The heart of Kato Pafos is the harbour area, a south-facing hooked finger that seems to beckon in boats from the sea. The harbour combines workaday buildings – the Customs House, Department of Fisheries and the Port Authority – with important historic sites including the castle, the wave-washed remains of an ancient breakwater, and the memorial to St Paul’s visit during his first missionary journey. Close by is the entrance to the archeological park that contains the town’s world-famous mosaics.
Pafos Castle, sitting at the edge of the harbour and reflected in the water that surrounds it, presents a scene worthy of any romantic watercolourist. Unsurprisingly, it is frequently used as a backdrop for concerts, plays and operas (it has been known for incoming jets to be diverted out to sea so as not to disrupt performances during the Paphos Festival). As with many Cypriot castles, it has a complex back story: built by the Lusignans around 1391, it was destroyed by an earthquake towards the end of the fifteenth century, and what was left was levelled by the Venetians to prevent it falling into the hands of the Turks. Despite this, the castle was rebuilt and garrisoned by the Ottomans in 1592. After the British takeover of Cyprus, the castle was relegated to a salt store. The main attraction of a visit is to climb up to the battlements where once twelve cannons stood guard. The clear field of fire they required now offers excellent views across the harbour to the distant low hills to the north.
Housed in an archeological park northwest of the harbour (you can’t miss the large entrance gates just behind the quay, fronted by a modern clock tower), Pafos’s Roman mosaics are one of the glories of Cyprus and are simply unmissable. The mosaics were first revealed in 1942 when British soldiers digging trenches for air-raid shelters uncovered a representation of Hercules and the Lion. The ancient artwork was swiftly covered up to protect it from German bombs and its location, and even existence, in due course forgotten. In the 1960s, more mosaics were revealed during building work, and the Department of Antiquities stepped in to excavate the site. So far, four villas have been unearthed, each named after one of the more notable mosaics it contains.