The north coast of Pafos district is dominated by the small town of POLIS (or Polis Chrysochous, to give it its full title) which sits on the banks of the Chrysochou River where it empties into wide Chrysochou Bay. A small, appealing and unpretentious market town, Polis became a favourite with backpackers in the 1980s. Since then reservations about its rate of development have been expressed but appear a little premature – while the town centre is full of restaurants and bars, it’s still a delightful place at which to fetch up, has an interesting and varied hinterland, and represents an important counterweight to brash and breezy Pafos.
There’s not a huge amount to see in town – a venerable old church, a neat little archeological museum and a rather old olive tree (aged 700, according to the sign) – yet just to the north is a good sandy beach with a campsite and views across to the Akamas Peninsula. Along the western coast road is the busy little port of Lakki, and where the road ends, the Baths of Aphrodite from where you can access the Akamas Peninsula. East of Polis is a sweeping bay with the villages of Pommos and Pachyammos and, beyond the Turkish Cypriot Kokkina Enclave. Further east is the small town of Kato Pyrgos, long isolated from the rest of Cyprus but, since 2010, a border town with the opening of the most recent crossing point on the Green Line. South of Polis is an upland area dotted with villages and vineyards, easily accessible from the main B7 Polis to Pafos road.
According to tradition, the Mycenean Akamas, son of Theseus, first established a city here, having landed nearby on his way back from the Trojan War. Whatever the truth of this, it is likely that the Chrysochou Bay was indeed first settled by the Myceneans more than a thousand years before Christ. By around 750 BC it was one of Cyprus’s great city-kingdoms, called Marion. It flourished because of its copper and gold mines and traded closely with the Aegean islands, Corinth and Athens. The city fell to the Persians but was freed by Kimon in 449 BC. Following the death of Alexander the Great, it backed the wrong horse during the struggle between his successors, and in 312 BC the victor, Ptolemy I, destroyed the city and resettled its inhabitants in Pafos. A new city was built near or over the ruins of Marion by Ptolemy II and named in honour of his wife (who also happened to be his sister) Arsinoe. As far as we know the city continued to be inhabited, though it suffered from Muslim coastal raids during the seventh century. Now called Polis (simply the Greek word for “town”), it continued as a small rural settlement, a remote part of a remote district, and didn’t hit the headlines again until the explosive “Kokkina Incident” in 1964.