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Day 3: Kourion

We had a relatively early start this morning, because we needed to be at the airport for 10am to collect our hire car. When I was initially planning the holiday, renting a car from the airport seemed like a good idea compared to trying to find our way to some random other place in Paphos to pick up a car. At least we knew where the airport was and that there would be a bus to it. I hadn't realised though that the buses to the airport are so infrequent, which meant we needed to leave the apartment at 08.45 to get to the airport for 10. And I also had no idea that Paphos is absolutely bursting with hire car agencies.  Our apartment is literally next door to one and on the walk from there to the bus station we must have passed about 20. Never mind, I will know if we come again xD

We got to the airport without any difficulty and waited outside departures for someone to arrive with our car. We had to wait for 15 minutes or so, but when the guy turned up it was the most informal car hire in the world. The man didn't mark the location of scratches on the rental agreement or even want to see Tim's driving licence.  There was a fair bit of damage to the car, so Tim made sure to take a video of it before we drove off.

Our destination for today was the archaeological site at Kourion, about 40 miles to the east of Paphos, near the town of Limassol.  It was a pretty straightforward journey, although navigating on this holiday isn't going to be quite as smooth as I'd hoped because, unlike cars we've rented in Sicily and Iceland, this one is quite old-fashioned and doesn't have any USB sockets. We were planning to plug my phone into a USB socket and use it as a satnav, because we couldn't get a map of Cyprus for our actual satnav. We can still do that to some extent, but using the phone to navigate kills the battery pretty quickly, and it definitely wouldn't last for an entire day of driving. So we may have to do some more old-fashioned navigating at times and save the phone for trickier parts of our routes :D 

Kourion is located within the British Overseas Territory of Akrotiri, which is one of two bits of the island of Cyprus which Britain retained when Cyprus gained independence in 1960. There are some large military bases here and as we got close to Kourion, we passed lots of buildings protected by high fences, as well as roads with names like "Isle of Wight Road" and lots of signs forbidding any photography.

Once we got to Kourion, it cost €4.50 each to get in. The site is on a hill overlooking the sea and just from the carpark we had a great view :)


There was a town here until around the 4th century, when it was destroyed by earthquakes. 


The first sight we came to was the remains of a large villa, whose floor was decorated with mosaics.


A large TUI coach had just been leaving as we were arriving and it was much quieter here than it had been around the mosaics in Paphos yesterday :) 


I'd managed to pick up a map in English today and we followed that towards the next attraction, which was an ancient theatre.


It was in a beautiful location, overlooking the sea.


Apparently it could sit 3,500 people, but it didn't feel anywhere near as big as the theatre we saw in Plovdiv last month, so I was brave enough to climb down to the bottom of this one :D  


Again, this was quite a large site and so we had a bit of a walk uphill towards the rest of the sights.


This was signposted as the "Earthquake House".


The house was originally built in early second century and destroyed by earthquakes in the fourth century.


We climbed higher towards a viewpoint.


From here there was an even better view of the sea and we could see some amazing cliffs.


We were walking towards the ruins of an early Christian basilica.


We could make out some of the arches which had once formed part of the church.


There were some very pretty columns too.


As you can see from the photos, there weren't too many other people here and we were able to explore in peace :) 


Moving on, we came to the remains of the town's thermal baths.


There were walkways here around the floors, but they weren't quite as impressive as the mosaics we'd already seen.


We continued to walk around the site, getting some even better views of the cliffs.


We came to the remains of a villa known as the House of the Gladiators.


From the mosaics, it was obvious why :)  


We'd reached the edge of the site by this point, so it was time to retrace our steps back to the car.


We'd only been driving for a couple of minutes when we saw a sign which looked like it was pointing towards another archaeological site.


This was the sanctuary of Apollo Hylates.


The remains here date from the first century AD.


If Kourion had been quiet, this place was practically deserted and we were able to explore almost completely on our own :) 


The most striking ruin is the temple of Apollo.


There's just enough of it left to give a tantalising glimpse of what it would once have looked like.


Apollo was worshipped here as early as the 8th century BC, although the ruins today mostly date from the 1st century AD.


It was a really pretty place to visit anyway and the benefit of hiring a car is being able to make spontaneous stops like this :) Tomorrow we plan to do some more exploring, this time in the northwestern part of the island.

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