Paphos has long been a favourite holiday destination for sun-seeking Brits, providing outstanding beaches, captivating views and a lively atmosphere for everyone from couples to families. But there's more to this Mediterranean hotspot than picturesque sands and travellers in search of more than a fly and flop escape can experience off-the-beaten-track adventures, buzzing nightlife and delicious Cypriot cuisine.
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As a UNESCO-protected town, Paphos boasts a unique charm and is home to a romantic harbour and captivating ancient ruins, while blessed with 300 days of sunshine a year. The land where the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, once roamed is as enchanting as you would imagine, with incredible landscapes that can be appreciated at a lazy pace.
We travelled to Paphos with beach holiday specialist On the Beach to explore the lesser-known treasures of this beautiful corner of Cyprus. From making halloumi in a tiny hilltop village, to drinking with the locals in the hippest bars, here's how to experience 'real' Paphos...
Start by hopping in a 4x4 with Panikkos Jeep Safaris for an unforgettable Jeep adventure in the unspoilt Troodos Mountains, just over an hour's drive from the centre of Paphos. Dotted with villages, wineries and some of the most spectacular churches in the Mediterranean, the largest mountain range in Cyprus with Mountain Olympus as its highest peak allows you to experience the four seasons with its alpine climate, where cedars, pine, olive and acacia trees are found. Make a stop at St Nikolas on the Roof, a Byzantine church built in the 11th century, which could easily be the setting for Hansel and Gretel.
The impressive church is one of the best monuments in Cyprus and features paintings that range from the 11th to 17th centuries, including a depiction of Mary breastfeeding Jesus. Next, take a walk through the pretty village of Kakopetria to see its traditional stone houses and stop at some great lunch spots - the area is known for its trout thanks to the two rivers that join in the village. For an hour of indulgence, visit the gorgeous Ktima Gerolemo winery, just north of the village of Omodos, to sample wonderful organic wines while taking in the lovely views.
One of the most extraordinary features of Paphos is the possibility of exploring numerous archaeological sites in the centre of the modern town. At Paphos Archaeological Park you can discover sites and monuments from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, with most remains from the Roman period. Marvel at some of the most beautiful mosaics in the world, where some of the must-sees include 'Theseus killing the Minotaur', 'Hercules and the Lion of Nemea' and 'The bath of Dionysus'. Spread across four Roman villas (the House of Dionysos, the House of Theseus, the House of Aion and the House of Orpheus), the mosaic floors date from the second to the fifth century AD and are one of the park's masterpieces.
For the most heavenly food experience on the island, head for the small village of Letymbou where you can watch how halloumi cheese is made and try your hand at making tasty bread. Located just a 20-minute drive from the centre of Paphos, Letymbou is set on a hill and has just 300 residents. It is the home of the delightful Mrs Sofia, who produces amazing halloumi cheese that she is only too happy to share with you. The process starts with heating the goat's milk in a chartzi, a traditional large copper caldron, and ends with salting the cheese once it has been cooked before adding mint. Another speciality prepared by Mrs Sofia is anari, a mild ricotta-style cheese which is made from the whey that drains off during the making of halloumi. It is delicious eaten straight from the cooking pot with sugar sprinkled on top. Mrs Sofia is an excellent baker and makes crusty sourdough loaves which her neighbours and visitors to her typically Cypriot home can enjoy. She will teach you how to knead, cut and even put a special stamp on the dough before it goes in her clay oven.
It's impossible not to want to dip your toes in the crystal-clear waters when visiting Cyprus but if you're planning on going for a swim, do it in style on a boat ride along the picturesque Akamas Peninsula. A morning trip from Latchi with Latchi Boat Cruises takes in the stunning coastline and its wildlife. Setting off on a glass bottom boat, you will pass the Baths of Aphrodite, St George's Island, Manolis Bay and its sea caves, and finally the famed Blue Lagoon, where you can jump into the fresh sea to enjoy a swim or snorkel in magnificent waters. The sandy bottom gives the sea a magical turquoise colour and there are many fish and aquatic life to explore underwater. Once you dry off and return to land, head to five-star hotel Anassa for a luxurious lunch of mezze in casual-chic restaurant with views, Amphora. The dishes use herbs grown at the hotel, cheeses made on-site and the freshest ingredients that will make you fall in love with Cypriot cuisine.
Back in Paphos, there are more delectable delights to feast on for dinner at the highly rated and charming Seven St Georges Tavern. The restaurant, set in a typical Cypriot house with a pretty vine-covered terrace, serves up some of the most exceptional mezze around and almost everything you eat is grown by owner George. Diners are only served seasonal food and there is delectable bread, salads, meat dishes and divine desserts on offer. The wine served at Seven St Georges Tavern is homemade and organic; with some saying it's impossible to get a headache after drinking it. If you'd prefer less traditional dining and a more modern European-style meal, Muse Cafe Kitchen Bar, located in the old part of town, is a popular eatery among locals and the expat community. Here you can soak up the impressive view over Paphos. It is also an excellent place to sip classy cocktails, watch the sunset and socialise.
Exploring Paphos after dark is just as exciting as during the daytime. Avoid the karaoke bars and Brit-heavy clubs on Bar Street, and instead drink in the trendy Old Town spots where the locals go. Start at Noir Espresso & Tapas Bar before moving on to the very hip Craft Dive Bar - this place is so relaxed the bar snacks come in their packaging. One of our favourite places and a best-kept secret is Timothy's Bar, an unpretentious bar in a crumbling old house where you can listen to live music and mingle with the regulars. The garden at Boulevard Bistro Wine Bar is another great spot for enjoying al-fresco cocktails.
If you're looking for somewhere stylish, contemporary and centrally located to stay, you should check in to design hotel Almyra, which is perfect for exploring Paphos' best attractions, restaurants and nightlife. The design hotel welcomes couples, families and spa lovers to indulge in a beautiful beachside setting with a chilled-out vibe. For families, there is everything from babycare, kids clubs, interconnecting family rooms, a Kiddie Concierge and more. Extremely well catered for travellers with children, the hotel is just as much geared to grown-ups after a kids-free holiday, with its spectacular adults-only pool, sleek Helios Lounge Bar made for sundowners overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and private wine tasting.
On the Beach offers seven-night holidays at Almyra from £395 (£1,581 for a family of four). The price includes return flights from airports across the UK and seven nights' accommodation on a half-board basis. Visit onthebeach.co.uk or call 0871 474 3000 for more information.