By Marina Aagaard, MFT. Photos: Henrik Elstrup and Marina Aagaard
A beautiful and interesting place for a holiday: Cyprus. Take a tour around the country, check out the coastline, walk, swim, dive or surf, hike or bike in the mountains. And of course visit Pafos, the former Roman capital, on the UNESCO World Culture Heritage List. Pafos, along with Aarhus, Denmark, is to be European Cultural Capital 2017.
Cyprus, Kýpros, (Cyprium and Cuprum), meaning copper. It is the third-largest island in the Mediterranean in the north-east part near Turkey. The population is approx. 858.000 (2014). The currency is Euro and the official EU-language is greek.
The island is divided in two, a Greek and a Turkish part, which is seen in the capital Nicosia which has a barbed-wire-and-oil-barrel-lined border. It is possible for tourists to pass the border via a checkpoint.
Cyprus has had a turbulent history, which goes back to the antiquity. The area around Pafos, in the east of the island, is well-known for its sights related to the goddess of love, Aphrodite.
Cyprus used to belong to the Roman Empire and later on Italy and in present times, from 1878 to 1960 (Independence Day 1.10.) it was under British administration, which is still clear around the island, e.g. you drive in the left side of the road and the plugs are British standard (remember your adapter).
Cyprus has a subtropical Mediterranean climate with 340 days of sunshine per year and apparently the area around Pafos has the warmest climate.
Cyprus has some very nice beaches (with brownish sand); some of the most popular are found 6 miles north of Pafos in the Coral Bay area.
The middle of the country is dominated by mountains and leafy forests.
Pafos city, approx. 32.754 inhabitants (2011), is a mix of ‘small tourist city’, with Pafos airport nearby and ‘cultural wonder’ with many archeological sites and mosaics, all of the city is on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.
Pafos, situated on a hill, has two parts:
Pano Pafos, the old or upper Pafos; the city centre, where the locals live, with many small shops and boutiques.
Kato Pafos, the new or lower Pafos, near the harbour, here are both historic sites and brand new tourist areas with hotels, shops and restaurants.
The signs for the amazing sights are puzzling in places, but don’t give up. Keep looking.
You can easily get around in Pafos on foot. And taking a bus from the bus station to the surrounding cities is very easy. You can also take a taxi, but it is not all that cheap and you have to agree on the price in advance.
By the harbour in Kato Pafos you find the entrance to a very large site; The archaeological site of Kato Pafos, with remnants from various time periods.
Even if much has disintegrated, there is a beautiful amphi theatre and som impressive mosaic floors from e.g. Dionysos’ villa. The place is worth a visit.
In the harbour area you also find Pafos Castle, a small fortress-like castle – and next to it a long beach promenade with modern benches.
On your way out of the city a little over a mile to the north, you find Tombs of the Kings, (several from around 400 BC), another UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
Fitness and wellness
For exercise lovers there are ample opportunities for walking, e.g. Avagas Gorge north of Pafos and Coral Bay, and running and cycling on the narrow mountain roads is also very popular. And Cyprus is a haven for diving, windsurfing, kite surfing and fishing.
Around Cyprus and in the hotels you will find small fitness centres and in and around the major hotels also pools and spa facilities.
All of the area around Pafos has been a centre of the cult of the goddess Aphrodite, which is said to have been born by the sea.
Close to Pafos is Petra tou Romiou (the rock of the Greek, above) called Aphrodite’s Rock, because it is considered the birthplace of Aphrodite.
A few miles to the north is Kouklia, where you find the Sanctuary of Aphrodite. A large archeological site and a small museum with selected findings.
Nicosia is the capital of Cyprus. Nicosia, is the Greek name, Lefkosa or Lefkosia, is the Turkish name as seen on many road signs. Nicosia is over 4500 years old and has been the capital since the 10th century. It was divided into a Greek and a Turkish part in 1963.
There are approx. 286.257 inhabitants (2011)
Limassol, Turkish name, or Lemesos, Greek name, is the second city of Cyprus with a population of approx. 101.000 (2011).
This city by the southern coast is a very important tourist city. It can be reached via Pafos or Larnaka airport.
It has a long impressive harbour promenade and behind this, there is a small city with pedestrian streets, shops, restaurants and coffee shops.
