Mythology, Places in Cyprus that Will Leave You Enchanted
Cyprus sits in the East Mediterranean front and center to its crystalline turquoise and cobalt blue waters. The island, shaped like a manta ray is associated with two legendary sea monsters. The Scylla, a known sea monster with a serpent’s body, six dog heads, and twelve limbs (known to have originated from Scilla, Calabria).
And Ayia Napa, a local sea monster said to be half crocodile, half serpent. Cyprus is also known as the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love, and is rich with a multi-layered past promising discovery of ancient treasures to the thousands who flock to its balmy shores.
There’s plenty of monster myth and legend to lure a traveler to Cyprus, along with centuries of Mycenaean, Persian and Ottoman history to explore. Here are a few must-see places in Cyprus that will leave you enchanted.
Places in Cyprus
Aphrodite’s Rock, Paphos Coast
The goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite became worshiped as a cult figure with shrines built in her honor all over Greece (though Cyprus is not part of Greece, it is culturally). Made instantly recognizable by painter Botticelli, the Romans knew her as ‘Venus’, though she’s perhaps best known for her appearances in Greek tales like Jason and the Golden Fleece.
On Cyprus, her birthplace is marked as Aphrodite’s Rock, or “Petra Tou Romiou,” a teetering rock stack, standing in the foamy sea off the Paphos coast. It’s said that if you swim around the rock three times, true love will be yours!
The Cyprus Sea Monster, Avia Napa
Renowned party spot Ayia Napa might be the last place you’d expect to hear about mythical beings, but for years, there have been tellings of a sea creature around these south-eastern shores of the island — some even call it the Cyprus Loch Ness Monster.
Many sightings have been claimed around Cape Greco, a rocky cliff-face where Famagusta Bay protrudes out. Though reports state it drags away fishing nets, by all accounts it is benign and does no harm to local residents.
Such is the reputation that locals call it “To Filiko Teras” — the friendly monster. Take a boat trip around the impossibly blue waters to find out for yourself.
Paphos and the Tomb of the Kings, Paphos
Legends continue into the realm of royalty on Cyprus, with tales of King Pygmalion and Galatea and their miraculous offspring, Paphos, who founded his own kingdom, as well as stories about King Cinyras, who bragged that his daughter Smyrna was more beautiful than Aphrodite and paid the price when the goddess made him fall in love with Smyrna.
You can explore The Tomb of Kings, a Hellenistic temple just outside Paphos town, to get a sense of the old might of Cyprus. Though its name is more to do with the staggering tomb complexes and the impressive example of a 3rd century BC necropolis than real royalty, it’s an evocative and must-visit site.
Myths live on in Cyprus, thanks to their colorful variety and echoes of ancient times. There’s no shortage of sightseeing stops on Cyprus that are connected to legends thousands of years past.
From the tales of the olive tree in Zeytinlik village, said to be given protection from evil by Jesus Christ himself, to the fate of North Cyprus governor, Canbulat Pasha, who is said to have carried on fighting the Venetians, even after his head had been chopped off! You are bound to find enchantment on a trip here.
Cyprus Travel Tips
If you’re off to explore the monsters and legends of Cyprus, be ready for hot weather in this sub-tropical place, especially during the summer months. Strong walking shoes are essential if you want to roam around ruins, tombs, and other local sites. Cyprus is also a big hiking and biking destination, so look into trails like the Cedar Valley if you’re after an outdoor adventure.
In terms of flights, most touch down at Larnaca airport or Paphos airport, which is great for both beach vacations and myth-exploring around the southwest shores. I like to use Thomson to find cheap flights to Cyprus, and recommend booking during the week and going for the shoulder seasons of fall and spring to get both the best prices and the most forgiving weather.
As always, your thoughts on epic fairytale adventures are greatly appreciated in the comments below!