Poppin’ over to Paphos

Cyprus' stunning views, friendly people and tasty food welcome you.

Boats docked in the harbor (photo credit: SARAH LEVI)
Boats docked in the harbor
(photo credit: SARAH LEVI)
Recently the Irish budget airline Ryanair began offering flights from Ben-Gurion Airport to Paphos, Cyprus for only €40 (around NIS 160), allowing shekel-pinchers a chance at a small slice of the good life for a few days. I took up the airline’s offer to grab this ludicrously cheap flight to Europe's third largest island and friendly neighbor to the north.
Prior to departure, I also tested the new bus route that takes passengers directly from Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station to Terminal 3 at the airport every hour on the hour for only NIS 16. It is money well spent, especially considering travelers are no longer bound to the Nesher airport-shuttle monopoly.
You definitely get what you pay for on this 45-minute flight, which is reminiscent of a quick flight to Eilat. The plane felt like a flying local bus, with the option of purchasing overpriced food and beverages from the cabin crew. The flight was so short, I didn’t even notice the seats don’t recline. No big deal.
Paphos, a city on the southwest coast of Cyprus, prides itself on being the birthplace and home of the Greek goddess of beauty and love, Aphrodite, as well as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ancient relics such as the Paphos Castle, the House of Theodosius and a famed collection of mosaics depicting ancient Greek gods and goddesses can be found in and around Kato Paphos, a picturesque harbor overlooking the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Visitors can spend a day at the Paphos Archeological Park reliving the past in this vast open space full of flowers and lush greenery for just €4.50.
This year, Paphos was selected as a “European Capital of Culture,” which means these sites are hosting a variety of cultural events throughout the year, featuring international and local artists and musicians.
However, all of this is largely overshadowed by a thriving tourism industry that caters almost exclusively to sun-starved vacationers from the UK looking for a relaxing and easy holiday. The city’s 32,000 residents depend almost entirely on tourism, and Paphos offers a kitschy paradise for the many British visitors of all shapes and sizes with jeep tours, water parks, plenty of shopping and nightlife options and other roadside attractions for this specific demographic.
I was able to enjoy my inexpensive flight options (four nights in the middle of April, after the Passover and Easter holidays) in the sleepy seaside town of Coral Bay, which was my home away from home. Built up in the late 1990s, the place has earned a reputation for its prized beach and resort location for vacationers.
The town is lined with posh hotels and beach-side resorts, which do not challenge your budget. An average night in one of these four-star resort hotels will set travelers back only around NIS 250 to NIS 500.
Aside from the hotels, the main drag of Coral Bay Road is packed with eateries, pubs, and plenty of souvenir shops fully stocked with knickknacks, particularly statues of all sizes of the city’s pride, Aphrodite.
A short 20-minute ride on a local bus takes tourists directly to the harbor, the heart of the city. Its mass of hotels, resorts, short-term vacation rentals, souvenir shops, touristy restaurants and pubs is advertised on billboards boosting real-estate opportunities for investors, mostly written in English and Chinese.
Dining options are affordable and plentiful, and despite the fact that Paphos primarily caters to tourists, it does not skimp on quality. Because of the number of British tourists, many restaurants cater to their palates by offering familiar British dishes like full English breakfasts and fish-and-chips.
Cypriot restaurants are plentiful and serve freshly caught fish and seafood, mezze platters, halloumi and feta cheese, giving travelers an exotic taste of the island.
Overall, the typical Paphos experience is a relaxing vacation, where it is easy to spoil yourself on this sun-drenched island, whose archeological park displays ancient artifacts and a famed mosaics collection.
This, by the way, is where most Israeli tourists may be found.
If you are looking for a place to immerse yourself in a vibrant and exotic culture, you might want to pass on Paphos – but if you’re looking for a friendly and welcoming place for travelers with stunning views, friendly people and tasty food, then hop on one of the cheapest flights out of Israel, because Paphos is waiting for you.