At time of writing, Paphos Harbour is something of a disaster area. Renovations are taking place which promise to result in a beautiful harbour front, in keeping with the ambience and history, with bustling shops and cafes once more; but right now the cafes have been bulldozed and the whole place is a building site. Fortunately the adjacent archaeological park is still available for visitors to enjoy. Having not been there for a number of years, a friend and I checked it out last week.
The site, entered from the harbour area, encompasses the mosaics, the ancient Odeon and a wealth of other historic ruins, as well as the Basilica or Ayia Kyriaki church which still operates today. Once through the gates you’re free to wander. The most well preserved/restored and famous mosaics were unavailable to us that day as the house of Dionysus was under restoration – there is much more work to be done excavating as there are believed to be many more finds buried under the sand. The site, with beautiful views across the sea and landscape, is very peaceful and it’s easy to dream back in time and picture what it might have been like millennia ago.
The €4.50 entrance ticket includes a visit, on the same day, to the Tombs of The Kings, but we decided instead to test out The Walk. We all remember the sudden arrival years ago of what appeared to be a monorail above the Kings Avenue roundabout and bottom of St Paul’s Avenue. It remained half-built and mysterious for years, but has recently been completed – and isn’t a railway at all, merely a metal walkway, that leads from the site of the road that once led to the TOK Road but now just leads to the Roman Hotel. Plenty of parking here, and lots of bits of walkway; hard to tell whether deliberate or just aesthetic use of leftover metal. Up we went, anticipating fantastic vistas and a chance to gaze on the mosaics from above. The floor is akin to the wire mesh of a shopping trolley – even I wouldn’t attempt it barefoot – but impossible to see through as directly below is a shelf covered in cat litter. Not much view to the sides either, as the walls are high and then doubled with a sloping extra metal wall, no doubt in the name of safety, but obscuring the view further. But even were the view clear, it would only be of the roundabout, traffic, and St Paul’s Avenue – it’s nowhere near the mosaics.
Up, and round, and we get spat out in a field – which we soon worked out was directly above the Fabrika Cave I remember visiting during Culture Year 2017, when the cave was decorated with miles of red thread. I remembered six years ago my brother and I surprising ourselves by finding a route from that cave, up to where we now stood , and wondered whether we could get down there; but with so many dark, deep holes to fall into and absolutely no signage or guidance whatsoever, it was a scary prospect. While my friend took photos, I explored a little, found a spot of light shining at the back of a cave…and , feeling like Lara Croft, found a route down to the road and a final piece of walkway leading back to where our car was. What an adventure for kids, moving from darkened tomb to cave – and why isn’t this better publicised? And more to the point, why aren’t the other routes – deathtrap falls – fenced? Another Paphos mystery, but one that made the underwhelming walkways a lot more exciting.
The Tombs of The Kings, and the road they are sited on, are misleadingly named as although many noblemen were entombed there during Hellenistic and Roman times, not one King was ever buried at the site. And nobody remains there at all now – it’s a fascinating site if you look into the history, but to the visitor it is simply a bunch of holes in the rock and can be a disappointment if one is expecting something similar to Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. At €2.50, though, it’s a lot cheaper than travelling to Cairo.
Whilst there’s a lot of building work going on, many roads closed, and the sea particularly inclement right now, Paphos is still a treasure trove of natural and historic delights, all at very little or no cost. As it starts to warm up, now is the perfect time to try out the various nature trails, gorge hikes, or a picnic in the open air. Hotels are just 35% full right now, so enjoy the peace before the season and the temperature kick in – by which point, hopefully, we’ll have a spanking new harbour to enjoy.
Jezebel hosts a Quiz Evening every Wednesday 7.30pm at Kamares Club near Tala.