With a skyline sprinkled with blue-domed churches and a coastline decorated with miles of golden sand, holidays to Paros serve up Greek island charm by the bucket load.
Parikia’s port is the busiest spot on the island, with ferries stopping there en route to Santorini or Naxos. But it definitely has an appeal of its own, and plenty of sights to see. The jewel in its crown is a huge windmill, which stands guard over the town and can be seen from the harbour. Cast your eyes higher still and you’ll be able to spot the ruins of the Kastro Fortress – this 13th-century Venetian castle adds an Italian touch to the island’s history.
You only need two words to describe the old fishing town of Naoussa – picture perfect. The cubic, whitewashed houses here are typically Cycladic, fronted by colourful doors and window boxes teeming with flowers. Tiny churches and blue-domed chapels pepper its maze-like cobbled streets and, at the harbour itself, colourful fishing boasts called caiques are moored. Grab a table at a waterfront taverna and you can enjoy the view over a glass of wine.
The world’s finest marble
Paros is famous for its marble, which was considered to be the best in ancient times. It’s rumoured that the iconic Venus de Milo statue – now housed in Paris’ Louvre Museum – was carved from Parian marble. And, more recently, in the 19th century, it was used for Napoleon’s tomb. You can still visit the quarry it came from, near Marathi village, and even take a chip of marble home as a souvenir.
Paros is crisscrossed with walking trails, and most of them come with photo-worthy views. The Environmental and Cultural Park of Paros is a great pick, as the paths across the peninsula are all mapped out, with points of interest marked up. There are seven routes to choose from – opt for the one that winds along the coast and you’ll be able to spot the surrounding Cycladic islands – Mykonos, Syros, Tinos and Naxos.
Things to See and Do in Paros
Beaches by the bucket load
Paros is edged by a necklace of sandy sweeps – they’re parcelled out along the island’s perimeter, so wherever you are, you’ll never be far from a sunbathing spot. There are quiet, secluded beaches that are almost entirely deserted, and lounger-lined sandy spots that are kitted out with well-equipped watersports centres.
The big beach
Golden Beach is the longest stretch of sand on the island, sprawling out along the coast for over half a kilometre, just south of Parikia. As its name suggests, the beach boasts powder-soft golden sand. Plus, the water’s clear as it comes. It’s set up for sunbathing, with loungers and parasols, or you can throw down a towel. The Windsurfing World Cup is held here each year, so it’s one to visit for watersports fans, too.
The secret beach
Agios Fokas beach is your go-to if you’re after a footprint-free patch of sand, as most people head to the bigger, beaches in the area, such as Livadia. It’s nestled into the coastline, six kilometres from the island’s capital, and is neighboured by only a string of pine trees and a pint-sized chapel.
Bargain BuysThere’s no better place to bag bargains on local produce than at Paros’ street markets. Cheeses, honey and wines line the stalls, and the tradesmen are often open to a bartering match. You’ll find a huddle of stalls at the port in Parikia every morning, except Sundays. Head here to stock up on fresh Parian treats – it’s just to the left of the windmill.
Mid-Range BuysThe people of Paros are pretty handy with crafts. There’s a jewellery workshop on Market Street in Parikia where you can shop for trinkets that have been handmade by local designers. And those with a penchant for ancient Greece will be pleased to know that villages in Paros aren’t complete without a pottery shop, where you can buy terracotta pots and ceramics.
Designer BuysMany artists call Paros home, perhaps because its landscapes lend themselves so well to paint. This means there are plenty of galleries tucked away along the cobbled streets. In the old part of Naoussa, you’ll find Metaxas Gallery – it hosts exhibitions to show off local artwork, and many of the pieces are up for sale – for the right price.
Laidback eveningsThe nightlife on Paros is fairly laidback, but that doesn’t mean it’s lights out once the sun has gone down. In bigger towns like Parikia and Naoussa, you’ll find cosy music cafés, where you can listen to live jazz as you sip local wines.
Lively eveningsPeaceful Paros is a bit of a dark horse when it comes to nightlife. There are plenty of bars to hop between in Parikia – they’re dotted around the seafront and the old market. There’s a mix of traditional drinking spots that bring in DJs for late-night sets, along with an Irish pub that moonlights as a dance club during the summer.
The Greeks are often hailed the kings of the casserole – otherwise known as ‘magirefta’. You’ll find these dishes on most menus in Paros. There are hundreds of variations on offer, including ‘anginares à la polita’ – an artichoke stew with carrots.
If you see rows of fish laid out on a crate in the midday sun, don’t be alarmed. Sundried mackerel is a popular dish in the Cycladic islands. It’s coated in olive oil and seasoned with herbs before being served up with measures of ouzo.
Move over feta, there’s a new white cheese on the block. This one’s made from goat’s milk and has a creamy, sweet taste. Expect your Greek salad to be topped with this instead of feta if you’re dining in Paros.
You might associate this sweet treat with our friends across the pond, but it’s actually a popular Parian dessert, too.
Paros has been internationally recognised for its organic wines, both white and red. Wine lovers can pay a visit to the Manolis Moraitis winery to see first-hand how the wines are made. Or just order a bottle at a Parian taverna.