Sometimes you visit island after island and enjoy them all but then suddenly you come across one that just really strikes the perfect balance. Like a Goldilocks situation but instead of porridge, it’s whitewashed Greek villages, and instead of surprised bears, you’ve got swarthy Greek dudes driving beat-up coupes with their arm hanging out the window. Anyway, imperfect metaphors aside, the island of Paros was just such an island and its main town, – historic, typically Greek Parikia – fit the total vibe to a tee.
Sure, we’ve seen cuter Greek villages, more impressive Greek beaches, more memorable Greek malecóns, and roughly thousands and thousands of quaint Greek churches but the overall blend of these elements in Parikia, Paros seemed perfectly balanced. Even the population – just under 5,000 – could be categorized as “just right”.
Parikia is a port town with lots of Greek tavernas but also several other genres of food to choose from. Plenty of white churches but one extraordinarily large beige one. Lots of hotels but no giant Hilton. A maze of old town Parikia alleys that is confusing enough to be fun but not so confusing that you can take a wrong turn and end up missing your plane three days later. Just the right number of Greek men driving scooters with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. Classically terrible parking.
My point is, Parikia Paros (also called Paroikia because, you know, it is a Greek name that was never built with our alphabet in mind) isn’t necessarily the most phenomenally memorable or fantastically scenic Greek village we’ve seen but it does have pretty much the right amount of everything we associate with Greek island living to deserve kudos. Way to be conventionally Greek!
Where to Stay on Paros?
On many of the smaller Greek islands, choosing where to base yourself is pretty simple. Where can you find a taverna open all day? Ok, we’ll stay there. But Paros is just big enough to provide options, and with options come decisions, and with decisions come potential mistakes.
Well, first off, let me reassure you, it would be hard to go wrong picking any of the different Paros villages as your base. First of all, because the island isn’t that big. If you rent a car you can reach pretty much anywhere in less than half an hour. Of course, that will be your first real choice.
If you do rent a car, the island is wide open to you. The old world charm of rural
Lefkes could be a terrific choice, practically equidistant from every Paros highlight. Charming little Alyki and its relaxed, colourful harbour can be an excellent off-the-beaten path alternative. If you love beaches, just pick one with a hotel you like, you can’t go far wrong (although Golden Beach or Kolympethres Beach would be our suggestions).
If you’d rather not get a car, though, you should probably stick to either Parikia or Naoussa. They have the most facilities, hotels, restaurants and sights. Plus, there are regular bus connections to and from both.
At the risk of oversimplifying, I would say if you want more options, more convenience, more beaches and slightly lower prices, then go with Parikia. For a marginally more photogenic experience, a pretty little harbour and narrow shopping alleys so cute as to seem almost contrived, then Naoussa is the choice.
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Things to Do in Parikia Paros
Probably the biggest selling feature to base yourself in Parikia Paros is the long list of things to do there. There is enough to see and do in and around town to keep you busy for several days, easily extended to a week if you mix in some day trips to some of the other Paros island highlights. We spent 6 days based in Parikia and exploring Paros and could easily have filled a few more yet.
Walk the Waterfront Malecon
Like I said, the waterfront in Parikia Greece doesn’t stand out as particularly memorable among some of the amazing Greek waterfronts we’ve seen but that doesn’t mean it isn’t very nice. Lots of good tavernas, great harbour views, interesting boats, etc.
All it really lacks is a designated walking area where you can stay along the water the entire way. On the bright side, having to occasionally veer back to the street makes you appreciate the parts along the water just that much more.
Visit the Parikia Beaches
The closest of several good beaches in the area, it has everything you need for a fun beach day with views of the port and old town. Some of the others have slightly nicer sand but it’s hard to beach Livadia Beach for convenience.
Just a 10-minute walk from the old town, it is right next to the harbour yet still boasts a very nice stretch of sand. Well-organized with loungers and tavernas.
This oft-overlooked little gem a bit farther toward the peninsula is quiet and beautiful with amazing clear water. About a half-hour walk or just a short drive from the malecón.
Roughly the same distance in the other direction (southwest), pretty little Dolphin Beach is considered a hidden gem among locals and people who return to Parikia often. There is a popular taverna, too, although the beach itself is a bit close to the road for some tastes.
A decent choice for those staying out this way but it is only recommended to venture out here from the main part of Parikia for an all-day stay if you have your own gear since lounger rental is more expensive than most.
Agia Irini Beach
Popular local beach, Paralia Agia Irini, has nice sand, palm trees and a couple of good beach bars. Sunbed rental varies widely from “just buy something” to €50/pair so be sure to ask before settling in.
