After successfully checking into Cyprus, it was off to explore. We started with checking out the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, which is right next to the harbour. In particular, the House of Dionysus (the Greek God of Wine) is one of the largest and the most impressive ruins in the park, with some of the best mosaics that we have came across. Rightly so as it is said to have the most impressive mosaics in the Mediterranean.
After our quite extensive walk around the ruins, it was off to a great restaurant that Dimitri (from the Port Police) not only recommended to us but dropped us off at. We soon became impressed with both the Cyprus food, as well as with the local Cyprus wine, which turned out to be both very good and very cheap.
We then spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the cute seaside town with its nice beaches, great bars and restaurants and enough shopping to keep Dee interested.
Next morning we took a 40 minute walk along the coast on a great boardwalk up to the Tomb of Kings. Quite a bizarre place with all these tombs carved into the solid rock, most of which are underground. Many date back to the 4th century BC, and are thought to have been the burial sites of aristocrats and high officials (but interestingly – no Kings) up to the third century AD. Some of the tombs are quite elaborate, featuring Doric columns and frescoed walls.
We walked back into town and found the Mall, supposedly the biggest in Cyprus. The fact that Cyprus was British up until the 1950’s, together with the large number of Poms living here, made us feel like we had suddenly been transported into Little Britain.
Our dose of modern “culture” over, it was time to head back again into ancient times. We headed off in search of St Paul’s Pillar where he was (allegedly) beaten when he first arrived in Paphos, the then Roman capital of Cyprus, before managing to convert the Roman head honcho of the Island. We found the pillar amongst a lovely ancient church grounds, along with interestingly enough the grave of Erik Evegod, the King of Denmark who was on his way to the Holy Lands when he suddenly dropped dead.
The weather in November was still holding up well so we got in a few ocean swims. We found a nice spot right in the town centre where all the locals conjugated for a swim and a chat, with nice showers and lockers. Beautiful clear water and interesting coastline to snorkel over.
We quickly fell in love with Pafos, with its lovely bars (one of which we visited to watch the All Blacks beat us in the final), restaurants, shops and friendly super people. Cyprus is actually one place in Europe where they give way to pedestrians. Everything is convenient, and with the large English population, you can get just about anything you want. We stocked up at Lidl’s as well as the local grog shop, as wine and spirits are dirt cheap here. We got out our bikes and found ourselves cycling around Pafos and its surrounds.
Since we had a cheap berth, we also took the opportunity to rent a car. We quickly found out that the shortest amount of time you can rent a car in Cyprus is 3 days – something to do with the insurance. So three days it was. At 240km long and 100km wide, Cypus is the 3rd largest island in the Med, there is plenty to see.
The first day we headed into the Troodos mountains, the largest mountain range in Cyprus. The highest peak is Mount Olympus at 1,952 meters, which hosts four ski slopes. There are lots of mountain resorts, Byzantine monasteries and churches on mountain peaks, with some pretty little villages clinging to terraced hill slopes.
After checking out a few of these villages and very old churches, famous for their painted interiors (ten of these churches have been granted World Cultural Heritage status by UNESCO), we headed off to Nicosia, otherwise known as Lefkosa. A lot of the cities in Cyprus have two names – a Turkish name and a Greek name. Nicosia/Lefkosa is also a divided city with the southern half being the capital of the Republic of Cyprus and the northern sector being the capital of either the Occupied Territories, or the Turkish Republic of Cyprus, depending on your point of view. In between there is a UN Controlled de-militarized zone that runs across the whole island.
We had our passports so we did a short trip across the demilitarized zone to the Turkish sector to briefly check it out.
It was here that we dropped Hugh off so he could continue his adventures through Egypt, Jordan and Israel.
Next day, we continued our own exploration of Cyprus with a trip to Latchi, where we were planning to take La Mischief next, only to find out that there was no room at this publicly run marina. Good thing we checked. No big deal as we just extended our time at Paphos. The berth cost us 54 euros for the 7 or 8 days we were there.
Aphrodite is pretty big around these parts and we checked out a couple of her key sites. Outside Latchi is a spring that is attributed to her, and we also checked out the rock of Aphrodite, which emerges from the sea, and according to legend, its where Aphrodite was born in the sea foam and rose from the waves.
There are quite a few other great Roman, Greek and Medieval ruins dotted around the island. We bought a day ticket that covered entry to those we wanted to see on the road to Limmasol and we did a bit of ruin hopping. Top of the list was Kourion, which was full of beautiful mosaics, a very scenic Amphitheatre and palatial ruined villas all built on a cliff top overlooking Kourion beach. We also visited Kolossi Castle and the Sanctuary of Apollo and of course the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, where the cult of Aphrodite was officially established on Cyprus in 1500 BC.
It was a very pleasant week and a bit when we pulled anchor and left for Limmasol, 50nm up the coast.
For photos of Pafos, click here.