple to celebrate the festival of Aphrodite and Adonis.

One aspect of the religion involved a kind of temple prostitution, where young women would sacrifice their virginity to Aphrodite (or rather to the men who visited the temple!) This was a unique tradition when it came to Greek gods. Today, some praise the fact that society back then was so liberal.

The girls would wait at the temple until they were chosen by a man and once chosen, the man was allowed to spend one night of uninhibited passion with the virgin. The money earned from this sacrifice would then be dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite.

Paphos Beaches

Paphos Beaches are a lot quieter than those on the east coast, and you will find a mix of sand and pebble beaches. Blue Flag beaches in or near Paphos: Coral Bay, Dasoudis, Municipial Baths, Pachyammos, Geroskipou, Laorou, Vrysoudia A, Vrysoudia B

Coral Bay
This is the most famous of all beaches in Paphos and definitely worth a visit although it is usually very crowded especially in peak season. Unlike many of the beaches in Paphos, Coral Bay is sandy and very pretty.

Latchi Beach
Latchi Beach probably has the best conditions in the region for diving or snorkelling. This is a pebble beach which is attractive looking but not quite as comfortable as the sandy beaches in my opinion. It is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

Behind the beach, located in the village of Latchi in the Akamas peninsula, are some of the best fish tavernas in Cyprus where the fresh seafood will blow your taste buds away!

Lara Bay
Not to be confused with Lara Beach in Kyrenia, you can find Lara Bay in the Akamas Peninsula to the north of Paphos. A gorgeous, quiet and unspoilt beach. Well worth a visit as it is one of the main areas where you can spot endangered green and loggerhead turtles laying their eggs.

If you see them it is important not to disturb them. The turtles’ plight is well documented and major international efforts are in place to try and protect them. You may also be able lucky enough to see endangered monk seals here.

Petra tou Romiou
This is one of the most famous beaches in Paphos as it is is the location where the legendary birth of Aphrodite Greek Goddess of Love took place, and many couples come here purely for the romance factor! The beach has stunning sunsets and it is a lovely place to visit for its mythological aspect but be aware that the coastline here is very rocky.

Yeriskopou Beach
This is a popular beach located about a mile from the harbour at Paphos. There are great facilities for families and young people, as there is a restaurant on the beach and a luna park close by. It is a mixed pebble and sand beach, where you will often see volleyball tournaments.

Historical Paphos Attractions

As one of the most ancient towns in Cyprus, there are many beautiful historical Paphos attractions just waiting to be explored…

Tombs of the Kings
A misleading name, as actually it is aristocrats who are buried here not kings. The tombs, located in Kato Paphos, are one of the biggest archaeological finds from the Hellenistic period on the island. In ancient Cyprus, graves were traditionally located outside of the city walls and so huge cemeteries extend from Paphos in all directions. The Tombs of the Kings are the graves northwest of the town.

They were built over 600 years, starting in the 3rd century BC and are small with no decoration. There are over 100 tombs, and to get to the two most important you climb a flight of stairs into an open courtyard. Very little of the decoration and frescoes have survived up here.

Mosaics of Paphos
One of the must-see historical Paphos attractions are the amazing floor mosaics found in the excavated roman villas which a farmer accidentally stumbled on in the 1960’s. The villas are known as the House of Dionyos, the House of Aion, the House of Theseus and the House of Orpheus, and were named after the figures represented in the mosaics.

The House of Dionysos holds the oldest mosaic in Cyprus made unusually of black and white pebbles, featuring Scylla, a legendary monster that is part woman, part fish and part dog. The mosaics also feature other features of Greek mythology such as Poseidon and Narcissus.

The house of Aion is still being excavated, but has so far uncovered mosaics of Hermes, baby Dionysos’s first bath and the queen of Sparta. The House of Theseus was built in the 2nd century and due to its size is believed to have been the home of a Roman governor.

As well as pictures of Crete, the battle of Theseus and the Minotaur in the Labyrinth is depicted. The House of Orpheus has many rooms and baths in one corner. The most notable mosaic here shows Orpheus playing music with his lyre.

Saranda Kolones
The Saranda Kolones (meaning forty columns) can be found to the right on a hill on the way to the mosaics. The castle was given its name as it was originally built on forty granite columns.

No one is sure of the true origins of the medieval castle which was ruined by an earthquake in the 12th century and later reconstructed by the Lusignans. The Venetians were later in the process of extending the castle but abandoned it due to the invading Ottomans. Although the castle is in ruins, it is still a nice site to explore and is free to enter.

