CITY GUIDE: Pafos
The coastal city of Pafos has always been an attractive pull for tourists, even as far back as antiquity where it was divided in two: Old Pafos and New Pafos.
Near Old Pafos, at the seaside, lies Petra tou Romiou which is said to be the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation, where she rose from the sea. As a result, Old Pafos became the most revered place of worship for Aphrodite in the ancient world. Furthermore, the Temple of Aphrodite’s ruins lay close to her birthplace where the ancient ruins date back to the 12th century BC.
Aphrodite’s love affair with Pafos doesn’t stop there however as the Baths of Aphrodite, where the goddess is said to have bathed, also met her lover Adonis. Aphordite’s Fountain of Love is also said to give whoever drinks from the spring a sensation of overcoming their youthful desire.
In Greco-Roman times Pafos was the capital of Cyprus and the ruins of the Roman Governor’s Palace are a major tourist attraction with fabulous mosaics often referred to as amongst the most beautiful in the world. Other wonderful mosaics can be found at the Houses of Dionysos, Theseus and Aion which have been preserved under the soil since the 16th century.
Additionally, there are the mysterious vaults and caves, the Tomb of the Kings, the Odeon Theatre and the pillar where Saint Paul was said to have been tied and whipped. Other notable places of interest include the Byzantine Museum and the Pafos District Archaeological Museum which hosts a great collection of ancient Cypriot antiquities dating back to the Neolithic Age up to 1700AD.
Meanwhile, along the city’s harbour sits Pafos Castle which was originally a Byzantine fort built to protect it. It was rebuilt by the Lusignans in the 13th century, dismantled in 1570 by the Venetians who were unable to defend it against the Ottomans, who in turn restored and strengthened it after capturing the island.
Pafos has such a colourful history that it is officially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has additionally been selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2017.
Today, in modern day Pafos, it is home to Cyprus’ second largest airport, Pafos International Airport and continues to welcome many tourists every year who want to experience its variety of offerings and high quality hotels.
Within the wider Pafos District towards the northwest is the beautiful Akamas Peninsula which is of such natural beauty the European Environment Agency has labelled it as one of the very few areas of endemism in Europe. Green Sea Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles annually visit to lay their eggs at the Lara Bay Marine Reserve. Visitors can also get a glimpse of the Cyprus Mouflon which is a wild sheep endemic to Cyprus.
IMAGE CREDIT: Tomasz Huczek, http://tomasz.cc