All paths lead to Paphos

I’m going to level with you all: we didn’t originally intend to go to Paphos. Instead, our initial itinerary was Larnaca-Nicosia-Limassol, but the more we read about Limassol, the less interesting it seemed. When most sites are fairly far from the city itself and public transportation isn’t guaranteed, that’s a surefire way of getting removed from consideration. It was actually Polina who raised the idea of going further along the country and visit the west coast of the island. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical as not only did it take longer and the buses were far less frequent, but I didn’t think that there was enough to do; basic research told me that most attractions were focused on a water park, and that the city is pretty well geared towards tourism. How would we find enough to hold our attention for a day in the low season? Well, as it turns out, we made it work!

In order to get from our base to the other side, we took a bus that made a stopover in Limassol. As I remarked then, I’m glad we didn’t go there, because out first impressions were not good: it was super tacky/touristy, replete with tons of shallow-looking bars. Plus, it took us a good hour or so to wind our way out, since we made six stops. Now, I’m sure there are good things to do there, but I’m being shallow and judging it solely on the waterfront. Thankfully, we were able to move on and arrive uninterrupted to Paphos. Before I continue with this thought, I’d like to simply state that the countryside was splendid. There were some semi-rocky hills that added a certain element to the nature, and small, cozy houses dotted the landscape. If access to a car was given, I’d sure like to drive around and check out these small villages! Once we pulled into the Karavella bus station (this is the one, out of three, that InterCity Buses takes you from Larnaca), we immediately noticed how nice it and the surrounding neighborhood was. Guess that’s what experiencing a shoddy station the previous night in the capital does for your expectations. But I digress. The previous night’s research told us that we could take a bus from the station directly to the harbor, and we were proven correct by boarding one several minutes after arriving.

If you look on Tripadvisor, Paphos Harbor is listed as an attraction. Whether this is indicative of the city as a whole, we quickly saw that you could spend a day there. The requisite tourist restaurants were there along with the loutish touts trying to steer passersby to the vastly overpriced eateries, however you did get to have some pretty fantastic views to enjoy. Okay in fairness, some restaurants were reasonably priced. Before we were able to make that assessment, we had to grab some cash as we’d been less than stellar with making it last. After restocking, we then proceeded to stroll around just to figure out our plan of action. Polina, having done a little bit more planning on the shorter notice we had, found a glass bottom boat tour, and we met the guy selling tickets for it. So, having the tickets in my wallet, it was time to eat. We plunked down in probably the single most blatantly tourist-oriented restaurant of the entire beachfront for our meal, and it was better than expect. Also joining us in eating and admiring the Mediterranean were plenty of older Brits, which was to be expected given the cafe was named the English Rose. (In fairness, Paphos is home to the country’s second airport, so I’d imagine cheap flights are available from the UK. Plus it’s a popular destination for work/living and there’s an army base on the other side. Kind of can’t blame the restaurant for knowing its target audience.) Into the last ten or so minutes of our meal, the skies opened up and it started to pour. We tried waiting out the rain, and so when things calmed down a bit, we then proceeded to to the ruins. However, we completely missed the entrance and instead walked around the perimeter, which gave us a nice view of the sea. However, we had to cut short our walk since it was time to return back to the harbor. As we were walking there, we encountered the guy who’d sold us the tickets and regretfully told us that it was canceled-the sea was too choppy and it would’ve been risky. Darn. Well, he did refund the twenty euros, which later turned out to come in handy. No matter, this meant we had more time to explore.

