Naxos and Paros are two of the Best Greek Islands. When people ask what island to visit in Greece, my first answer is Santorini and my 2nd is usually Naxos or Paros (with Crete close behind – though Crete requires at least one week to explore). Both Paros and Naxos have better beaches than Santorini. Both Naxos and Paros are a short ferry ride from Santorini and Mykonos. If you’re considering visiting another island after Santorini or Mykonos, then Naxos and Paros should be at the top of your list.
Paros or Naxos – Summary
Naxos is slightly more family-friendly, while Paros is slightly more romantic.
Both islands have charming villages by the sea, gorgeous traditional villages in the hills, and smaller beach resorts around the coasts.
Both Naxos and Paros have some of the Best Beaches in Greece and the islands are famous for their wonderful sand, great swimming, and sunbathing. Naxos has kilometers-long stretches of golden sand beaches, while Paros has smaller, craggier, and more unusual beaches. Both islands have secluded, nude beaches.
Both islands are known for windsurfing, kitesurfing, waterskiing, and sailing. Both have great hiking trails, though Naxos has better hiking in general.
Both have amazing restaurants that serve fresh, local food – especially seafood. Naxos tends to have more casual tavernas, while Paros has more stylish restaurants, even a few fine dining spots.
Both islands produce high-quality olives, olive oil, wine, dairy products, and local spirits. Naxos is the agricultural heart of the Cyclades, known for its potatoes, cheeses, and meats.
Paros has better nightlife (though not too wild) and feels a little trendier with more shopping and boutique hotels. Naxos has just a little nightlife but more historic churches and archaeological sites.
Paros has better public transportation linking its main villages to nearby beaches. Naxos has frequent buses in the high season from Chora (Naxos Town) to the most popular beaches, but you’ll need to rent a car to visit the mountain villages.
Naxos and Paros have good roads for driving. Paros is a flatter island with a ring road around it, making it easy to explore the whole island. Naxos is mountainous with steep roads heading over the mountains rather than going around. Most of the smooth paved roads are on the busier, western side of the island; the less populous eastern side has lots of zigzagging dirt roads and rocky trails.
Both islands are well connected to Athens and neighboring islands by ferry. Paros has a better airport than Naxos and offers more frequent flights from Athens and Thessaloniki. Neither island has an international airport.
Where to Go – Paros or Naxos?
Paros is a lively island with 2 fun and completely different villages to split time between, great food and nightlife, and unique beaches. Naxos is a laid-back island wrapped with long beaches, with a charming main village, traditional villages to explore, and lots of hiking trails.
If you have the time (at least 5 days) visit both; they are only 40 minutes apart by ferry. If you’re splitting time on Paros or Naxos with time on Santorini, either island compliments a trip to Santorini well. If you’re splitting time on one of these islands with Mykonos, Naxos (rural, traditional) offers more of a contrast than Paros (busy, cosmopolitan).
Go to Naxos for sandy beaches, traditional mountain villages, local crafts, hearty food, natural beauty, historic churches and ruins, adventurous hiking, sailing, family vacations.
Go to Paros for unusual beaches, gourmet restaurants, buzzy nightlife, charming seaside villages, boutique shopping, beginner hiking, sailing, romantic vacations.
The Weather in Paros and Naxos
Paros and Naxos sit side by side, around 10 km apart. There is no major difference in their weather patterns. The best weather for both islands is from late May to early October. For swimming and watersports, June through September is best. For sightseeing, dining, and nightlife, April, May, and October are wonderful, too.
Visiting Both Paros and Naxos
Naxos and Paros are very close together but different enough that visiting both is worthwhile and easy to do. The islands are only 40 minutes apart by Greek ferry and have small, straightforward ports, so traveling from one to the other is easy. There are about 8 direct ferries a day in summer between Naxos and Paros, from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
You can buy ferry tickets for the route between Naxos and Paros, but you will rarely need advance tickets outside of July and August. If you’re already in Greece you can buy tickets from any travel agency a few days in advance of your ferry trip.
Day Trip to Paros or Naxos
Since Paros and Naxos are so close together, day trips are a great way to explore the highlights of both islands. Both islands offer sightseeing bus tours to the main villages and cultural highlights. Naxos offers fantastic boat trips to visit the harder-to-reach beaches and sea caves. Paros has boat tours visiting the nearby islands of Antiparos and Despotiko.
