Whilst Cyprus is affectionately known as the ‘island of love’ (thanks to its association with the goddess Aphrodite), it is in fact the town of Paphos that lays the biggest claim to the charm of the beloved ancient Greek mythological goddess of love and beauty.
In fact, once upon a time, Paphos was a powerful kingdom and served as the capital of Cyprus, with the Sanctuary of Aphrodite (in the modern-day village of Kouklia) being an important site of pilgrimage in antiquity.
Tales of Aphrodite and Paphos are plentiful and – even today – visitors can walk in her fabled footsteps.
On the outskirts of the town lies Petra tou Romiou, also known as Aphrodite’s Rock. A large bolder erupting from the sea a breath away from the shore, it is here – legend tells – that Aphrodite was born, with the ancient Greek poet and scholar, Hesiod, describing how she emerged from the foam of the waves in full glory. Now, many a visitor is spied trying to swim around the rock three times, which is said to bring eternal love.
Meanwhile, north of Paphos town, in the area of Polis Chrysochous, is situated a small yet no less alluring grotto with a trickling waterfall, where Aphrodite is said to have bathed. Aphrodite’s Baths, as it is aptly known, is shrouded in bright bougainvillea and boasts phenomenal views of the area, making for an overall exciting day trip.
Finally, tucked away inland near the village of Koili is Adonis Baths. The young Adonis – an athletic and handsome youth who is said to have captured the heart of Aphrodite, and who still today serves as a paradigm of beauty – met an untimely end in Paphos. Whilst hunting wild boar, Adonis was mortally wounded. Hearing his cries, Aphrodite ran to him, and wept over him as he died in her arms. Indeed, some stories tell how her tears mingled with Adonis’ dripping blood giving rise to blooming red anemone flowers, which can still be spied today flourishing come the start of spring.