Looking for a holiday spot that has great weather nearly year-round, fabulous food, jaw-dropping scenery, sweeping beaches and a dose of culture, all without breaking the bank? Then Paphos, Cyprus is your spot. Situated along the island’s southwest coast, it’s a great base for exploring the rest of the compact country thanks to its international airport and well-connected roadways, and it just so happens that the entire city has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site which means there’s no shortage of ancient sites to explore. Whether you want to spend a week relaxing at a posh resort, snorkelling in serene bays, lounging at a beach bar or dancing the night away, Paphos provides the ultimate getaway.
The proud locals of Paphos (also known as Pafos) will be quick to exclaim that their hometown is the original birthplace of Aphrodite, before pointing out the revered Petra tou Romiou rock where the goddess is said to have been born. Paphos’ connection with the mythological goddess of love permeates throughout, setting the tone as one of the Mediterranean’s more romantic spots. While that makes Paphos a good pick for honeymooners and couples, its laid-back vibe and relatively low prices have made it a popular vacation destination for UK and Russian holidaymakers, particularly in the summer months. But time your visit for spring or fall when the weather is still lovely, and you’ll get to enjoy everything this coastal city has to offer while avoiding the crowds.
From relaxing on stunning, sandy shores to exploring the best historical hot spots, here’s what to do in Paphos, Cyprus.
Wander around the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park
Being one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Cyprus, the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park is one of the most visited Paphos attractions and a great day out even if you don’t consider yourself a history buff.
Overlooking the picturesque beachfront, this vast historical site consists of ruins dating back to the Middle Ages, including the relics of grand Roman villas from the 3rd century AD which housed the elites. Incredibly, their intricate mosaic-tiled floors sat here undisturbed for thousands of years until a farmer discovered them in 1962, and are among the world’s best-preserved. These impressive tiles depicting mythical gods and everyday life are not only spectacular to look at, but also offer visitors and researchers a rare glimpse into life as it once was on this small island. One could easily spend hours wandering through the park, enjoying the gorgeous sea views and taking a quick trip over to the adjoining lighthouse.
Explore the Tombs of the Kings
Just down the road from the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park are the Tombs of the Kings, an ancient site with a rather misleading name. While no kings were ever buried here, a number of aristocrats and officials were, and this collection of underground chambers carved out of the bedrock offers a unique opportunity to learn about some of the first settlers in the area.
Similar to the Egyptians, early inhabitants believed that burying people in tombs allowed their soul to continue living, hence the elaborate network of burial chambers that sit here today. Take a walk around these well-preserved tombs and head deep into the caverns, making sure to pop into tomb number three which is the most impressive thanks to its grand, Doric-style columns.
Lounge on the best Paphos beaches
While Paphos has a rich cultural heritage, most travellers end up here to relax on the tranquil, blonde beaches. There are nearly 30 of them that wind along the Mediterranean shoreline; those off the beaten path serve up serene stretches of sand, while the more popular ones can be downright raucous during the busy summer season. A few good options are:
- Alykes Beach: One of the most frequented beaches and a family favourite, situated on the eastern side of town. Awarded a blue flag in recognition of its cleanliness and excellent facilities, this beach boasts 200 metres of sandy beach brimming with sun loungers and shaded umbrellas to hire.
- Paphos harbour: The promenade that winds along the sea near the archaeological park and lighthouse looks out over a long stretch of golden sand, and strolling along this spot is one of the best things to do in Paphos, Cyprus. Close to the waterfront you’ll find a great mix of restaurants, shops, bars and cafes along the water’s edge, making this area a fun place to spend the day, ogle at the fancy boats gliding up to the dock, or watch the sunset.
- Kissonerga Bay: Located about eight kilometres north of Paphos in a quaint coastal village, this sun-soaked spot is enveloped by banana plantations and several archaeological sites. A great option for those looking for a bit of peace and quiet, not too far from small village eateries.
- Lara Beach: Rated as one of the best bays on the island, Lara Beach is only accessible by boat or 4WD, which means it sees fewer visitors. Carved by the waves into the shape of a horseshoe, this remote site also doubles up as a nesting ground for green turtles during the summer. Go prepared with plenty of food and water and enjoy a blissful day away from the crowds
- Coral Bay: A hot bed for water sports, the lively holiday town of Coral Bay is only about 15 minutes from central Paphos and has a gorgeous golden beach tucked in a serene bay surrounded by crystal clear water. Don’t miss the nearby sea caves, where turquoise waters surround stunning rock formations.
Marvel at Paphos Castle
Although Paphos Castle may seem small, this former Byzantine Fortress is one of the city’s most iconic sites and considered one of the top things to see in Paphos. Perched proudly on the waterfront, it was originally built to protect the harbour from enemies of the empire, and served as everything from a prison to a warehouse over the years.
Today, locals use the castle as a festival gathering place, while travellers seem to prefer it as a backdrop for photos. Whatever the case, be sure to head there if you happen to be in Paphos during the annual Paphos Aphrodite Festival, which features theatrical performances right inside the medieval castle.
Enjoy some day trips from Paphos
Besides being a holiday hub thanks to its fantastic perch along the sea, Paphos is also a great base for exploring Cyprus. The A6 highway provides quick connections to southern cities like Larnaca and Limassol, while spectacular waterfall hikes, deep gorges, sea caves and mountainous wine regions are less than an hour drive away. From taking a buggy safari tour out to Aphrodite’s Rock to luxe cruises (including one on a pirate ship), there’s no shortage of unforgettable Cyprus day trips.
Click here to book Cyprus excursions from Paphos:
Where to stay in Paphos
The King Jason Paphos: Boasting spacious rooms and suites with modern furnishings, The King Jason Paphos will suit holidaymakers looking for a luxe, all-inclusive experience in an adult-only setting. Guests love relaxing next to one of the three swimming pools on a comfortable sunbed or in a stylish hanging egg-chair, and the large balconies are the perfect place to watch the sunset with a cool cocktail in hand. Click here to book
Vrachia Beach Hotel & Suites: Close to the village of Kissonerga, Vrachia Beach Hotel and Suites offers visitors spacious rooms and apartments a short drive from Paphos town and idyllic Coral Beach. Situated on a peninsula of its own, be sure to opt for one of the updated, sea-facing rooms to enjoy stunning views over the turquoise Mediterranean Sea. Click here to book
Alexander The Great Beach Hotel: This award-winning hotel offers visitors a range of high-end rooms in an enviable central location overlooking the scenic harbour and historic Paphos Castle. With luxury facilities like penthouse suites and private cabanas with infinity pools, the Alexander is guaranteed to impress. Click here to book
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