14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Paphos
A vacation favorite, Paphos, for most people, is all about sun, sand, and sea, but despite its fame as a seaside resort, this town has a bundle of great historical attractions that make a good diversion for days when you want to do more than flop on the beach. Paphos is divided into two parts: Kato Paphos, down by the harbor, is where the archaeological sites are, and Ktima is where you'll find the museums. During the height of summer, town can be clogged with visitors. This is the time to head out and explore the further sights of Cyprus' western coast. The Akamas Peninsula is home to incredibly diverse flora and fauna and one of the island's best hiking spots, while the rugged archaeological sites of North Cyprus' west coast are easily within day-trip distance.
1 House of Dionysus
The mosaic pavements of the House of Dionysus are among the finest to be found in the Mediterranean and are the top tourist attraction in Paphos. Discovered accidentally by a farmer ploughing his fields, the mosaic artwork here is excellently-preserved, with vibrant natural limestone colors, and depicts scenes from Greek mythology. One of the most well-known mosaics is found at the back of the house, depicting a Ganymede being taken back to Olympus by an eagle. The most famous mosaic though, is the scene depicting the triumph of Dionysos with the God in a chariot drawn by leopards, while behind him are a gathering of followers engaged in various revelries.
Just opposite this site is the House of Aion, where five mosaic scenes of superb quality still survive. Look to the top left for a depiction of Leda and Zeus in the form of a swan. The top right panel shows Dionysos as a baby, accompanied by various nymphs, and the middle panel depicts a beauty contest between sea nymphs of which Aion is the judge. The final picture shows Apollo punishing a foolish man who had challenged the God to a musical duel and lost. The House of Theseus is nearby and is worth a visit for the south wing mosaic depicting Theseus at battle with a Minotaur.
Address: Kyriakou Nikolaou Street, Paphos Archaeological Site, Kato Paphos
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Paphos
2 Agora & Odeon
There are some decently-preserved remnants from Paphos' Roman period scattered near the harbor area, all dating from the 2nd century. The Odeon (a small theater) is still used today for summer music festivals and has 12 rows of seating. In front is the large court (95 square meters) of the Agora, which functioned as a Roman marketplace with only the foundations and parts of the columns visible. Nearby are the crumbled remains of ancient city walls. Next to the Odeon is a modern lighthouse and a rocky mound believed to have been the Acropolis of the town. There was once a temple here, but little of this has survived. Just to the south is a collection of buildings, which served as an Asklepion (shrine of the god of healing, Asklepios) although not much remains.
Address: Saranta Kolones Street, Paphos Archaeological Site, Kato Paphos
3 Tombs of the Kings
A short two-kilometer stroll out of town brings you to the rock-cut chambers of the Tombs of the Kings. These impressive underground tombs date to the 4th century BC and are carved out of solid rock, some decorated with Doric pillars and all sporting a distinct Egyptian influence. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was a burial ground for ancient Paphos during the Greek and Roman periods and probably was used for high ranking officials or members of society of those eras. There are seven tombs to explore here, but if you're short on time, make a beeline for tomb number three, which contains the most interesting architectural elements with a wealth of columns surrounding its atrium.
Location: Kato Paphos
4 Hrysopolitissa Basilica & St. Paul's Pillar
This extensive ruin was once Byzantine Paphos' largest basilica, and the scattered columns and remnants of once beautiful mosaics are testament to its long-gone grandeur. It probably dates from the 4th century - at the height of Byzantine power in Cyprus - and was destroyed in AD 653 during the Arab raids across the island. At the eastern end of the site is the Ayia Kyriaki Church, which is still in use today for Catholic and Anglican services. At the western end of the site is St. Paul's Pillar, locally believed to be the pillar where St. Paul was bound and given 39 lashes as a punishment for preaching Christianity. After this he managed to convert the governor to Christianity making Cyprus one of the first Christian states in the world.
Address: Pafias Afroditis Street, Kato Paphos
5 Agia Paraskevi
If you're looking for some fresco finery, this Byzantine church in the district of Geroskipou is the best place to visit. Dating from the 10th century, its basilica is surmounted by five domes forming a cross and contains beautiful 15th-century murals of Jesus' life. In particular, the Last Supper is wonderfully well-preserved, though also check out the Betrayal fresco and the Washing of Feet fresco. The colors in all three are still incredibly vibrant. If you look up to the central cupola, you can see another great fresco of the Virgin Mary raising her arms.
Location: Geroskipou, Ktima
6 Archaeological Museum
History lovers shouldn't miss Paphos' Archaeological Museum, which contains an extensive collection of finds from excavations in the local area. Here, you'll find a well-thought out display of Cypriot antiquities from the Neolithic Age up to Ottoman times. The collection is housed in four rooms.
Room One has terracotta figures and idols from Lemba and red vases from Polis. In the middle of the room is a skeleton from the site of Lemba. Room Two contains pottery in classical Greek style, various sculptures, and a fine display of coins minted by the various City Kingdoms. Room Three is home to several sarcophagi and various Roman curiosities, including marble eyeballs and clay hot water bottles, and Room Four displays finds from the House of Dionysos site and exhibits from later periods, mainly medieval pottery.
