What could be better than a beach holiday? Hot sun, clear sea and a coastline worthy of Aphrodite’s attention, that’s what Paphos can be summed up as.
In this article we propose to uncover the ancient city of Paphos and highlight some great attractions that tourists can enjoy during their stay here. After all, if this place is good enough for Aphrodite to come from the seas why wouldn’t it be good for you?
Paphos, pronounced /ˈpæfɒs/ (Greek: Πάφος [ˈpafos]; Turkish: Baf) is a coastal city in southwest Cyprus and the capital of Paphos District. In antiquity, there were 2 Paphos: Old Paphos, today known as Kouklia and New Paphos. New Paphos became the old town ruins by the marina which we will explore later on.
The city has no more than 36 000 inhabitants and a history that dates back to 300 B.C.. Paphos and Cyprus in general have changed hands over the course of its history many times.
From when the early Greek settlers arrived through to French aristocrats, Venetians, Turks and later on the British. Today the city is part of the independent nation of Cyprus although unification with Greece (enosis) remains a taboo topic.
Paphos is a tourist destination with the season stretching from March till October as temperatures don’t really go down. Some say winter is also good to come as you enjoy temperatures on average of 15° C.
The beaches in the Paphos area aren’t necessarily sandy like we’ve described in our Dominican Republic and Mexican trips. This doesn’t mean there isn’t sand either however entering the water can be a bit tricky given the rocky coastline.
Having said all of these, the coast line is filled with hotels that offer tourists a much needed retreat from today’s ever busy and congested world.
How to get there and where to stay?
We flew from London to Paphos International Airport (PFO), the 2nd largest airport in Cyprus. The flight time from London to Paphos is about 4 hours. Paphos airport is 22 minutes by car from the city centre. And for most of our readers who’ll probably stay in a seaside hotel, it’s even less than that.
We booked a package holiday with TUI, but if you prefer to organise your own trip, check our tips on how to plan a holiday. Read more about advantages and disadvantages of package holidays vs. independent travel here.
For this holiday we chose to stay in an all inclusive, beachfront hotel: Leonardo Plaza Cypria Maris Beach Hotel & Spa. The hotel itself was great, with good service and great amenities including pool/ beach bar, jacuzzi, spa, sunbeds and parasols at the beach and a number of restaurants to choose from. One thing to mention is that this is an adult only hotel – no kiddos allowed.
The hotel also features some VIP villas (very few though) and a few swim up rooms if that’s what floats your boat! If you are going with kids, you might want to choose the adjacent sister hotel Leonardo Cypria Bay and benefit from the services both hotels offer.
Although not our style of hotel initially (as we do like more village style hotels) we still went for this as in Paphos these type of hotels are more prevalent.
Things to do
Paphos is famous for its rocky coastline with clear water and different natural bays filled with fish. They say nearby is where Aphrodite’s herself landed when she rose from the seas.
Tourists can take a stroll in Paphos’ marina area culminating the 15 min walk at the castle area. Although not an impressive construction, it does offer some great all round photos.
You can also swim in the water, as you will see multiple steps so people can go down safely into the sea. Also, if you are lucky enough you can also see turtles. Yes, turtles!
The Paphos Lighthouse is said to be another attraction however, from our point of view it didn’t feel any different than any other Lighthouse. But sure, a few photos can never hurt!
Old Town Market
When done feel free to take one of the busses from the nearby bus depot all the way to the Old Town Market. Although “Old Town” makes you think you’ll see some architecture here is more to describe where the Old Town once stood.
Most of the market and in general area have been rebuilt in modern times. However, this is a great place to go and eat and drink with the locals.
Not far from the Old Town Market you can see the Town Hall. It has Greek leitmotifs with the surrounding area being a well maintained park. It definitely has its charm.
At the end of park, there are also a few taverns. Feel free to sit down and enjoy a meal like the locals do. Prices are affordable and service on par.
New Paphos Ruins (Mosaics)
From the castle, we recommend going the the New Paphos ruins to see some of the former administrative area during antiquity times and some well preserved mosaics.
