TRAVEL GUIDE TO PAROS
From the best beaches to visit on the island to the lesser-known picturesque villages in Paros, this is the ultimate itinerary to spending a holiday at one of the best parts of the Cyclades islands
Words: Aleksandra Georgieva
Photography: Annie Spratt
10 April 2021
Situated at the heart of the Aegean Sea is one of Greece's most popular islands with a 120km coastline of blonde-sand beaches, mountainous landscape and cliff-top villages. Paros belongs to the Cyclades island group renowned for their natural beauty and architectural aesthetics. The island has turned into a favourite travel destination for the seekers of Mediterranean charm peering through historical monuments, magical rural villages and enchanting beaches. Paros mixes traditional elements of Cycladic architecture with modern twists of vivid nightlife, which makes it ideal for both thrill-seekers and travellers longing for a relaxed vacation at a picturesque location.
Paros is easily reached from Piraeus port and Rafina Port via either a slow or a fast ferry. Travellers visiting Athens can fly to the new international airport in about 45 minutes. Its laidback neighbour - the island of Antiparos - situated 1km southwest is another destination in the area which is easily accessible by an excursion boat or a car ferry. Paros' proximity to some of the most well-known Cyclades islands, including Santorini, Naxos and Mykonos, make the destination ideal for island hopping via ferry rides. One of the most famous beach is the Golden Beach on the east coast, which can be reached via the car-carrying shuttle-ferry that operates daily. Apart from the numerous secluded beaches offering privacy, there are also popular sandy shores including Naousa Bay, Kolymbithres, Parikia, Punta and Santa Maria.
Paros lays about 150 km south-east of Piraeus and is separated by the island of Naxos by an 8 km wide channel. Composed of its fine white marble, Paros captivates the attention of tourists from all over the world, seeking a stunning vacation destination or chasing after one of the world's best windsurfing location found in the strait between Paros and Naxos. Abandoned mines and marble quarries are scattered all over the island, which consists of several uninhabited offshore islets, spread across about 196 km2 of land.
The fertile land of Paros bursts with sweet rural villages and ancient remains. The ferry hub does not attracts as many tourists as its famous neighbouring islands, making it ideal for the lovers of good walks past traditional taverns, laidback beach days, dynamic diving activities or evenings spent at sophisticated bars. Parikia and Naoussa are the two main villages of Paros where the island's nightlife attracts young crowds, while the traditional villages of Lefkes and Marpissa offer blissful tranquility. Paros is also a top destination for water sports. The “Meltemi” wind provides ideal conditions for windsurfing and kitesurfing - so much so that every summer visitors from all over the world head to the island where the Professional Windsurfing World Cup has been held since 1993.
Did you know: Napoleon’s tomb and the Venus de Milo were carved from Parian marble.
TO DO IN PAROS:
Paros is best visited in either May, June or September when the island is less crowded with tourists. The high season is usually between July and August when the temperatures are also at peak. If you find your way to Paros, make sure to leave enough time for a day trip to the Antiparos island, which is only a 10 minute ferry ride from the main harbour of Parikia and apart from picturesque scenery offers total isolation.
Paros Park is home to the summer festivals of plays and concerts held at the outdoor amphitheatre. This park is a protected area with caves and walking trails - the sunset scenery along the Lighthouse route is particularly stunning. There are free summer film showings at the open-air cinema and not one but three beaches lay in the area - the Monastiri Beach, the Turkou Ammos and Perikopetra.
The charming village of Parikia captivates travellers' hearts with its little shops, beautiful alleys and an open-cinema. At its port lays the 4th century Panagia Ekatontapiliani church, known as the “Church with 100 doors”. According to a local legend 99 doors have been found in the Panagia Ekatondapiliani, but the 100th will only be discovered once Constantinople (Istanbul) becomes Greek again. Whether you are in the mood to test the legend or not, this remains one of the best preserved churches in the country.
If you are looking for delicious coffee and food to start off the day or you are after exceptional nightlife at a charming port, the village of Naoussa is the place to be. Anyone with appreciation for fine wines, must also visit the Moraitis winery in Naoussa. The third-generation winemaker offers a taste of famous Greek and indigenous varieties including Malagouzia, Aidani Black, Karampraimi and Mandilaria. In addition, from Monday to Saturday visitors can explore the old winemaking tools in the small museum.
As there are quite a few places to visit around the island, driving will be your quickest option to explore the area. Yet, the island benefits from one of the best bus connections in the Cyclades. Parikia, Drios, Piso Livadi and Naoussa are the main towns to stay in Paros. If staying on the mainland is not an issue for you, Lefkes is a very good and affordable choice. The mountainous village is famous among tourists in the area and is only about three and a half kilometres away from the traditional white-coloured village of Prodromos, known to locals for its serenity and two monasteries.
The capital, Parikia, lays at the site of the ancient capital Paros. The local harbour is also a main hub for Aegean islands ferries travelling between other islands such as Santorini, Mykonos ad Naxos, as well as the port of Athens, Piraeus, Heraklion and Crete. Blue-painted doors and window frames, flat roofs and whitewashed walls decorate the traditional Cycladic style houses with gardens of pomegranates and oranges in Parikia. The marble remains of an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo lay above the central stretch of the seafront road, while on a hillside in the southern outskirts of the city travellers will find the remains of a castle dedicated to Asclepius. Recent non-archeological excavations discovered what is left of an ancient cemetery, which is now visible near the modern harbour.
MAIN BEACHES ON PAROS ISLAND:
Golden Beach's silky sands and deep blue waters unveil stunning Cycladic landscape, home to various cocktail bars and one of the best windsurf locations in the area.
Santa Maria is where the water starts off shallow and gets gradually deeper. Benefits from a few beach bars and restaurants alongside a close proximity to Naoussa.
Faragas is protected from the north wind on Paros island, where the water is crystal clear and the beach restaurants offers a variety of refreshments.
Monastiri is where you will find shallow waters and a rocky path leading to a peaceful cove area of a nude-friendly beach.