Paphos (or Pafos) in Cyprus has become known as the ideal place for the British tourist, with Sunday roasts and Irish pubs on every corner. But don’t dismiss it because of that – if you give it a chance, Paphos is quick to reveal its sleepy Cypriot charm and family-friendly appeal.
The myth is that the goddess Aphrodite landed at Paphos when she rose from the sea, and some say that the region is as beautiful as she was. Tiny traditional Mediterranean towns cluster around peaceful village squares, and the surrounding countryside features hills covered in pine trees and miles and miles of olive groves. There are also a number of great hotels and resorts to make your stay comfortable so you can really get to the business of relaxing.
The town of Paphos itself has an old centre of cobbled streets and charming pavement cafes set in the shade. Spend a day with the family exploring the age old temples and crumbling ruins, and have a ramble around the countryside, taking a picnic with you.
It’s quite awe inspiring to see, for example, the House of Dionysos, so called because this 2000 year old Roman villa is decorated all over with original mosaics of Dionysos, the Roman god of wine.
There is a Medieval castle in the harbour, much rebuilt down the centuries. It offers breath taking views and is the site of the annual open-air Paphos cultural festival every September.
More festivals take place throughout the year, with one of the most fun being in February. ‘Green Monday’ is at the beginning of Lent, and locals wear traditional dress, enjoy vegetarian food, and take part in a kite flying competition near the lighthouse. Other festivals include the Anthestiria Flower Festival in May, the Choir Festival in June, the Ancient Greek Drama in July and August, and many more festivities and gatherings throughout the year.
The food of the region is wonderful, using freshly picked fruit and vegetables, freshly baked bread, olives and goats cheese. The local speciality is mezze, or lots of small dishes to share, with things like salads, potatoes, hummus, and a meat or fish dish on offer, alongside some fresh bread. Local restaurants will also have a vegetarian or vegan version on request. There are also souvlaki shops which have pork or chicken kebabs in pita bread or on a platter, or a dish called gyros with beef. Don’t forget to round off your meal with the delicious Commandaria, which is a traditional sweet dessert wine of Cyprus.
You’ll all enjoy the beaches, 12 of which have been awarded a Blue Flag, meaning that they are safe and clean. The warm waters are perfect for swimming and snorkelling all year round, and most are sandy and unspoilt. Some are so quiet that turtles nest there year after year. If you come to beach near the Paphos International Airport between August and September, you may even see the turtles hatching!
There’s something about the sweet Cypriot air in Paphos that warmly invites you to drop your shoulders—and your worries, as well. Take a deep breath, and let the island’s favourite town take care of you. It’s a holiday you won’t soon forget.