Cyprus has been producing wine for almost 5000 years - small wonder then that the island is home to numerous grape varieties (some of which are indigenous) and delicious vintages to sample at one of many “wine villages”. Six different wine routes run throughout the island offering a unique glimpse into many small and enchanting wineries, three of which run near to Paphos. Route one (Laona – Akamas) heads from Paphos up to Polis in the north Akamas region and back, encompassing the famed wine region of Kathikas. As well as five wineries on this route you can enjoy the stunning scenery of the unspoilt Akamas region. Route two (Vouni Panagias – Ampelitis) has in excess of 20 vineyards, such as Ezoysa winery, Vouni Panagia winery, Kolios winery and Shoufas winery, and is a loop including Paphos and northeast as far as Pano Panagia. This ancient wine trail climbs towards the Troodos Mountains in an ages-old landscape where wine has been made for thousands of years. Route three (Diarizos Valley) runs eastwards from Paphos and covers the river valleys of Ezousa, Xeros and Diarizos, where you will discover two small yet fascinating wineries , as well as mountain villages, intriguing legend and beautiful scenery.
There are numerous boat cruises on offer from the bustling harbour at Paphos, just 30 minutes outside of St George, whether you’re looking for short trip or a longer, leisurely full-day voyage. Glass bottom boat tours depart regularly and offer a glimpse of the underwater world, including the Vera K wreck – a cargo ship that sank in the 1970s just 10 metres down. For a day of family fun, it’s all-aboard the Jolly Roger for pirate themed shenanigans and a tasty barbeque lunch. For experienced and budding anglers, fishing trip boats offer excursions to catch a variety of fish, from Snapper to Tuna and Bream to Barracuda. Catamarans and dive boats also operate out of the harbour, but if you are looking for more of a pleasure cruise, there are several luxury yachts that offer full and half day trips, exploring the Cypriot coastline around Peyia and Coral Bay where you can take a refreshing swim. You can even opt for an evening cruise complete with dinner and fireworks.
Natural areas of beauty
The Akamas peninsula is the most westerly point of Cyprus and is well worth the 35 minute drive from St George. The unique geography of this region provides a dramatic natural beauty, enveloped by myth and untouched by development or tourism. Here undulating limestone forges deep, narrow valleys, caves and islets run down to the crystal clear waters of the coast, where it is said that the goddess Aphrodite swam before making her way up the hill to a nearby freshwater mountain spring to bathe. Habitat to an abundance of flora and fauna, walking and mountain biking trails cross the region allowing you to get up close to nature, trace the footsteps of myth and legend and enjoy some spectacular views.
Regions to visit
Enjoy a leisurely day exploring the wild beauty of the Troodos Mountains. Your time will be well-rewarded in this wonderful, rugged landscape and many tours and excursions run from Paphos 30 minutes away, guiding you through the region’s treasures, particularly traditional villages with a unique charm, the great Mount Olympus – Cyprus’ highest peak – as well as the beautiful Kykkos Monastery. Keen ramblers will find various hiking trails with varying lengths and degrees of difficulty.
If you’re intrigued by Cyprus’ rich ancient history then a 30 minute trip into Paphos provides many museums for you to enjoy, most notably the Byzantine Museum, the museum of Ayios Neophytos Monastery, which is 9km north of Paphos and the Paphos District Archaeological Museum, housing some of the oldest, most fascinating artefacts found on the island from the Byzantine, Hellenistic, Roman and Bronze Age eras.
Churches / Cathedrals
Religion has had great importance in Cyprus over the years and this is evident in the number of churches and monasteries you can visit. You do not need to be religious yourself to enjoy these sites, which often combine great beauty with mythical intrigue and architectural splendour.
One such place is the mysterious Ayia Solomoni Church in Paphos, carved underground out of limestone where legend has it the Romans trapped Ayia Solomoni, who had embraced Christianity. 200 years later when the cave was opened the saint miraculously walked out alive. Today explorers will discover Hellenistic graves, 12th century frescos and holy water. Above the church stands an ancient terebinth tree where handkerchiefs have been hung as offerings to the saint in an act reputed to cure ailments.
Also well worth a visit is the Panayia Theoskepasti Church in Paphos, built in 1923 on the site of an ancient church that was reputedly protected by God from invaders with a veil of fog which made it invisible. Inside are splendid carvings and icons, including one of the Virgin Mary covered in silver. Outside the church stands atop a vantage point from which you can take in breathtaking views of Paphos below.
Up in the Troodos Mountains you’ll also find the Kykkos Monastery – founded in 1100 and widely regarded as the most impressive on the island, and one of the most significant. This beautiful structure enjoys incredible mountain-top views and houses some beautiful icons, including a silver gilt icon in a shrine of tortoise shell and mother-of-pearl. There is also a museum within, exhibiting a priceless collection of manuscripts and antiquities.