The port to the south of the city is one of the busiest in the Mediterranean area.
The Marina close to the city centre is under development and is super modern and elegant with brand new architecture and popular European fast-food restaurants such as Wagamama, Fridays, a.o.
To the west of Limassol lies the Kolossi castle built in 1210. A very small fortress-like castle, but apparently a popular tourist site on the island.
Larnaka is a tourist city on the south-east coast and the third city of Cyprus with a population of approx. 84.591 (2011). It has the second-busiest port on Cyprus and is a popular windsurfer paradise during autumn.
Some popular sights are the Kamares Aqueduct, a fortress from the middle ages, the Saint Lazarus church and the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque.
Agia Napa (Ayia Nappa)
A very popular tourist town by the coast in the eastern part of Cyprus; a city with lots of hotels, restaurants, bars and attractions. Beach and party are keywords around there.
A few miles outside of Agia Napa on the easternmost tip of the Greek part of Cyprus, there are some beautiful coastal areas and sea caves. If you can find them … the road signs are minimalistic, so keep a keen eye on the road side.
A few miles to the north close to Lefkolla, you will find a nature-made bridge and a small church and a grotto (photo at the top of this post).
Troodos mountains is a beautiful area in the middle of the island. The highest point is Mount Olympus, 1.952 m.o.h. – a ski resort with four pistes only.
Do not go to the top, though, as it is occupied by a British radar surrounded by barbed wire. If you want to see the views, take one of the lower paths.
From here you can walk, 30-45 minutes, to the water falls, Milomeris and Kaledonien.
Kefelos bridge; a beautiful stone bridge, hiding behind the trees. Walk a 100 m from the parking lot along the gravel road to find it.
Cyprus is surrounded by water and has several rivers, still it is a dry country. So large dams and reservoirs have been built to provide water to the inhabitants (photo: Asprokremmos Reservoir and Dam).
A small town with several hotels to the coast, a rocky coast with dangerous waters, however, by each hotel there is a small cove, a private beach.
Here the coast by Queens Bay Hotel (base camp).
Coral Bay is a real tourist town with lots of hotels and restaurants catering to different tastes. Here andria restaurant for meat-lovers.
A few miles to the north, there is a bay, where the water has carved grottos into the cliffs, sea caves. You can walk down to the rocky beach across from the sea caves, but beware and stay clear of the edges: Smaller and larger bits of rocks fall every day.
If you continue north, you get to Polis, a small town with approx. 1300 inhabitants, in the western part of Cyprus, right north of Pafos, by the Chrysochou bay.
From Polis you can go west to Cape Akamas, passing Latchi a popular small fishing town with several fish taverns and boat trips to the Akamas peninsula.
Baths of Aphrodite
The main attraction on Akamas is the Baths of Aphrodite. The name refers to the entire area, so do not look for ‘the bath’ on the beach, because you will not find it.
From the parking lot go through the park about 300 feet. There, among the trees you find a small grotto with a tiny water wall. From here you can follow the natural paths to the beach and surrounding areas.
On the beach you find a geology supersite: fantastic stones and rocks.
If you have half a day or more, you can walk from here to the Fontana Amoroza, popular bay (diving) area. It does not take that long, but you have to include photo stops. Wear sensible, non-slip shoes.
You can also join a ½ times jeep ride from the parking lot to the Fontana Amoroza. Or:
You can drive on your own, but you need a true 4×4 WD vehicle and very good driving skills. The road is considered dangerous and is not for your average rental car.
From Polis you can also go to the east. Just before the small town Nea Dimmata there is a small, but spectacular lava beach with an amazing wave scenario.
If you continue north, past the small town of Pomos, you get to another small town, to the very north of the Greek part of Cypus. In this town, Pachyammos, there is The Church of Saint Raphael. It is famous for its miracles and pilgrims come from all over Cyprus to pray in the hope of being cured.
The church is rather small and from the outside it looks quite plain and modern; it was built in the late eighties replacing a tiny church a few feet away.
Inside the church is breathtaking. Dark and with phenomenal murals in traditional style with biblical stories on most of the ceiling and walls.
Truly a sight worth seeing, when you are in that part of Cyprus.
There is an abundance of things to see and do in Cyprus …