NOT many beach resorts boast a Unesco World Heritage site. Then again, not many beach resorts are like Paphos. This Cypriot city swims not just in big sky, sea and beach, but also in rich layers of history that make for more than just a beach holiday, as I found when I returned earlier this month.

My Paphos (also known as Pafos) base was the Athena Beach Hotel (, a decent waterfront four-star. As well as bountiful swimming pools, it offered an à la carte Italian restaurant for guests staying in.

The straggle of the main resort has all the cheesy bars, hotels and shops you’d expect from somewhere that pulls in the majority of its punters for a sunny Mediterranean break.

The sign that Paphos offers so much more emerged when I walked half an hour along the waterfront into the old port. The hulk of Paphos Castle stands guard over the bobbing tourist boats, a striking sentinel since medieval times.

It is easy to see why Paphos was recognised as the European Capital of Culture in 2017 – its Unesco-recognised historic treasures are truly sublime. The Paphos Archaeological Park that swirls around Nea Paphos lies just by the harbour.

The millennia just drift away wandering through Roman villas checking out the brilliantly preserved ornate floor mosaics. Walking amidst the odeon and the vast agora, you share space with a wealth of Romans and Greeks – Greek gods too, whose legends hang heavy in the balmy air. Look out for the House of Aion, with its mosaic depicting the birth of Dionysos and Apollo’s contest with Marsyas.

The National: A mosaic depicting a duel between Theseus and the MinotaurA mosaic depicting a duel between Theseus and the Minotaur

Kato Paphos archaeological park next door is less dramatic, though it’s admittedly hard to compete with its world-famous sibling. Look out for the Agia Solomoni Catacombs and St Paul’s Church. Head for Fabrica Hill, and a new elevated walkway lets you get a better handle on sprawling ancient Paphos.

Many visitors skip the nearby Tombs of the Kings. Don’t. Okay, so there are no actual kings, but these otherworldly subterranean tombs are remarkable and a joy to ramble around. Contemporary to Nea Paphos, it’s thought nobles and other local luminaries would have been entombed here.

An even less explored site is Palaepaphos, much further east. Many visitors come here to snap photos of Aphrodite’s Rock, where the eponymous goddess is said to have emerged fully formed from the waves. There is even a free app that lets you snap photos with Aphrodite herself.

More historically significant is the main part of the World Heritage Site at Palaepaphos. This was the site of the first Paphos, devastated by an earthquake that precipitated the move west. There is less to actually see in the ruins here, though the museum does an excellent job. The site is also known as the “Sanctuary of Aphrodite”, as followers of her cult worshipped here for centuries. Homer is even said to have paid a visit.

The wider Paphos District has so much to explore beyond these world-class historic treasures. I felt instantly at home venturing into the Akamas National Park to the west. As I clambered into the jeep of my guide Panicos Neophytou of Cyfari, he said: “We get a lot of Scots. They love it and we love them, my next group is Scottish too, hikers, so I’m really lucky.”

We battered off into the wilderness of this sprawling national park that sits so dramatically betwixt the milk blue Mediterranean and the vaulting Troodos Mountains. The latter soar much higher than Ben Nevis to almost 2000m. We took in the shipwreck of the Edro III and St George’s Church. In the latter, Scotland’s own St Andrew stood just above England’s patron saint, keeping an eye on his saintly brother.

Lunch was a joy at Sofia and Andreas Traditional House in the wee mountain village of Letymbou. Sofia and her husband made me feel as welcome as a dram-bearing dark-haired stranger in Scotland at midnight on Hogmanay. We mucked in, helping knead the dough for the bread that made for a delicious souvenir.

The National: Much more than perfect beaches

Delicious too was the feast Sofia conjured up in her traditional wood-fired outdoor oven. It was alive with roast goat and chicken, bursting with fresh vegetables and topped with the glorious ultra-fresh halloumi we watched her make.

The next day brought a return to Akamas. This time, Panicos and I strode on from the selfie spot of Aphrodite’s Baths and tackled one of the trails that spread their rugged tentacles across this wildscape.

It was a binary walk of craggy limestone to one flank and blue sea on the other, only interrupted by soaring birds and a turtle breaking the surface.

Panicos and I enjoyed a last meal toasting our new friendship and planning hikes in the real land of St Andrew at the Baths Of Aphrodite Restaurant. We swept through the type of spirit-soaring fresh produce-laden fish mezze they do so well around Paphos. This is truly a land fit for Romans and Greeks, who have both left remarkable legacies – and an excellent resort for a beach holiday.

EasyJet ( flies to Paphos direct from Scotland. Tourist information at