This south-west corner of Cyprus has an ambience all of its own: soft breezes, old stone, elusive enchantment and an air of antiquity. This is the kingdom of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and her presence seems to linger. Paphos itself is really two towns, each with its own character; Ktima on the cliff and Kato Paphos by the sea, two kilometres down the road. The one is unchanged over centuries and thoroughly Cypriot while the other has expanded over the last decade from a sleepy fishing village and harbour into a bustling, busy, sprawling cosmopolitan resort which is still growing.
Roman Paphos was the island's capital, and the 3rd-century mosaics here are the finest in the Mediterranean. The atmosphere is fun loving and friendly, with plenty of bars, pubs, discos, a few nightclubs and innumerable eating places providing anything from choice Italian cuisine to sizzling souvlaki off the spit.
Swimming in the bay's deep, clear waters is good. The coastline to the north is peppered with small sandy coves but the area's best beach is a 15-minute drive away at Coral Bay. Paphos is an ideal centre from which to explore this region of wild coastline, unspoilt hillside villages and natural beauty; yet it takes less than an hour by car to reach Limassol.
Paphos combines both culture and entertainment in a conveniently sized package. In Paphos, you will find some of Cyprus' most stunning archaeological gems such as its Roman mosaics and Tomb of the Kings situated amongst beach-front resort hotels and golden beaches. Cultivated bananas grow in profusion along the south-western litoral, yet the Akamas Peninsula is one of the island's last unspoilt wildernesses and is home to flora and fauna species found only in Cyprus. Small beach resorts that have not yet succumbed entirely to commercialisation await discerning travellers and there are abundant land and sea-based activities to suit every taste. While Limassol is brash and Larnaka is demure, Paphos is quite friendly and is one of Cyprus' most desirable cities. Kato Paphos (Lower Paphos) is the port annexe of Pano Paphos (Upper Paphos) and is home to the greatest number of archaeological sites in the area. It provides a lively and friendly ambience in it's renovated port area where visitors, unlike elsewhere in Cyprus' ports, can actually swim. With its palm tree-lined boulevards, tasteful public and private buildings, Paphos is a pleasant place to spend a holiday. There are ample restaurants and watering holes and if you tire of the beach annexe you can always retire to Pano Paphos for an afternoon's stroll or evening meal.
Ayia Marina & Argaka
These two rural villages, mainly agricultural, are approximately 5 minutes drive apart on the way to Pomos Point. Each with a population of 1000 or so, they have coffee shops and a couple of tavernas serving locally grown food. Along the coastal road, a few minutes away, there are more establishments catering for the hungry visitor and locals alike. Argaka has two churches, Ayia Varvara being the oldest, whilst Ayia Marina has three including a very old Byzantine church in the forest about 1 mile away. In the area, there are several dams where fishing (under licence) may be possible. This part of the island is very fertile and has an abundance of fruit trees including figs, grapes, prickly pears, apples, oranges and lemons. Almost every weekend there is a wedding in the area and visitors are always welcome to join the festivities. Being rural, early morning walks are particularly enjoyable. There are some extensive, good beaches in the area. Both villages have groceries/minimarkets and a small Co-op store.
No more than a tiny fishing harbour and a bay overlooked by a large, sea-facing taverna and church. A simple and wonderful spot to relax and unwind or watch the night's catch being unloaded in the early mornings. A bird sanctuary is within a short drive. There are several tavernas nearby and Coral Bay is close. About 8 km north-west of Peyia, the traveller will encounter a tiny settlement with cafes, restaurants, a few isolated households, a guest house and a modern whitewashed church of St George.
A very small and attractive village in two parts, ‘Pano' and ‘Kato', on the edge of the spectacular Pitharolakkos gorge and close to the 16th century chapel of Ayia Paraskevi. Each spring the village is submerged in almond blossom. There is a folk museum in Kato Akourdalia. The Laona Project is very active here and a number of stone houses have been carefully restored. There are no shops in the village, but a part-time coffee shop in Kato Akourdalia serves snacks. The village of Miliou is a short drive away, the beaches of Latchi 20 minutes and Paphos 25 minutes.
Anarita is located about 15 minutes drive upon leaving Paphos heading towards Limassol. It is a flat area which in recent years is seeing more development.
Chlorakas is located just past the outskirts of Paphos town and before Kissonerga and Coral Bay. The centre of Chlorakas has a supermarket and a traditional Cypriot Coffee shop. On the coast, there are several good hotels, apartments, shops and restaurants.
11 kilometres (15 minutes drive) to the north of Paphos and 3 kilometres below the friendly, hillside village of Peyia is Coral Bay, the best natural beach in the area. This is an established resort with many villas set apart from one another above a wide curve of dark golden sand. The summer heat is often tempered by a gentle breeze, the sea has a shallow margin where children may play safely and, in the busier months, water sports on offer include pedaloes, water skiing, banana boats, wet bikes and windsurfing.
