My recent trip to Cyprus would not be complete without a touch of art & history. One of the brightest memories from all of the epic historical sites on the island is definitely marvelous Paphos Mosaics at Kato Paphos Archaeological Park.
Kato Paphos Archaeological Park
Art & History
Exploring ancient and modern art pieces is always an essential part of my travels. Whenever I plan to visit a new city, the first thing I check about it is the interesting museums and off-the-beaten-path art galleries. I believe art is the best and the most visual reflection of every nation´s history and culture, as well as its progress.
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Through symbols, colors, and materials we are able to meet our ancestors, those who lived on this planet centuries ago, or even try to visualize our future. Only through art we can touch eternity, don´t you think so?
Taking into consideration the rich history of Cyprus, this trip couldn´t be any different. However, Cyprus has still managed to surprise me. In between all the amazing historical sites and mythological places I´ve experienced on the island, a special place definitely belongs to Paphos Mosaics.
Kato Paphos Archaeological Park
Kato Paphos Archaeological Park is one of the most important archeological finds on the island and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980. But there´s something more than history about this place. Its elaborated constructions and the rests of lavish decorations clearly indicate it was once inhabited by a very sophisticated society. You feel the touch of the elite preserved during the centuries through the impressive Paphos mosaics.
If you plan to visit, keep in mind that Kato Paphos Archaeological Park’s opening hours vary depending on the season. Winter Hours( September 16 – April 15): 8.30 -17.00. Summer Hours(April 16 -September 15): 8.30 -19.30. The entrance price is 4.50 euros. Check more details about museums and archaeological sites in Cyprus here.
My visit to Kato Paphos Archaeological Park was in May and I honestly underestimated the place. I bought my entrance ticket around 18.45 and naively thought 40 min would be enough. I wish I´ve had at least 1h30min to visit all the houses to absorb all the geometrical patterns and mythological representations.
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On the plus side, I got to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets around the world right before the park´s closure. There´s something truly magical about facing the end of the day over the ruins of an ancient civilization. Besides, the daily heat was already gone and the temperature outside was very comfortable to walk around. Therefore, visiting in the afternoon is actually a good idea – just allow yourself to have a few hours to explore the Paphos Mosaics fully.
Keep in mind, all the decorations are so rich in details and characters that a real art or history lover can actually spend hours wandering around. Especially if you start paying attention to the story behind the Paphos mosaics, or even try to interpret the mythology scenes they represent.
The complex of Kato Paphos Archaeological Park includes several monuments – The Paphos Odeon ( 2nd-century amphitheater used for summer musical performances), The Agora( a square courtyard with colonnades porticos), The Asklepieion( a sanctuary dedicated to the God of medicine), and Saranta Kolones (a ruined medieval fortress). However, the epicenter is definitely the Paphos mosaics depicting mythological scenes and characters from Roman times.
The impressive Roman mosaics in Paphos
The presence of these extremely beautiful large mosaic floors in the tiny town of Paphos can be explained by the fact that between the 2nd century BC and 4th century AD Paphos actually was the capital city of Cyprus. The archeologists believe some of the floors were parts of the houses that belonged to the members of the ruling class in Ancient Rome.
The mosaics exposition at Kato Paphos Archaeological Park is formed by 5 main houses: The House of Dionysus, The House of Theseus, The House of Aion, The House of Orpheus, and The House of Four seasons.
Apart from the obvious artistic merits, Paphos mosaics make you want to dive into the history books and learn more about the Greek Myths. We´ve all read those at school, but in my case, it was like Don Quijote. I´ve started to appreciate the book only after driving the Don Quijote Route in Spain that had inspired Cervantes towards the creation of his literary work. In the same way, these Mosaics, with all the mythical characters you might eventually spot (including Narcissus, Scylla, and Minotaur), will leave you eager to learn more.
Also, if I´m completely honest with you – my photos don´t do justice to Paphos mosaics. The funny thing here is that I used the same camera that had previously captured a few epic landscapes in Iceland and the Canary Islands. But I barely made the Paphos mosaics look decent, even after the edits. Then I started to search the Internet and realized most of their pictures look dark and blurry. This is definitely the lightning in the Houses. The only chance for you to really appreciate this place – is to visit it yourself.
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The most impressive mosaics at The House of Dionysus and The House of Theseus date back to 2nd century A.D. Can you imagine? – The 2nd century A.D. Yet it is unbelievable how well preserved some of them are. In the meantime, everything humanity has created in the last centuries constantly needs renovation or restoration. It makes me question the real progress of our modern society.
What is interesting about the Paphos Mosaics is that they were actually discovered quite recently – in 1962, and by pure accident – a local farmer was simply working on his field and came across an international treasure. It just brings so much wanderlust into the whole picture.
If despite all the history books and studies on our ancestors we are still finding traces of ancient civilizations by mistake and can´t even explain or translate quite a few of them( like for instance, Phaistos Disk on Crete), who knows what discoveries are waiting for the humanity in the nearest future…
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For more travel stories and useful tips on Cyprus check my Cyprus Pinterest board.