Regarded as the site of a few gems of the ancient world, Paphos, specifically, the Old Paphos (Harbor) is believed to be the birthplace of the Greek Goddess of Love, Aphrodite whose beauty was formed from the sea squirt against a rock. Since the ancient times, Old Paphos was a major and famous pilgrimage destination as her temple was erected just back of the harbor. Strikingly as against the other temples where sacrifices and gifts were the worshipping methods, the Aphrodite temple allowed licensed prostitutes for easing the anguishes of the weary pilgrims. However today, very little is left behind with the only pillars remains.
With this temple, the town of Paphos acquired its riches and fame that is evident from the mosaic relics of the old Roman villas found here. Of these, three popular instances can be explored just besides the harbor, which showcase the episodes of mythology in different forms of glass, stone, and marble and are so the major tourist sites here. As per the excavations, it was found that Paphos in Cyprus was established in the 4th century B.C after which it also became the capital at the times of the Hellenistic and Roman eras.
Nestled by the side of the picturesque shore, Paphos well blends the history with grace, which can be felt while you amble on its small streets and its archaeological site revealing the stories that are thousands of years old. This time when you visit Cyprus, do make it sure to visit the archaeological sites of Old Paphos, which are comprised of palaces, castles, villas, mosaics, theatres, and tombs. UNESCO was convinced naturally to designate the entire town as the World Heritage Site. This indicates that Paphos is certainly the open-air museum.
Among all the ruins, I first visited the Paphos Castle at the harbor that was initially a Byzantine citadel rebuilt in the 13th century by the Lusignans. Saranta Kolones, Kato Paphos is the fortress built by these people in their early days of rule (12th century), which was perhaps built on the location of the Byzantine castle. Sadly, an earthquake in 1222 had destroyed it. Among the excavated gems here, the most notable are the mosaics in the Houses of Aion, Theseus, and Dionysos where they were preserved well below the soil for some 16 centuries. Next, take a tour of the Tombs of the Kings where you will come across the mysterious crypts and grottos. This ensures that you visit Cyprus probingly.
Then, look for the pillar of Saint Paul to which he was supposedly attached and beaten, the Byzantine Museum, the ancient Odeon Theatre, ancient city walls near Odeon, District Archaeological Museum offering a wonderful display of the Cypriot antiquities belonging to the Neolithic Age, a structure devoted to the god of medicine called Asclepius, and the Roman Agora. These elite structures also boasts mosaic floors that belong to the 3rd to 5th centuries, which are one of the superb in the Eastern Mediterranean showing off the episodes of the Greek mythology.
Further, you can also explore several catacomb of the early Christian period of which the popular one is Saint Solomoni Church with its 12th century frescoes. Its entrance holds a holy tree that is believed to heal the illness of those who offer to its branches. Then, just reach some miles out of the city to revere the rock of Aphrodite projecting from the sea. It was here that the goddess rose from the waves.
Close to Petra tou Romiou, Old Paphos also known as Palaepaphos is excavated that is among the most famous pilgrimage spots of the ancient Greek era. Here, explore the Temple of Aphrodite from the 12th century BC and the museum in the Lusignan Manor.
In Kato Paphos, explore the Panayia Limeniotissa Basilica of the Early Christian period and dedicated to ‘Our Lady of the Harbor, Panayia Chrysopolitissa Church and Byzantine Basilica built above early Byzantine basilica that was the largest on the island boasting the St. Paul’s Pillar, and Theoskepasti Church facing the harbor. Theoskepasti stands for ‘Masked by God’ as it was here where God dispatched a fog for safeguarding the initial church at the time of the Arab raids.
To the northeast, explore the Ayios Neophytos Monastery that is known due to its ‘Encleistra’, Enclosure. This one is sculpted by a hermit from a mountain, which even today holds a few of the superb Byzantine frescoes. For some more fun of art, head to the close by village church of Emba that is painted well.
So, do make a plan to visit Cyprus this time!