It's the sun-drenched corner of Cyprus that gave us Aphrodite, goddess of love. And with its golden beaches, warm local hospitality and fantastic food and drink, visitors are perpetually falling in love with this Mediterranean hot spot
WELCOME TO PAPHOS
IF CYPRUS IS THE ISLAND OF LOVE, Paphos ought really to be the capital (the island's actual capital is Nicosia, but never mind that). The Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, is said to have been born in the sea just off Paphos, and the remains of her temple, one of the most popular in the region in ancient times, are still to be found on the island. The site overlooks the Mediterranean from a village hillside, and although the temple's former splendour has crumbled, it's certainly worth a visit. Legend has it that Aphrodite was arrestingly beautiful and had many lovers. And who could blame her? Paphos is the sort of place that puts you in a romantic mood. But enough of love; the appeal of Paphos is not only that it's a uniquely romantic setting. You could stay here at length and still not experience all of its archaeological, cultural and culinary delights. The abundance of family run restaurants serving quality fresh produce means you're particularly spoiled for choice when it comes to food. This is a destination that people find themselves returning to again and again. Paphos may not be a metropolis, but it never gets boring. Take an early morning swim, return to the beach later for an evening cocktail and, in between, you could pack in everything from nature trekking to shopping to museum-hopping, or a dose of extreme sports. This city used to be known primarily for its fishing harbour but, with a new highway and airport built in the last 10 years, it has developed into one of the most multi-cultural areas of Cyprus, as confirmed by the most recent census. Paphians rub shoulders with nationalities from all over Europe and beyond - something that's reflected in the cuisine on offer too. There's plenty to entertain you here, but remember the locals' motto of "Siga, siga" ("Take it easy"). And that's the best way to approach a Paphos break. See as much as you can, but at a leisurely pace.
Did you know? St Paul is said to have converted the Roman ruler here in 45AD, making Cyprus the first country governed by a Christian.
AT A GLANCE
01 SEE THE ARCHAEOLOGY The ancient sights of Paphos should not be missed, from the well-preserved Roman mosaics (pictured) to the Roman amphitheatre and Catacombs of Agia Solomoni, where it's said that if you tie a handkerchief to the ancient terebinth tree all your ailments will be cured!
02 SUNSET AT APHRODITE'S ROCK Summer sunsets in Paphos are truly magical. Take a 20-minute drive east from Paphos and you'll find the bay where the Greek goddess of love was said to have been born. Pack an early evening picnic, then settle down here and keep your eyes on the skies.
03 PAPHOS MUNICIPAL MARKET This covered market (Mon-Sat) is exotic and chaotic, selling hand-crafted jewellery, sea sponges, "evil eye" talismans, leather goods and much more.
04 DRINKS AT PAPHOS HARBOUR Settle down at one of Paphos' popular harbour-side cafés and order a frappé (iced instant coffee) or the famous zesty Cypriot cocktail Brandy Sour. People-watch and savour the view of the old Venetian fort surrounded by bobbing boats.
05 DAY TRIP TO KATO PYRGOS Take a drive along winding mountain roads through the Troodos Forest to Kato Pyrgos: a village in a pretty bay 90 minutes north-west of Paphos. The journey offers gorgeous sea views, and you can sit down to a great seafood lunch on arrival.
Did you know? Ares, god of war, became jealous over Aphrodite and rival lover Adonis, so turned himself into a wild boar to kill the people of Paphos, and poor Adonis!
TAKE IT ALL IN
IT'S NO SURPRISE THAT UNESCO named the "District of Paphos" a World Heritage site. Local history goes back millennia, and the best way to get around town to see it all is on a hop-on, hop-off City Sightseeing bus. Tours start at the harbour and leave every 60-90 minutes seven days a week. It's an area rich in archaeological sites, some of which are too delicate to be opened to the public. However, those you can see include the Paphos Mosaics, part of the Kato Paphos archaeological park near the harbour. These artworks from the houses of wealthy Romans are stunningly preserved in situ and date back over 1,800 years. A cast of characters including Dionysus, god of wine, are depicted in all their merry-making. Speaking of gods and goddesses, pay a visit to the Temple of Aphrodite, where ancient worshippers travelled from far and wide to perform sacred rituals. The museum in the adjacent 13th-century Lusignan Royal Manor House is packed with facts, tales and objects relating to Aphrodite, including an ancient black conical meteorite, worshipped as a representation of the goddess. Entrance is a snip at €3.40 for adults. The Roman Amphitheatre is one of three venues for the International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama. Soaking up an opera or play in this magical open-air setting is the perfect way to spend a balmy evening on the island, and shows - in various languages - are held throughout July. Tickets cost €17 per performance. Paphos is known for its quality of light, and no one appreciates that more than gallery owners. The main galleries to visit here are the Paphos Municipal Art Gallery housed in a renovated colonial building, and the En Plo Gallery. The former hosts a permanent exhibition of Paphian painting and sculpture, both figurative and abstract. The latter serves as an outlet selling pottery, prints and handcrafted jewellery at reasonable prices.