Not going on that boat excursion actually was a blessing in disguise. This meant we’d have almost two extra hours to explore what was, by far and away, the best thing in Paphos- the archaeological ruins of Kato Pafos! This may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but rest assured you would like these. As you can see in the pictures, they’re incredibly well preserved, which is all the more remarkable since they date back to the 3rd century AD! From what you read on the internet, you vastly underestimate the scale of this park, because it is MASSIVE. When buying tickets, there’s a sign that informs visitors that your last chance to enter is 30 minutes before closing-that’s the minimum amount of time to see even a small fraction of what was there. After making a brief stop in the visitor’s center to get a general idea of the ruins, we then set out to explore. In a nice gesture to help facilitate ease of access, the handy map provided upon entering told people the best way to get to each of the points of interest. Even better was how this also informed visitors of when the buildings were constructed: the Hellenistic/Roman, Roman, Early Christian, Frankish, and Ottoman periods. For those keeping score at home, we walked through over 2,000 years worth of history! How do you choose what era to start out with? Well, the ruins of the House of Dionysus and its remarkably well-preserved mosaics were the first. I took a few pictures, but honestly, they don’t do reality justice! After admiring it for a bit, we continued on to the ruins of what was the Roman ambassador’s house, which featured more mosaics. Obviously given who was living there, the house was massive; one can imagine the opulent lifestyle he and his family must have lived. I should also mention that walking around at the same time was this knowledgeable Russian guy with his girlfriend. Polina and I actually slowed down to hear what he was saying, so we had an unofficial tour guide for a bit. We definitely lingered around just to truly fathom the magnificence of these archaeological ruins, simply because it would have been a shame to rush through, not to mention we were awed by it. And to be honest, we definitely could have seen more mosaics, only some were covered up, either awaiting further restoration or the summer tourist influx. As we were walking around, the lighthouse was approaching in the foreground. We couldn’t go inside, so we walked around and admired its strategic approach. Whomever lives there, if it indeed is occupied, is blessed with breathtaking views of not only the city, but the Mediterranean! After snapping enough pictures to prove we were there, we then followed a small stone trail around the old walls of the ruins. Aided by the glorious weather, a sense of childlike wonder and adventure enveloped us. The timeless ruins, preserved by so many people over time, made us realize how blessed we were to be seeing something like this. Truly, we saved the best for last! Walking for that long was starting to take its toll, so we decided to head back, though not before swinging by some catacombs and the old amphitheater. Again, the people who lived here must have known how damn privileged they were to enjoy such a phenomenal part of the island. Nearly one hundred and five minutes after we entered, we bid farewell to this testament to eternal memory.

As glorious as the ruins were, we still needed to find a suitable way to bid adieu to the waterfront. From our comfy seats in the local Italian cafe (there was a two-for-one deal of coffee and free cake!), we noticed that the sun was getting ready to set. So, we frantically checked to see if we could indeed make it in time. As it so happened, we had fifteen minutes until sunset was due to occur. Paying the bill for our food took a bit longer than expected thanks to a busy waitress, so we had to skedaddle over to the end of the pier. We weren’t the only ones who wanted to observed this natural phenomenon, so some jostling occurred to take the pictures you see below. In the end it was worth it, as the radiant brilliance of the sun will absolutely stick with me for a long time to come! (I also tried to get Polina to take a cheesy photo of her pretending to be holding the sun, but alas, she vigorously refused to stoop to such a touristy level. She missed out, I tell you.) Our mission being completed, we then retreated back to the harbor for the last few hours of our day in Paphos.

There wasn’t much left to do but to take a bus back to the center of town to grab dinner then go home. Polina had downloaded the offline map of the adjacent area to Karavella, so we sauntered around a bit in pursuit of a dining establishment. Our first two choices (seriously, who closes that early on a Monday night?) were unavailable, so we eventually lived up to the adage of third time lucky and found a nice local bar in Christos Grill House. Reeling from the cake and coffee from earlier, we decided to sit down to a basic snack of halloumi and beer as a swan song of sorts. Not that this would come as much of a surprise, but spending time in a local place like this felt like an appropriate swan song for our last day in the country. Again, the low tourist season kicked in, but we couldn’t help but notice how there were tables set up in the kitchen area-it’s a real testament to how beloved a place is, if they have that arrangement. Filled with Cypriot cuisine, it was now time to make the long route back to the other side of the island. What a day!

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