Paphos - much more than just flighty Aphrodite

by Michael Youds

As the birthplace of Aphrodite, Paphos is synonymous with love and beauty. Whether it’s cocktails or culture you’re after, this charming Cypriot city has something for everyone

The more you learn about Paphos, the more you fall in love with it. Steeped in rich cultural history, treating it as just another Mediterranean beach resort simply doesn't do it justice. There is much more to the place than the blazing sunshine,  which resulted in the temperature nudging 40C during my visit in June. Just ask UNESCO, which made it a world heritage site in 1980.

History and mythology

Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, is said to have been born in Paphos. The Rock of Aphrodite, from where the goddess is said to have emerged from the waves, can be found a few miles outside the city.

The Tombs of the Kings, after which one of the busiest roads into Paphos is named, is an intriguing complex of ancient underground burial sites. Don’t be fooled by the name – no actual kings were buried there, only aristocrats and dignitaries. Despite this, there’s plenty to enjoy. Admission costs just €1.50, and some of the tombs are truly impressive. As long as you can stand the heat, it’s possible to spend a few hours exploring.

The city is also home to an archaeological museum, and if you still haven’t had your history fix there is a large network of underground catacomb sites.

Paphos Castle, which was originally built as a Byzantine fort to protect the harbour, offers spectacular views and is well worth a visit (again, there is a small admission fee).

Getting around

We stayed at the Akti Beach Tourist Village, which is about two-and-a-half miles from Paphos. The intense heat meant walking into town was out of the question, and hiring a car at about €35 a day from one of Paphos’ many hire stores would have decimated our meagre budget.

We had been warned that taxis were expensive and unreliable so that left the bus as our only option. Despite our initial scepticism, it proved to be a decent way of getting around. The buses were clean and air-conditioned, and €1.50 will get you a one-way ticket to anywhere on the route. Services run fairly regularly, and the only downside is that the last bus is at about 11pm and can be crowded. 

For those hiring a car, it’s worth noting that Cypriots drive on the left-hand side of the road, as in the UK.

Food and Drink

When it comes to eating out, there is no shortage of choice. Paphos hasn’t avoided the spread of chains like McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut, but if you know where to look you can find an array of tavernas and cosy restaurants offering local cuisine.

The harbour, which is the heartbeat of Paphos, is awash with restaurants – most of which can be found on a busy strip that leads to the castle.

There is plenty of competition, and the table touts can be a bit pushy, but there are some real gems to be found. I spent most of the week indulging my seafood obsession, and I also found time to try out a few Cypriot specialities like keftedhes, kleftiko and moussaka.

Our favourite place was probably Poseidonas, a two-floor restaurant offering cracking views of the harbour. The food was good without being overpriced and the service was excellent. It was my girlfriend’s birthday and the staff went out of their way to make the occasion feel special. As well as free drinks, we were given a huge bunch of balloons which caused a stir on the bus journey home.

Chloe's Chinese Restaurant at 13 Posidonos Ave has a reputation for good oriental cuisine

Eating out is generally pretty affordable, and most nights we got a two-course meal for two, plus drinks, for less than €40. For beer lovers, a large Keo (the local tipple) will set you back about €3.

Who should go?

I had little idea of what to expect from Paphos, but came away a big fan. It’s ideal for young couples who want to visit Cyprus but can’t face a week of clubbing in Ayia Napa. And of course, it’s equally suitable families and older people. If you just want to catch some rays then Coral Bay, home to one the most popular beaches in Cyprus, is a 15-minute drive from the town and Paphos itself isn’t short of sandy stretches. Going to Paphos won’t break the bank, and the city’s heritage means it appeals as much to history buffs as sun worshippers.