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Paphos is Cyprus’ Mediterranean jewel, a city of rich history and culture that will remind you of the ancient world. A coastal city, once a major port in antiquity, with beautiful beaches and modern amenities on the southwest coast of Cyprus. The city of Pafos is not only an ideal destination for tourists looking to explore the natural beauty of this country; Pafos has many things to offer for everyone – from shopping to hiking, water sports, and nightlife; therefore is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island as it offers something for everybody. Pafos is also home to a variety of monuments that have been preserved since antiquity such as Aphrodite’s Rock, Agios Neophytos Monastery, and a necropolis known as the Tombs of the Kings.
Pafos has a long history, dating back to the Neolithic period, and it is studded with legends, controversy, conflict, neglect, and momentous historical events. Today’s architectural and cultural remnants from Hellenistic times through the Roman eras are proof of Pafos’ forgotten great historical significance.
It was in the ancient kingdom of Pafos, also known as PalaiPafos in today’s Kouklia village, that Aphrodite, the legendary goddess of love, was born, and with her came a long era of cult worship. The Myceneans were the first to construct a temple in her honor, The Sanctuary of Aphrodite, doing so around the 12th century B.C. Legend claims that the mythical king Kinyras was the city’s founder and the sanctuary’s first High Priest. Another myth though holds Agapenor; the king of Tegea in Arcadia, Greece.
Ancient legend has it that Aphrodite was born out of the foam on the shoreline, with both Uranus and Gaia as parents. She was the result of Uranus’ severed genitals being thrown into the sea by his son Chronus. A rock on the south shoreline of the island of Cyprus, known as Aphrodite’s Rock or Petra Tou Romiou, is the mythical birthplace of the goddess. Aphrodite’s cult quickly rose to popularity, becoming known as the goddess of love and beauty.
The Aphrodite-worshipping cult was so strong that the area of the ancient Kingdom of Pafos, PalaiPafos, retained its magnitude, even after the city of Pafos had been relocated 10 miles away, close to a natural harbor by the last king Nikokles. The new city is called Nea Pafos (New Pafos) and although it was Nikokles who established it, legend has Agapenor, the King of Arcadians of Troy’s war, to have been driven by a storm to the island’s southwest shore and founded it.
The Kingdom of Pafos reached its apogee during Roman times when the Roman emperor Augustus incorporated it into the province of Cilicia. The city became the capital of the island of Cyprus and was embellished with several necropolises, theatres, sanctuaries, fountains, mansions, and aqueducts. The mosaics of Nea Pafos are among the most beautiful and best-preserved in the world. The ancient city was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980. Today, it is a major tourist attraction.
During Roman times, Christianity gained a foothold in Pafos and was generally well-received, although Saint Paul took a whipping at the Pillar of Saint Paul in the year of 45 AD. Another notable Christian was the Roman Governor Sergius Paulus, who accepted Christianity after seeing the miracle of Saint Paul’s blinding a magician named Elymas. Pafos then became one of the most important cities in Cyprus, and Christianity was rapidly adopted by the native population.
After the fall of the Roman empire, Pafos was annexed to the Byzantine Empire. During this period, in the 4th century, the capital of the island of Cyprus was moved from Pafos to Salamis. Pafos was weekend both financially and administrative and it was eventually reduced to a small settlement. As this was not enough, earthquakes hit Pafos and destroyed the Asklepeion, the Odeon, and the House of Dionysos. The final blow was given by the Emperor’s Theodosis order of closing down all the ancient sanctuaries. Pafos suddenly stopped being an important religious center of worship, which it has been for centuries. The sanctuary of Aphrodite weathered into ruins as it was periodically pillaged by Saracens.
The neglected city of Pafos was then successively raided by Arabs between the 7th and 10th centuries. This forced the inhabitants of Pafos to move to a new area, named Ktima. It wasn’t until the 10th century when the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros Phokas eliminated this thread, making it once again a province of Byzantium. The Byzantines went on to construct important buildings in the city, such as the Pafos Castel. During this time, Pafos grew in prominence as a stopping point for pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land.
Byzantine Period came to an end after the third crusade. Richard the Lionheart conquered the island of Cyprus, sold it to the knights’ Templar, who in turn gave it to Guy de Lusignan compensating him in this way for losing the kingdom of Jerusalem. This marks the beginning of the Frankish period in the island of Cyprus and Pafos.
The Frankish Period was a time of great upheaval. The medieval Kingdom of Cyprus was ruled by the French House of Lusignan, however, the Genoese were the “supreme lords and masters over the Lusignan House in Cyprus“. This lasted until around 1258 when the medieval Kingdom of Cyprus chose to support Venice over Genoa during their war of St.Sabas. The Kingdom of Cyprus and Genoese interactions began to deteriorate steadily from 1258 forward, culminating in a war between the medieval Kingdom of Cyprus and Genoa in 1373. The city of Pafos was among the various hostilities of the time. The Pafos forts, (Pafos Castle and the “Genoese Towers”) were captured by the Genoese. Despite numerous assaults launched by the Cypriot forces who also utilized “Greek fire,” the Pafos fortifications defied capture. All these ended when Catherine Cornaro became the queen regnant of Cyprus, and Pafos like the rest of the island of Cyprus was annexed under Venice. During the Venice Period, Pafos harbor maintained its importance by exporting silk, sugar, and cotton; allowing Pafos to remain as the commercial center of the southwest part of the island of Cyprus.