Paros vs Naxos in Photos
Naxos has one main village, Naxos Town aka Chora, which is where the bulk of the island’s hotels, restaurants, and bars are. The ruins of Apollo Temple are connected to Chora by a raised path through the sea.
Paros has 2 main villages. The capital Parikia, seen here, has the main ferry port, casual dining, and lively bars throughout its narrow lanes…
…while fashionable Naoussa boasts the charming Old Port, trendy bars and clubs, gourmet dining, and boutique shopping. These are the Venetian castle ruins at the Naoussa port.
Naxos has long, wide, golden beaches with excellent swimming and plenty of room to spread out on the sand. Plaka Beach, seen here, is the longest on the island, stretching out for 4 km along the west coast.
Paros has smaller, more unusual beaches, like the oft photographed Kolymbithres Beach with its weird rock formations.
Naxos is the breadbasket of the Cyclades with farms, olive groves, vineyards, and dairies in its interior and traditional villages in the mountains.
Paros has fewer villages, though they are no less impressive. This is Lefkes with its stunning church.
Most bars in Naxos are located in a little cluster of Chora, many with sunset views over the port.
Paros has better nightlife with several wonderful cocktail bars in Parikia and Naoussa.
Naxos has better hiking. This is the trail leading up to Zas Cave, Zeus’ childhood home, according to myth.
Paros has better shopping, with more local products and crafts in Parikia and more high-style boutiques in Naoussa.
The local spirit of Naxos is Kitron, a citrus liqueur. This is the distillery in Chalki village, operating since 1896.
Paros has a wonderful, little winery in Naoussa.
Naxos: A Photo Guide
Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades. Its main village is Naxos Town (aka Chora), where you’ll find the ferry port and the bulk of the island’s restaurants, bars, and hotels. This is the view of Chora from ruins of Apollo Temple.
These are the temple ruins, commonly called the Portara. Apollo Temple is open to visitors 24-hours a day, but it is most beautiful at sunset.
Naxos Town is made of a tangle of narrow, pedestrian lanes leading uphill toward the 13th century Venetian Castle. This part of the castle is the Tower of Glezos.
The castle walls and steps.
A small archaeological museum is at the top of the hill.
Chora is densely packed with restaurants and boutique shops tucked under archways, in tunnels, and stacked over multiple levels. This area is called the Old Market.
Almost all of Naxos bars are in a little cluster in Chora, many with views over the sea. 520 Cocktail Bar and Like Home are the two most popular bars in the island.
Among the best restaurants in Naxos Town is Doukato, serving traditional Greek fare in the tree-shaded courtyard of a former monastery.
Naxos’ main port is west of the castle and faces toward the sunset.
Several tavernas line up alongside the port serving freshly caught seafood with wonderful views, though restaurants in this area (generally) aren’t as good as the restaurants inside the village.
The best restaurant at Naxos Port is Boulamatsis (written on the sign as Μπουλαμάτσης), located on the second-floor balcony above the red sign. The entrance is on the back side of the building.
Heading south from the Old Port and Chora leads to Agios Georgios (St. George) Beach, the closest beach to Naxos Town. This family-friendly beach offers tons of restaurants, beach clubs, and a water sports center at the south end.
Farther inland from the beach is CineNaxos, an open-air movie theater.
Beaches in Naxos tend to get better the farther south you go. Agios Prokopios is a fantastic beach with plenty of beach clubs, restaurants, and hotels. This is the easiest beach to reach by bus from Chora.
Agia Anna Beach is just south of Agios Prokopios Beach and a little quieter, though still with plenty of food and hotel options. Agia Anna is also well-connected to Naxos Town by bus.
Plaka Beach is the longest beach on Naxos and the most beautiful. Most of the beach clubs and restaurant are at the northern end, while the southern end has long stretches of seemingly endless sand and sea.
Aliko Beach is one of the more interesting spots on the island, located in a cedar forest.
At the north end of Aliko Beach, you’ll find the ruins of an unfinished, abandoned hotel, which is now filled with amazing graffiti murals.