THEY SAY... "Paphos is like an open-air museum and very multicultural. In our bid we are highlighting the richness and diversity of European communities, and celebrating the ties that link us together." Ektor Tsatsoulis, executive manager, Paphos 2017 European Capital of Culture Candidate City
WHERE TO STAY
CYPRIOTS ARE WELL ACCUSTOMED TO TOURISM, so not only will you find a good selection of places to stay in Paphos - from luxury hotels to quality self-catering apartments - but the locals pride themselves on traditional service and hospitality too. For some of that famous local welcome, Kiniras hotel (doubles from €60) - a family run affair since the 1920s - is as cosy as it gets in Paphos. Centrally located in one of the town's oldest colonial-style buildings, rooms overlook a quaint shopping street or a lush oasis of a courtyard, which doubles as an award-winning restaurant. If you want five-star glamour by the sea, Amathus Beach Hotel (doubles from €256) offers spacious rooms with superb views, decorated in Mediterranean colours. Facilities you'll have use of here include a large lagoon-shaped pool and a spa. The stylish Nubar, and Asiachi Restaurant are also popular locally. Cheerful and friendly with clean, simple rooms, the self-catering Aliathon Holiday Village (studio apartment for two from €95) is just across the road from the beach of Kato Paphos and is a whole world in itself. For guests who want to stay put, it offers five pools, several good restaurants, bars and nightly entertainment. Paphos is not just about the beach though. Owing to sulphur springs, a spa was founded on a spot near the hill village of Miliou over 360 years ago and today, Ayii Anargyri Natural Healing Spa Resort (doubles from €185) is a calming retreat combining classic Cypriot and contemporary architecture. Guests can enjoy the sauna, gym and sulphur springs. If you really want a home away from home, Asimina Suites Hotel (junior suites from €206) allows you to spread out in light and airy beachfront accommodation with a separate bedroom and lounge. Wash the sand away in a roomy deluxe marble bathroom.
THEY SAY... "The secret of our success has been maintaining a real family business for generations. We offer authentic Cypriot hospitality and we serve homemade local dishes in our restaurant." George Gregoriou, proprietor, Kiniras
WHERE TO DINE
IF YOU FANCY A TRADITIONAL Cypriot dining experience, make the journey to The Last Castle. This lunch-only restaurant is so off the beaten track that there is no electricity! But that's no problem because there's plenty of firepower: barbecued beef, pork and chicken abounds, served with rice and traditional Cypriot bread. It's certainly meat-oriented but the friendly guys who run the place have been known to whip up a vegetarian dish on request, too. Expansive sea views are complemented by a gentle breeze - as in true castle style there is no glass in the windows. If you're on the go and need to grab a bite at any time of the day or night, Zorbas bakery, a short walk from Paphos harbour, is the spot to pick up sweet and savoury Cypriot goodies. Try the moreish spinach and feta pastries and several different types of halloumi-filled snacks. Nobody leaves here hungry. Also near the harbour, South African steakhouse The Lodge is one of the only restaurants in Paphos to age its own meat. This dark, roomy restaurant is a place to settle down with friends for a long chat over dinner. Excellent steak is by no means the only thing on the menu, however, which includes a range of meat and seafood dishes. There's a short but well-chosen list of the owners' favourite Cypriot wines too. For something a little lighter, the chic and recently renovated Muse Café occupies a new space in one of the older parts of town. Offering views over Paphos and the Mediterranean, it's the ideal place to sit and watch the sun go down. You can tuck into sharing platters or a tasty goats' cheese salad, for instance. But they do serve steak here, too. For an authentic taste of India on Cyprus, order a perfectly fluffy biryani at Poppadoms, on the coastal road. This place is its own best advertisement, because it's always absolutely packed.
