Tucked on the southwest coast of Cyprus, you’ll find the unique city of Paphos. Surrounded by famous Mediterranean destinations and Greek Islands, it’s easy to wonder what sets this small city apart, and is Paphos worth visiting?
Of course, if you’re a fan of long days at beautiful beaches with a cocktail in hand, Paphos is an easy pick. But what else does this ancient city have to offer? Get ready to be surprised. Known as the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, Paphos is filled with intriguing history and Greek legends. Fortresses, tombs, and intricate mosaics dot the landscapes, and a walk through Old Town is like taking a giant step back in time.
If you’re still pondering the question of is Paphos worth visiting, keep on reading. Below we discover what makes Paphos an ideal spot to relax, explore, ponder, dine, and everything in between.
1) Discover wildly beautiful beaches
If there’s one reason that makes the question of is Paphos worth visiting an astounding yes has to be its beaches. With an ideal Mediterranean climate comes long, hot, and dry summers, perfect for spending day after day at the beach – and you’ll be spoilt for choice in Paphos. Coral Bay, the most famous beach in all of Cyprus, happens to be at the doorstep of Paphos. Sheltered by limestone formations, Coral Bay is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, paddleboarding, or relaxing in one of the many sunbeds on offer. Here, you’re never too far from an afternoon cocktail and delicious lunch, making it a popular spot for holidaymakers to post up for the day.
The second most famous beach, Blue Lagoon, brings a very different vibe. Located a 30 to 40-minute drive from Paphos, complete with a 3-mile (5-kilometer) off-road drive along a cliff edge, Blue Lagoon is as breathtaking as they come. Although there’s not much of a beach to sunbathe on, you won’t mind as swimming, snorkeling, and cliff jumping into the deep blue water is irresistible.
If you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten-path beach to relax, not to worry. Paphos is home to over 31 miles (50 kilometers) of coastline, complete with 27 beaches. Kissonerga, for example, is only 5 miles (8 kilometers) away from Paphos yet rarely sees tourists. Or, pack a picnic, hop in your vehicle and drive down the coast. There’s no doubt you’ll find your own slice of paradise you can’t help but fall in love with.
2) Time-stopping sunsets, without the crowds
When you arrive in Paphos, you’ll soon notice that life is slower here. There’s no rush to pack as much into a day as possible, and you’ll rarely see locals in any sort of hurry – and this is especially true come sunset. As the sun nears the horizon, time stands still, and feelings of contentment fill the air. Most nights, the sky turns deep shades of yellows and oranges, and locals and tourists alike make time to watch the sun sink into the ocean.
One of the best places in all of Cyprus to watch the sunset is less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) from Paphos at Saint Nicholas Church – or Cyprus Sunset Point on google maps. The church itself is brilliant to visit, with a vibrant white exterior topped with a classic blue-domed roof. Watching the sun setting behind the church is a memory you won’t soon forget and easily revivals the more famous Santorini sunset, without the crowds.
Another favorite spot to watch the sunset is Oniro by the Sea. We’ll chat more about their divine seafood dishes in a bit, but even if you don’t indulge in food, posting up with a cocktail in hand and watching the sunset is a must. Unobstructed sea views, interesting sea caves, and a fairytale-like stranded cargo ship make it a stunning and unique experience. Plus, as Oniro by the Sea has largely remained off the tourist map, you’ll feel like you’ve found yourself a hidden gem and won’t have to fight the crowds for your perfect picture.
3) Intriguing history and Greek legends
We could go on for ages about the history of Paphos, so if you’re asking yourself the question of is Paphos worth visiting, it should be an easy answer for anyone who loves wandering ancient ruins and spending hours at museums. Whether or not you’re a history buff, there’s no escaping the fascinating past and legends surrounding Paphos. Greek mythology is particularly present here, and even the ancient city of Paphos is steeped in legend. The story has that Pygmalion fell in love with a statue he had made and was brought to life by Aphrodite, and their son founded the city. Another story tells of how Aphrodite herself emerged from the sea near the city of Paphos, being just born from sea foam.
Evidence of Paphos ancient past can be seen right in the center of the city. Paphos Archaeological Park feels like a small city and is home to four villas, including the Houses of Dionysus, Theseus, Aion, and Orpheus. Dating back 8,000 years, the intricate mosaic floors, spectacular temples, and elaborate tombs are an absolute sight to see. Even if you’re not overly fond of history, you won’t want to miss this UNESCO area.
Somewhat more recent history, the Tomb of the Kings dates back as far as the 4th century BC and is one of the few places in the world you’re free to explore the tombs and ancient mosaics to your heart’s desire. Or for those who are interested in Christianity history, St. Paul’s Pillars became an important pilgrimage site when Paul the Apostle came in 45 AD to convert the ruler from Paganism.