Close by the Bay you will find four large hotels, banks, minimarkets for provisions and souvenirs, bars, restaurants and other shops and, for casual alfresco meals, a couple of tavernas/snack bars overlooking the sea and a large restaurant in the next bay which is open during the day. More tavernas and local shops are a short drive away. A perfect location for a casual seaside holiday, this is also an excellent base for touring the Paphos area, with all it has to offer including it's European Blue Flag beach.
Droushia is rich in physical and cultural landforms and monuments. A few huge rocks of past geological eras are scattered in its landscape The traditional architecture is very rich with a few old peasants still wearing traditional "vraka" (baggy breeches), while amongst the village craftsmen is a coppersmith.
To the north of the town of Paphos, approximately 22km away, is the historical village of Kathikas with roots dating back to antiquity, built at the top of a hill. As for its name, rumour has it that the village was a stop-over for merchants and travellers since it is mid-way between Paphos and Polis Chrysochous. Here, they would rest along with their animals at the old inn which existed at the time. Today Kathikas is still one of the most attractive villages of the area, well known for its great many vineyards, grapes being its main product and their cultivation the main occupation of the villagers. Notable is the church of Panayia Evangelistria (AD 1870). The village forms part of the Laona project, whose concern is the general improvement and boosting of the greater area on the basis of its traditional character and nature.
Approximately three kilometres from Paphos was a medieval estate known for its vast production of sugar, now mainly agricultural area, although Emba hosts a lovely village market and has a very interesting church built on the foundations of an ancient Christian Basilican, probably 12th Century.
Geroskipou is located on the outskirts of Paphos in the direction towards Paphos airport. It has many shops, post office and is famous for its shops selling Loukoumi.
Small traditional village situated in the Akamas region.
Kissonerga is rich in physical and cultural features. Close to the church of Transfiguration lie the ruins of a tiny chapel. The area has many banana plantations which run from the outskirts of Paphos town, along the coast, as far as Agios Georgios.
Konia is close to the built-up area of Paphos with many urban services lying within its administrative boundaries. On a cliff facing the sea lies the chapel of Five Saints.
Kritou Terra is one of the largest and most attractive traditional villages of the region, famous for its plentiful water supply and fruit and nut trees. It is an oasis of green even in the hottest summer months. Traditional springs at the village's entrance and the taverna next to them have been skillfully restored. While Kritou Terra today has a population of 150, its population topped 800 in the 1940s. As part of the efforts to revive the village, Kritou Terra now hosts an Environment Studies Centre, has a taverna, several coffee shops, and a grocery store. It is five minute's drive from Droushia, which has numerous small restaurants and a hotel, and is 20 minutes away from the beaches of Latchi and Polis on the North Western coast of the island.
Latchi, with its coastal paved walk, is the picturesque harbour of Polis, known throughout Cyprus for its fresh fish. In the past it served as a small port for shipping carobs. The old stone carob warehouses have been converted into restaurants, fish taverns and places of recreation. From Latchi, travellers to Polis can go on short cruises to the Akamas, a must for all visitors.
Nestling amongst the trees on a Laona plateau north-west of Paphos is the pretty little village of Miliou. It is one of the smallest villages in the area with a population of about 60, and its limestone houses are perfect examples of traditional rural architecture. Like all rural communities in Cyprus the social life in Miliou centres on the little coffee shop where the village men sit in the leafy shade discussing politics and local issues. The relatively unspoiled state of the countryside and the village make it a real delight for the walker and naturalist. In the space of 20 minutes, you can find yourself on the beaches of Polis and Latchi or amongst the natural splendour of Akamas.
Neo Chorio is both a traditional village with coffee-shops and tavernas as well as a tourist one. In the hills just outside the village is the entrance to an intricate cave system, with beautiful subterranean caverns filled with stalagmites and stalactites.
About a 10 minutes drive from Polis you will come to the picturesque village of Peristerona. Bordered on one side by the Paphos Forest, and the hills scattered with olive trees, fruit trees, vines, wildflowers, herbs, and if you’re lucky enough, you may even come across some rare wild mushrooms. The views from this lovely village are superb with the Evretou Dam glistening in the distance and the Akamas peninsula stretching out behind it. At 499 metres above sea level, the summers are a few degrees cooler than the fierce summer temperatures in the coastal towns. Peristerona derives its name from the word "peristeri" – meaning pigeon. Years ago there were thousands of pigeons living in the nearby spectacular gorge of the eagles which can be visited today for excellent photography. As you approach the village you can’t fail to notice the magnificent building which houses the Byzantine Museum of Arsinoe, and the church of St Mamas built in 1911 next to it, like most village churches located in the centre of the village. The local economy is primarily agricultural and there are many small farm holdings still apparent. Recent years have seen a rise in tourism-related activities due to the popular demand of the area, which is rich in natural beauty, has a cool climate and has a traditional Cypriot atmosphere and architecture. The village is also becoming very popular with people wishing to own a retirement or holiday home and many development companies cater for this market. Peristerona is always a very green village due to the lush vegetation but, like most of the Polis area, it is spectacular in the winter and spring months, and ideal for artists and photographers and people who enjoy hiking.