Find All the Parikia Churches
Panagia Ekatontapiliani (Church of 100 Doors)
Also known as the Holy Church of the Virgin Mary, which makes more sense because as impressive as this church is (and it is VERY impressive), it does NOT have 100 doors. Or windows. Or altars. Or priests. Or, presumably, local craft beers.
Regardless of how it ended up with that name (some suggest it was simply a perversion of Katapoliani, meaning Lower Town), it is quite the place, whatever your religious leanings. Built in the 3rd century BC, rebuilt in the 6th century AD and photogenic from every angle.
Saint Constantine Church / Temple of Athena
Side by side up high (by Parikia standards) above the harbour, they are pretty to look at and possess exceptional views of the bay, especially at sunset.
Orthodox Church on the Square
As you can tell, I couldn’t quite figure out what the actual name of this church is but it is quite a looker, as well, particularly late in the day with the orange sun shining on its bright façade.
Saint Anna Holy Orthodox Church
Close to the windmill (and Alexandros Café), this tiny, picture-perfect little chapel is a terrific place to watch the sunset.
Holy Catholic Church of Agios Antonios of Padua
Right across from Panagia Ekontapiliani, this classically lovely church is among the most functional and popular for local services in Parikia.
Agia Paraskevi Church
Hidden down a picturesque alley in the centre of the old town, we weren’t able to go inside this little church but it really grabs your attention when you stumble across it.
Learn Greek History at Paros Archaeological Museum
For a nominal entrance fee you can enjoy a pretty fascinating walk through the history of the area (and Greece in general). There is a wide range of displays and art, well worth a stop before or after checking out the Church of 100 Windows.
Visit the Ancient Frankish Castle
More historically interesting than visually appealing, this ancient castle (Frankish Kastro) is hidden among newer buildings in the middle of the old town. There isn’t much left but one of the original walls is still standing and there is some information you can read as you pass by.
Hike on Agios Fokas
A peninsula, lighthouse and church across the bay from town, it obviously isn’t right in Parikia but is still close enough to qualify (based on our very arbitrary standards). Admittedly, the lighthouse isn’t much (and definitely not worth the trip on its own) but the views from the hills near the lighthouse – of the church, bay and Parikia – are stellar.
Scramble Down to the Cave of Archilochos
Near Agios Fokas, you can enjoy some nice open hiking trails to soak up the views and the particularly adventurous can scramble down the western cliff face to see this ancient cave. The climb down and across to the cave was tricky, tiring and treacherous at times. Definitely only for those who love a good scramble. Even the very last few metres up into the cave itself were slippery and difficult but at least I was able to get a couple pretty good photos from inside (as the sun was starting to go down).
On balance, we would say the cave isn’t special enough to warrant the effort of getting there (or the danger involved if you’re not comfortable on that kind of terrain). However, we climbed back up in time for sunset and sitting with our legs dangling over the edge, drinking Mythos, eating leftovers from Katy & Rudy’s and watching the ocean turn orange was quite a memorable moment.
More Things to Do on Paros
If you have time for a longer stay on Parikia, there are a few more activities you can enjoy before moving on.
The short drive from Parikia to Naoussa is lovely. And by that I mean easy and safe but also pretty and photogenic. Of course, then you arrive in Naoussa and you immediately forget about all those okay hills and fine ocean views. Because now you realize that you had no idea what “lovely” really was until now, in this very moment, looking at “lovely” Naoussa in all its kitschy whitewashed glory.
Laynni described it as “totes adorbs” but for reasons of literary principle I don’t feel that is an appropriate description to use. Plus, I’m way too old to pull it off, and almost certainly 5-10 years late. The point is, though, Naoussa is a very photogenic place.
Wandering the old town is the main activity here, although based on the number of shops I think a lot of people also come here to make sure they don’t have to carry any heavy wads of cash home at the end of their vacation. The harbour is almost absurdly cute and, contrary to Naoussa’s overall high-end vibe, Pita Frank’s gyro joint offers some of the cheapest (and most delicious) meals on the Paros.
This terrific beach is just northwest across the bay from Naoussa. It is a fascinating jumble of rocks and coves and tidepools, all with exceptional views across the water. There is a beach bar, a taverna and, if you look closely, even a bit of sand.
Paros Park is tucked up on the Arene de Kamares in an empty corner of Paros (just past Kolympethres Beach) featuring lots of interesting rock formations, cliffs, a lighthouse, a couple of beaches, some high hills and more wonderful views of Naoussa.
Covering 80 hectares, there are a bunch of hiking trails you can easily mix and match, plus a little monastery and even an outdoor theatre. And it’s free.