Throughout the Ottoman Period, between 1571 and 1878, Pafos was further neglected and nearly deserted due to continuous raids launched by pirates. Since it housed little wealth and offered little protection, it was often abandoned for other towns on the island of Cyprus. The few structures that remained were minarets on churches and the Ottomans’ Baths – a UNESCO-listed heritage site.
Pafos’ neglect continues even after the island of Cyprus became a British colony in 1878. People continued to move away to other more developed cities on the island. Many of them moved overseas. As a result, Pafos was the most underdeveloped area of Cyprus until the Turkish invasion in 1974.
It was only after the Turkish invasion in 1974 that Pafos became one of the priorities for development. The Turkish invasion led to the division of the island and to a large number of refugees. The need to develop neglected areas of the island was one of the major concerns for the government. Pafos was a top priority in this direction. Rapid economic activity in all fields was evident with major projects including the regeneration of Kato Pafos (Nea Pafos) to attract tourism, irrigation dams, water distribution works, road construction, and the creation of Paphos International Airport, which is the country’s second international airport.
Today, Pafos is a thriving city that has something to offer to everyone. It’s no wonder it’s become such a popular holiday destination – with its stunning beaches, rich nature, awe-inspiring ancient ruins, and abundance of things to do and see; Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach or explore the local culture, Pafos has something for you.
Visit the Tombs of the Kings: These are some of the most impressive ancient ruins in Cyprus, a World Heritage Site, and are a must-see when visiting Pafos. The tombs are located in the Kato Pafos archaeological park and are thought to have been built for Cyprus’ rulers in the late Hellenistic and Early Roman periods, between the second century BC and the first century AD. The tombs are hewn out of solid rock and are elaborately decorated with statues and frescoes.
Visit Paphos Archaeological Park: This historic site is home to Roman villas with opulent mosaics that are regarded as some of the most exquisite examples of that time, an early Christian basilica, and Byzantine fortifications.
Explore Aphrodite’s Rock: This natural landmark is said to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. It’s one of the most photographed places in Cyprus, and for good reason! The rock is located between two sandy beaches and is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a great place for swimming and snorkeling, and many visitors even climb up to the top of the rock.
Visit Lara Beach: This stunning beach is located on a stretch of coastline that has been designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty. The beach is well-known for its clear turquoise waters and lovely white sand beaches, and it’s a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.
Experience the Local Culture: There are plenty of opportunities to experience the local culture in Pafos. There are many traditional villages in the area, each with its own unique character. These villages are home to many festivals, events, and celebrations throughout the year.
Climb Up to Paphos Castle: This castle was formerly an important element of the city’s fortifications, having witnessed several tremendous battles. It is now a popular tourist attraction. The castle has been well-preserved over the centuries and offers stunning views of the surrounding area.
Explore Akamas Peninsula: This wild and rugged peninsula is a nature lover’s paradise. It’s home to dense forests, crystal-clear rivers and streams, dramatic cliffs, gorges, and secluded beaches. It’s a great place for hiking, camping, fishing, and swimming.
Enjoy a meal at one of Paphos’ Restaurants: The local food is a highlight of any visit to Cyprus, and Paphos has some fantastic restaurants where you can try traditional Cypriot dishes.
Take a Walk Along the Pafos Promenade: The promenade is a beautiful place to take a stroll and enjoy the stunning views of Paphos Harbor.
Walk Along Coral Bay Beach: The beautiful Coral Bay beach is one of the most popular beaches in Pafos. With its soft white sand and clear blue waters, it’s easy to see why!
Explore the Old Town: The charming old town of Pafos is home to narrow streets, quaint cafes, and beautiful churches. It’s a great place to wander around and explore.
Take a Boat Ride Along the Coast: One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Pafos is by taking a boat ride along the coast. You’ll see beautiful beaches, stunning cliffs, and the Mediterranean Sea!
Explore the Saranta Kolones Castle: This medieval castle is one of the most important historical sites in Pafos. It was built by the Byzantines in the late seventh century and was used as a military outpost to protect the city of Pafos from the Arab raids.
Visit the Odeon Amphitheatre: The ancient Odeon amphitheater was built in the second century AD, and it’s still used today for concerts and theatrical performances!
Party the night away in one of Pafos’ many nightclubs: There’s no shortage of nightlife in Pafos! There are plenty of clubs and bars where you can party the night away.
If you’re looking for a unique holiday destination, look no further than Pafos. This picturesque town on the Mediterranean Sea is a haven for tourists who want to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Pafos is home to some stunning beaches, ancient ruins, and fascinating cultural attractions.
There’s no shortage of things to do and see in Pafos! With its stunning beaches, ancient ruins, and charming old town, this city has something for everyone. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip to Pafos today!
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