THEY SAY... "What could be better than dry-aged steaks and seafood on a flaming outdoor charcoal BBQ? Just add fantastic local wines, fresh local produce and a gorgeous island setting, too!" Peter van Rijn and Anastasia Kypragora, The Lodge
WHERE TO PARTY
IT MAY NOT BE FAMOUS FOR its rock stars but actually there's a healthy live music scene in Paphos. A good place to start your evening is Ta Hnaria, a traditional taverna in the centre of town. Snack on meze dishes and soak up some live Cypriot sounds. Local folk music acts play here every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and it can get pretty rowdy, in a good way. For rock and indie sounds, among others, try Temple, in a renovated townhouse uptown. This fun, laid-back bar is ideal for a pre-club pit stop or as a place to chat if you're not one to hit the dance floor. There's a long beer list, including local brews Keo and Leon, and this place has been known to host the odd beer festival. Every city needs an Irish pub, and if your tipple of choice is a pint of Guinness, there's always the ever-lively O'Neills. There's usually a band on stage and you'll have a fun night here, even if you're a long way from Dublin. Alternatively, The Rose Pub in Kato Paphos is another charming little joint that's always busy and has live music four nights a week. To sip cocktails, mingle with the island's bright young things and dance until late, you should head to Faces. This is the place for fans of house music and those who like to get dolled up. The door policy here definitely favours the chiseled and glamorous, so dress your best. Meanwhile, at Yeroskipou Municipal Beach, you'll find Summer Club - Barrio Del Mar, which includes an area where you can dance outside and feel the sea breeze on your skin. Local DJs spin from 11pm until dawn, Wednesday to Saturday. If you don't mind driving a little out of town, 40 minutes from Paphos you'll find the town of Pomos, where the 13th Paradise Jazz Festival takes place on 27-28 July and 3-4 August at Paradise Place. The long list of artists you can see here includes the Greek jazz act Trio Balkano.
01 CATACOMBS OF AGIA SOLOMONI Apostolos Pavlos, Kato Paphos
02 APHRODITE'S ROCK Near Kouklia
03 PAPHOS MUNICIPAL MARKET Makarios Avenue
04 PAPHOS HARBOUR
05 KATO PYRGOS
06 PAPHOS MOSAICS Harbour entrance, tel. +357 2630 6217
07 TEMPLE OF APHRODITE AND MUSEUM Lusignan Royal Manor House, Kouklia, tel. +357 2643 2155
08 AMPHITHEATRE Harbour entrance, tel. +357 2267 4920, www.cyprus-theatre-iti.org
09 PAPHOS MUNICIPAL ART GALLERY 7 Gladstonos Street, tel. +357 2693 0653
10 EN PLO GALLERY Castle Square, Paphos Harbour Walk, tel. +357 2693 2014 (town hall)
11 KINIRAS 91 Makarios Avenue, tel. +357 2694 1604, www.kiniras.cy.net
12 AMATHUS BEACH HOTEL Poseidon Avenue, tel. +357 2688 3300, www.amathus-hotels.com
13 ALIATHON HOLIDAY VILLAGE Theas Afroditis Avenue, tel. +357 2696 4400, www.aliathonvillage.com
14 AYII ANARGYRI NATURAL HEALING SPA RESORT Miliou, tel. +357 2681 4000, www.aasparesort.com
15 ASIMINA SUITES HOTEL Poseidonos Avenue, tel. +357 2696 4333, www.asimina-cbh.com
16 THE LAST CASTLE 7km from Lara Beach, 45 minutes from Paphos, tel. +357 9948 9000
17 ZORBAS Apostolos Pavlos and Piytagora Street, tel. +357 2682 2062, www.zorbas.com.cy
18 THE LODGE 52 Poseidonos Avenue, tel. +357 9667 7288
19 MUSE CAFÉ Mousalla (behind Bishopric), tel. +357 2694 1951, www.muse-kitchen-bar.com
20 POPPADOMS Coastal Road, 200m after Laura hotel, Chlorakas, tel. +357 2694 9435
21 TA HNARIA 21 Fellahoulou St, tel. +357 9999 4470
22 TEMPLE April 1 St, tel. +357 9672 7314
23 O'NEILLS Royal Complex, Tomb of the Kings Road, Kato Paphos, tel. +357 2693 5888
24 THE ROSE PUB 28 Alkminis Street, Kato Paphos, tel. +357 9901 3187
25 FACES Aliathon Plaza, Aphrodite St, tel. +357 7000 5787
26 SUMMER CLUB Yeroskipou Beach, tel. +357 7000 0801
27 PARADISE PLACE tel. +357 2634 2537
HOW TO FIND IT ALL