The 2020 Paros Travel Guide
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Where Is Paros?
Paros is an island in Greece, part of the Cycladic group located in the Aegean Sea. Paros lies about 40 km south of Mykonos, 180 km southeast of Athens, 85 km North of Santorini, and 200 km north of Crete. Flights to Paros take 40 minutes from Athens and 65 minutes from Thessaloniki. Most people travel to and from Paros by ferry.
How Big Is Paros?
Paros has a population of around 12,500 and a land area of 196 sq. km (more than 3 times the size of Manhattan). The length of the island is around 22 km, and it measures around 13 km at its widest point. It takes about 30 minutes to drive the longest way (north to south) from one end of the island to the other.
How to Get to Paros
Both Sky Express and Olympic Air offer direct flights from Athens and Thessaloniki to Paros. Flights from Athens take about 40 minutes; flights from Thessaloniki take about 65 minutes. There are no direct flights to Paros from any other cities; flights originating outside of Greece will most likely transfer in Athens. Note that flights will sell out much earlier than ferries – if you find a flight that works for you, book it as soon as possible.
Ferries from Athens will make a few stops and take anywhere from 3 to 7 hours, depending on the type of boat. Paros is connected by direct ferry to Naxos, about a 30-minute trip. Ferries connecting Paros to the islands of Mykonos, Ios, Milos, Folegandros, Santorini, and Crete usually make a few stops and can take 40 minutes to 6.5 hours.
When Is the Best Time to Go to Paros?
Paros has a shorter travel window than its neighbors Santorini and Mykonos. Most hotels in Paros open from late April to mid-October, though a few are open from late March to early November. The best time to visit for warm weather, great swimming, sunbathing, sailing, and nightlife is from late June through early September. If swimming and hot weather are not priorities, then April, May, and October are perfect for sightseeing, dining, and shopping.
A Brief History of Paros
Paros was first inhabited around 3200 B.C. and was later settled by the Cretans, who gave it the name Minoa (along with several other locations also called Minoa). Minoans and Mycenaeans were the primary occupants of Paros, until the Ionians conquered the island around 1100 B.C., followed by the Arcadians a hundred years later. It’s central location in the Cyclades made it an important maritime base, while its exports, primarily high-quality marble and agriculture, made it a prosperous trade hub of the ancient world. Paros sided with the Persians during the Persian War, and was ultimately defeated by the Athenians. The island later came under the control of the Spartans, Macedonians, Ptolemies, and Romans.
Paros was soon taken over by the Byzantine Empire. Numerous churches were constructed in Paros during the Byzantine era, the most important of which is Panagia Ekatontapiliani (The Church with 100 Doors), supposedly founded by Saint Helene, mother of Constantine the Great.
Around the 8th century A.D. Paros became a stronghold for pirates and lost a great deal of its wealth. In the 13th century under Venetian rule as part of the Duchy of the Aegean (the ruins of a Venetian castle – built to defend Paros from pirates – remain in the sea just a few meters from the Old Port in Naoussa village). The Ottomans conquered in the early 16th century and controlled the island until it became part of newly independent Greece in 1832.
What Are the Main Towns in Paros?
The main villages in Paros are Parikia in the west and Naoussa in the north. Parikia is the capital and one of the earliest settlements on the island. It is here that you’ll find the historic Panagia Ekatontapiliani, the Frankish Castle (built by the Venetians out of marble taken from an ancient temple of Apollo), and the Paros Archaeological Museum, as well as several fantastic restaurants, bars, artisan workshops, and boutiques. There are 2 beaches within walking distance of central Parikia: Livadia Beach (aka Parikia Beach) and Parasporos Beach.
Naoussa village sits at the old harbor at the north end of the island, now used by smaller boats, with the Venetian castle ruins jutting up from the sea to the north. Naoussa is the most cosmopolitan village in Paros, boasting several fine dining restaurants, high-end cocktail bars, a couple of dance clubs, boutiques, and a winery. Naoussa is within walking distance of 3 beaches (Piperaki, Piperi, and Agii Anargyri) and just a short drive from the oft photographed Kolymbithres Beach.
Other villages include traditional Lefkes, a hidden gem in the mountains of central Paros. Lefkes was the former capital of the municipality Iria during the late 19th century when Paros belonged to the neighboring island and long-time rival Naxos. Several smaller villages are spread throughout the island, but Parikia, Naoussa, and Lefkes are the most populous.
Some of the busier beaches outside the main villages, including Aliki, Drios, and Piso Livadi, have enough hotels, tavernas, and mini-markets within walking distance that they feel like unofficial villages.
What Is the Best Place to Stay in Paros?
For most travelers, the best places to stay in Paros are in the villages of Parikia and Naoussa. These villages are well-connected to each other by bus, and have plenty of restaurants, dining, nightlife, shopping, and beaches within easy walking distance through their charming tangles of narrow lanes. Parikia tends to have more affordable hotels, while Naoussa has more luxurious hotels. Bars and restaurants are excellent in both villages. Those looking to get away from it all may choose to stay near one of the beaches, like Chrissi Akti or Aliki, or on the nearby island Antiparos – the not-so-secret hideout of celebrities, including Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Pierce Brosnan, and Matthew McConaughey.
What to Do in Paros?
The best things to do in Paros include swimming and sunning on golden sand beaches, checking out the weird rock formations at Kolymbithres Beach, visiting Paros Park (a large recreation area with a lighthouse, hiking trails, rock formations, caves, an open-air cinema, and sparkling Monastiri Beach), a day trip to Antiparos, a day trip to Naxos, strolling by the Old Port of Naoussa and checking out its shops and nightlife, enjoying a sunset cocktail and meze at the seafront tavernas in Parikia, exploring the historical and archaeological sites, and visiting the traditional village Lefkes.
How Many Days in Paros?
Stay a minimum of 2 nights and 1 full day. But there’s so much to see and do that it’s easy to fill 4 days. If possible, spend some time exploring Paros Park’s hiking trails and beach, then cap it off with a movie in their open-air cinema. Visit two of Paros’ most unique beaches: Kolymbithres with its strange landscape and Kalogeros with its natural healing mud. Take a boat and go swimming or snorkeling in the sea caves, or spend a day on Antiparos or Naxos Islands.
Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to get lost in the maze-like streets of Parikia and Naoussa. Parikia offers wonderful historic sites, including Panagia Ekatontapiliani, the Frankish Castle, and the Archaeological Museum of Paros, along with casual tavernas, high-end dining, sunset view bars, and artisan workshops. Naoussa offers the charming Old Port, stylish cocktail bars, gourmet restaurants, a 100+ year old winery (with tastings), a few nightclubs, and plenty of boutique shopping.
Saving Money in Paros
Paros is an increasingly popular jet set destination, but it’s not yet as crowded or expensive as nearby Santorini and Mykonos. Though there are several luxury hotels on the island, most hotels in Paros fall into the mid-range category. Hotels in Parikia tend to be cheaper than hotels in Naoussa. Budget hotels will typically be farther from the water, though there are many affordable hotels at the quieter beaches, such as Ambelas or Drios Beaches. There are no all-inclusive resorts or vacation packages. All beaches are open to the public and free to visit. Most beach clubs offer free umbrellas and sunbeds to guests who purchase a drink or food; the ones that do charge, usually only cost €10 to €20.