4) Breathtaking mountains and coastlines to explore
If you’re considering a trip to Paphos, you’re likely already aware it has incredible beaches and fascinating history. But did you know Paphos has just as many incredible hikes and landscapes to explore? There are not many places in the world you can sunbathe at a Blue Flag beach and hike dramatic gorges in one afternoon. Here, mountain meets the sea in dramatic fashion, and besides charming villages dotted here and there, nature has been left untouched and is yours to explore. If you’re a nature enthusiast, a few must-do’s include:
Avakas Gorge: Located just 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Paphos at the start of the Akamas peninsula, Avakas gorge is absolutely breathtaking. The gorge itself is just over 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) long and has sheer walk walls shooting 100 feet (30 meters) into the sky. As the gorge can be slippery and narrow, it is advised to wear sturdy shoes and be comfortable on uneven footing.
Adonis Waterfalls: Although little hiking is involved in reaching the Adonis Waterfalls, it’s still a remarkable place to visit for nature lovers. Deemed one of the most beautiful places in all of Cyprus, it’s easy to see why legend has it that Adonis, God of Fertility, and Aphrodite, Goddess of Beauty, used to meet here. If you fancy a swim, just be aware a bathe in Adonis Waterfalls is claimed to aid infertility.
Troodos Mountains: Just over an hour’s drive from Paphos is the largest mountain range in Cyprus – the Troodos Mountains. Here you’ll find a range of hikes and sleepy villages to explore, and Byzantine churches and monasteries hidden amongst the hills. Just be sure to keep your eye out for Cyprus snakes!
With the endless coastal and mountain hikes to tackle, it’s safe to say if you’re a nature lover, you’ll find the answer to is Paphos worth visiting an easy yes.
5) The food & wine
Hiking, history, and beaches aside, Paphos is worth visiting for the flavorful food and local wine alone. Cyprus’ unique location has allowed influences from the Middle East, Turkey, and Greece to shape its cuisine, creating dishes full of fresh produce, seafood, and exotic spices. No matter what time of day you wander along Paphos quaint harbor filled to the brim with local restaurants and waterside bars, you’ll be met with incredible smells that’ll cause your stomach to grumble.
One of the most famous dishes is meze, which is similar to Spanish tapas or Hawaiin pu pu. Although these are small plates, you’ll want to come hungry. After choosing between meat, seafood, or vegetarian dishes, between 10 and 30 plates will slowly make your way to the table, and it’s impossible not to want to try them all. Seven St. George’s is a fabulous place to taste traditional meze plates, but do be prepared for higher prices.
Another fabulous place to try out local fare is at Oniro by the Sea, which we mentioned above as a great place to watch the sunset. Picky and adventurous eaters alike will find favorites on the menu, with a mix of traditional flavors and casual eats. If you see souvlakia (grilled meat kebabs) or kleftiko (slow-cooked lamb), do yourself a favor and order these traditional dishes that’ll be cooked to perfection. When it comes to washing it down, keep an eye out for Commandaria. This sweet wine has the nickname ‘wine of kings and king of wines and is by far the oldest wine of Cyprus.
6) Step back in time in Old Town
Like many places in Europe, Paphos is split between Old Town and New Town. While both have their charm, Old Town Paphos is truly something special. Time seems to have stopped as locals go about their lives as they have done for hundred of years, lively markets sell everything from fruit and vegetable to leather shoes, and cafes buzz with families and visitors alike. To feel the Paphos culture and live like a Cypriot, be sure to choose a small hotel or Airbnb in Old Town.
In the middle of Paphos Old Town is another must-see: the Paphos Fort. Also known as the Paphos Castle, it was originally built as a Byzantine fort to protect the harbor, but over the years has been used for a range of things, including prison cells and to store salt. Nowadays, you can walk the grounds and building for a small fee, and with a small climb to the top, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of Old town and the harbor. You’ll also find plenty of museums to visit, most housed in beautiful colonial buildings, as well as charming shops and cafes.
The most magical thing about Old Town and a large reason to answer yes to is Paphos worth visiting, is that the longer you stay, the more you’ll fall in love with the local way of life. Everyone seems to know one another, and after a few days, the labyrinth of streets begins to feel like home.
7) World-class diving
Last on the reasons to answer yes to is Paphos worth visiting, but certainly not least is the incredible diving found just offshore. Here, it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time putting on scuba gear or if you’ve been diving for years, you’ll be spoilt for choice with quality and reasonable priced beginner classes and beautiful technical diving spots.
Shipwreck diving is a top highlight for those with a few dives under their belt. Just offshore and easily navigable is the Edro III, which sunk recently in 2011. Other popular wrecks include Laboe, Vera K, and Achilleas. Plus, as these wrecks have been classified as marine reserves, you’ll get to dive amongst an abundance of marine life.
Along the rocky coastline of Paphos, you’ll also find amazing caves, arches, tunnels, and caverns to explore. A few dive sites to keep in mind include Pistol Bay, Dinosaur Bay, and the Stage. While exploring the brilliantly clear water, watch for groupers, sea cucumbers, turtles, cuttlefish, octopus, and plenty more Cyprus sea life swimming by.
Is Paphos worth visiting? The final verdict
It should come as no surprise that Paphos is absolutely worth visiting. After all, with beautiful beaches, numerous mountains to explore, friendly locals, delicious food, and fascinating history, you may just never leave Cyprus!