Lefkes is located up in the hills on the spine of Paros. It is a superb traditional village with appealing little cafés and restaurants, typically narrow white streets and loads of charm. It is also the starting point for the Byzantine Path, an ancient stone path that leads east down out of the hills to the even smaller and quainter villages of Prodomos and Marpissa.
We hiked down as far as Prodomos, wandered around, then hiked back up to Lefkes in just over an hour and a half (roughly 6 km return, with some hills). There are fantastic views back up the hill to Lefkes, then down to the sea after you crest the hill.
Butterflies Nature Reserve
The reserve was closed for the season when we were in Parikia but we’re told it is a pleasant, natural park that feels noticeably lush compared to the dry hills elsewhere on Paros. Oh, yeah, and there are, like, millions of butterflies. Actually, Jersey Tiger Moths, which, in Greece, are only found on Paros and Rhodes.
They migrate to the valley from June to September to mate and lay their eggs and are most active in July and August.
Speaking of captivating fishing villages (weren’t we?), the tiny southern village of Alyki (or Aliki) more than fits the bill. There is a tiny beach, a tiny malecón and some regular-sized waterfront tavernas (although they do have some tiny tables right on the water if you want to stick with the theme).
It is comfortably sheltered from the prevailing north winds, isn’t nearly as busy in summer as Parikia or Naoussa and is even home to the Museum of Cycladic Folklore where you can see models of traditional Parian boats and buildings
If you’re in the mood for a tricky-to-find, off-the-beaten-path Paros gem, head a few minutes east of Alyki and start your search for the “Paros Grotto”. As far as we can tell, there is no established official name but it is one of the coolest natural attractions we saw on Paros, a natural pool with a sea arch opening to the ocean on one side. You can explore all the way around it and even swim into it from the outside if you take the time to climb down.
The parking spot we have marked on the map is a dead-end dirt road (pretty rough but we made it – carefully – in a small rental car) with room for (maybe) two cars (be sure not to block the driveways).
From there it is about 5 minutes on foot down to Tripiti Beach (a cute, hidden little highlight in itself) on a small path between private fences. Then you can follow a relatively easy cliff-top trail that leads about 15 minutes east to the grotto (make sure you close the fence behind you).
If those two parking spots are taken you can park on the highway and walk about a kilometre down to the beach, or park farther east along the highway (marked on our map as “Paros Grotto Alternate Parking”) and jump the fence and hike up and over the hill to the grotto on a more direct (but maybe more confusing) route.
Full disclosure: I’m not sure if any of this is public access, although my impression was that at least the route we took still is, based on the specific maintained trails wedged in between private lands. However, I suspect this access is only provided very reluctantly (hence, not doing us any favours with the parking).
The east coast of Paros is a wonderland of beaches and is the area people visit to surf and scuba dive or maybe windsurf and snorkel. Whatever watersport you fancy, really. You could spend all day just beach hopping along this side of the island – Molos Beach, Kalogeros Beach, Logaras Beach, to start – but Golden Beach (Chrissi Akti) is probably the best all-around beach on Paros.
A huge beach with sensational sand, good surfing and diving and some good accommodation and tavernas, and there is even a nice hiking path heading south along the coast.
A bit farther south, Agios Prygaki Church is worth a stop on any Paros road trip, not so much for the church itself (which is quite small and usually closed) but for the scenery and views across the strait to Naxos.
The next big thing in the Cyclades Islands, in our humble (but purely speculative) opinion, phenomenal little Antiparos looks like we imagine Paros did around 20 years ago. Of course, we weren’t in Paros 20 years ago, so that’s yet more speculation.
What we can say for certain, though, is that we loved Antiparos. It is small enough to explore fully in a single day but we will definitely be considering it for a longer stay the next time we return to the Greek islands.
There is a massive cave that used to house a cult, plus tonnes of awesome beaches, some photogenic cliffs, hidden coves, good hiking and a picture-perfect little harbour village. Even the short ferry ride across was fun and scenic.
The only downside was that we didn’t spot its most famous occasional resident, the universally adored wife of the guy who starred opposite a volleyball in Castaway, but we were kind of in a rush so we weren’t able to check in every corner, maybe she was just well hidden.
Where to Stay: Parikia Hotels
There are plenty of excellent Parikia accommodation options covering most styles and price ranges. Here are a few that we would particularly recommend:
We loved our stay at Port View House, located just south of Parikia and a pleasant 15-minute walk to the malecón. It is enormous (far bigger than we needed for two people) but the price was still very reasonable and we enjoyed the excellent couch and terrific views from the massive sheltered terrace.
Oasis Hotel Paros is a good value option with a fantastic location in the heart of Parikia. It is practically next to the famous Panagia Ekatontapyliani Church and there are amazing views of the harbour.
