The ancient town of Palaipafos is located within the limits of the modern village of Kouklia, situated close to the mouth of Diarizos river, 16 kilometres east of the modern town of Pafos. The site of Palaipafos and its surrounding area are linked to an ancient cult associated with the “Great Goddess”, the goddess of fertility, who was worshiped in Cyprus since the Neolithic period. The Myceneans, who settled on the island at the beginning of the 12th century, adopted the local goddess of fertility and erected a sanctuary in her honour. According to tradition, Kinyras, the local legendary king, was the founder and first High Priest of the sanctuary. Another legend, however, mentions Agapenor, the king of Tegea in Arcadia, Greece, as the founder of the city and the sanctuary. Palaipafos remained the largest rural and religious centre of western Cyprus, from the beginning of the Geometric period until the end of the Classical period. When the last King of Palaipafos, Nikokles, moved his capital at the end of the 4th century B.C. to the newly- founded Nea Pafos, some 16 km to the west, the town retained some of its importance thanks to the continuation of the cult at the temple of Aphrodite. During the Roman period it became the centre of the newly established ‘Koinon Kyprion’, (the ‘Confederation of the Cypriots’), which dealt with religious affairs and the cult of the Roman emperor and controlled the island’s bronze coinage. The religious and cultural activities at the sanctuary of Palaipafos ceased in the 4th century A.D. with the rise and spread of Christianity throughout the island. During the medieval period Palaipafos, which was renamed Couvouclia, regained some of its prosperity when it became the center of local administration and was used as the headquarters of the royal official who directed and controlled the sugar-cane plantations and refineries in the Pafos area.
The site was partially investigated from the beginning of the 19th century but systematic archaeological research took place between 1950-55 by the Kouklia Expedition of the University of St Andrews and the Liverpool Museum, directed by J.H. Iliffe and T.B. Mitford. From 1966 archaeological research at Palaipafos was resumed under the auspices of the German Archaeological Institute joined by the University of Konstanz (until 1972) and Zürich (since 1973) directed by Franz Georg Maier and M.-L. von Wartburg. The Department of Antiquities of Cyprus has excavated a certain number of tombs in the area surrounding Kouklia.
In September 1980, Palaipafos and Nea Pafos became the first Cypriot sites to be included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
The most important monuments of Palaipafos are:
The Sanctuary of Aphrodite: One of the most important sanctuaries of Aphrodite throughout the ancient world. It is mentioned by Homer and other Greek and Latin authors. The surviving remains of the sanctuary form two groups of buildings: in the south was the first shrine of Aphrodite, Sanctuary I, built in the Late Bronze Age. It consists of an open court (temenos), surrounded by a monumental wall comprised of enormous limestone blocks. Its western side and part of its south side are preserved along with a hall, which housed a conical baetyl in its centre symbolising the power of the Great Goddess. The baetyl also adorned the Roman shrine, Sanctuary II, which was erected in the north at the end of the 1st or the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. The new Roman buildings enclose a spacious open court at the south, east and north.
The House of Leda: The Roman “House of Leda” was discovered at the locality Alonia, about 120 m. northwest of the Byzantine church of Agios Nikolaos, which dates to the 16th century. From the original building only the central dining room is preserved which is covered with an outstanding mosaic floor dated to the 2nd century A.D. and which depicts the mythological scene of Leda and the Swan (The panel on-site is a modern copy; the original is exhibited in the Kouklia Museum).
The Northeast Gate of the defensive wall: The Northeast Gate of Palaipafos occupied a commanding position above the living quarters of the ancient city on the Marchellos hill and consisted one of the strongholds of the ancient fortifications. The first wall and gate buildings were erected in the early Archaic period (second half of the 8th century B.C.). The gate is connected with the dramatic siege of the city by the Persians during the Ionian revolt in 498 B.C. According to an inscription the last King of Palaipafos, Nikokles, rebuilt the defensive walls in the middle of the 4th century B.C. but soon after 300 B.C. they fell into disuse.
The City wall and the Palace of Hadji Abdulla: Another sector of the defences of the city, located about 10 minutes walking distance from the northeast Gate. The surviving remains present the same building phases and methods of construction as on the northeast Gate. An imposing building, with narrow corridors, small rooms and large walls is erected against the inner face of the city wall. It dates to the 6th or early 5th century BC. This palace was probably the residence of the Persian governor of Palaipafos.
The Church of Panagia Katholiki: Panagia Katholiki follows the type of a cruciform church and dates to the 12th or 13th century A.D. The western sector is a 16th century addition. The surviving wall-paintings which decorate the interior of the church, reflect the traditional popular art of the 15th century.
The Lusignian Manor House: Built by the Lusignian kings in the 13th century as a centre of local administration and as the headquarters of the royal official who directed and controlled the sugar-cane plantations and refineries in the Pafos area. After 1571 the manor served as the centre of administration for the Kouklia Ottoman chiflik. The building consists of a complex of rooms arranged in four wings around a central open-air court. Only parts of the gate tower and part of the east and south wings survive from the medieval structures, and they are incorporated in buildings of the Ottoman period. The Gothic hall in the east wing is considered to be one of the finest surviving monuments of Frankish profane architecture on the island. The east wing, which dates to the Ottoman period, now functions as the local archaeological Museum.
Cemeteries: The area of Palaipafos includes numerous cemeteries, which have yielded a rich variety of archaeological material dating from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Christian periods. The most important finds from the tombs are now exhibited in the local archaeological museum.
The Lusignian sugar-cane refinery in the coastal plain: The royal manor of Kouklia, which was built as the centre of the Lusignian sugar-cane plantations in western Cyprus, was directly connected to the industrial installations for the processing of sugar-cane. Of these installations the best-preserved are the sugar mill and the refineries erected in the coastal plain of Kouklia at the locality Stavros. Of the installations, which once covered Sanctuary II next to the manor house, only scarce traces survive today. The refinery complex at the locality Stavros combines the four sectors for the processing of sugar-cane production: milling, boiling and refining, firing and stoking, storing and workshops.
Opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 8.00 – 16.00 / Wednesday: 8.00 – 17.00
Admission €4,50 [the price includes entry to the Local Museum of Palaipafos (Kouklia) ]
Accessibility Non wheelchair accessible