Why Go to Paros
Paros has a bit of everything you’d expect from an island in the Cyclades ar-chipelago – whitewashed villages, blue-domed churches, blonde-sand beaches, fishing harbours overlooked by taverna tables, plus lively bars and cafés. The landscape is perhaps not the most dramatic, with its modest 771-metre -high Agii Pandes summit, but from the ring road the views out to sea over dozens of surrounding islands are unbeatable.
Paros is a good all-round island with something for every conceivable taste, from aficionados of ocean sports to foodies to extreme nightlife.
Museums and sites
Pride and joy of Parikia is the enormous Byzantine church and cruciform baptistry (5th–6th century) of Ekatondapyliani (The Hundred Gated), the name probably a corruption of Katopoliani (Of the Lower Town). The com-pound also contains a small Byzantine Museum. The “upper” town, settled early in the Bronze Age, is on and around the seafront Kastro, where much later the Venetians used Classical masonry for their fortifications. The old market lanes nearby.
Artefacts of various ancient Parian settlements are showcased in the ar-cheological museum just behind Ekatondapyliani. Not least because of all the handy marble quarries, sculpture was assiduously practiced here from the Archaic through the Roman periods; standout items include a memorial to Classical-era poet Arhilohos in the form of a lion savaging a bull, a winged Archaic gorgon, and a fine Artemis from ancient Delion, across the bay from Parikia.
Parian marble was in fact considered among the finest in the ancient world. Marble was last extracted here during the 19th century, you can still view the quarries near Marathi village.
Close to Parikia town, up on the hillside immediately east (you can drive up), is the splendid monastery of Agii Anargyri, founded in 1660. The last monk left in 2000, but a caretaker will let you in (10am–2pm & 5–9pm). From the shady festival terrace, there are views west (best early or at sun-set) over the distinctly heart-shaped bay to Sífnos, Sérifos and Kýthnos.
All that said, the most impressive single local site is on Paros’ satellite islet, Antiparos. Here the great cave (daily 10am–6pm summer, 10am–3pm spring/autumn), known since ancient times (Arhilohos made the first rec-orded tour). Only the topmost galleries with their stalagmites and stalac-tites, 45 million years in the making, are accessible. Surely the most eccen-tric visitor was the Marquis de Nointel, French ambassador to the Otto-mans, who in 1673 celebrated Christmas Eve Mass deep within the cavern for a mixed Muslim-Christian party of 500, using a suitably table-like rock for an altar.
Villages and Walks
After Parikia, the northerly fishing port of Naoussa is the island’s second town – but primary resort area. The oldest quarter actually forms a kastro – a Venetian town-planning device seen also at the heart of Antiparos – where the backs of the houses form a defensive perimeter, and access could be de-nied to pirates by means by closing a limited number of entrances. The old fishing port is achingly picturesque – and knows it, given the prices charged at most nearby restaurants.
The closest escape is the Environmental and Cultural Park of Aï Giannis Detis (parospark.com), a car-free area beginning at the eponymous monas-tery on the peninsula closing off Naoussa bay on the northwest. Seven well-mapped and -marked hiking trails crisscross the peninsula with its stunning rock formations and the lighthouse at Cape Korakas. Using the most direct path from the events amphitheatre above the car-park and snack-bar, allow a minimum 40 minutes round-trip to the lighthouse;
You can have a similar atmosphere to Naoussa’s, with fewer crowds, at Marpissa, some 9km south and inland, a maze of narrow lanes and ar-cades. Prodromos village, just across the road, with its arches, lit-tle kafenia, bougainvillea cascades and wood-oven bakery, proves equally appealing. From Prodromos, take the old cobbled path west and further in-land to Lefkes, the island’s medieval capital, with a particularly lovely lower square with cafés for a pause, before continuing on the trail to Kostos vil-lage, nearly as scenic.
In the far southwest, Alyki has considerable charm as a working fishing port, but the best target is offshore, on neighbouring Antiparos. On the square beside the single kastro gate there’s plenty of life, especially by night in season.
Beaches and watersports
While Paros may not have the mega-strand, the sand here is parcelled out into small patches all around the island’s perimeter, so on any given day at least several of these will be protected from whatever wind is blowing.
Parikia has one of the best in-town beaches in the Greek islands at Liva-dia, getting better as you proceed north. Carry on for 2.5km more, following the road to Martselo and Krios beaches at the far northwest corner of Parikia bay, also served by shuttle boats from the town quay. Family-friendly Martselo, end of the road with limited parking, has very clean water and protection from the north wind.
The sand on Paros is around the island’s perimeter, so on any given day at least several of these will be protected from whatever wind is blowing.
Some two km from Parikia in the opposite direction, Parasporos is another sandy beach.
Pounda’s beach isn’t the best for swimming, but owing to near-constant winds and a properly placed lee shore, it’s one of Greece’s major kite-surfing centres. Choose between two competing schools here: Paros Kite Boarding (paroskite.gr) and Paros Kite Pro Center ( paroskite-procenter.com).
There’s also a small scuba outfitter on Antiparos, Blue Island Divers (blueisland-divers.gr), visiting more than a dozen sites around Paros and Antiparos. For the less committed, the best beaches are at Soros beyond the cave along the southeast shore, or at Panagia, 2km from the port by road or marked walking track: gently shelving for toddlers, and numerous tama-risks lending shade.
Continuing around Paros, Alyki has beaches in town, as well as Farangas. But the next bay with is Khrysi Akti (Golden Beach), 600m from end to end and famous for its windsurfing. Kayaking and paddle-boarding are prac-ticed here. Still, there are three schools here or nearby: Paros Surf Club (parosurf.gr). Beyond Tsardakia, tiny Mesada , with a final path approach, while still fur-ther north, sandier, Logaras is a more conventional beach in a major re-sort area – specifically busy Piso Livadi.
Beyond that, there are other less frequented beaches at long, Molos; small but scenic, cliff-girt Kalogeros; and Ambelas before you reach those flank-ing Naoussa. West of this resort is the overrated Kolymbithres, rock for-mations; preferred by many, are the rock slabs which form a lido just be-hind the untenanted monastery of Agios Ioannis Detis.