Paphos Archaeological Museum
There are several good historical museums in Paphos but this is regarded as the best and is perfect for seeing the best remnants of historical Paphos attractions all in one place. The museum has five exhibition halls, housing ancient artefacts that have been discovered in Paphos.

In the first hall you will find pieces from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic eras as well as the Bronze Age. It includes jewellery and ceramics, as well as the mummy of a girl from the 3rd Century BC which was found in a village called Lempa. There are also Roman surgical tools which were discovered from a tomb which now lies under Annabelle Beach Hotel.

The second hall holds treasures from the Geometric, Archaic and Classical periods. You can see some beautiful paintings and sculptures in this room, including statues from the Altar of Aphrodite, and it is easy to spot the Egyptian and Ancient Greek influences in the artwork. There is also a glass cabinet displaying bronze and copper coins.

In the third hall are objects from the Hellenic and Roman periods. These include pots made from clay and glass, as well as icons and sculptures. There is a collection of lamps, including one featuring the Egyptian God Serapis.

Other interesting things in this room are prehistoric hot bottles made from clay which are shaped to fit around various parts of the body, and a beautiful sculpture of the head of the Egyptian Queen Isis.

The fourth hall has finds fro the Roman and Byzantine times, including pottery from the House of Dionysos. There are also several Christian inscriptions in marble and some very rare evidence of the period of Arab raids in Cyprus which can be seen in the Arabic inscriptions in the columns.

Lastly, the fifth hall houses objects from Frankish and Venetian eras such as pottery fro both Cyprus and abroad. There are also Frankish tombstones with inscriptions which provide historical information on nobles in Cyprus.

The museum is open everyday but closes at 1pm on weekends.

Paphos Fort

Paphos Fort can be found at the harbour of Kato Paphos and dates back to Byzantine times. It was restored by the Ottomans, having been destroyed by the Venetians and today it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. A nice place from which to enjoy one of the historical Paphos attractions as the top of the castle offers great views and photo opportunities!

Religious Paphos Attractions

Religious Paphos attractions are well-known as some the most important religious sites on the island…

Ayios Neophytos Monastery
High on a cliff side 6 miles north of Paphos is this unique monastery, the most important of religious Paphos attractions. The saint and writer Neophytos found refuge here in 1159 and carved his home in the rock.

Neophytos is famous for his public condemnation over the injustices of the Byzantine tax collectors. By 1200 the hermitage was attracting pilgrims and a community developed around it.

The monastery is beautifully decorated with murals from Byzantine times in both neoclassical and monastic styles, and a museum holds ancient Cypriot pottery, maps and jewellery as well as religious manuscripts. In January a crafts fair is held here by monks, where visitors are able to buy locally produced artwork.

Ayia Solomoni Catacombs
Located at Ayia Solomoni Church near the Tombs of the Kings, don’t be surprised if you have missed these as they are underground! Strictly speaking, this may not come under religious Paphos attractions, but climbing down the steps is an eerie experience but a great way of seeing first hand what it was like for those suffering from religious persecution in ancient times.

It is free to enter the catacombs at all times. You may want to take a torch with you if you are visiting later in the day to see inside properly. There is a sacred tree outside the entrance where both locals and tourists hang personal items of clothing believing that this gesture will cure them of illness. If you find the tree in the pictures below, you have found the catacombs! Many thanks to Andrew N.Gagg FRPS for kindly donating these photos to the site.

Chrysoroyiatissa Monastery
Although this monastery was founded in 1182, the building that you see today was re-built in the 18th century. This monastery holds many beautiful icons (some are said to have been painted by Luke the Apostle) including that of Panayia Chrysoroyiatissa, which is believed to be a miracle working icon.

This difficult to pronounce name translates as “Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate”. Most visitors find this strange but the name is symbolic of the Virgin Mary’s nurturing breast. It is worth a visit purely for the beautiful settings and gardens alone. The abbot here owns vineyards, and the wine manufactured has wide-acclaim. It is available to buy from the monastery or the taverna next to it.

Ayios Georgios Basilica
A pretty church located in the village of Pegeia, which is home to mosaic floors and some Roman tombs. Pegeia itself has lost a lot of it’s village charm and Cypriot character due to the development of villas for the tourist trade, but it you can see the ruins of ancient fountains in the village square.

Ayia Paraskevi
This church is in the village of Geroskipou, (which is located on the way to Aphrodite’s Rock from Paphos and is known for its halloumi cheese and loukoumia), and is an important monument of the Iconoclastic period in the 9th century.

It is a stunning work of Byzantine architecture and has five domes painted with rare frescoes, although few of these remain. Much of the work was painted over in the 15th century.

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