12 Cultural thing's to see and do in Cyprus, Paphos
Thing’s to do in Paphos
Cyprus is an island country divided into two parts, with North being the Turkish Cyprus and the South being the Greek Cyprus. The island which is shaped like a cigar became independent from the British in 1960 and can be found in the Eastern Mediterranean. It has a rich history and culture and is known as the birthplace of the Greek goddess of love – Aphrodite.
With Cyprus being the third largest and most populated island in the Mediterranean, there’s no surprise it’s full of cultural things to do and see, since it was once a playground for the Gods, meaning the country has an abundance of ancient Greek ruins to be admired all over the island.
Having already given you a tour of one of the most luxurious 5* hotels in Cyprus, I’ll now be sharing twelve of the best cultural things to do in Paphos and the surrounding area as well as six of the best traditional places to eat in Cyprus that are popular with the locals.
My winter sun break in Cyprus with Jet2holidays was filled with 24° sunshine, cultural activities, a luxury hotel stay and plenty of delicious Mediterranean food. Jet2 flights to Paphos take off all year round, so you could be checking into the Elysium with Jet2holidays in no time. But firstly, you’ll need a guide on the best things to do in Cyprus:
Basket weaving & Halloumi cheese making in Choirokoitia
One of the many highlights exploring with Visit Cyprus was visiting the picturesque rural village of Choirokoitia, where we were welcomed into a wonderful 1903 building made of traditional Tochni stone and wood. The building belongs to the multi-talented artist Petros Nicolaou and his adorable rescue dog. It’s in this gorgeous home where Petros regularly hosts basket weaving and halloumi cheese making workshops followed by a delicious traditional Greek spread of homemade cake, bread and fruit & vegetables that have been grown in his garden.
Petros home which is not just his studio for weaving baskets and halloumi cheese making, is also a museum for his wonderful collection of artefacts that relate to the heritage of the village. Due to this Petros home, craft and village life stories have landed him in the glossy pages of Four Seasons magazine.
Traditional halloumi cheese making has been carried out for centuries through generations of families in Cyprus, especially in this hidden gem of a village, until commercial dairy production made it unfeasible to do so. However, that never stopped Petros who milks his own goats to create delicious fresh batches of halloumi cheese with no unnecessary ingredients added. We tried samples of his cheese made with both local honey and handpicked mint from his garden. The mint halloumi sprinkled with sea salt and pepper was my favourite, it was still warm from production so tasted lovely with the bread and salad.
A man of many talents, basket weaving is a craft that was passed on to him from his grandparents. Petros sources the thin water reeds himself locally to create the baskets which can take him up to 2-3 hours to make. The baskets are made in a variety of styles and sizes using vegan and environmentally friendly dyes to make them so vibrant and beautiful. For more photos of Petros Workshop and his stunning home see my Facebook album .
Kourion Archaeological Site
In under an hour’s drive from Paphos on the seafront in Limassol, you’ll find a magnificent Greco-Roman theatre known as the Kourion archaeological site. This impressive site, which was once a flourishing theatre was built in 2nd century BC and was associated with the Greek legend of Argos of Peloponnese. In 365 AD it was severely damaged in an earthquake, but thankfully through excavations, teams of archaeologists have come as far as Australia to unearth significant finds that are able to tell a story of what once happened here.
Nowadays, mainly throughout the summer, the centrepiece is used for open-air musicals and theatrical performances. The UNESCO world heritage site costs just €4,50 - €8,50 to enter and the ancient relics can be found in the museum. If you love ancient architecture, stunning sea views and Greek methodology the Kourion archaeological site is the place to visit with it being one of Cyprus most important city-kingdoms in antiquity.
Wine tasting in Omodos Village
Hidden down a narrow path in beautiful Omodos village you’ll find an abundance of friendly Greek cats and wine by the barrel load – if that’s not enough to get you here I don’t know what is.
In this small wine-producing village, you can find a Medieval wine press and enjoy a spot of wine tasting while finding out how the locals produce it. The red and white wine tasters I tried were lovely, however, I was too distracted at playing with the cats so I’m not too sure on the specifics. But if you love wine, this is the place to visit.
Platres Chocolate Workshop
What goes perfectly with wine? Chocolate of course, so shortly after visiting Omodos we proceeded to a lovely little chocolate workshop in Platres. The Platres Chocolate Workshop is the home of Cyprus chocolates and is the only chocolate shop on the island creating ‘bean to bar’ chocolates handmade on the premises. The shop can be booked for chocolate demonstrations or chocolate making lessons.
During the demonstration, we sampled a variety of milk, dark, white and flavoured chocolates made with cacao beans sourced from many regions that grow Cacao trees. It was interesting to taste the difference and distinctive flavours in the chocolate depending on where the bean had been sourced. Almost 70% of the world’s chocolate is currently grown in West Africa, however, the Platres Chocolate Workshop is unique as they make a variety of bars from beans sourced in countries such as South America, Vietnam, Venezuela and Colombia.
