So, you’ve decided that it’s going to be Cyprus for your vacation this year but you can’t pick between Paphos or Limassol? We can see why you’re struggling. Both towns offer something unique; one a gritty port town with local character, the other a charming old center and access to the famous beaches of the west coast.
Thankfully, this guide is primed and ready to help you make your choice. It’s got all the info you need to compare and contrast the two places and home in on the one that’s best for you and your travel crew this season.
We’ll go through seven categories and weigh up what each Cypriot town can muster when it comes to beaches, to nightlife, to hotels, and a whole load more. Before you know it, you’ll be clicking “book” and dreaming about an adventure that’s riddled with ancient treasures and soft sands on the Med.
Paphos or Limassol for ease of travel
Limassol is one of the principle commercial ports of Cyprus, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s pretty well-linked to the rest of the island by road. That’s good news for travelers flying in, as both Larnaca Airport (the largest here) and Paphos Airport (more on that below) are about 40 minutes’ transfer away. Together those have oodles of flight options jetting in, some seasonal, some all-year. Being a port town, Limassol is also linked by ferry to other places in the eastern Med, including towns in Israel and Rhodes in Greece.
The Paphos International Airport offers a really convenient way into the resort town of the southwestern edge of Cyprus. It’s not quite as large as the arrival point in Larnaca but still caters to over three million travelers each year and hosts arrivals on charter and budget carriers from Berlin, London Stansted, Glasgow, Vienna, Warsaw – the list is plentiful. The great news here is that Paphos airport is just 20 minutes from the main town and well-suited for reaching the hotel areas around the beaches to the north of the city.
Winner: Paphos because it has its own airport.
Paphos or Limassol for beaches
Paphos sits at the gateway to the western coast of Cyprus. For many, that’s the single best run of coastline in the country. It holds the likes of Coral Bay – arguably the most pristine arc of sand and a major resort – and little swimming coves like St. George Beach – bring the reef shoes for that one! But you don’t even have to venture that far to enjoy the sand and the sea. There are urban beaches in Paphos in the form of Yeroskipou and Vrisoudia ΙΙ, which have hotels right behind and sit within walking distance of the center.
Limassol is on the south coast of Cyprus. The beaches there tend to be longer, less rocky, and emptier, provided you’re willing to ditch the city where there are always crowds. We’d say the highlights in the area are the long run of pebbles at Kourion Beach and the palm-dotted enclave of Pissouri Bay. In Limassol proper, the shoreline is largely dominated by a long promenade and boardwalk that’s not really great for swimming or sunbathing.
Winner: Paphos. It has both urban beaches and the gems of the western coast.
Paphos or Limassol for nightlife?
The after-dark scene in Limassol is much more local than the one in Paphos. That’s mainly because this is a lived-in city of commerce and trade, and not primarily a tourist center. Things will usually begin with sundowners on the promenade, where bars like Marina Breeze and Bar Du Soleil offer views of bobbing yachts in the harbor as the light fades. From there, move to the Limassol old town, where dive bars like Hustlers Rock Club meet happening beer halls like Mason Bar.
Paphos has a dedicated strip that’s much more like the thumping 18-30s resorts you get right across the Med, from Malia in Crete to Magaluf in Majorca. It’s called either Agiou Antoniou (it’s real name) or, simply, Bar Street (the moniker that international visitors typically use). There are all sorts up and down its length. You can hit Boogies to sing your heart out with karaoke. There’s Flairs for ladies’ nights. You’ve got AMNESIA CLUB for house raves and chart.
Winner: Paphos is the livelier of these two towns after dark, but you should go for Limassol if you don’t like the 18-30s scene.
Paphos or Limassol for history?
Paphos has to win this one on account of the sprawling archaeological park that’s right next to the buzzy new town and marina area. Cue the Archaeological Site of Nea Paphos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s got arguably the most incredible ancient relics on the island. Delve in to find the ruins of a Roman city, a Greek-era hospital, and the resting places of Cypriot nobility from 2,000 years back! We also think history buffs will love the Old Town of Paphos. It’s a charming hit of old Cyprus with narrow lanes and medieval churches, perched up on a hillside away from the promenade.
