10.14.2019 - 10.24.2019
The second half of our visit to Cyprus much improved our opinion of the island. The western end around Paphos is less rural, has nicer beaches, and the historical places have been better preserved. We moved to a hotel in Paphos for four nights before we left and we're so glad we did.
It's very different and very nice and we would definitely recommend it and consider going back.
Before we left the Larnaca area though, we got out for a day trip into the mountains and found some amazing views and a very quaint village that is home to a handmade lace industry.
This Greek Orthodox monastery, dating from the 4th century AD, sits on the very top of one of the highest peaks in the area.
It is only open to men so we didn't go in but there are amazing views from the drive up steep, winding roads and from the small chapel outside the gates. You can see all the way to the coast.
We then traveled through some other small villages, past this magnificent Greek Orthodox Cathedral...
...to the village of Lefkara, famous for the handmade lace they produce. Lefkara was the most lovely village we visited in all of Cyprus. Narrow winding streets (do NOT ask Scott about having to drive through the streets that at points our car cleared with inches on each side!), beautifully maintained buildings, and shops full of the most exquisite lace. It almost made me wish I had a house to put some in! I did buy some clothes though - flowing things in preparation for Marrakesh.
A quick note before I move on to Paphos about our housesit. There were definitely pros and cons to it. Free housing is of course a plus. Being tied to the house to take care of house bound dogs was a minus. I'd forgotten the amount of time caring for dogs takes from your schedule, especially when they're shy and don't really like to leave the house. In the end, the part we enjoyed the most was the sunset we saw each night.
And I will long remember the smell of the place. Earth and animals - the universal smell of dry, rural landscapes. To me, it is a wonderful smell that brings back memories of childhood in Montana.
Paphos is a large, sprawling resort town on the southwestern coast of Cyprus. It has modern hotels, apartments, and condominiums stretching for about five miles along the coast. The water is beautiful and there are lots of restaurants and cafes. There is also a LOT of history and well preserved archaeological sites.
The landscape was very dry and brown in October but the rocky beaches are beautiful and the resorts were oases of green.
Although Scott teases me when I want to visit archeological sites about dragging him to "old holes in the ground with some really old rocks", even he was impressed by Nea Paphos, a site inscribed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO for its outstanding ancient remains. It consists of two major areas, the Paphos Archaeological Park and the Tomb of the Kings.
Paphos Archaeological Park
Still being excavated, the site is famous for the mosaics uncovered in the 1960's by a farmer plowing his fields. There is a large area of Roman villas dating from the 2nd century BC, two of which have been covered by buildings to preserve them. In the corner of one, a Hellenistic mosaic was uncovered under the Roman floor and it dates back to the 3rd century BC. Strolling the grounds and viewing the mosaics is remarkable - the details and colors are beautiful and the fact that they were not lost to time is truly astounding.
The House of Aion, one of the two covered houses, dates from the 4th century AD and has one of the most beautiful mosaics.
Our favorite though was the House of Doinysos, it occupies 2000 sq. m of which 556 are covered with mosaic floors decorated with mythological, vintage, and hunting scenes. It's is named after the god Dionysos who features on several of the mosaics. The variety in the mosaics, from purely decorative to intricate depictions of gods and animals, made it one of the most interesting places we've ever seen. (Sorry about the photo quality, it was hard to get pictures that really captured the color inside the building.)
Also on the site are remains from later times such as Arabian baths and the Saranta Kolones Fortress. Built by the Lusignans in the 12th century and destroyed in an earthquake in 1222, the pillars, arches, and moat that remain are fun to explore.
As a whole, the site is very large and amazing. Situated right on a point of land that juts into the Mediterranean, it also boast beautiful views and a lovely light house.
Tomb of the Kings
A misnomer of sorts as no kings are buried here, this vast necropolis on the outskirts of Paphos is definitely worth exploring. It was hot and dusty but the views and the amazing burial chambers, based on ideas imported from Egypt by the Ptolemies who ruled Cyprus from 294-58 BC, were worth it. In use from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD, the site is vast and only partially excavated.
Again placed right alongside the Med, the site is worth visiting just for the windswept, sandy coastal views.
Paphos is amazing as these types of archaeological sites are found throughout the town, some are closed off as they're being restored and others are just off the street with no explanation unless you have a guidebook. The tomb complex where the seven Machabee brothers who were martyred in 174 BC is one of these. Marked only by a tree filled with votive rags, you just wander down into it.
Last but not least on our tour was the Chrysopolitissa Basilica, another World Heritage site. The vast remains of a 4th century Christian basilica surround a smaller medieval church still in use. The original basilica was huge, having seven aisles still visible with the fallen columns that supported them.
Also on the site is the tomb of Eric Ejegod, the 12th century king of Denmark who died in 1103 on his way to the Holy Land, is buried and St Paul's pillar, the alleged place where St Paul was scourged 39 times before converting his tormentor, the Roman governor, to Christianity.
Alongside all of this history, Paphos is first and foremost a resort town. A favorite among the British, there are pubs serving Guinness and Shepherds Pie alongside the traditional Cypriot restaurants. The food is excellent, it's very walkable, and the beaches are great - many are designated Blue Flag. To top it off, there is a 7 km long walking path all along the coast - all the way from the Tomb of Kings at the western end, past the Archaeological site and the lighthouse, around the point to Pafos Castle, and ending at the eastern end with the very high-end resort.
Scott's impression of all the Roman Gods he's been forced to view the last few days - squishing the fort and all those mere mortals inside with one hand!
So all in all, we definitely loved Cyprus. Give it a visit if you want a very inexpensive and beautiful Mediterranean island but we'd suggest sticking to the Paphos area.