Just 20 minutes outside of Paphos you will find the Ayios Neophytos Monastery and a series of caves and grottos, said to have been carved out of the mountain in 1159. In this fascinating place you will discover some beautifully preserved frescos dating from the Byzantine era, as well as stunning views from its elevated position over Paphos.
Explore a place of religious importance at the Panayia Chrysopolitissa Church near Paphos. This 13th century church was built on the site of one of the largest and earliest Byzantine basilicas and here you will find St Paul’s Pillar, where it is told the saint was flogged. Colourful mosaics have also been preserved and are well worth a look. Anglican and Catholic services are held in the Church every Sunday.
In addition, the Panagia Tou Sinti Monastery, which is considered to be one of the most important buildings of the Venetian period, can be found on the banks of the river Xeros in the Paphos region, and in 1997 it received the “Europa Nostra” award for restoration and conservation. This tranquil and unspoilt location is the perfect place to relax and reflect on this beautifully restored World Cultural Heritage Site.
The Medieval Fort of Paphos retains its commanding, defensive position at the edge of Paphos harbour. With Byzantine origins, the fort has been reconstructed several times over the centuries after destruction by both man and nature, from invaders and earthquakes. During its long history, it was used, as well as for protection, as prison cells, and even as a storage area for salt when the island was a British colony. In 1935 it was declared an ancient monument and today is considered as one of the hallmarks of the Paphos region. This dominating structure provides a striking viewing platform and backdrop to the waterfront, as well as a venue for various events throughout the year, including the open-air Paphos Cultural Festival, which takes place every September.
Other Places of interest
Baths of Aphrodite
If you head up the west coast of the island to the Akamas Peninsula you can visit a site allied with ancient myth. The Baths of Aphrodite is a cool, shady pool surrounded by lush foliage and fig trees, overlooking the bay of Polis, where the goddess reputedly came to bathe and first met her lover, Adonis.
Petra tou Romiou (Aphrodite’s Birthplace)
Petra tou Romiou, or the Rock of the Greek, is associated with the Byzantine hero Digenis Akritas, who apparently threw a great rock into the sea with his phenomenal strength to destroy the ships of enemy invaders. Today the site is more commonly known as Aphrodite’s Rock. It is here legend would have it that the goddess Aphrodite was born and emerged from the foamy sea on the back of a scallop shell. Myths aside, this area has a staggering natural beauty, particularly at sunset, and no holiday to St George would be complete without a glimpse of this iconic place.
Your little people will love the selection of animals on show at the Paphos Zoo, which is located between the Coral Bay and St George areas, just 5 minutes outside of St George. There’s plenty to see, including its petting area, monkeys, giraffes, goats, bison and tortoises, as well as one of the largest private collections of birds in the world. From exotic parrots to birds of prey – and everything in between – there’s a nice balance between variety, entertainment and the ability to see everything and do all the creatures justice. Upon your visit, look out for the daily owl and parrot show.
Kato Pafos Archaeological Park
Approximately 30 minutes from St George is Paphos, a city rich in history that spans millennia. Here the lines between fact and fable frequently blur to create a fascinating aura of mystery amongst its historic treasures, many of which can be found at the Kato Pafos Archaeological Park.
One of the most famous sites to discover is the Tombs of Kings, about 2km north of Paphos harbour. Here a vast network of underground tombs has been carved into solid rock. You can walk freely among these tombs, some of which date back to the 3rd century BC. Although no kings are actually buried here, the name has emerged from the sheer magnificence of the spectacle you will discover here.
Another treasure to explore is the House of Dionysus, situated by the harbour in Paphos. These remains of a 2nd century house would have been the ultimate in luxury in its heyday. The decorated walls and mosaic floor are still preserved in some of the rooms, depicting mythological scenes including Dionysus - the Greek god of wine - riding a panther, earning the house its name. Other mosaics can be found at the nearby Houses of Orpheus and Aeon, as well as the Villa of Theseus, which together form a site known affectionately as the Paphos Mosaics. Still wonderfully preserved, these are generally considered to be the finest mosaics in the Eastern Mediterranean.
A celebrated site of the Kato Pafos Archaeological Park is the Paphos Odeon. This exquisite 2nd century theatre was built out of limestone blocks that have stood the test of time. It has been partially restored since its excavation so visitors can still enjoy live spectacles, including the Choir Festival every June and the Rhythms of Light festival, held each Wednesday throughout the summer, bringing this ancient treasure to life again with music and dance.
Nearby to the Paphos Odeon you can also explore the remains of the Roman Agora – a marketplace, as well as the remnants of the city walls, the Panagia Limeniotissa Basilica and an ancient building known as the Asklepieion for its dedication in its day to Asklipeios, the god of medicine.
Also nearby is the Paphos Lighthouse; a beloved local landmark, those fit enough to climb its staircase will be rewarded with wonderful views out over Paphos.
The remains of the Saranta Kolones (the Castle of Forty Columns) – named for the forty vast granite columns that made up its original construction – is another popular attraction. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1223, the building has origins dating back to the 7th century as a fortress to protect Paphos from invading Arabs.