Paphos is a beautiful island located in Cyprus
According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite, the Goddess of love, rose naked from the sea at Paphos and floated to shore on a scallop shell.
Try that sort of arrival these days and you’ll probably get arrested. Still, when your father is Zeus, King of the Gods, certain rules can be waived.
The amazing myths and legends surrounding this pretty harbour town, on Cyprus’s west coast, have always proved to be a magnet for tourists looking for that little extra from their summer holidays. And this year has seen its historical attractions take centre stage, with the town awarded the impressive accolade of European Capital of Culture.
On a recent break with my family, our first stop, like Aphrodite, was the harbour, touring the site that was originally home to a Byzantine fort, built to protect the harbour.Over the years it has been destroyed by an earthquake and torn apart by invading Venetians who were clearly blind to its charms.
The current castle was built by more invaders – the Ottomans – and since then it has been used as a fortress, prison and warehouse for salt by us Brits when we occupied the island in the 1800s.
As part of the culture festival this year, it’s home to a gallery of modern art and from the top you can still play out your soldier fantasies, looking out into the sea searching for any more likely attackers!
Just an arrow’s flight from the castle is the amazing Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
For just €4.50 we spent most of an afternoon being transported back hundreds of years, among archaeological remains from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages.
Most date from the Roman period, with detailed mosaic floors of four Roman villas being the most eye-catching of discoveries at the centre of the site.
Aphrodite’s Rock is a popular tourist spot
The sprawling complex includes other jaw-dropping monuments such as the Asclepeion, a sanctuary that was dedicated to Asclepius, the God of medicine, the ruins of Christina Basilica and the Tomb of the Kings, a network of tombs and caves that date back to the time of Jesus.
There’s even an Odeon. This one, an outdoor theatre built in the 2nd Century, doesn’t come with a popcorn stand and 3D glasses, however it’s built entirely from limestone and is used not for Hollywood blockbusters but musical and theatrical shows throughout the summer.
Stretching south along the coast from the harbour there are miles of beaches and hotels all linked by a single coastal path.
We stayed at the Louis Ledra Beach hotel, only available through First Choice, about 3km along the coast from the main town.
It’s a big favourite for British families, and from speaking to other holidaymakers it seems that many return year after year. Given the high level of service on offer from the attentive staff, it’s not hard to see why.
Like most guests, we opted to stay on an all-inclusive basis, with great quality food and drink available seemingly 24/7.
The choice of food is never boring either, with a different cultural theme every evening. We particularly enjoyed the Cypriot Meze night at the Sundowner Pool Restaurant, where delicacies such as lamb kleftiko, stuffed vine leaves, sardines and a pastry left me struggling to get my well-fed stomach in my Speedos the next day!
Beyond the hotel, Paphos is a foodie’s delight, too, with some of the best fish restaurants we’d ever dined in around the harbour. Our particular favourite was the Moulia Fish and Seafood Tavern, which served up giant platters of oysters, calamari and huge mussels that went beautifully with Cyprus’s number one lager, KEO.
The coastline features beautiful sandy beaches that can get a little rocky as you head into the sea. But treading carefully to get into the warm waters is worth the effort.
There’s plenty of well-run water sports companies offering speedboat trips, parasailing flights and jet-ski rides if you fancy a higher-octane experience on your break.
Slightly more sedate, but still with a watery theme, we also opted for a day out at the Paphos Aphrodite Waterpark.
With slides and pools for all shapes and sizes, it’s a great way to cool off and have fun in the sun.
We then headed to Pafos Zoo, just a few kilometres from our hotel, which started life as a bird sanctuary before expanding to take in all sorts of animals, including llamas, monkeys and kangaroos. But it’s the parrots that are the stars of the show with an amazing array of hilarious flying tricks.
It was an entertaining end to a wonderful family break.
The Premier Hotel Louis Ledra Beach
Top ten things to do in Paphos
1 Step back in time at the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park.
2 Spend a day as a cowboy by taking a riding lesson at the Eagle Mountain Ranch.
3 Enjoy a cooling glass of the local brew made on site at the Aphrodite Rock Brewing Company in the centre of Paphos.
4 Spend a day surrounded by the magical sights and sounds of the natural world at Pafos Zoo.
5 Take an inspiring early morning stroll from Paphos harbour, along the coastal path while the sun comes up.
6 Take the strain off your legs by enjoying the sights of the town by Segway.
7 Sit down with a chilled drink at the harbour and watch the local fishermen reel in your lunch!
8 Get a taste of high fashion at one of the boutiques in the cavernous Kings Avenue shopping mall.
9 Lie back and enjoy sailing down the long and lazy river at the Aphrodite Waterpark.
10 Explore the mountains around Paphos with an all-action guided jeep tour.
Try the calamari at the harbour-front restaurants
First Choice offers seven-night holidays to Paphos, staying at the four-star Premier Hotel Louis Ledra Beach on an all-inclusive basis from £683 per person.
The price is based on two adults sharing and includes flights departing from London Gatwick airport on March 7, 2018, and transfers.
To find out more about this holiday or to book, go to your local Thomson featuring First Choice travel shop, visit firstchoice.co.uk or call 0871 200 7799.