Address: Leoforos Georgiou Street, Ktima
7 Sanctuary of Aphrodite
The Sanctuary of Aphrodite dates to the 12th century BC and was an important religious ritual center. The goddess was not represented in human form but by the conical stone, which was anointed with oil. Around the court are several chambers, which are a mixture of early construction and later Roman additions. The south wing is the best preserved of the building. There was possibly a Phoenician temple inside this wing in a small courtyard, but Roman reconstruction has added to the confusion of the original layout.
West of the sanctuary are Roman remains including a large Roman peristyle house built in AD 1. It consists of rooms around a colonnaded atrium and contains mosaics. The house was possibly a residence for the priests who tended the sanctuary. There are ruins of several other Roman houses on the site, most notably the house of Leda. This is reached on a marked path, and contains a copy of the mosaic depicting Leda and the Swan (the most famous in Cyprus).
Location: Kato Paphos
Despite the wealth of historical sites in and around Paphos, the resort is mainly visited for its superb beaches. On the east side of town is lovely Alykes Beach with plenty of good facilities, making it a top choice for holidaymakers with children in tow. For somewhere a bit less crowded, head to Kissonerga Bay (eight kilometers north of town), which has a gorgeously inviting strip of sand but rarely sees more than a handful of visitors thanks to its few facilities. Lara Beach (26 kilometers north), on the Akamas Heights, is the number one beach spot in the area - and rated as one of the best on the entire island. Here, you'll find a cove of supreme sandy bliss that is also an important turtle nesting site during summer.
A great half-day out from Paphos, the village of Fyti is a timewarp place with an atmosphere of gentle country life still palpable despite its easy accessibility to Paphos. Come here to wander the narrow streets idly and take a break from the buzz and hustle of the coast. While here pop into the Folk Art Museum, where you can see demonstrations of traditional textile weaving as well as trace the history of these crafts and purchase some fine silk and cotton products as well. Otherwise, just spend your time in the village soaking up the ambience of sturdy stone houses and old fashioned cobblestone alleys.
Location: 26 kilometers northeast of Paphos
10 Akamas Peninsula
For those looking to wear their walking boots, the Akamas Peninsula is a wild and beautiful place perfect for hikers and nature lovers. It contains a staggering amount of flora and fauna and is home to 35 plant species only found in Cyprus. The trails here are all well marked and organised, meaning everyone, not just seasoned walkers, can enjoy them. The most popular is the Aphrodite Trail, which takes around four hours and begins and ends at the Baths of Aphrodite and takes in the monastery ruins of Pyrgos tis Rigainas along the way. The other trail not to miss is the Adonis Trail, which is a shorter, three-hour walk.
Location: 44 kilometers north of Paphos
11 Paphos Fort
Although it's tiny, the Paphos Fort is one of the most recognisable sights in Paphos. Built in 1592 by the Ottomans, it is sited over an earlier medieval castle built by the Lusignans, which in turn was built over an earlier Byzantine fort. You enter by crossing a tiny bridge across a moat. Its prime position, overlooking the harbor, made it an excellent line of defense for the town. This is the number one spot in town for sweeping views across the Mediterranean. Climb to the roof for great panoramas of the harbor area and the sea beyond. There are also ruins of another fort on the breakwater, but these consist only of two lumps of rock.
Location: Paphos Harbor, Kato Paphos
12 Ancient Vouni
Paphos is a prime base for day excursions into the western side of North Cyprus. If you've rented a car for the day, crossing via the west coast main road's Limnitis-Yeşilirmak border (don't forget to bring your passport) is quick and stress-free. Head a couple of kilometers north from here to the photogenic site of Ancient Vouni, where the extensive 4th century BC ruins of a palace are scattered across a hilltop. Although archaeologists aren't completely sure of their history, it's thought the palace may have been Persian or Greek in origin. There are fabulous views across the sea and the countryside from here.
Location: 96 kilometers northeast of Paphos
13 Ancient Soli
Along with Ancient Kourion and Ancient Salamis, Soli is one of Cyprus' most important city-kingdom sites and had two important ages: first during the Assyrian period and then under the Romans and Byzantines. The most important part of the site is the basilica building, which contains remnants of preserved mosaics on the floor. Of these, look for the swan and dolphin mosaics, which have survived the most intact. Below, various ruins of an agora and city streets are scattered across the hillside, while above the basilica is a small theater. Ancient Soli is best visited as part of a day trip including Ancient Vouni. You'll need your own transport to get here.
Location: 101 kilometers northeast of Paphos
If you're interested in religious artwork, don't miss the Agios Mamas Church in Morfou (also known as Guzelyurt). This fabulous church, honoring the island's patron saint, is one of the most interesting you'll see in Cyprus. The wall paintings and frescoes are vibrantly fresh and all the more dazzling in the gloomily lit interior, with plenty of glitzy gold in abundance. The church is also home to the tomb of Saint Mamas, which is said to perform miraculous healings on those who leave offerings. Next door is Morfou's small Archaeological Museum, which is worth a look for the small collection of artifacts from Ancient Vouni and Soli. Morfou is in North Cyprus and is best combined with a trip to Ancient Vouni and Ancient Soli just to the northwest. You'll need your own transport to get here.
Location: 119 kilometers northeast of Paphos