George's Traditional Bakery in Omodos
If wine and cats aren’t enough to get you visiting the charming village of Omodos, maybe I could tempt you with delicious and freshly made treats from George’s Traditional bakery. This family-run bakery in the heart of the village has locals queuing up to get their hands-on sesame seed bread brushed with rose water, super-sized bagels and a whole variety of sweet baked goods and confectionary.
Within a few cobbled steps of this popular bakery, you’ll also find the Monastery of the Holy Cross also known as the Timios Stavros Monastery, it’s also the oldest and most historical Monastery on the island. It claims to contain the Holy Rope stained by the blood of Christ when the Romans bound Christ to the Cross. Part of the rope was left at the Monastery by St. Helen.
Cycle tour of Lemesos
If you are looking for fun things to do in Cyprus while sightseeing, I highly recommend a cycle tour of Lemesos with Nextbike bike hire. It had been far too long since I last rode a bike, so I thoroughly enjoyed my time cycling along the seafront stretch which is lined either side with towering palm trees.
To see what I’m talking about watch my cycling video on Twitter or the full Paphos experience on Instagram stories. Hiring a bike is super convenient and with Nextbike, so the next time I’m in Cyprus this is going to be the first thing I do as it was the top highlight of the trip!
Traditional lace & silver making in Lefkara
Larnaka village has been known for centuries for its traditional embroidery techniques and silversmithing. Hand embroidered linens is a craft that for many years creative (and very patient) women would teach their children. However, today it’s a skill that sadly is becoming less and less desirable due to the amount of time each linen will take to make which is anything from a few months to multiple years depending on its cloth size and embroidery detail making them worth either a few hundred or thousands.
One local family that has been in the lace and silver business for many years is the Rouvis family, who take bespoke tablecloth orders from clients all over the world as they appreciate the time and uniqueness that goes into each piece.
George’s Jeep Safari Tour
If your up for an adventure and a bumpy ride, I recommend you hold on and book a George’s Jeep Safari tour to experience the wonderful sites of Lara beach, Akamas Peninsula and Laona villages. Our driver and Visit Cyprus tour guide Mary took us to some of the best idyllic views looking out to the sea and mountains.
My favourite viewpoint had to be from Lara beach located in the Akamas nature reserve because its home to a turtle conservation station where green turtles and loggerhead turtles go to lay their eggs in the sand. Once hatched the new-borns are attracted to the moonlight and build up their strength by making their way to the sea. Unfortunately, tourism, car lights and fishing has resulted in them being declared endangered species. Because of this Cyprus was one of the first Mediterranean countries to put laws in place to protect them.
The nature reserve is also home to plenty of flowers, shrubs and trees which our driver would point out to us along the way. It’s recommended you visit the nature reserve with a tour guide like George’s Jeep Safari as a large vehicle is needed to take on the steep hillsides and deep ravines.
The Mosaics of Paphos
A short five minute drive from the Elysium you’ll find the ancient mosaics of Paphos in the Kato Paphos region of Cyprus. It wasn’t until the 1960s when these incredible mosaics were discovered. In fact, our lovely Visit Cyprus tour guide Mary was there that same day and since then more and more have been unearthed during this time.
Each floor mosaic tells a fascinating story of Greek mythology. As ancient relics today, they are amazing to see, so I can only imagine what they would have looked like between the Hellenistic period and Byzantine era.
Traditional Cypriot delight making in Geroskipou
Cyprus is well-known for its Cyprus Delights a traditional sweet, soft and chewy treat that has been made for centuries on the island. A family run sweet shop and factory in Loukomi called Arsinoe Delights, have been making them for decades. The family make delights and nutty brittle with just a few simple ingredients and without gelatine or preservatives.
It was fascinating to watch the boiling syrup mixture gradually turn into delicious sweet powdered treats. They are made in a whole range of different flavours, such as vanilla, mango, coconut and strawberry.
Tomb of the Kings Archaeological site
Cyprus is home to many UNESCO World Heritage sites, one that I was particularly looking forward to visiting was The Tombs of the Kings located a stone’s throw away from the Elysium Hotel .
These incredible ancient tombs dating back to the 4th century were once the burial grounds of high-status wealthy individuals, which may explain the bizarre sense of feeling you get as you make your way underground to explore the tombs carved from solid rock. With sea views and rich ancient history, this is an archaeological site I would love to visit again.
During our trip, we visited Limassol harbour for a cycle tour and Paphos harbour next to the mosaics archaeological site. Both harbours have wonderful sea views and a variety of restaurants and shops making them a popular tourist destination to explore.
Especially Paphos harbour which has a Medieval Fort that was once built in the Byzantine era to protect the harbour. Over the centuries it has been destroyed and rebuilt by the Venetians and Ottomans.
Nearby, keeping a close eye on the Paphos harbour and fort is the sculpture of The Sol Alter created by artist Yiota Loannidou to represent the countries goddess of Love, Aphrodite.
Disclaimer: Complimentary press trip with Jet2 and Visit Cyprus. All words and photos are my own.