24 Jul 2017

An absolute must for travelers visiting the Greek islands, Paros is a perfect summer destination that combines everything you could wish for in an island: stunning beaches and proud mountaintops, secluded bays and cosmopolitan beach clubs, quiet traditional tavernas and a bustling night life, ancient masterpieces and contemporary art, peace and quiet and a vibrant young culture. Book your tickets, pack your bags, and get ready to enjoy one of Greece’s best island destinations!

Paros—with its two satellite islands, Antiparos and Despotiko—is an island that boasts exquisite natural beauty and a rich history and culture. It’s one of the best destinations in Greece, and it’s popular with everyone: History and archaeology buffs come to explore its classical heritage, Byzantine churches, and Venetian fortresses. The younger crowd come looking for a laidback holiday that combines pristine sandy beaches with a lively nightlife. Surfers and water sports enthusiasts come for its gorgeous open beaches, high winds, and inviting waves—while families enjoy its many shallow, sheltered bays that are ideal for younger kids. Couples enjoy the picturesque villages and bougainvillea-lined alleyways. Nature lovers come to explore its nature areas, wildlife, and stunning geological formations.

Just a 40’ flight from Athens, or under six hours by ferry from Piraeus or Rafina, Paros is equally great for a long stay or a weekend getaway.  Read on for some of the best things to see and do in Paros and Antiparos—and an idea for an exclusive cultural experience on Despotiko!

Beaches, beaches, beaches!

At the heart of the Aegean and the Cyclades islands, Paros has countless gorgeous beaches that cater to every preference. For windsurfing and watersports, head to Chrisi Akti a.k.a. Golden Beach and Santa Maria on the east side of the island. For music and beach bars, try the legendary Punda Beach (also great for kite-surfing!) or Parasporos, which tend to attract a younger crowd and keep-up a party vibe throughout the day. If you’re looking for something more low-key and out of the way, go to Ai Yiannis/Monastiri, Molos and Ambelas, or go exploring the island’s many gorgeous tiny coves and beaches—but keep in mind that you’ll have to sacrifice easy access to amenities. And of course, no visit to Paros is complete without a visit to enjoy the shallow tropical waters and see the stunning rock formations at Kolymbithres, one of the best known beaches in the Aegean Sea!

Tropical waters at Monastiri Beach, Paros
Monastiri Beach, Paros

Get a taste of local history and culture

Paros was one of the most prosperous Aegean islands during Greek antiquity. An exporter of coveted pure-white Parian marble, it became a hub for master sculptors and artists whose work reached far across the ancient world and continues to be admired even today. Over the centuries, it was conquered and ruled by many of the great powers in the region—Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman—all of which played a role in shaping the island’s exceptional heritage.

In Parikia, you can view the ancient cemetery (8th century BCE) by the harbor and visit the famed Archaeological Museum of Paros to immerse yourself in centuries worth of art that offers unique insight into life on the island over two thousand years ago. The Church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani, dating from the 4th century CE, is one of the island’s top attractions: Its distinctive appearance is the result of the unique heritage literally built into its walls, as thousands of ancient architectural elements—from parts of ancient Greek temples to the floor mosaics of a Roman gymnasium—have been incorporated into the Christian church you see today. Similarly, the town’s kastro, what remains of a 13th-century Venetian castle, was constructed with materials reclaimed from ancient sites, expertly put together to form walls that are equal parts art and fortifications.

Ancient marble elements comprise the walls of the Venetian castle
Venetian castle, Paros

In Naoussa, make time to wander through the winding alleyways to admire the traditional local architecture, see the tiny 15th-century Venetian fortress in the old harbor, and visit the Byzantine Museum. The mountain villages of Lefkes and Marpissa are also worth visiting for their well-preserved traditional character, stunning views, and local attractions. In fact, the whole island is dotted with great sites: You can visit the ancient marble quarries (make sure to wear appropriate footwear!), check out numerous archaeological sites and ancient sanctuaries, and explore a host of picturesque churches and monasteries that boast characteristic architecture and iconography.

Discover the nature and wildlife of Paros

Where Naoussa has traditional charm and great dining, and Parikia has fabulous little boutiques and a vibrant nightlife, the island’s less populated areas boast fantastic Cycladic landscapes and nature that attract visitors from far and wide year after year. Paros Park is a protected natural area on the island’s northernmost peninsula. Officially called the Environmental and Cultural Park of Paros, it encompasses a number of stunning natural sites, a network of trails, and several archaeological and historical sites dating from prehistory through to the 18th century. As part of its cultural program, the park hosts an annual festival and is home to a museum and an open-air cinema.

Further south, the Valley of the Butterflies is another natural site worth visiting. Verdant and full of springs—albeit not quite as well-known as its counterpart on Rhodes—the area is full of Jersey tiger moths that flutter their colorful wings in the thousands during the summer months. There are dozens of hiking trails, wetlands, and bird breeding areas across the island. And of course, vineyards! Be on the lookout for local wineries, for the opportunity to taste some of the best of what the island has to offer.

Hundreds of Jersey Tiger moths resting on a tree trunk
Paros Butterfly Valley

Explore Antiparos

Just west of Paros and a mere 6’ boat ride from Parikia, Antiparos is the more laid-back alternative for those looking to holiday at the heart of the Cyclades archipelago. Even though the island is less than a quarter the size of Paros, it still packs a punch when it comes to sites and attractions. From nymphs to pirates, the island has plenty of stories to tell. The number one attraction is the world-famous Cave of Antiparos, which was believed to be a sanctuary of the Nymphs during antiquity. The cave has attracted numerous notable travelers over the centuries—from the 7th-century BCE poet Archilochus to Lord Byron and the Marquis de Nointel. It descends over 100 meters and features breathtaking geological formations, including a spectacular 8-meter stalagmite.

Stalactites and stalagmites inside the famed Cave of Antiparos
Stalactites - Antiparos

Don’t forget to enjoy a dip at Psaralyki, one of the island’s best beaches, and check out the kastro, a 15th-century Venetian fortress that was built to protect the island’s residents from all too frequent pirate raids. Located in the center of the village, its perimeter comprises tall fortified houses, whose outer walls are 2-3 meters thick, most of which are still in use today, some as cafés and restaurants—a great idea for that afternoon treat before you head out to explore the village and dine at one of the island’s fantastic seafront tavernas.

Treat yourself to an exclusive cultural experience on Despotiko

Hiding in plain sight just off the western shores of Antiparos, Despotiko is a pristine, uninhabited island that is part of a NATURA 2000 protected area internationally recognized for its unspoiled flora and fauna. It is a habitat for endangered Monachus monachus seals that sometimes appear and swim near visitors both here and on the west coast of Antiparos.

Despotiko is also the location of one of the top archaeological sites in the Cyclades, a sanctuary complex dedicated to the god Apollo and the goddess Artemis, second only to the renowned sacred island of Delos. The island also boasts a number of pristine sandy bays that are only accessible by sea, so make sure to hire the right boat and make the necessary arrangements if you want to explore these.

An ancient site against the bright blue Aegean Sea
Despotiko
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