A very large, almost overwhelmingly friendly village, now designated a town with its own municipality and tucked away in the hills about 3.5kms from Coral Bay and 15kms from Paphos. There are several coffee shops, grocers and heartily welcoming tavernas which provide simple but excellent food (if you ask in advance they will prepare special dishes or buy fresh fish for you). A picturesque drive north along winding roads through the Peyia forest and pretty villages brings you to the Akamas peninsula and Latchi's beaches, giving the possibility of countless memorable days out
There are not too many places left in Cyprus that haven't totally succumbed to the lure of the fast buck and, in some cases, overdevelopment, but Polis is one of those places. Polis is on the wide Chrysohou Bay that runs along the north-west sweep of Cyprus. The small town is ideally situated for holidays that actually leave you time to relax. Polis is the ideal base for trekking in the Akamas, swimming at a number of nearby beaches, touring the wine-making villages of the Akamas Heights or exploring the often wild and under-visited north-west of Cyprus. The jewel of the island, the Akamas National Park, is in the northwest. Ideal for walks, and offering stunning views to both sides of the island, it has to be the main magnet for visiting this quieter and less developed region. Development in the northwest is only about 8 years old and the area still retains its agricultural feel. Polis is much smaller and far more intimate than Paphos and the razzamatazz of mass tourism has not quite reached here yet. The northwest also gives easy access to the Paphos mountains and has some very large and interesting villages such as Droushia, Neo Chorio, Pomos and Pyrgos. It is an area to be explored with a great many beaches, many of them completely empty.
A large, attractive seaside village built on a slope between the sea and the wooded foothills of the Paphos mountains. There is a variety of restaurants in the area, two grocery stores in the village, a few sandy coves for swimming and a small, recently constructed fishing harbour with a well-known seafood restaurant. This is a beautiful area of deserted beaches and wild coastline with the Paphos forest and foothills as a backdrop.
Phiti & Lasa
Set deep in the Paphos hills, away from the souvenir shops, ice cream and hamburgers, the region is stumbled upon by only a handful of travellers, passing to or from Khrysorroyiatissa Monastery. The warmth and rich hospitality you'll find here are as sincere and old as Cyprus itself.
Heading east from Polis towards Pyrgos one enters the final frontier. This backwater too promises to remain untouched by the ever-encroaching spectre of high-rise blocks and tourist complexes for some time to come. At the moment it is a long arduous drive to Pyrgos, along a road which goes up into the Troodos mountains and meanders for miles through almost deserted woodland, before descending to a coast again. This detour is necessary in order to bypass the Turkish military enclave at Kokkina. Driving through these villages along the coast one can get an inkling of what Cyprus was like before the advent of modern tourism - a country of tiny rural villages and empty beaches. Pyrgos itself, however, is the last stop before the harsh reality of Turkey's military occupation reimposes itself. At the end of the road leading from the village are the tragically familiar barbed wire and fortifications which constitute the artificial 'border' between the free and occupied areas of Cyprus.
Steni is a small pretty village in the hills, by Peristerona.
Stroumpi is a small village located just off the main Paphos - Polis road, about 5 minutes on leaving Paphos.
The village of Tala is built at an average altitude of 280 metres, south-west of the monastery of Agios Neofytos. Tala enjoys panoramic views of both the sea and mountain and large areas are being converted into both villas and country houses, partly due to its pleasant climate. The prestigious 'Kamares Village' includes approximately 500 villas, built in traditional styles.
Limassolians have a reputation for being fun-loving and always ready to party. The wine festival in September and the Carnival in March are major events on the island. Limassol is a large, cosmopolitan port and resort with some of the best hotels in Cyprus and an enormous selection of restaurants, nightclubs, discos and shops. This the gateway to the mountain resorts which can easily be reached via a very good road from Limassol. Pissouri and Governor's beaches are within easy reach as is the enormous beach at Curium. The villages in the mountains around Limassol are set in the midst of vineyards and several are featured in our programme. The crusader castle of Kolossi, the headquarters of the Knights Templar and St John of Jerusalem, is within easy reach as are the ancient kingdoms of Curium to the west and Amathus to the east. It was in Limassol castle that Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre.