Beaches and dining are great in Naxos, but what makes the island so different from others in the Cyclades is its heartland, filled with farms, mountain villages, and Byzantine Churches, like the 6th-century Panagia Drosiani, seen here, near the village Moni.
Near Sangri village are the ruins of the Temple of Demeter, goddess of agriculture. There is a small archaeological museum on site, too.
Naxos has several traditional villages in the mountains. Chalki, seen here, is the most charming of these.
In Chalki there are a handful of workshops selling artisanal cheeses, local products, and crafts all made in the traditional way.
The interior of Naxos has several amazing hiking trails, passing by farms, olive grove, and about 200 Byzantine churches.
A Byzantine church on the hiking trail between Moni and Chalki.
Drymalia Valley has over 400,000 olive trees.
A view from inside Zeus’ Cave on Zas Mountain.
Paros: A Photo Guide
Paros has two main villages, Parikia and Naoussa. The ferry port, seen here behind the marina, is in the capital Parikia.
Parikia is the historic center of the island and home to the Panagia Ekatontapiliana, aka the Church of 100 Doors.
This Byzantine church dates to the 4th century A.D., and is believed to have been founded by Saint Helene, mother of Emperor Constantine.
There is a small archaeological museum just steps away from the church, and at only €2 a ticket, it’s well worth a visit.
Wandering through the pedestrian warren of Parikia, you’ll find the ruins of the Frankish Castle, a fort built by the Venetians in the 12th century A.D. out of the ruins of a 6th century B.C. temple and various elements of later residences.
Parikia is a pleasure to get lost in, made of cobblestone paths, old stairways, and ancient churches.
There are even a few pedestrian tunnels, like this one that passes under the charming Symposium Café.
The best restaurant in Parikia is Stou Fred, run by renowned French chef Fred Chesneau and hidden in a narrow lane. Make reservations in advance.
Parikia has excellent nightlife. Bebop, seen here, is the best spot for a sunset cocktail.
Shopping is great in Parikia, with several souvenir shops, clothing boutiques, a perfumery, and a few artisan workshops, like Yria Ceramics, seen here.
The other major village in Paros in Naoussa, situated in a natural bay at the north end of the island with a charming old port. This is the view from the pedestrian bridge.
The bridge at night.
From the old port, you can catch a water taxi to three of Paros’ best beaches: Kolimbithres, Monastiri, and Laggeri.
Naoussa is a more modern village than Parikia and has a wider footpath fronting the port and heading into the village.
A more modern style Orthodox church sits in one of Naoussa’s large squares.
Naoussa offers a more cosmopolitan shopping experience than Parikia with several boutiques selling fashion and accessories by Greek and international designers.
Naoussa is filled with stylish cocktail bars and a few dance clubs. This is the view over the marina toward the Venetian Castle ruins and the Old Port as seen from the balcony of Sommaripa Consolato cocktail bar.
Though the area near the port offers excellent views and drinks, the restaurants here can get over crowded for dinner service. This photo was taken during the shoulder season; it’s even busier in summer.
For a more romantic dining experience with seafront views, head west of the old port to Taverna Glafkos. Definitely make reservations in advance; this is one of Paros very best restaurants.
Yemeni is another amazing restaurant. Its tables sit along the footpath inside the village. You’ll want reservations for this spot, too.
The best, authentic seafood tavernas in Paros are on the east side of the island in Piso Livadi. This little fishing village has several restaurants owned by fishermen, who cook the fish they’ve just caught themselves that morning. Literally, every restaurant in the strip seen here is amazing. There are also 3 small beaches here, making Piso Livadi a wonderful place to spend a day.
Paros is best known for its unique beaches, especially Kolymbithres with its lunar landscape. This is one of the beaches accessible by water taxi from Naoussa.
Kalogeros Beach is another fantastic beach, known for its natural clay, which visitors use to make a full-body mud mask. You’ll need a car to get here.
Laggeri Beach is a popular, clothing-optional beach accessible by water taxi.
Monastiri is the third beach accessible by the Naoussa water taxi. This family-friendly beach is part of the amazing Paros Park.
Paros Park is a large environmental and cultural park with a museum, café, historic monastery, open-air cinema, live music and events, and 7 km of hiking trails. The lighthouse here is at the end of Walking Path 1.