CYPRUS – HISTORY, MYTHOLOGY; GORGEOUS SUNSETS AND SO MUCH MORE …
We generally travel to great tourist destinations outside of the high season, mainly due to budget restrictions. Flights can be really cheap around the edge of peak times, but also so that we get to wander and visit all the wonderful sites without having to fight for parking and get to enjoy the space without the crowds. Usually you still catch some good weather as well, so a win/win in our eyes.
This was our second time in Cyprus. We went for the normally gorgeous warm weather …hahaha.
Not this time … they had some serious tropical storms start a couple of days before we arrived which continued during our visit so the sunshine was scarce. Tremendous sites across the stormy skies of lightning though, so quite spectacular scenes from inside the warm pub where we took shelter on our walk on the first day there.
Just as well there are such a huge number of wonderful sites to see in Cyprus and no shortage of pubs, local tavernas, stunning museums and archeological sites to visit! If you enjoy history and greek mythology there is an abundance of things to see … and the facts and stories behind the archeological sites and discoveries are fascinating!
The costs of visiting these historical sites are very reasonable and the Cypriot people are so proud of their heritage and so friendly, always ready to add more info & stories to enhance your experience, that it is a pleasure to go see what is there.
A LITTLE ABOUT PAPHOS
Paphos district takes up the whole of the western end of Cyprus and is probably the most varied and attractive region on the island. It is wild and remote in some parts (although the signs of new developments are there now, sadly) and was long regarded in the rest of Cyprus as something of a rural backwater. This all changed in the 1980’s with the opening of Paphos airport and the development of motorway links with the rest of the island! Suddenly it became a magnet for developers keen to exploits its natural riches!
PAPHOS HARBOUR AND CASTLE
The harbour area lies in Kato (lower) Paphos and is the main tourist area, packed with plenty of souvenir shops, bars, cafes, hotels and restaurants along the palm-studded promenade. This is also where you can book your boat trips, including dive boats and glass bottomed boats, some of which take you on trips around the west coast of the island and out to the two shipwrecks along the west coast.
At the end of the harbour stands the PAPHOS CASTLE.
Opening times: April 16 – September 15, daily: 08:30 – 19:30
September 16 – April 15, daily: 08:30 – 17:00
Entry fee: 2.50 euros
As with many of the Cypriot castles it has a complex history. Pafos (Paphos) Castle (Medieval Fort) was originally a Byzantine fort built to protect the harbour. It was built by the Lusignans in the 13th century, but was destroyed by an earthquake towards the end of the 15th century and what was left was then dismantled by the Venetians to prevent it falling into the hands of the Turks. The Ottomans rebuilt it in the 16th century when they conquered the island. What survives today is the 1592 Ottoman restoration of the western Frankish tower with its Venetian additions. An inscription above the only entrance of the castle bears witness to this restoration.
It is a small castle and the main attraction is to climb up to the battlements which offer spectacular views across the harbour and to the distant hills in the north.
KATO PAPHOS ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE:
Opening Hours: April 16 – September 15, daily: 08:30 – 19:30
September 16 – April 15, daily: 08:30 – 17:00
Entrance fee: 4.50 euros
The Pafos (Roman) Mosaics are considered among the finest in the eastern Mediterranean and form part of the Archaeological Park of Kato Pafos, which has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list since 1980. They were discovered in 1962, after a farmer ploughing his field accidently unearthed one of them.
The Houses of Dionysos, Theseus, Aion and Orpheus are the villas of four Roman noblemen that date from the 2nd to the 5th centuries AD. Their intricate floor mosaics depict various scenes from Greek Mythology. The House of Dionysos is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of the Paphos mosaics and I suggest you leave this to the last to view. The Mosaics here are stunning and remarkable that they are still around for us to see and marvel at considering the complex took a direct hit during a Turkish air raid in 1974!
This is an absolutely amazing site to visit. You can wander for hours taking in the wonderful mosaic art depicting Greek Mythology that was discovered, so reserve at least half a day to take this all in. The bonus of this site is that it is right on the coast so you get lovely sea views and can wander down to the beach when you leave and head for the Sandy beach bar to enjoy a drink.
I am always totally fascinated by the beautiful work that was done these many, many years ago without any of today’s automation and tools available to these craftsmen! The time and patience it must have taken to sort and shape stones and marble into these little pieces to fit the mosaic puzzle and create these wonderful pictures and works of art that adorned their walls and floors! The huge rooms and homes were magnificent and ornate!
