As Paphos celebrates its current status as European Capital of Culture 2017, we give you even more reason to spend time exploring the intriguing town that has been inhabited since the Neolithic age and was once the centre of the cult of Aphrodite. A designated UNESCO World Heritage site for good reason, here’s the lowdown on must-see historic sites; from ancient theatres and colourful mosaics, to impressive fortresses and underground tombs bound to leave you wide eyed.
1. Paphos Mosaics
Greek mythology springs to life at what is probably the most famous archaeological site in Paphos, with old restored Roman villas adorned with impressive colourful mosaic floors portraying images from Greek mythology. The mosaics date back to the 2nd and 3rd century AD.
Where? Kato Paphos, within the grounds on the Paphos Archeological Park. Tel: (+357) 26-306217
2. Ancient Odeon & lighthouse
Still used for musical and theatrical performances, this small 2nd century odeon was built entirely out of limestone blocks. Take a look at the nearby remains of the ancient city walls, the Roman Agora and a building dedicated to Asklipeios; the ancient god of medicine and healing. The Paphos lighthouse behind the amphitheatre is a modern construction and if you climb up to the top, you can enjoy great panoramic views of the city.
Where? Within the Paphos Archaeological Park, Kato Paphos, near Paphos Harbour. Tel: (+357) 26-306217
3. Panagia Chrysopolitissa Church
This gorgeous church was built in the 13th century over the remains of a 4th century basilica. To the western side of the basilica stands Saint Paul’s Pillar, where Saint Paul was flogged before he converted the Roman Governor, Sergius Paulus, to Christianity.
Photo credit: Vladimir Zhoga
Where? Kato Paphos. Tel: (+357) 26-306217
4. Medieval Fort (Castle)
A must-see site located on the picturesque Paphos harbour, the fort was built during the Frankish occupation of the island in the 13th century, replacing the Byzantine castle of ‘Saranta Kolones’.
The Venetians dismantled the fort in 1570 so that the Ottomans, who had begun their conquest of the island, would not use it. According to an inscription above the entrance of the fort, the Ottomans rebuilt the stronghold in 1780. Nearby, stand the ruins of a second fort, which was probably built during the same period.
Where? Paphos Harbour. Tel: (+357) 26-306217
5. Saranta Kolones
Head here to spot the remains of a Byzantine Castle built by the Lusignans at the beginning of the 13th century, on the site of a previous Byzantine castle that was destroyed by an earthquake. The name ‘Forty Columbs’ (Saranta Kolones) comes from the great number of granite columns erected across the site.
Where? Kato Pafos, near Pafos harbour. Tel: +357 26306217
6.Tombs of the Kings
An impressive necropolis built between the 3rd century BC and 3rd century AD, this place lures thousands of visitors each year, home to over 100 tombs that punctuate the landscape. Although officially named Tombs of the ‘Kings’, they are actually believed to be the tombs of Paphian aristocracy and important officials.
Photo credit: Bensliman Hassan
Where? Tombs of the Kings Avenue, Kato Paphos. Tel: (+357) 26-306295
7. Fabrica Hill
Excavations here have brought to light one of the best-preserved quarries of the Hellenistic years, as well as an ancient amphitheatre, ruins of a temple, hidden worship sites, the remnants of an aqueduct and more. A very popular spot come sunset, breathtaking panoramic views of Paphos are really the things that dreams are made of.
Where? Close to the Ancient Odeon.
8. Sanctuary of Aphrodite, Kouklia
In the ancient Greek world, Palea Paphos was one of the most important pilgrimage centers of the ancient world due to its famous Sanctuary of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and fertility. The remains of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite date back to the 12th century BC while a great number of writers, including Homer, once referred to the sanctuary as the most revered temple in the world. Step into the museum housed in a Lusignan Manor, to catch a glimpse of interesting finds from the area.
Where? Kouklia Village. Tel: (+357) 26-432155
9. Chalcolithic Settlement, Lempa
Just a few kilometres outside Paphos, Lempa is believed to have played host to its first settlers in the Chalcolithic Period, and the village actually stands proud as one of the most ancient on the island, with excavations by the School of Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh having revealed a number of cruciform female figurines carved in stone dating back to Chalcolithic ages. But more than that, excavations have also brought to life an important settlement of the Chalcolithic Age (3900 -2500 BC), and if you head to the area, you can catch a glimpse of some great replicas of the five houses from this period that have been reconstructed using the same building materials used years ago.
10. Agia Solomoni Church and Catacombs
About a kilometre from Kato Paphos port, near Fabrica Hill, is a catacomb carved out of limestone rock dedicated to Agia Solomoni; one of the first saints to reject idolatry and embrace Christianity on the island. It is said that she took refuge in the cave to escape persecution from the Romans, who then walled up the entrance, condemning her to a slow death. But when the door was opened 200 years later, she miraculously walked out alive. The place forms part of small underground complex of chamber tombs dating back to the Hellenistic period. Walk down a set of stairs into the open court and then on into the church and you’ll spot the remains of 12th century frescoes.
Photo credit: Luciezr
Where? Kato Pafos, Apostolos Pavlos Avenue.
Cover photo credit: Mahout