By Matthew Pressman
The Mediterranean island of Cyprus has always been an important trading post between Europe, Africa and the Middle-East and throughout the ages has been subject to numerous tug-of-wars between nations. Cyprus, has at one point or another, been under the ownership of the Mycenaeans, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Assyrians and Persians before Alexander the Great and then the Romans each had a turn. After the Romans, came the Byzantine and Islamic empires, which squabbled over the island for three centuries.
Richard the Lionheart visited and conquered Cyprus on his way to the Crusades before turning the island to Guy de Lusignan, whose family owned the island for three more centuries passed before the Venetians took over. Their reign lasted eighty-nine years before the expanding Ottoman empire took over for another three centuries before handing the island to the United Kingdom. In 1925, Cyprus became a Crown colony of the UK, before giving the island independence in 1960.
With so much to'ing-and-fro'ing, it's little wonder that Cyprus is so steeped in history and makes a perfect holiday destination. Cyprus is a country whose geography is as diverse as the history which surrounds it; a country where East meets West, glorious beaches and crystal-clear waters are set against dramatic, rugged mountain backdrops, while spas and restaurants rub-shoulders with coffee-houses and cafes. Cyprus enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and variably wet winters, although temperatures are cooler at higher elevations, such as in the Troodos mountains. Dust storms are frequent throughout the year. Cyprus' major cities are Nicosia (the capital city), Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos in the south; and Famagusta and Kyrenia in the north.
Paphos is rumoured to be the birthplace of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, and the Baths of Aphrodite can be found in the region. Situated near to the harbour town of Latsi, the Baths is a natural pool grotto surrounded by greenery and lies at the end of a short nature trail. It is said that the grotto is where Aphrodite met her lover, Adonis who had stopped to drink from the pool while hunting.
While Cyprus' rugged coastline attracts both sun-seekers and clubbers, inland offers visitors a wealth of traditional villages, medieval castles and impressive ancient sites. What's more, with the 'Green Line' finally open, it's now possible to experience Cyprus as a whole. However, it is perhaps Paphos which is the region most likely destination for tourists, and is a popular choice for holidays in Cyprus. Paphos itself is so steeped in history that the entire city features on the World Cultural Heritage List.
The 'Tombs of the Kings' is situated near to the Mediterranean at Paphos, and forms an impressive complex of mausoleums and rooms that have been chiselled into a rocky hillside. The Tombs date from the time of Christ's birth and are very well preserved, although the name is a contradiction, as the tombs don't belong to royalty but are actually the burial place of the Paphos aristocracy. There are seven tombs currently open to the public, and a visit to the tombs will take around three hours.
Paphos Castle was originally built as a Byzantine fort to protect the harbour. It was broken down by the Venetians before being rebuilt by the Ottomans when they captured Cyprus, while the ruins of a second castle, Saranta Kolones, are also nearby. However, while Paphos and the surrounding area offers enough of historical sites to please any budding historian, Paphos has more strings to its bow.
Paphos has a number of excellent restaurants, catering for a wide range of tastes and palates. From traditional Cypriot food to cosmopolitan Western dishes, diners are sure to find something to please. For the party-animal, Paphos comes alive at night, and a stroll along Bar Street will reveal numerous bars and nightclubs offering a wide choice of music to dance the night away. Meanwhile, those who just want to relax and soak up the sun, or partake in watersports needn't look far as Paphos has several beaches, including Coral Bay, which is considered one of the finest beaches in Cyprus.
All in all, if you're looking for a perfect mix of fun and culture, then Paphos represents the perfect destination to spend your holiday.
Matthew Pressman is a freelance writer and frequent flyer. When not travelling, he enjoys golf and fishing.