ROCK OF APHRODITE or PETRA TOU ROMIOU
Aphrodite’s mythical birthplace ‘Petra tou Romiou’ is an interesting geological formation of huge rocks along one of the most beautiful coastlines on the island, located on the southwest coast of the Pafos (Paphos) district.
According to the legend, the Ancient Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty – Aphrodite – was born of the sea foam here. Legend tells that she rose from the waves and was escorted on a shell to this particular beach.
The giant rock formations, which are seen at the same location, are linked with another more recent legend which tells that the Byzantine hero Digenis Akritas heaved them there to keep the Saracens Arabs (7th-10th centuries) at bay. The name of Petra tou Romiou (‘rock of the Greek’ in Greek) comes from the hero.
It is said that in certain weather conditions, the waves rise, break and form a column of water that dissolves into a pillar of foam. With imagination, this momentarily looks like an ephemeral, evanescent human shape. Other popular myths tell that swimming around the rock three times will bring various blessings, including eternal youth and beauty, good luck, fertility and true love.
This rock formation is a 27km, 26 minute drive along the coastal road from Paphos. There is a parking space opposite near a tourist and souvenir shop with a safe walkway under the road to get to the rocks. It is a busy tourist site and even though we were here out of season it was pretty busy.
The views of the coast along the route are stunning and it is worth taking the drive simply for the views.
SANCTUARY OF APHRODITE
Opening Hours: April 16 – September 15, daily: 08:30 – 19
September 16 – April 15, daily: 08:30 – 17:00
Entrance fee: €4,50
If you continue along this route and then follow the signs to Kouklia, a small village about 14kms east of Paphos, you will find the archaeological site of Palaipafos (‘old Pafos’ in Greek). It was one of the most important city-kingdoms of Cyprus, as well as the first Cypriot site to be included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 1980.
The Sanctuary of Aphrodite is the most famous of the Ancient Greek Goddess’ sanctuaries, and its ancient remains date back to the 12th century BC, whilst it remained a place of worship until the 3rd – 4th centuries AD.
I have to say for the importance that is placed on this site …it is not easy to find and we almost walked away because the signs point you in the general direction but once you walk behind the parking lot it is not visible and there are no further signs. But fortunately, we found a little souvenir shop on the corner and the lady there was very helpful and gave us directions and a short tale of the history behind it. So, if you get there and can’t find the actual site … go visit the little curio shop on the corner. It is also well worth the visit for all its handmade curios from the local area.
There are two versions of how Palaipafos was founded; one story tells that Agapenor, the King of Tegea (Peloponesus), founded the city-kingdom on his way back from the Trojan War. A second legend tells that Kinyras, the local legendary king (12th century) was the founder and first High Priest of The Sanctuary of Aphrodite.
The museum, housed in a Lusignan Manor, exhibits many interesting finds from the area and portrays how the Cult of the Goddess of Fertility developed into the Cult of Aphrodite.
This site is linked to the Aphrodite Cultural Route.
We were told about this ancient city by a friend and went off to see specifically the archeological ruins that she said were even better than the Acropolis in Athens! We obviously had to go and investigate.
The city dates back to the 8th century BC when an ancient monument was built and dedicated to the god Apollo, who was worshipped as the protector of Kourion.
This site is huge and the history through the ages through the Hellenistic, Roman and early Christian eras is fascinating! Unfortunately way too much for me to describe here but have a look here for loads more info.
The size of the public baths shows that there must have no shortage of water and their heating method of using clay tiles is absolutely fascinating.
This site has even more to it than the Kato Paphos site so give yourself some time to wander.
Opening hours: September 16 to April 15, daily: 8:30-17:00
April 16 to September 15, daily: 8:30-19:00
Closed on holidays such as December 25, 1st January and Easter Sunday.
Ticket price € 4,50.
I could just go on and on about the wonders of Cyprus, from the above small peek at history to the shipwrecks, the coast and beaches, the Troodos mountains and their amazing views, ski resorts, long walks through the gorges with some more amazing views.
But in the meantime … This is just a small taste of what there is to see on this little island, so book that flight and enjoy some sunshine (usually), awesome sunsets and some amazing history.