Before my trip to Cyprus, I had a certain image in my mind of what the country would be like. And of the places I visited, the coastal city of Paphos is the closest to how I imagined Cyprus. Yes, you can find coastal scenery, beaches and history in places like Larnaca as well, but there was something about the feel of Paphos on the island’s west coast that lined up with my mental image of Cyprus.
Paphos is one of the most popular destinations in Cyprus and understandably so. There’s plenty of things to do in Paphos to keep you entertained if you want to do more than just spend your time at the beach and partying. It also makes a great base for exploring other parts of Cyprus as I found with a few day trips from there. You’ll no doubt come up with your own ideas for what to do in Paphos, but I thought I’d help you get started with this quick guide to the small city.
Walk the Waterfront
No matter how long you’re in Paphos, you can’t leave without taking a stroll along the beautiful waterfront of Kato Paphos. Sure, this is the tourist and resort centre of the city, but the harbour area really is quite pleasant. Following the waterfront path you have the shallow harbour waters on one side and restaurants, bars and public spaces on the other. Maybe it’s just me, but the palm trees and rocky coast help give the harbour a nice laidback feel.
But what about the beaches of Paphos? To find those you need to head a little further to the east, away from the lively heart of Kato Paphos. The closest to the centre are Alykes Beach and Vrisoudia ΙΙ Beach, neither of which is large or too flash. What’s nice about the beaches is that they’re quite sheltered; just don’t expect a magical tropical beach with white sand.
Agia Kyriaki Church
Paphos is a city with a long and storied past, featuring many remnants from its time as Nea Paphos or New Paphos. Many of these ruins are found around the modern neighbourhood of Kato Paphos, making them easy to reach and visit. Of the various free things to do in Paphos, I think the ruins of the Agia Kyriaki Church were my favourite.
The site features a 13th century church surrounded by the remains of a vast Early Byzantine basilica. Boardwalks take you over where the basilica once stood and allow you to see fragments of mosaics and pillars where the aisles once ran. It’s said that this site is also home to St. Paul’s Pillar, where the disciple was said to have been flogged. Another neat fact is that Eric Ejegod, King of Denmark, was buried here after dying en route to the Crusades.
Even without that folklore, I think it’s one of the most impressive ruins in Cyprus due to its scale and variety.
A little less impressive and accessible but worth seeking out if you’re a fan of ruins is the city’s Hellenistic-Roman Theatre. This site feels a little forgotten as it’s not especially well signposted, but there are paths and viewpoints that let you see it in decent detail. Interestingly, it’s the University of Sydney in Australia that’s currently working on excavating this ruin from circa 300 BC. Maybe one day it will be a fully accessible attraction that you can visit, but it shows the scale Nea Paphos once had.
Another small ruin tucked between homes in Kato Paphos are the Medieval Baths of Paphos. These baths date from the Medieval and Ottoman periods and have managed to survive even with growing urbanisation around them. Visitors can’t enter and there isn’t much information provided on-site, but I always appreciate when sites like this are preserved for future generations to see.
Paphos Archaeological Park
And now to the star of the show – the immense Paphos Archaeological Park. Also known as the Archaeological Park of Kato Pafos, to me this is the most important place to visit in Paphos. This park covers a large area that rivals the city centre and is home to a stunning range of Classical-era ruins, that have deservedly earned it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Allow plenty of time to explore the Archaeological Park. Not only does it feature a range of structures and ruins, you also have a fair walk to get from one to the next. I’m not going to go into detail for each and every ruin, just the ones that really leapt out at me. First of all there’s the fantastic Paphos Mosaics, detailed mosaic floors that once lined four Roman villas. While maybe not on the level of the Villa Romana del Casale in Sicily, they’re still beautiful and incredibly complete.
Beyond the mosaics there’s also the Roman Odeon, another large outdoor theatre that this time you can actually walk through. Nearby stands the Paphos Lighthouse, a monument with its own history to learn about. Finally, right at the northern end of the site are ancient catacombs hewn into low rocky cliffs. Not as many visitors venture up that end of the site as it looks abandoned but I think they’re not to be missed.
Along with a coastal walk around the outside of the Archaeological Park lies Paphos Castle down by the harbour. It may be a passing resemblance to the castle in Larnaca, but I would say it’s slightly less impressive. Understandably built to protect the harbour, the fortress is all that’s left of a larger defensive complex. Multiple earthquakes destroyed the other fortifications around the harbour, leaving this keep with Venetian and Ottoman features the last standing.
I didn’t see much point visiting inside as its main attraction is the views from its roof and it often looked quite busy.
Things to Do That I Missed
As with any trip, there are going to be things to do in Paphos that I as an individual may have missed out on. Whether due to time, personal interest or other factors, there will be things not mentioned here. During my Paphos visit I spent the bulk of my time in Kato Paphos and doing day trips, which means I didn’t cover every square inch of the city.
One notable attraction in Paphos I missed was the Tomb of the Kings. That may seem surprising given my interest in history, but it just didn’t fit into my plans here. By all accounts it’s definitely worth the visit and is quite large, so allow enough time there.
Another omission is the Paphos Old Town as I didn’t see much of it beyond the bus station. It didn’t quite seem like much of a conventional old town from what I saw, so I didn’t feel compelled to travel the distance to see it.
I also haven’t gone into length about places to visit near Paphos like Aphrodite’s Rock which I did visit, because these places are nowhere near the city. Don’t confuse attractions in Paphos City with those in Paphos District.
Travel Tips for Visiting Paphos
While not an exhaustive list of sights in Paphos, this guide should give you a starting point for your visit. But there’s more to visiting Paphos than just sightseeing. First there’s getting to Paphos, which you have a few options to consider. The city is home to one of the main airports in Cyprus, so you could start your Cyprus trip here. Alternatively, it’s easy enough to reach Paphos by bus or rental car from other major destinations like Larnaca and Limassol.
Then there’s the matter of choosing accommodation in Paphos. I actually stayed in two places during my visit, Artemis Cynthia Complex and Apollonia Holiday Apartments. Both have their strengths and are regular, affordable places to stay. I’d say that Apollonia Holiday Apartments had more of a personal touch and better location, whereas the Artemis Cynthia Complex felt larger and more modern.
Have you had the chance to visit Paphos and spend time sightseeing there? What other attractions in Paphos would you recommend people travel to while they are here? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.