16 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Paphos
A vacation favorite, Paphos (also spelled "Pafos") for most people, is all about sun, sand, and sea. Alongside its beachy vibes, though, this seaside resort is home to a swag of important historical tourist attractions that contributed to Paphos being anointed European Capital of Culture in 2017.
Paphos is divided into two parts. Kato Paphos, down by the harbor, is where all 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 of Paphos for some sightseeing and explore all the places to visit and things to do along 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 northern Cyprus' west coast are easily within day trip distance.
To help organize your time while in town, use this list of the top attractions and things to do in Paphos.
See also: Where to Stay in Paphos
1. Spend a Day on Paphos' Beaches
Despite the wealth of historical sites in and around Paphos, the resort's main tourist attractions remains 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.
Another very popular choice is Coral Bay, eight kilometers north of central Paphos. Its curving strip of soft, golden sand with plenty of sun loungers for rent, water sports operators offering paddleboard and kayak rental, and a couple of restaurants for lunch make it a favorite for easygoing days of sun, sand, and swimming.
All the full-facility beaches in the area have lifeguards on patrol throughout the summer months, and most have designated swimming areas.
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.
For a wild beach, Lara Beach (26 kilometers north), on the Akamas Heights, is the number one beach spot in the area, and is 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.
2. See the Mosaics of the House of Dionysus
The mosaic pavements of the House of Dionysus, and the surrounding mosaic houses, are among the finest to be found in the Mediterranean and are among the top tourist attractions in Cyprus. They are part of the larger Paphos Archaeological Site, which spans the western side of the harbor and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Discovered accidentally by a farmer ploughing his fields, the mosaic artwork here is excellently preserved, depicting scenes from Greek mythology using vibrant natural limestone colors.
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 the House of Dionysos is the House of Aion, where five mosaic scenes of superb quality still survive.
In this house, 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
3. Explore the Ruins of Paphos Archaeological Site
Although the mosaics of the Dionysus House inside Paphos Archaeological Site are the most popular historic attractions to visit within the ruins, the site contains the remnants of an Odeon, Agora, and Asklepion from the town's Roman period.
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
4. Visit the 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 BCE 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.
Address: Tombs of the Kings Street
5. View the Chrysopolitissa 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 CE 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
6. Gaze at the Frescoes inside Agia Paraskevi
If you're looking for some fresco finery to add to your things to do list, this Byzantine church in the district of Geroskipou (four kilometers southeast of central Paphos) is a great addition. 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.
7. Head out on a Boat Trip
There are dozens of cruise trips to choose from in Paphos. Most offer a four- or six-hour itinerary that includes lunch. The normal route casts off from Paphos harbor and then cruises north up the island's west coast from town with a stop for swimming and snorkeling at Coral Bay before returning back to Paphos.
This allows you views of the coast all along the way, with great opportunities to photograph Paphos Fort from the sea.
There is also a turtle-watching cruise boat that offers a two-hour trip on a specially adapted boat with windows below deck for easy spotting of turtles. The tour also includes a swimming and snorkeling stop.
There are also boat trips offered from the harbor at Latsi (the nearest town to the Akamas Peninsula). Most of these head to the sparkling turquoise bay of the Blue Lagoon, near the tip of the Akamas Peninsula, for swimming and snorkeling.
8. Stroll the Paphos Coastal Boardwalk
For seafront strolling, head to the recently extended boardwalk that trundles for about five kilometers along the coastline of central Paphos. The southern section of the boardwalk stretches from Paphos Fort down to the Louis Phaethon Beach Resort.
The trail passes by all the central Kato Paphos beaches along the way, with plenty of cafés offering sea views.
The more interesting section, though, is the northern half of the boardwalk, which heads from Paphos Harbor and its fort up to the Tombs of the Kings.
The path skirts the Paphos Archaeological Site along its way north and offers coastal views over Lighthouse Beach.
9. Photograph Paphos Fort
Although it's tiny, the Paphos Fort is one of the most recognizable 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.
Address: Paphos Harbor, Kato Paphos
10. Visit the Sanctuary of Aphrodite
The Sanctuary of Aphrodite is inside the Palaipaphos Archaeological Site in the village of Kouklia, a 16-kilometer drive southeast from central Paphos.
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 CE 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).
11. Hike across the Akamas Peninsula
For those looking to wear their walking boots, the Akamas Peninsula, 44 kilometers north from Paphos, 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.
12. Day Trip to Fyti
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.
The village is 26 kilometers northeast of Paphos
13. See the Collection inside Paphos Archaeological Museum
History lovers shouldn't miss Paphos' Archaeological Museum, which contains an extensive collection of finds from excavations in the local area. The collection, housed within four rooms, contains a well-thought-out display of Cypriot antiquities from the Neolithic Age up to Ottoman times.
Room One has terra-cotta figures and idols from Lemba and red vases from Polis. In the middle of the room is a skeleton from the site of Lemba.
Continue onto Room Two for 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, while in the last room, Room Four, you'll find artifacts unearthed from the House of Dionysos site and exhibits from later periods, mainly medieval pottery.
Address: Leoforos Georgiou Street
14. Day Trip to Ancient Vouni
Paphos is a prime base for day excursions to the historic sites and tourist attractions in the west of northern Cyprus.
If you've rented a car for the day, crossing via the west coast main road's Limnitis-Yeşilirmak green line entrance (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 BCE 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.
Ancient Vouni is 96 kilometers northeast of Paphos.
15. Stop in Ancient Soli
Ancient Soli is in northern Cyprus, about 101 kilometers northeast of Paphos. It's best visited as part of a day trip to Ancient Vouni. You'll need your own transport (or go as part of a tour), and you need to remember to bring along your passport for crossing the Green Line.
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.
16. Marvel at the Frescoes inside Agios Mamas Church
If you're interested in religious artwork, don't miss the Agios Mamas Church in Morfou (also known as Güzelyurt). 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 the town's small Archaeological Museum which is worth a look for the small collection of artifacts from Ancient Vouni and Soli.
Morfou is in northern Cyprus, about 119 kilometers northeast of Paphos. Don't forget to bring your passport along, as you'll be crossing the Green Line.
Most people staying in Paphos who want to visit come as part of a day trip that combines the church with visits to Ancient Vouni and Ancient Soli, which are just to the northwest.
If you haven't hired a car, you'll need to visit on a day tour.
Where to Stay in Paphos for Sightseeing
We recommend these great hotels and resorts in Paphos with easy access to the beach and town:
- Elysium Hotel: This luxury resort has beautiful sea views and a private beach. Also available are an indoor and outdoor pool, deluxe spa, and a kids club.
- Kefalos Beach Tourist Village: In the mid-range category, this property offers studios and apartments with kitchenettes, private beach, pool, and a coastal boardwalk location between Paphos Archaeological Sites and the Tombs of the Kings.
- Louis Ledra Beach: This affordable all-inclusive resort with a beachfront location, features bright rooms, multiple pools, and a spa with locally-inspired treatments.
- Pyramos Hotel: For a budget hotel, Pyramos offers great value. Staff are friendly, breakfast is free, and you can walk to beach.