I’ve always been a huge fan of Ancient History – growing up, the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians kept me particularly interested in History class, whilst Hercules is my most favourite of all Disney movies. Safe to say – these periods of history fascinate me, including the stories, myths and legends so closely linked to these historic periods.
So, when it came time to visit Cyprus, I was determined to see as many mythological spots as I could and learn the stories behind them. Here, we find Greek myths and legends of Cyprus demystified.
Aphrodite’s Rock, Petra Tou Romiou
It is believed that Aphrodite (Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty) was born from the frothy sea foam as it rolled into Petra Tou Romiou beach. Here, Aphrodite is said to have risen from the foam and emerged onto a large rock by the beach – now aptly named Aphrodite’s Rock.
Nowadays, this is a popular tourist spot – to either take a photo of, climb onto the rock or swim out and around it for good luck in love and romance. It’s also quite popular for visitors to tie a white ribbon or prayer beads onto the trees overlooking the beach, supposedly to ask Aphrodite to grace them with luck in love (akin to rubbing the golden breast of Juliet in Verona).
If you park at the Visitor Centre, there is a pedestrian subway you can use to take you under the busy road. This emerges straight onto the beach, and right in front of this famous rock. Expect it to be quite busy here, and plenty of people photobombing you. But if you come in the early morning then you should be able to avoid this a little more than other times of the day.
Entry to the beach is of course free of charge.
Baths of Aphrodite
Along the North Eastern side of Cyprus, it is believed that Aphrodite met one of her lovers, Adonis here. She found him bathing in one of the nearby natural pools and was smitten at first glance (despite her having many other lovers at the same time).
If you come here now, you will be faced with another popular attraction; but one that looks so much prettier in person than in any of the photos you’ll see of it. There are quite a lot of coach tours that stop here, so you will have to time it right if you want to see the bath without hoards of tourists in front of you. In fairness, most visitors will only stick around for a few minutes, so it’s easy enough to just wait until they’ve left.
Some say that the water in these baths will help keep you young and beautiful forever, whilst others say it keeps you fertile if you drink it or splash it on your body. But sadly, you’re no longer allowed in the baths due to electric eels taking residence here. Instead, you may be lucky enough for a tour guide to splash you with some water, or you can turn around and splash some water on your face and body from the nearby water fountain (this is the same water) – although it’s definitely not drinkable!
Anyway, back to the baths – they’re beautiful and I can completely understand why Adonis would have splashed around a bit here as well. It’s shaded by a thick canopy of bright green trees, the water looks very clean and there are openings in the glade for the sun to shine through, making the water sparkle.
This is also a great starting point for those of you who like a bit of hiking, as the baths are the start of the Aphrodite, Adonis, Smiges and Pissouromouttis trails across the Akamas Peninsular. Each trail offers breathtaking views across the ocean and landscapes, or, if you just want the view without the hike, you can go to the trail starting points and still see some great sights from there.
Whilst you’re in this part of Cyprus, it’s also worth a visit to Aphrodite’s Beach. Just across from the Polis side of the Baths of Aphrodite car park are some steep steps down to the beach. You can either rent sunbeds and parasols, or head to the right to laze on your beach towel, and swim and snorkel. The water here is very clear, and you may be lucky enough to see some wildlife during your time in the water.
Entry to the baths, beach and trails are all free.
I was curious about Mount Olympus – could this be the same mountain believed to be the home of the many Greek Gods and Goddesses? No, sadly it’s not.
This has the same name as the “real home” that is located in Athens in Greece. Instead, the only resemblance this Cypriot mountain has to Greek myths and legends is its name, and the fact that it has ski slopes named after various Gods and Goddesses, including:
- Aphrodite or Sun Valley I, Level: Beginner
- Hermes or Sun Valley II, Level: Intermediate
- Dias/Zeus or North Face I, Level: Advanced
- Hera or North Face II, Level: Beginner
Did you know? You can go skiing in Cyprus. Hard to imagine with a country so hot, but up the mountain, it is snowy and an entirely different climate to the sea level below.
Paphos Archaeological Park
Within Greece and Cyprus, it’s possible to see a lot of original mosaics. No more so than in Paphos in Southern Cyprus. The Paphos Archaeological Park is home to a variety of different ones, all devoted to telling the stories of the Gods and Goddesses.
If you visit today, you will find most of the mosaics protected inside buildings, which give you a great viewing platform to see every inch of them. Whilst some other mosaics here have sadly been left to the elements a little bit, so are slightly worn away, or missing tiles; it’s still possible to see what the picture is depicting.
This is a great place to while away a few hours, see some original mosaics whilst satisfying your interest for Greek mythology. It also just so happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well, in case you plan on visiting as many of these fascinating places as you can.
Today’s visit will set you back €4.50 for an entry fee, but there is so much to see here, that it’s entirely worth it. Alternatively, you can gain free entry with an international student ID.
Another place steeped in Greek legend are the Adonis Baths, which sadly we didn’t get a chance to visit during our trip. But I just love the story, so wanted to include it anyway!
Not too far to the North of Paphos are the Adonis Baths. It’s believed that Aphrodite and Adonis had many children here together, who are said to be ancestors to those living in Paphos today.
These baths are also related to Artemis (Goddess of Hunting). She was jealous of the couple’s love for one another, and so threw a golden almond into the baths in the hope that Adonis would seek the almond, and get trapped and drown in the baths. Thankfully, he was saved by Poseidon (God of the Sea).
To see it now is known to be a fairly similar experience to seeing the Baths of Aphrodite with one major difference – you can swim in these baths, and there is a large waterfall in addition to the pool of water as well.
These baths are also free to enter.
Sea Caves, Ayia Napa
Okay, so these caves don’t appear to be home to Greek myths and legends, but I still wanted to include them as they do have a legend behind them. That of the sea monster (similar to the Loch Ness Monster from Scotland) that is said to have taken up residence here.
Whilst swimming and snorkelling here ourselves, we saw no such monster (thankfully), but we did see some pretty fish and the cleanest water I have ever seen before in my life. This is certainly going to take pride of place in my upcoming roundup of the best snorkelling spots in Cyprus, so stay tuned!
But for now, I’ll leave you with the idea of the sea monster said to live here, the image of bright turquoise water and caves you can explore that are positively vast in size!
Entry to the water and caves is of course totally free.
Well, there you have it! Cyprus is steeped in legend (mainly to do with Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty). Not only that but it’s also a beautiful country to explore, with or without the legends woven into its history. Do you know of any legends I’ve missed out? Let me know in the comments…
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