Tourism didn't arrive in the small town of Paphos until the 1980's and I didn't arrive until December 2006. It was Christmas and I wanted to see my son who was based in Athens at the time. As I didn't really fancy spending Xmas in a bustling, over-crowded and polluted city like Athens, I chose to visit Cyprus and meet up with him there. I remember walking to the coach which was waiting outside the airport to take us on to Pathos and thinking this place looks a bit run down. I could see the sea in the background so I felt a little more cheerful but part of me kept thinking - perhaps I should have gone to Athens after all.
As the coach trundled down the cronky, pot-holed roads and came into the town I suddenly became more engaged with the environment around me. It was early evening and the sun was just about to set, painting the sea a rusty red and orange colour which was silhouetted on the windows of the coach. Our final destination was Coral Bay and the road leading to the holiday complex was a steep climb and seemed to take forever as the coach stopped every ten mintes to drop another holiday maker off at their hotel. The views from the coach windows were interesting if not the most beautiful. A mixture of flat top roofs filled the skyline with television aerials standing upright, like soldiers on a military parade. Palm trees, banana trees, scruffy streets and rubbish heaps immediately caught my eye - but then this is normal for eastern Mediterranean countries and it didn't bother me too much.
I think initially I expected Paphos to be more beautiful than it actually is but after being there for a week or so I realised that it has its own quirky charm and is a splendid place to visit for a holiday. The town is a strange patchwork - a holiday destination among ruins and tombs. The lower town of Kato Paphos lies in the heart of one of Cyprus's most interesting archaeological sites. There are ancient and medieval ruins within this small area and every excavated trench yields new discoveries. Whilst on the artificial irrigated coastal plain row after row of droopy leafed banana trees thrive.
Among the sights of historical interest, hotels, souvenir shops and bars, there is still enough room for the local people's simple homes, even the occasional piece of uncultivated land. Despite the renovation of the old custom houses, which is a bone of contention amongst the local people but I think looks rather splendid, the harbour quarter remains an important attraction and I would say is the most dominant feature of the town. Away from the promenade through a few narrow lanes, the town's bustling nightlife continues well into the night. Most of the hotels are grouped together and and occupy a good position overlooking the promenade.
Paphos town is clearly divided into two, with the upper town of Ktima situated 3 kilometres from the sea. Its simple tavernas and basic shops evoke a sense of rural charm. The classical style complex of school, library and town hall near the municipal car park dates from the era of colonial rule.
There is one drawback and I feel I should point this out. Within the urban confines of Paphos and its stony coastline, there are no natural sandy beaches. If you wish to stretch out on the sand and sunbathe you will have to go to Yeroskipou beach at the end of the promenade. Other sandy and pebble beaches on the west coast are accessible by bus.
Well, I think that covers Paphos. Although I was a bit sceptical at first I have to say that I really had a great week here in Paphos. The weather for December was warm enough to just walk around in a T shirt. It's suitably placed for trips out into the mountains. It's a bit touristy but at the same time the town manages to keep its own quaint charm. Some areas are a bit scruffy but after a few days I didn't notice and compared with some other places I have been to it isn't that bad. I'm glad I've been - it's laid back, pretty, and has a lot of eastern Mediterranean charm
The only thing I regret and could kick myself now is that I never took the boat trip to Alexandriia and didn't catch the plane to Beirut. Never mind - next time perhaps