A little bit out of town toward the peninsula, the Akrotiri Hotel is perched high up on the hill overlooking the entire bay. It is a bit of a walk to the main part of Parikia but Krios Beach is close by and the pool is gorgeous.
Where to Eat: Parikia Restaurants
While Parikia nightlife isn’t exactly legendary compared to places like Mykonos or Ios, both Parikia and Naoussa can get pretty lively in high season. In October, though, late night bars were few and far between (we assume, we were both in bed by 10 pm most night).
For traditional Greek fare we can recommend Bountaraki, just on the corner near the windmill, where the food was great and the waitress really wants to help you with the digital menu.
Hibiscus, on the main part of the malecón, is supposedly the oldest restaurant on Paros, has excellent Greek mains and really good pizza.
If you’re looking to mix it up a bit, try some outstanding Asian dishes at Katy & Rudy’s Asian Cuisine or a huge burger at the appropriately named Burger Street.
Ragoussis Bakery is a popular local stop, Stavro Kebabtzidiko specializes in, what else? Kebabs. And for a really unique snack or drink, check in at the Alexandros Café located in a traditional Greek windmill up on a scenic point overlooking the harbour.
When to Go: Parikia Weather
Like most of the Greek islands, Paros enjoys a very mild climate year-round thanks to the surrounding Aegean Sea. It doesn’t get as hot in summer as some of the other parts of Greece (22/28 low/high) and remains pretty reasonable even in the dead of winter (10/14 low/high).
Paros generally has a very dry climate, with virtually no rain in summer, although there will be a bit of rain in winter (December in particular). Although there are some hills in the centre of the island, the wind on Paros can be fierce and is probably the biggest variable for your stay on the island. Spring and fall are generally the calmest times.
While Parikia gets very busy in summer, May-June and September-October can be ideal times to travel for good weather and fewer fellow tourists. From November until the end of April many of the restaurants shut down and there will be fewer accommodation options, although there will still be enough places open to keep you fed and housed.
Parikia: How to Get There
With its very own airport (albeit a very small one), Paros is poised to burst onto the Greek island tourism scene in an even bigger way. So far, you can only fly to Paros from other places in Greece but that could eventually change as its popularity grows. And, either way, the “change planes in Athens” has practically become a tourism rite of passage for visitors to Greece, so if you’re looking to maximize your time you can certainly arrive by plane.
Paros is a major hub for Greek Island ferries. It is easily connected with pretty much every other Cycladic Island, plus many others scattered around the Aegean. Schedules and fares vary considerably throughout the year. In summer, the most popular routes often sell out well in advance so it is a good idea to reserve your ferry tickets as soon as you have finalized your dates.
How to Get Around on Paros
Parikia is where you’ll arrive on Paros by ferry, although if you fly in you’ll need to either rent a car, take a taxi or catch a bus from the airport. By far the easiest way to get around Paros is by car, which lets you reach the less popular spots and set your own schedule.
We always use Discover Cars while in the Greek Islands and got a terrific car rental deal through them (with SurPrice Rental) for our entire time in Paros.
Driving Times to Parikia, Paros
Pounta to Parikia: 9 km / 15 min
Naoussa to Parikia: 11 km / 20 min
Lefkes to Parikia: 11 km / 20 min
Alyki to Parikia: 13 km / 20 min
Golden Beach to Parikia: 20 km / 30 min
It ain’t great, for the most part. It all depends where you stay. The Port View House where we stayed had a semi-private parking lot that always had plenty of space (although it was at the bottom of a VERY steep little driveway).
In the main part of Parikia, your best bet is usually along the waterfront.
Paros is relatively easy to navigate by KTEL buses that connect all the most popular spots around the island. Using buses will never be as easy or flexible as driving your own car but Paros has a better system than most in comfortable, affordable buses. Most fares are in the €2-3 range or you can buy a full-day pass for the entire island for around €10.
Timetables change often so it is best to check the latest info before arriving, then have a look at the lists posted at each bus stop when you’re there. Starting in October, routes get more and more sporadic until they start ramping up again the following summer.
While we loved our time on Paros, I’m not sure it will end up being our “favourite” Greek island. And Parikia Paros probably won’t go down as the most exceptional or memorable of all the different Greek towns we’ve enjoyed. But if asked to describe it to a potential visitor, we’d be hard-pressed to come up with a single negative thing to say about it.
At least nothing particularly important. I mean, who doesn’t love the satisfying thrill of suddenly stumbling across a tiny parking spot blocks from your intended destination? Nobody in Greece, that’s for sure. And once you’ve got that cherished spot, well, Parikia offers days of entertainment. Check it out, we dare you.
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