Not that anyone needs an excuse to travel at the best of times, especially once COVID-19 has sunk its ugly head in the ground. My trip to the Mediterranean paradise island of Cyprus came as a much-needed escape from the COVID blues that has swept the globe and, wow. Cyprus really has something to offer everyone. From skiing in the Troodos mountains in the morning to sunbathing adjacent to crystal clear waters in the afternoon (season dependant). Who wouldn’t want to top the day off by sipping cocktails as you watch the magnificent Mediterranean sun go down softly over the horizon? Cyprus really is the island that just keeps giving.
The island is split from the Turkish occupied North and the Greek Cypriot south and is the only country in the world that has a capital city shared between two countries, Nicosia. My recent trip took me to the south-west coast to the beautiful Paphos and Akamas Peninsula. An area of extreme natural beauty, ancient archaeological world heritage sites, and some of the best sunsets in the world.
In this article, I am going to share 6 things you need to see and do while visiting the Paphos area and why Cyprus (and this particular Peninsula) is a fantastic trip to take.
1. Hike the Avakas Gorge
Now don’t get me wrong, putting these must-see and do attractions in any significant order is impossible, but first on our list is the magnificent Avakas Gorge. Nestled in the wilderness of the Akamas Peninsula this dramatic canyon is a favorite must-see and explore amongst hikers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The beautiful rock formations are home to a unique variety of fauna and flora. The gorge trail is just over 5 miles/8km long and does require some areas where you must ‘proceed at own risk’. Falling rocks are a real threat so you must remain vigilant.
At the beginning of the trail is a free parking area complete with toilet facilities and a fresh water fountain that is supplied by the mountains. Access to this however is once again across dirt roads. I highly recommend a vehicle with some bite to it. I did see a number of visitors sheepishly meandering the gravel cliff edge in cars more suited for a visit to the shops. Regular tour groups do come to visit the area but only walk a small proportion of the gorge. If you really wish to beat the crowds, hike the entire trail, but be prepared. We were pre-warned and reminded by ample signage of risks of falling rocks so please be wary. Also, never hike anywhere without informing someone of your plans. Mobile phone/cell service is minimal at the best of times in the area and should not be relied on in case of emergency. Always leave details of any solo excursions you plan to take with your accommodation and an estimated time of return. Ever seen the movie 127 hours… it is always better to be prepared.
An absolute must is a sturdy pair of footwear, ample food and water, and a first aid kit. This is a gorge and not a public footpath. The ground is uneven in certain places can mean it is easy to lose footing. Don’t arrive there in flip-flops or sandals and expect a coastal stroll. All this said, it is an incredible destination to visit while in this Mediterranean paradise. Waterproof footwear would be a bonus as you WILL get wet.
2. Marvel At The Breathtaking Blue Lagoon
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this gorgeous spot of natural beauty got its name. As is true in life, the journey is just as important as the destination. The route to the famous crystal blue waters is a 5 km off-road drive literally on a cliff edge. You may not know this but Cyprus is one of the cheapest places in Europe to rent a car. So for the adrenaline junkies, I recommend hiring an FWD and taking in the incredibly scenic drive. Alternatively, you can access the lagoon via boat/yacht, but you will miss the exhilarating offroad drive and cliffside views.
A word of warning to anyone planning on taking the drive. This isn’t for the faint-hearted. We took a group tour on a 4×4 Safari in which we had an incredible driver and tour guide with over 25 years of experience. The dirt roads and unprotected cliff edge made for some incredible scenery and heart bounding moments. This is something you really would miss out on by taking the smoother ocean path.
Arriving at the lagoon and overlooking the rugged landscape and impeccably clear water was something of a dream. Even in October when I visited, the water was absolutely perfect and it isn’t unusual to still be able to take the plunge into the month of November.
Take time to cliff jump into the clear blue and explore the surrounding caves as the Mediterranean sun glistens off the tranquil waters. The journey to the lagoon takes around 30-40 minutes from Paphos across the beautiful Cypriot coastline. Self drive and spend as long as you like here, or you will have around 1 hour to explore if you are part of a safari tour. Whatever you choose, visiting the outrageously attractive Akamas region is an absolute must.
3. Wander The Archaeological World Heritage Sites
Cyprus is shrouded in history and ancient mythology. It is easy to get lost in tales of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and lap up the stories left in the landscapes. While visiting the Peninsula, a trip to one of the archaeological world heritage site has to be done. I personally love history, myths, and fables and as a former Classics student, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass without absorbing some of these marvelous tales that have stood the test of time.