Limassol has its own offering of treasures from the past, but they probably can’t quite match what’s on offer in Paphos. Be on the lookout for the muscular Limassol Castle. It’s a reconstructed medieval fort that now hosts collections of armor and weapons from 700 or 800 years ago. A quick journey out to the west can take you to the castle at Kolossi, which has 15th-century dungeon rooms. However, the highlight of the Limassol region has to be the complex at Kourion. That hosts one seriously eye-watering Greco-Roman theatre and much, much more.
Paphos or Limassol for hotels?
The Paphos region includes some of the most sought-after hotels in the whole of Cyprus. That’s mainly because it encompasses the coveted resorts of the west coast, from Yeroskipou to Coral Bay. The city itself has plenty of midrange B&Bs and three-star apart hotels that are better for those with one eye on the travel budget. Here are some of the best options to consider:
- The Ivi Mare ($$$) – Luxury without any kids, this one’s an adults-only hotel that’s great for honeymooners.
- Kiniras Traditional Hotel & Restaurant ($$) – Stay right in the beating heart of Old Town Paphos in this historic hotel in a 1400s Venetian mansion.
- Crystallo Apartments ($$) – Self-catering apartments with a pool in the grounds that are within easy walking distance of the Paphos Strip.
The number of available hotels in Limassol reflects the fact that this is more of a cityscape than an out-and-out resort. You have about 380 options to choose from here compared to Paphos’s 695. Don’t worry, though, there’s a decent mix, including something at both ends of the spectrum. Let’s take a look:
- Olympic Residence Deluxe Apartments ($$) – This high-rise block of condo-style rentals comes with spectacular sea views amid the blocks of the city center.
- Harmony Bay Hotel ($$-$$$) – There’s a beach out front of this hotel and the swimming pools in the grounds are lovely. Rooms are modern and well appointed.
- Old Port Hotel ($$) – Get a place right on the promenade that’s chic and newly renovated.
Paphos or Limassol for nature?
For outdoors adventures, you’ll surely have to look to the greater regions of Limassol and Paphos. Do that and the good news is that there’s plenty on offer. For Paphos’s part, it offers access to the vast reserves of the Paphos Forest. They drape over the rising northern hills of the Troodos Mountains (the main central mountain range that dominates the heart of the island) to give long hiking paths hemmed in by big cedars and oaks. It’s probably the less-visited part of the island’s interior, but that’s actually for good reason…
Yep, many of the true treasures of the Troodos range are in the Limassol region. Travel one hour north of the city and you’ll be immersed in a land of limestone crags and sweeping woodlands; a land altogether cooler than the coast, we might add! This is where Mount Olympus, the highest summit in the country peaks on high, but also where the lovely gurgling streams of the Caledonia Waterfall await. It would be our pick for getting off the beaten path!
Paphos or Limassol for general vibe?
Make no bones about it – Limassol is a city. It’s a buzzy, happening, commercial port with grit and character. Nearly 250,000 people call this home, so don’t come expecting a neat-around-the-edges tourist resort. Instead, come for a truly lived-in place, which revolves around the atmospheric old core of streets that was laid out nearly a millennium ago. In the evening or early morning, the top people watching happens on the promenade walkway known as Molos, which stretches all the way up the shoreline in a medley of palms and parklands and cafes.
Paphos is a story of two towns. The main resort area of Kato Paphos is where the vast bulk of travelers will go. It sits right on the southwestern edge of Cyprus with beaches to the front and streets that juggle karaoke bars and souvenir touts. Just over 1.5 miles up the wiggling hill roads can bring you to Ktima or Upper Paphos, also known as Old Town Paphos. That’s an altogether sleepier affair, with cobbled alleys and café-dotted plazas and Gothic churches. Choose whichever you think suits you the most.
Winner: Draw – this is personal preference.
Paphos or Limassol – our conclusion
We’d probably recommend first-time travelers to Cyprus to go safe and go with the tried-and-tested resort town of Paphos. It’s home to the better beaches and has way more hotel options. Don’t write-off Limassol totally, though. It’s probably better if you’re a city slicker who wants the buzz of a real town or are eager to escape to the famous highlands of Cyprus to hike Mount Olympus and see the waterfalls.