A large village of 4,000 people with a good variety of tavernas, coffee shops and several supermarkets. Episkopi is only a 15-minute drive from Limassol, 40 minutes from Paphos and a short drive from the archaeological site of Curium and the Crusader Kolossi castle. Curium beach is a five-minute drive away. The village is ideally located for visiting Limassol, without being in the centre of this bustling, large resort and also affords easy access to the Troodos mountains. The Secret Valley and Aphrodite Hills Golf Courses are a 20-minute drive away.
One of Cyprus' most famous exports is its exquisite lace and most of it comes from the pretty mountain villages Pano Lfkara and Kato Lefkara. The village is pretty enough even if you are not keen on frilly patterns or intricately designed tablecloths. A wander around its picturesque streets is almost certain to guarantee an invitation to 'see my lace' from the many women who sit at doorways, seemingly whiling away their hours in a relaxing hobby. The lace is undoubtedly of high quality and exquisite, but not necessarily dirt cheap.
Pissouri is one of the most attractive and friendly villages in south-west Cyprus. It is situated in the principal vine growing area with sultana grapes covering the surrounding countryside. This south-facing village, set high up on the hillside about 1,000ft above the sea, commands the most magnificent view of some 20 miles of Mediterranean coastline. To the south and east there are panoramic views of the coast, across vineyards, olive and carob trees, and to the north, one can see the majestic Troodos Mountains. Pissouri is situated just off the main Paphos to Limassol road. Pissouri Village has a lovely flower-filled central square for pedestrians only. There is a Greek Orthodox church, a good bakery, postal agency, banks and small supermarkets. Several family-run tavernas and restaurants serve excellent fresh food at competitive prices. In the summer months, the village holds a Cyprus Night in the square every Wednesday evening. There's food and traditional Cypriot dancing; everyone is welcome! In Pissouri village, where almost everyone speaks English, one can enjoy the friendly atmosphere and savour the relaxed and stress-free life of the village.
The mountains of the Troodos rise grandly above the scorching plains and coastal strips of Cyprus' south, culminating in Mt Olympus, the country's highest peak at 1952m. In the past, the mountains have provided refuge to religious communities, colonial civil servants and the wealthy of the Levant seeking respite from the heat. More recently it attracts skiers in winter and, in summer, hikers and weekend picnickers throng the spiralling mountain roads. Visitors to the Troodos should allow themselves at least a week to see most of what the region has to offer.
The capital and the main commercial centre, Nicosia, the last divided capital in the world, is often ignored when visiting Cyprus because it is not on the beach. A very dynamic mayor has, over the last 10 to 15 years, forced the renovation of the old town which is now quite charming with many cafes, open-air restaurants and shops within the narrow streets and gracious old buildings. Nicosia is only a half hour drive from Larnaca and it is very easy to reach the Troodos mountains from here too. The archaeological museum is world famous and must be visited. The Cyprus tourist office runs free walking tours every Thursday. The restaurants in Nicosia, because they cater for the home market, are the best on the island. The historic, divided inland capital and centre of the island's activities is not a resort but a place of interest and a useful base for excursions. The old quarters are coming alive with courtyard restaurants, craft shops and houses as traditional buildings are renovated to stand side by side with excellent modern shops. A visit to the Archaeological Museum is a must, the restored 18th century House of Hadjigeorgakis is worth a visit, and guided tours within the walls of the old city are run regularly.
Larnaca was once the main port of Cyprus and the wealth still shows in some very beautiful and gracious buildings in the old town. Larnaca has a very interesting salt lake which in spring is pink with flamingos. Like Paphos and Limassol, Larnaca has developed into a busy resort with many hotels and apartments built on the beaches that stretch away from the town. The town is a very central spot on the island and an ideal base from which to visit Protaras, Ayia Napa and even Paphos which is a two-hour drive away along the excellent new motorway. Larnaca has a very traditional, palm-fringed harbour promenade and a very large marina. There is a wealth of historical interest around the town including the church of St Lazarus, the Teke Muslim shrine, Kiti church and the monastery of Stavrovouni.
From its humble beginning as a small, insignificant fishing village, Ayia Napa now shoulders the mantle of Cyprus' prime sun-and-fun tourist resort. Ayia Napa is not everyone's cup of tea and 90% of people visiting here are overseas tourists on packages intent on specific and limited pleasures - drinking, eating and sunning themselves. The beach, while crowded, is good and the nightlife never stops.
Protaras is a slightly watered-down version of Ayia Napa. It is another beach resort area, but is more spread out, has a better range of beaches which tends to give visitors more breathing space. Protaras is considered by many one of the most popular resorts on the island due to its popular sandy beaches and a wide range of facilities, most within easy walking distance of wherever you have chosen to stay.
Paralimni has reluctantly taken over from Famagusta as the capital of the eastern section of Cyprus. It's a pleasant little town seemingly a universe away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist scene only a few kilometres away on the coast. There is a pleasantly paved central square with two versions of the church of Agios Georgios, a sprinkling of restaurants and shops and perhaps a gaggle of curious tourists.