Cyprus is a dream destination: sunshine, beautiful beaches, great Mediterranean food and a diversity of historical sites amongst which the Paphos Archaeological Park. Such park shows you what remains of Nea Paphos, the greatest Cypriot city from the 2nd to the 4th century A.D. There you will be able to walk amongst what used to be villas, palaces, agoras, roman baths and admire the most beautiful mosaic work in the World.
Foreword: Let’s clear out some possible confusion about the names!
Paphos is the name of the city and the district of Cyprus where it is located.
The Paphos Archaeological Park lies between the town of Paphos and the Mediterranean sea.
Such park includes the remains of Nea Paphos which meaning ‘New Paphos’ as well as the necropolis known as Tafoi ton Vasileon of the ‘Tombs of the Kings’ which is located further to the north.
Despite its name, Nea Paphos is far from new and the remains which can be admired mainly dates from the 2nd to 4th century A.D..
If there is a New Paphos, than there must be an Old Paphos, right? Well, indeed and the Old Paphos or Palaepaphos is located circa 16km from Paphos (10 miles). It was the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. The village of Kouklia is build in this area of Cyprus.
So Kouklia is the extremely ancient Paphos, Nea Paphos is the ancient Paphos and Paphos is the current Paphos. Got it?!
Oh! and Paphos is often spelled Pafos… just saying…
The main entrance of the Park
A touch of history
Nea Paphos remains date mainly from the 2nd to the 4th century A.D. What was going on in the World back then?
The Roman Empire was declining and only the Eastern Roman Empire also called the Byzantine Empire was going to subsist. The Byzantine Empire was created by Constantine the Great (around 330 A.D.) who shifted the capital of the empire from Rome to Byzantium, renamed Constantinople in his honor (now Istanbul). Constantine adopted Christianity as the official religion of the Empire. Constantine the Great’s mother built early the Christian monasteries of Cyprus.
Cyprus and the antique sites of Nea Paphos suffered numerous disastrous earthquakes and antique sites were rebuilt several times.
Yet despite earthquakes, wars and time, the remains of the Nea Paphos villas, palaces, theatres, fortresses and tombs are of exceptional architectural and historic value and the mosaics you can see there are among the most beautiful in the world.
The Paphos Archaeological Park and the village of Kouklia are together UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The Villa of Theseus and its Mosaic
The Magic of antique sites
There is something magical happening when you visit a site like the Paphos Archaeological Park, especially if you come with a good amount of curiosity, and a bit of fantasy. It is easy to just see rubble but it it is far more interesting to imagine what those buildings might have looked like, to picture people leaving there, to visualise the grandeur and beauty of each construction.
It’s not as hard as it may seems and even if I know my reveries were most likely quite far from the true, it made thinks so much more interesting! I walked the path walked by some Emperors like Constantine or Kings like Richard the LionHeart, I sat in the agora watching merchants selling goods imported from afar, waiting for some orator to bring news from Constantinople. I went on to have a bath and catch up on the latest gossip. And at the end of the day, I sat peacefully, drinking imaginary wine, and watching the sun setting on the sea.
A perfect day, really!! Well, except I like real wine better than imaginary wine! 😉
Roman bath structure and incredibly well preserved roman pipes
Mosaics from the House of Dionysos
most of the houses are protected by external structures like this one. They also provide very welcomed shade!
The Technical bits:
The Department of Antiquity of Cyprus website provides valuable information including opening hours and dates of conservation works undertaken.
www.visitpafos.org is another interesting site with plenty of information.
The Paphos Archaeological Park is a huge place. Wear confortable shoes, a hat and bring sunscreen if you intend to visit the whole thing. Better, bring your picnic or at least some snacks and lots of water.
I would not try to visit the park in the middle of the day on a summer day. But that’s just me!!
Be respectful of the place, the security signs and don’t litter! Obvious right?!
Next I will take you to the other part of the Paphos Archaeological Park to see the Tombs of the Kings!
Meanwhile if you want to learn more about Cyprus, you can check out this page or these books (the below links to these books are affiliated links, if you decide to purchase once of those books, I will get a commission at no extra cost to you).