Get ready for a scorching day and bring loads of water! These photos don’t reveal our regret 5 min in the visit at 40 ° C. The ruins explain a bit more about the Roman times here in Cyprus.
During your visit you will be able to see some of the more memorable houses and villas. These include:
House of Dionysus – this is a preserved ruins of a Roman villa dating to the 2nd, century known for colourful mosaics of Dionysus. It’s not clear whether only romans lived there and is believed wealthy native Greeks also could have inhabited the house.
The mosaic floor from the House of Aion is considered one of the most exceptional works of ancient Roman art, if not the only work of its kind.
House of Theseus – this exceptionally large villa was the residence of the Roman proconsul or governor, and was divided between rooms for official functions and those for private use.
After this visit be sure to go for a Cypriot (Turkish style) coffee to rejuvenate.
Boat trip to Coral Bay
In the marina area you will see a few boats where you can buy cruises similar to our Turkey cruises experience. Most of them go to Coral bay. Another recommended boat trip is the Blue Lagoon. We didn’t go there as there were no more spaces but definitely something to do when we return.
Although local travel agents can sell those trips, the boats that take you there will be at a more northern harbour. Typically 1h from a Paphos based hotel, in case you are wandering.
These trips are also up for negotiation so feel free to bring your “wolf of Wall Street” skills.
If you chose this trip it will be late morning departure from your hotel. Different boats offer slightly different options but most include, pick-up/drop-off, an onboard meal, typically bbq and unlimited (local) drinks.
This is also what we went for. Other offers include, night time cruises and fireworks. This is the link to Wave Dancer Half Day BBQ Cruise – All Inclusive trip we bought.
The boat will set sail and go by the northern cost line of Paphos. There will be plenty of photo opportunities especially as you see the Paphos castle from different angles.
One thing will strike you – how clear the sea is! So bring your snorkel gear, you won’t regret it. Typically, the boat will offer some entertainment. We had some games and a guitar performer who we befriended.
Typically within 2 hours you should reach Coral Bay. The area does has a certain charm although nothing unseen to any seasoned traveller.
Unlike our Turkey boat trips, the captain doesn’t seem to let folks jump off the boat – so no bomb dives! Also you only get 1 swimming stop so use it wisely. After swimming lunch is served and soon after you’re on your way back to the harbour dancing on the waves and enjoying the music.
Visit St Nicholas Church
If you keep walking from Paphos centre to the hotel area alongside the coastline, you will reach St Nicholas Church. The church is beautifully decorated on the inside and apparently lots of couples choose to have this church for their wedding.
It’s located by the sunset point, so you can go later afternoon and enjoy the nice sunset vies Paphos has to offer.
Paphos and implicitly Cyprus inherit a rich and diverse culinary universe. This is due to their geographic but also cultural influences from Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Although Greek cuisine is prevalent, many elements from Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine have made their way in any Cypriot kitchen.
If you ever wondered how food is prepared at an all-inclusive hotel, then read our article “Inside an All-Inclusive Kitchen” for more details.
Firstly, considering Paphos is a coast line city, we definitely recommend going to an authentic sea food restaurant with freshly cooked fish and sea food.
The place we went to was The Pelican restaurant, just by the boats and castle, so definitely accompanied by a view. We tried the fried calamari (squid) and octopus. One word – incredible!
We also decided to go to a tavern to experience some local food. As you’d expect Moussaka and many other staples of Greek cooking were present but some of the typical Middle Eastern/Cypriot elements came as a complete surprise. The spicing and cookery were interesting to say the least.
And of course, being on holiday we wanted to try something else also and chose an Asian restaurant. Although perhaps not the best stir fry I’ve had it was a change from the all inclusive buffet.
Paphos is an excellent escape for any sun seeking tourist. With its diverse hotel scene combined with diverse culinary landscape, there is an accommodation and a menu for all budgets and tastes.
It’s an excellent gateway for families with toddlers and solo travellers.
Although hotels don’t seem to offer many amenities such as water parks, quirky pools etc. If you “dig” your way through the hotel offering you might be able to find something for you.
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Also be sure to check out our video for this holiday on Youtube.
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