Paphos, Cyprus – Exploring ancient ruins

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Despite of our visit to the archaeological site of Kourion, we were still not tired of exploring ancient ruins. Thus, we got into the car again and headed into the direction of Paphos, ideal for a day trip from Polis. After an hour drive we arrived at our first destination, the impressive necropolis known as the Tombs of the Kings, located two kilometres north of Kato Paphos.

Tombs of the Kings

The UNESCO World Heritage Site was built during the Hellenistic period and continuously used as a burial ground until the beginning of the 4th century A.D.. The well-preserved underground tombs and chambers are carved out of natural rock, surrounded by a desert-like landscape next to the sea. Despite the name no kings were in fact buried at this place, but it was the final resting place of high officials and Ptolemaic aristocrats as well as their families. Its name can be attributed to the grand appearance of the monuments.

Some tombs feature impressive porticoes with Doric columns. It is assumed that the walls of the chambers were originally plastered with frescoes, but only fragments have been preserved. Eight tomb complexes have been excavated and numbered for visitors.

It is a quite large site in a lovely setting next to the sea. We spent a bit of time walking around, exploring the tombs and enjoying the scenery. Really good value for money (€2.50); but you need to explore the area on your own as there are no local guides but just small info boards to read. You need sturdy shoes and it is also a good idea to bring some water with you. We would recommend a visit early in the morning during summer months, as there are only limited shaded areas.

Paphos Archaeological Park

The ancient city of Paphos, Nea Paphos, was founded in the late 4th century B.C. by Nicocles, the last king of Palaipafos. When Cyprus became part of the Ptolemaic kingdom (Hellenistic kingdom based in Egypt), Nea Paphos became the centre of Ptolemaic administration and later the capital of the island. Even after the annexation by the Roman in 58 B.C., Nea Paphos remained the centre of political life in Cyprus. During the 2nd and 3rd century A.D. most of the city’s public buildings were constructed, such as the Roman houses with the famous mosaics.

Following an earthquake in the 4th century A.D. that badly damaged the city, the capital of Cyprus was moved to the city of Salamis. After the Arab’s raid in the 7th century the fate of Nea Paphos was finally sealed. Paphos reduced in size and never returned to its former strength and glory.

The archaeological site of Paphos is well known for its beautiful mosaics. It is even said that they are among the most beautiful in the world. They are housed in the following four Roman monuments: the House of Aion, Villa of Theseus, House of Orpheus and the House of Dionysos.

The entrance of the excavation site is in the harbour area. There is free parking available next to the sight. At the ticket office we were provided with a map of the excavation site (entrance fee €4.50). Within the site there were signposts to navigate us through the area and info boards explained what we were looking at. Make sure you take some water with you.

Besides the Roman villas the site contains further remains of ancient buildings to be discovered. There is a small Odeon with an adjacent Roman Agora. The complex dates back to the 2nd century A.D.. The Odeon is well-preserved whereas only the foundations of the Agora survived.  Moreover you can explore the ruins of the Saranta Kolones Castle, a Byzantine castle which was built in the 7th century A.D. to protect the port and the city of Nea Pafos from Arab raids.

Furthermore, there are more ancient relics outside the enclosed area. They were also marked on the map that we had received at the entrance of the archaeological site. So we headed for the Agia Solomoni and the Christian Catacomb and afterwards stopped at the ancient theatre. We continued our walk to the church of Ayia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa, passing the Agioi Anargyroi Church and the medieval baths. After our visit at the Ayia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa church our legs hurt and we had seen enough for the day. It was time to return to our hotel in Polis.

Paphos’ attractions, the Tombs of the Kings as well as the archaeological site kept us busy the entire day. These excavation sites are well worth a visit, especially the Paphos mosaics are really stunning. So at the end of the day we were worn out, but pretty happy with all the things we had seen.

At our lunch break at the harbour of Paphos we had a funny encounter with a pelican. The bird just left one of the boats when we crossed its way. Reaching the ground the pelican performed a short dance for the bystanders, before it walked straight to one of the restaurants, entered the location and disappeared into the kitchen. Now, have a guess what the name of the restaurant was! The Pelican… Later we learnt that this pelican is the harbour’s mascot and it is called Coco by locals.

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