… and a leap to the future.
Every destination has a unique narrative to share. Paphos’ rich historical sites will undoubtedly catapult visitors into an exciting chapter, one that stretches back to prehistoric times while boosting the visitor experience through digitisation and smart practices.
Archaeological sites, imbued with the mores of the cultures that constructed them, shed light on ancient civilisations, preserving their societal structures, religious beliefs, and methods of living. Many foreshadow art and architecture as we know it today, revealing the aesthetics and values of their creators.
Paphos, which has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, provides an opportunity to connect with the foundations of modern society and one of the earliest concepts of Europe as we know it. The Paphos Archaeological Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1980, is the epicentre of passion, religious ardour and romance, with remains and monuments dating from the 4th century BC to the Middle Ages, including the Roman, Hellenistic and Byzantine periods.
From prehistoric temples and monumental underground tombs to decorative floor mosaics and intriguing landmarks, the ancient sites are bound to impress, and with the addition of an innovative app, a customised and enhanced experience awaits.
“Paphos has recognised the importance of digitalisation as a tourism destination and is significantly improving its competitive advantage and the experiences offered to visitors,” executive manager of Paphos Regional Board of Tourism Nasos Hadjigeorgiou said. “The Archaeological Park provides interpretative technologies that improve visitor knowledge, learning outcomes and satisfaction.”
According to Hadjigeorgiou, the digital experience includes a phone app that provides full information about the park’s monuments in multiple languages, as well as a video tour of the site and a photo gallery of every monument. “Also, a large screen has been installed, making it easier for larger groups to watch a documentary about the park,” he added.
“The smart app is also available offline via two interactive touch screens at the visitor’s information centre in Paphos’ Old Town, which also provides additional information on all of the island’s tourist attractions.”
Aside from the highly popular intricate floor mosaics that are considered among the finest in the eastern Mediterranean and are feted for their excellent preservation and vibrant colours depicting scenes from Greek mythology, the magnificent Unesco Archaeological Park in Paphos is a vast site with many highlights.
The Ancient Odeon is one of the most prominent points of interest at the Paphos Archaeological Park. This stunning amphitheatre, built around the 2nd century AD, is made of carved limestone and is said to have been altered by the Romans and utilised until the 5th century AD. “In the summer, the Odeon, which has been fully restored, hosts open-air musical and theatrical performances,” Hadjigeorgiou said.
The fortress known as Saranta Kolones (Forty Columns) is located within the park and was built around the 7th century AD. “This historic site contains a collection of granite columns that were once used to protect the port and the city of Nea Paphos from potential Arab raids. The site was in use until 1223, when it was destroyed by an earthquake,” he explained.
Other points of interest include the Paphos lighthouse, an impressive albeit contemporary structure built when the island was under British rule, serving as a beacon for ships travelling towards Paphos from the United Kingdom.
The park features many attractions; however, my personal favourite was the Ptolemaic army camp, which was also thought to have served as a shrine to the Greek god, Apollo. This magnificent underground complex, known as Toumpallos, was carved into natural rock and consists of halls and corridors.
“It’s important to note that the Paphos Archaeological Park is also a Natura 2000 area,” Hadjigeorgiou told Cyprus Mail. “This is a first for Cyprus and the Mediterranean region because it is an archaeological site coexisting with a remarkable biodiversity of flora and fauna.”
The objective of Hadjigeorgiou and his team is to make Paphos a “quality holiday destination where visitors can enjoy a variety of experiences, contributing to sustainable tourism development, and safeguarding the region’s natural environment and cultural heritage”.
The award of European Capital of Smart Tourism 2023, which was given to Paphos at the end of last year, recognised their efforts, as well as the town’s incredible transformation over the last few years, including the continuous initiatives that have made Paphos the smart city it is today.
“As part of our ongoing efforts, and in response to positive user feedback, we are expanding our smart app to cover all of the region’s ancient sites, such as Tombs of the Kings, Paphos mediaeval castle, Basilica of Chrysopolitissa, and other important sites,” he said.
“These technological advances, combined with enhanced content such as 360-degree tours and QR code installation, will provide more user-friendly experiences and information at the touch of a button.”
Whether you are a cultural enthusiast or an explorer, Paphos’ innovative apps deliver a personalised and enhanced experience at their ancient and historic sites. “Our smart applications are free to use and will undoubtedly make your journey to Paphos’ past unforgettable, guided by a touch of modernity.”