UNESCO Paphos Archaeological Park
Located slap bang in the center of Paphos town is the UNESCO ‘Paphos Archaeological Park’. This is a small city and should not be taken lightly. Again, good footwear is recommended, and bring your own water, as the ‘city’ is spread over quite some distance with few amenities other than the entranceway. It is just wonderful to be able to lose yourself in the history surrounding you and imagine the scenes these ruins have seen.
Ancient temples, rock-cut tombs, amphitheaters, and elaborate mosaic floors all reflect the sophisticated ancient societies of Paphos from yesteryear. The history here dates back over an astounding 8,000 years. The entire area is an absolute treasure trove for visitors, history buffs, and art lovers alike. Sheltered areas within the city are few and far between, apart from dipping into ancient Roman Villas, so be sure to take adequate sunscreen, hat, and water. The Mediterranean sun is not one to be messed with for extended periods of time.
A trip to the ancient city would not be complete without downloading the ‘PafosUNESCO‘ app. This is a treasure trove of information where you can take your own guided tour with full commentary on everything you are to see. From the stories behind the mosaics to the informative commentary running you through its past Neolithic, Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine eras. This video taken from this very app outlines just what this awe-inspiring destination has to offer. It is your very own tour guide that you can take as you please. Fewer crowds and less hast is definitely the way to absorb the incredible cultural history of this ancient land.
Entrance to the park is just 4.50 Euros for adults with discounts for concessions also available.
Stop Off At Cyprus’ Own Tomb Of The Kings
Another UNESCO World Heritage site on Paphos’ doorstep is the Tomb Of The Kings. Just two kilometers north of Paphos harbor is the large necropolis calved out of solid rock. The underground tombs actually date back as far as the 4th century BC. The area is in great condition considering its vast history and well worth a wander around. The ruins are in exceptional condition and would be a crime to not take advantage of the area only closed Christmas day, New Years Day, and Easter Sunday. What’s more, at only 2.50 Euros entry fee, it would be insane to let the opportunity slip. Freedom of these tombs is like nowhere else. You are literally free to walk and explore where you please and boast ancient mosaics that may be even more impressive than at the Archaeological Park.
4. Visit The Adorable Saint Nicholas Church
Sunsets here are literally out of this world. Take a trip to ‘Cyprus Sunset Point’ to take advantage of moments you will never forget. Situated approximately 3 km from Paphos central, is the beautiful Saint Nicholas church, in which the ‘Cyprus Sunset Point’ lays. The church, small in structure, has an interior and decor that would not be out of place in some of the world’s finest cathedrals. I was absolutely gobsmacked at the beauty of the tiny church that would be so easy to miss. The brilliant white exterior topped with a typically familiar and awe-inspiring blue dome finish links Cyprus to the Greek buildings more familiar in Santorini. With no crowds and a view beauty that rivals any of that of its Greek cousin, there really is no excuse to sit and appreciate this exquisite Cypriot gem. The combination of these two makes it all worth a trip. Situated just off the beach and overlooking the Mediterranean sea, it is little wonder why it is a hot spot as a wedding venue.
5. Warm Sand Between The Toes
Paphos has an array of beautiful sandy coastline and boasts some incredible beaches. One of its more famous is Coral Bay. Situated approximately 6 kilometers from Paphos town, it is little wonder why this horseshoe cove is one of Cyprus’s most popular beach destinations. The bay is sheltered by the tall limescale landscape which makes it a calm and safe environment for swimming. Like most beaches in the Paphos area, watersport facilities are always close at hand. Coral Bay is lined with thatched parasols and beachfront bars and restaurants, meaning you can feel safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to move far for the essential amenities.
6. Take A Dip At Adonis Waterfalls
The Adonis Waterfalls are just a stone’s throw away from Pathos central and are usually the last destination on the 4×4 Safari Tours. Legend has it that this is where Adonis, God of Fertility, and Aphrodite, Goddess of Beauty used to meet. The falls are shrouded in myth and legend and have been said to aid fertility to those who are struggling to start a family.
Take a plunge after taking the rope swing for a spin. A few too many beers the night before? The crisp refreshing water will shock that right out of your system! There are actually three small falls here to chill out for an hour or so and take in the limestone landscape that surrounds these ancient pools.