This little desert island is actually closer to Syria and Turkey than to Greece, although they speak Greek and eat Greek food. (And being a vegetarian is pretty easy–lots and lots of bread, cheese-haloumi and feta, mostly and lots of veggies. Just make sure to double-check the ingredients so you don’t end up eating lamb, which is in plentiful supply).
One side of it is Turkish, and there is strong border control. For people travelling with an EU passport, that probably isn’t an issue. But it isn’t recommended for folks traveling from the US.
A direct flight from East Midlands in Nottingham to Paphos airport is a four-hour flight. You fly over Brussels, hungary, Bulgaria, and Croatia, as well as Venice, which unfortunately I couldn’t see from the air.
When you approach the island the first thing you notice is the water–the varied jade’s of the Mediterranean Sea.
We stayed in Chlorakas (pronounced Clor-a-kah), about ten minutes from Paphos harbor.
This is the view from our deck.
There is a ship just off shore, which many years ago ran aground on a reef. To this day it remains, a beautiful landmark as the cerulean seas crash around it.
Paphos is a tourist destination. This means lots and lots of Brits, a few Americans, and even fewer Greeks from the mainland. And a nominal handful of “other”. The beaches aren’t nice and sandy–they are full of rocks and shale, and if you are going to walk on them, wear sandals. Or, they sell those oh-so-attractive water shoes at any one of the many, many, many tourist trap places. Coral Bay, just north of Paphos, has a nice sandy beach, full of people who want to lay out and play with various water toys. I.E, it’s packed. And not terribly well watched…
And even further north of Coral Bay is Lara Bay, the turtle sanctuary. (We didn’t make it there). But a drive across Akama Bay takes you through some amazing Cypriot villages, seemingly stuck in time. Here, ancient wells dot the landscape, still used for those villagers who traipse through the desert to the local villages. And for those who herd the animals…
And then you make your way to Aphrodite’s Bath. According to legend, this was where Aphrodite and her nymphs would come to bathe after their amorous pursuits. To this day, it is a sacred pool. You can look, but you can’t go in. I can’t see where the water comes from, but it pours in brilliant streamers from the surrounding fig trees. It is well worth the drive, and the easy hike.
Cyprus is known as Aphrodite’s island. This is where she floated ashore on her seashell, and then made her home at the temple of Aphrodite in Kouklia. Where she landed, Aphrodite’s Rock, or the Petra tou Romiou in local lingo, is still a wonderful beach, with beautiful, multi colored stones and an amazing place for a sunset picnic…
The multitude of historical sites in Paphos makes it nearly impossible to see them all during one trip. And, if you go in the heat of summer, as we have just done, it can be a hot, sweaty process that leaves you dehydrated and desperate for cool water and cold air.
But, that said, the Temple of Apollo at Kourion, as well as the stadium and the restored Odeon, are some of the most amazing ruins I’ve ever seen.
And then there are the Tombs of the Kings. This ancient monument is dusty, intense ruins, spread out along a large area next to the ocean. While the contents of the tombs didn’t survive the raiders, the tombs themselves are a fascinating cross-section of Greek, Egyptian and Byzantine era buildings. Again, if you do this one, do it early in the morning or late in the afternoon, with a hat and bottle of water to hand.
And last, there are the waterfalls. Totally and utterly unexpected in this hot, dry country on the sea. But there, nonetheless.
There are the Green Valley Waterfalls, created and advertised to trap the weary drivers heading into the mountains to visit Mount Olympus, home of the Gods.
And then you come to Malimeri Falls. Not even on the map, it’s just a small brown sign pointing down a dirt road. A steep dirt road. Past walls covered with graffiti and down to an empty vineyard with vibrant vines still covering the portico. A steep, shaded path leads over a stream, where a wonderful Cypriot woman insisted we take cherries out of her bag as we passed, and then down to the fall itself, with a tiny beach to the side of the large, clear pool. A wonderful young Cypriot couple lay on the beach like nymphs out of the mythos of the island, gently teasing me to enter the pool.
And, finally, right at the base of Mount Olympus, Kalendonia Falls. You park, and then walk up the steep driveway that leads to the steeper path. It is shaded, and beautiful, and the sign at the beginning of the trail promises that it is worth it if you proceed, but to make damn sure you want to proceed. And no joke, it was a hell of a hike. By the time I reached the small cover of shade provided near the stream, I was certain I wasnt going to make it further. But I did, and it was so very, very worth it. The 60-foot falls crash into an arctic cold pool where you can see right to the bottom.
And last, because this blog is getting long and I took nearly 600 pictures as it is, I end with the many, amazing, incredible, beautiful mosaics I have ever seen, and the fact that they remain so well-preserved is astounding and truly awesome. They range all over the place in the ruins in Kouklia, Kourion and Nea Paphos. Books are available explaining all of them, and the Leda and the Swan mosaic by the Sanctuary of Apollo is celebrated in pottery and pictures all over the island.
Two words you should know: Efharisto (pronouced F- (like saying the letter) char-ee-stow, with the emphasis on the -ow) meaning thank you
Parakalo (pronounced Para-kah-loh, with the emphasis on the -oh) meaning please.
And if you are wondering, there is no “gay” paphos. There are one or two bars on the island, and I think there’s a hotel, but overall, there isnt any kind of scene. But our presence did not seem to bother anyone. One guy on the harbor mistook Sam for a man at first, quickly apologized, then asked “you are a couple?” I nodded and he said, “come in, come in, first drink on us!” No one blinked at us, even though there are more monasteries on this one island than I’ve seen anywhere else and many of the pottery shops have Christian/Catholic images on the walls. If you’re hoping for a “gay” vacation, you wont find one here. But the island itself makes it well worth it.