Paros, Greece

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Updated: October 5, 2020

Table set for dinner on a sandy beach

Beachfront dining at Ephessus restaurant in Parikia, Paros.

Paros, Greece, is a beautiful Cycladic island only 2 hours by ferry from both Santorini and Mykonos. Paros is best known for its great beaches, lively nightlife, and wonderful white washed towns. Taking a ferry from Paros is the only way to access Antiparos, a smaller and more secluded island located just west of Paros with great beaches, excellent food, and charming family-owned hotels.

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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.

Map showing the location of the island of Paros within Greece

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.

Map showing the size of Paros, Greece, relative to the size of Manhattan

What is the 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. Its 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.

The exterior entrance of a byzantine church in Paros

The Byzantine church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani in Parikia.

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.

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.
Graphic showing the best time to visit Paros, Greece, for good weather, sightseeing, and other factors

How do you 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. Ferryhopper.com is the best way to search for and purchase ferry tickets to Paros.

Hellenic Seaways ferry docked at Paros Parikia port.

A car-passenger ferry, docked at Parikia port. Travelers who are prone to seasickness should choose a larger, slower ferry (like this Hellenic Seaways one) over the smaller, faster catamaran ferries.

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.

Cobbled stone street lined with colorful shops

The charming pedestrian-only lanes of old town Parikia are lined with Venetian balconies.

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.

Waterfront dining at Naoussa harbor

Fishing boats and waterfront restaurants along the Old Harbor in Naoussa.

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.

Map showing the main towns and beaches in Paros, Greece

Where 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. There are wonderful hotels in both towns; 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 are the best beaches in Paros?

Paros has fantastic beaches to fit every need; it all depends what you’re looking for. The all-around best beach on Paros is Santa Maria Beach, with soft, golden-white sand, calm and shallow water, and plenty of dining and water sports centers. Paros’ most unusual beach is Kolymbithres, known for its unusual rock formations. The best beach on Paros for windsurfing or kitesurfing is Chrissi Akti. Kalogeros Beach features healing mud for a DIY spa day. All beaches on Paros are easily reached via bus, and there’s a water taxi that connects Naoussa to three popular beaches on the island’s north coast.

Map of the best beaches on Paros Island, Greece

pockets of erosion in rocks lining a beach

The strange and beautiful rock formations at Kolymbithres Beach.

How many days should I spend 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 hiking trails and beach at Paros Park, 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. Take a day tour to cosmopolitan Mykonos and ancient Delos.

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.

A blue fishing boat is tethered to a stone castle

When in Naoussa, be sure to walk out to explore the sunken ruins of the Venetian castle in the harbor.

What are the best things 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 do I get around Paros?

It is easy to get between the main towns and beaches on Paros, and to the Antiparos ferry, by using the island’s public bus system. Generally, the bus makes a loop around the perimeter of the island, also heading inland to the mountain villages. Fares vary by route and distance traveled, but range from 1.80€ to 4€ per trip. A full-day, cross-island ticket is available for 9€. Bus tickets are sold at the Parikia and Naoussa terminal stations, as well as some stores and mini-marts in Paros’ main towns and beaches. (Find the Paros bus schedule here.)

As is usually the case, renting a car on Paros will offer you more flexibilty, and the roads on Paros are in good shape and easy to navigate. There are a few free public lots in Parikia, Naoussa, and Lefkes, but they fill up fast and they’re not always located near where you want to be. RentalCars.com is the best website for pre-booking rental cars in Greece.

If you don’t rent a car, pre-arranged transfer provided by your hotel or through Welcome Pickups car service is the easiest way to get from the Naxos airport or ferry port to your hotel.

A bus is parked in an outside terminal with stone benches.

A bus waits at the terminal in Naoussa. Buses in Paros are clean, comfortable, and reliable.

How do you get to Antiparos?

Antiparos is a smaller island located directly west of Paros, and makes a great day (or overnight) trip from Paros. Daily car-commuter boats to Antiparos run regularly from early morning to midnight from the small port Pounta, which is accessible via bus or taxi from Parikia Port. In the summer, there are also frequent, daily, passenger-only ferries to Antiparos that depart directly from Parikia Port. (View the Antiparos ferry schedule here.) Antiparos has great beaches, restaurants, and small family-owned hotels, and is a popular hang-out for many famous American celebrities. If making a day trip to Antiparos, be sure to eat at To Stathero, the best restaurant on the island.

A car ferry unloading cars and passengers at a ferry dock

This is the year-round car/commuter ferry that travels between Pounta and Antiparos. During the summer, there is also a smaller, passenger-only ferry to Antiparos that departs from the ferry port in Parikia.

What currency is used in Paros?

The currency used on Paros, and throughout Greece, is the Euro (€). In Parikia, Naoussa, and the island’s main beaches, most shops, bars, and restaurants accept credit cards, usually with a minimum purchase required; if not, nearby ATMs are easy to find. It is always recommended to have some cash on hand small purchases and bus trips. In the smaller villages, there are many more cash-only businesses and fewer ATMs.

Grilled fish and white wine at a waterfront restaurant table

Most restaurants in Paros, like Glafkos Taverna in Naoussa, accept credit cards.

Is Paros expensive?

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.

Diners eat at colorful outdoor tables

The cheery restaurant of the wonderfully affordable Argonauta Hotel in Parikia, one of the best hotels in Paros.

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