While on Cyprus, I decided to take a one-day trip to the town of Paphos. I had read in Lonely Planet that it was rated as one of the top ten European destinations for 2017. Yet many of the locals also said it wasn’t worth visiting. Well, here’s my own judgment on the town, and whether I think you should visit or not.
Where is Paphos?
Paphos is on Cyprus, an island in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea near Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. The island actually has the country of Cyprus on the southern half of the island, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (a dependent territory of Turkey) on the north half of the island. Paphos is in the country of Cyprus at the western edge of the island.
Paphos is one of the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites on Paphos, along with the Neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia and the Painted Churches in the Troodos Region. If you like history or these cultural sites, you should definitely visit Paphos.
Getting to Paphos
Paphos actually has its own international airport, but most of the flights (and the cheapest) go to the city of Larnaca. While you can rent your own car, and should if you plan to see a lot of the island, that can get expensive and isn’t necessary if you just want to see Paphos and other key cities. The island’s air-conditioned coach bus is €7 ($7.70) one way from Larnaca to Paphos, or €13 ($14.30) round trip.
Personally, I spent most of my time in Limassol, halfway between the two cities. The bus from Limassol to Paphos is €4 ($4.40) one way and €7 ($7.70) round trip. There are several buses running each weekday, but only half a dozen on Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t get up early enough to catch the 8 a.m. bus so opted for the 10 a.m. one instead.
As soon as I got off the bus, I thought I had perhaps made a mistake. The “town” seemed like your usual Balkan village. I started walking toward where I thought the attractions were, and within a couple minutes I was walking through a series of walking streets and shops reminiscent of an Italian Old Town, but which were completely deserted! It was actually a little spooky. I would have thought Sunday morning would have been a top tourist time to visit (not that I wanted a lot of tourists around), but I didn’t see a soul. The shops looked like they hadn’t been open in ages. Was this really Paphos?
Soon, I was onto a main road leading down to the harbor. Traffic was sparse, but last least there were a couple people about. And then I saw it. At the bus stop, there was a billboard proclaiming Paphos as the European Capital of Culture for 2017. Umm…
A little further on, I passed by the new King’s Avenue Mall, built not long before I arrived. As one of the largest commercial developments on the island, it seemed so out of place compared to everything I had seen already in Paphos, and all of Cyprus for that matter.
I had been aiming for the Tomb of the Kings, which had caught my attention on the map. I must have made a wrong turn. When I looked at the map again, I was walking in the wrong direction. But I was headed toward a castle, so I figured I’d keep going.
Completely unknowingly, I stumbled upon the Agia Solomoni Catacombs. A Japanese sculptor had established an art display within the catacombs and they were fun to climb through – sandstone caverns an unknown number of centuries old. They were also free. It was a little strange how this ancient site was available to simply wander around without any organized administration.
Finally I came upon the harbor of Paphos. Here, I finally found people and lots of them. Restaurants lined the quay and small huts every few feet offered tours in glass-bottomed boats for anywhere from €10 to €50 ($11-$55). A little further on, the boats were moored to the docks, waiting for their final passengers before setting off on said tours.
At the end of the quay was Paphos Castle. For €2.50 ($2.75), you can explore the castle, which is little more than a nondescript block structure. An art exhibit with a dozen or so pieces was scattered throughout the rooms of the castle when I went. In less than five minutes, I was bored. It was hardly worth the nominal entry fee.
Outside, a stage was set up and I was told there was to be a show that night. Unfortunately the last bus left before it started and I was unable to attend. My Couchsurfing host said he’d had a chance to see one of the best philharmonic orchestras perform outside the castle. Oh well, another item left on the bucket list.
From there, I walked along the seafront, enjoying a sandwich I’d picked up from a corner market and taking in the view. The seaside path circled the Paphos Archaeological Park, part of the Pathos UNESCO World Heritage Site, which contains mosaic floors from Roman villas among its ruins. The entrance fee for the park is €4.50 ($4.95), but I can’t personally comment on if it’s worth it; I didn’t even notice it on the map until writing this blog post! I think the next attraction made up for it.
The Tomb of the Kings
Another mile north of the Archaeological Park is the Tomb of the Kings. Only problem is, no kings were ever interred there. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a lot of information on what really happened there, when or why. Even Wikipedia is unhelpful, and the information panels throughout the site might as well be only written in Greek, as they throw a bunch of complicated words in to simply describe what you see in front of you.
Despite the lack of information, the bad reviews on Tripadvisor and the comments I overheard from people leaving in front of me about how the place was a disappointment, I really enjoyed exploring the ruins. I spent over an hour going through the eight tombs, all of which are unique. Some have columns and arches; others are your hole-in-the-wall crypts. Perhaps someday they will have a real establishment there with guided tours and informative panels.
Entrance to the park is, once again, €2.50 ($2.75). For that price, I’d certainly say it’s worth it. Personally, it was my favorite attraction in Paphos, notwithstanding missing the Paphos Archaeological Park. It took me a little over an hour to explore. If you know me, you know I move fast, so plan for a good two hours. Try to avoid the middle of the day, especially in the summer, as it gets bloody hot! Or perhaps go in the winter to enjoy the winter sun. There isn’t a lot of shade except underground in the tombs where it’s even hotter. Bring a lot of water too, and a good pair of walking shoes or boots. You’ll be covering a good deal of ground if you want to explore the entire attraction.
I ended up catching the 4:30 p.m. bus back to Limassol, even though there was one more headed back at 6:30. Please note: that was the Sunday schedule; during the week, there are more buses back and forth.
Between the bus tickets, the two attractions and my lunch, I spent less than €20 ($22) for the day. Obviously you could spend far more than that, enjoying the restaurants by the harbor, taking one of the glass-bottomed cruises, exploring the Paphos Archaeological Park and using public transportation to get around town (at €1.50 a ride). Hotels in town average about €100 a night if you want to stay longer and have the budget for that.
Do I think Paphos deserves the title of European Capital of Culture or one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Destinations in Europe to Visit in 2017? Um, not really. Do I think you should visit Paphos? Absolutely! It was a very unique experience and worth a visit if you’re in Cyprus. If you’re able to spend more time there, maybe you can even make it out to Aphrodite’s Rock. I heard from some that it’s completely overrated, and from others that it’s a must-see attraction. You’ll have to let me know, if you make it there before I return.
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Planning to Visit Cyprus?
I feel like I only scratched the surface of activities to do in Cyprus, especially without my own car to get around with. If you’re interested in the places I did make it to, here are my articles on them.
- Budget Travel Guide: Cyprus Isn’t Backpacker Friendly, But You Can Still Visit on a Budget
- Follow in my Footsteps: Exploring Kyrenia, Bellapais Monastery and St. Hilarion Castle
- Journal Entry: My SNAFU With Couchsurfing in Cyprus
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.
- 5 Steps to Book Cheap Flights
- Hostels: To Book or Not to Book
- Is Workaway Worth it for the Traveler?
- Click here to claim your $25 credit with AirB&B
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