Tourist will always flock to the beautiful island of Cyprus. The third largest island in the Mediterranean, has lots to offer the over three million tourists who holiday there each year. One major benefit is the year-round good weather; when The Luxury Travel Bible visited in February the weather was an extremely pleasant, T-Shirt-wearing climate. The island also benefits from blue flag sandy beaches and some of the cleanest waters in Europe.
Cyprus offers a wide range of activities for every type of tourist from family friendly resorts, to world class golf courses and spa retreats, a growing agro-tourism scene, beautiful vineyards… and also, dare we say, the party scene in Ayia Napa.
The country is also rich in heritage and culture. It is therefore unsurprising that in 2017 the city of Paphos was the joint European Capital of Culture (alongside Aarhus, Denmark).
Paphos is famous as the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Ancient Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty, and protector of Cyprus. Because of this Cyprus is considered the ‘Island of Aphrodite’ and the birthplace of Love and Beauty.
Aphrodite’s mythical birthplace is at ‘Petra tou Romiou’ - or Aphrodite’s Rock. It is said she was born here from sea, and emerged from the water to the shore aboard a shell. These beautiful rock formations emerging from the ocean should be viewed both from a distance in order to take in the beautiful coastline (Sunset is said to be the best time to view it). But visitors should also stop and walk down to the beach that the rocks are adjacent to; not only to admire the sheer size of the rocks and the mythology but also to view the handwritten memos left for Aphrodite. Much like the love locks in Paris, loving couples or those looking for love leave messages for the Goddess of Love to receive.
Legend has it that those (brave enough) who swim round the rock naked, anti-clockwise three times under a full moon will receive blessings including eternal youth and beauty, good luck, fertility and true love. TLTB wasn’t quite brave enough to give this a go… but maybe next time!
To continue the story of Aphrodite, a visit to the nature retreat of the Baths of Aphrodite is also a must. Visitors will walk a pretty route to the natural grotto. Legend has it that this is the place where the Goddess bathed in this natural cave and welcomed her lovers here including Adonis. Note: Strictly nobody is allowed to enter the baths, for this is strictly reserved for Aphrodite and her close friends.
To see ancient artwork dating back to the second century A.D, the Paphos Mosaics form part of the Paphos Archaeological Park. While so much of Paphos appears to be so modern, with modern shops, restaurants and bars plus activities, this park truly shows Cyprus’ heritage. The park is still under evacuation and in 1980 was named on World Heritage List of UNESCO for its outstanding ancient remains. The beautiful mosaics are considered among the finest in the eastern Mediterranean
The Paphos Mosaics features the Houses of Dionysos, Theseus, Aion and Orpheus which were the villas of four Roman noblemen that date from the 2nd to the 5th centuries AD. The decorative floor mosaics of the Houses depict scenes and stories from Greek Mythology and have been lovingly restored and preserved by dedicated archaeologists.
What makes these stunning mosaics even more amazing is that they were discovered by accident by a farmer in 1962 while he was ploughing his field and accidently unearthed one of them.
For more exploration of the ancient world, visit the vast Tombs of the Kings. Although separate in location to the Paphos Mosaics, the Tombs of the Kings also form part of the Paphos Archaeological park. To add even more confusion the Tombs were never the resting place of royalty as the name suggest, but rather local rich and influence officials. It was the sheer size and magnitude of the Tombs which gave them their name.
Still the impressive Tombs of the Kings features excavated tombs and burial carved out of solid rock and pits dug into the ground make up this astonishing necropolis, dating from the 3rd century BC.
During our visit TLTB fell in love with the Cypriot food and hospitality on offer. Before we had even arrived, I had been told by many that Cyprus’ hospitality was legendary, and I was certainly impressed while I was there. Word of advice: Never turn down an offer of food or drink! Such is the importance of hospitality to visitors; a local Cypriot will be left feeling very dejected if treats are turned down.
One of the best meals I had during my stay was at Koutourou. Plate after plate of delicious meats, salads and vegetables were served and of course the traditional Halloumi cheese which the area if famous for. Another night we attended a local tavern, Halamanduro’ and of course the food was both plentiful and delicious – the houmous dip and the chicken kebabs being particular favourites!
|I had been told by many that Cyprus’ hospitality was legendary ... it was true |
Always a good sign of a great restaurant when abroad, the restaurant was filled with local Cypriots enjoying a fun Saturday night. Live music being played by a small band meant that diners getting up take part in traditional dances. In a great display of the famous hospitality, my party of (probably) hesitant looking tourists were quickly invited up to join in and soon found ourselves all being adopted by groups of locals and taught the routine.
The highlight of the evening however, was when the waiter went around and dropped off packets of white napkins. This left my table utterly confused! Luckily a helpful local on the opposite table, leaned over to explain. While once they would have used china plates to smash at the feet of talented and entertaining dancers, this would be too wasteful and expensive. So today white paper napkins at thrown in the air at the dancers, creating a surreal snowstorm before settling into a white carpet at dancers’ feet.
OK, so this isn’t the most environmentally friendly of acts, but it was a great fun evening and shows how the Cypriots love to still honour heritage in everyday life.
Despite only being in Cyprus for a long weekend, I was certainly able to have a jam-packed and diverse break. From relaxing on the beach, to walking through beautiful countryside to being transported back thousands of years amongst stunning archelogy and culture to enjoying a little bit of adventure and sport and enjoying a wide range of delicious local food and wine. Over one weekend The Luxury Travel Bible certainly fell for Cyprus’ charms.