Paros may be one of the busier islands in the Cyclades, but head off the beaten path and there is a whole new world to discover.
Paros is one of Greece’s most popular islands. Just a few hours away by ferry from Athens’ port of Piraeus (it’s the first stop on many ferry routes), it is easy to get to and perfect even for a quick escape. Its beautiful beaches and vibrant, cosmopolitan nightlife have turned it into a magnet for holiday-makers.
But if you’re looking to go beyond the well-trodden alleys of Parikia and Naoussa — the two main towns — and the more crowded organized beaches, Paros is still full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Below are our favourite 5 off-the-beaten-track experiences:
1. GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL IN PAROS PARK
On the northernmost part of the island, opposite the town of Naoussa, you’ll find Paros Park — an 80-hectare expanse that is a protected natural park and site for cultural events. Whether you come here by car or take a small boat across from Naoussa, the organized beach of Monastiri(named after the little chapel of Aghios Ioannis Detis overlooking it), at the beginning of the park, is where you’ll find yourself. From this point onwards, it’s all nature.
Several hiking trails let you explore the rocky peninsula. Follow the signs to Faros, the lighthouse at the northern edge of the park. Built in 1887, it stands on a 60m cliff, giving you unparalleled views of the bay with its islets, the all-white town of Naoussa, and even the Cycladic islands to the north. Hike up here in the late afternoon to enjoy a magical sunset all to yourself.
2. DIVE INTO THE DEEP BLUE AWAY FROM THE CROWDS
If you come to Monastiri in the morning, follow the path towards Tourkou Ammos beach and explore the small, almost-deserted coves of Paros Park. On the other side of the bay of Naoussa is Lageri, a wide strip of sand that connects the main island to the green islet of Nisida Εconomou, which is quiet even in August. If you swim around the islet, you can see the lighthouse on top of the cliff on the other side of the bay of Naoussa. At sundown, the sun will disappear behind it, creating a magical show.
For a beach you can spend all day on, head to Lolantonis on the south-eastern part of the island. Here pine trees create a shade perfect for napping in-between dips on this small, intimate beach with pristine waters. You can take a break from the sun to have lunch on the folding chairs of the one taverna next to the beach, En Plo.
3. INLAND EXCURSIONS AND TRADITIONAL FESTIVALS
Lefkes, a traditional village in Paros, has a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere. If you’re on Paros on the first Saturday after August 15th (this year, it falls on the 19th), don’t miss the traditional festival of the karavolas — one of the most important on the island. Karavoli is what the residents of Lefkes call the large local snails – a local specialty that takes centre stage in this festival. Taste the karavoli, drink lots of local wine and dance to traditional music until the early hours of the morning.
From Lefkes , take the “Byzantine road”, a marble stone-paved footpath dating, as the name suggests, to the Byzantine era. A one-hour hike will take you to Prodromos, a tiny, picturesque village with small stone-paved alleys lined with bougainvilleas.
“It’s like time has stopped [in Prodromos],” says Maria Ragkousi, the owner of Kallitehniko Kafeneio. This lively, traditional café-restaurant, tucked away in Prodromos’ labyrinthine streets, has become the heart of the village. “[Prodromos] is completely unspoilt by tourism. You can find old board games that people played in the 19th century still engraved on the paved streets,” she says. Go for a taste of Ms Ragkousi’s lovingly-prepared, home-cooked traditional food(think seafood, freshly-caught by her husband Antonis, or delicious feta cheese-stuffed bread), and stay for a chat with the friendly owners.
4. ENTERTAINMENT OFF THE BEATEN PATH
The streets of Naoussa are always buzzing, and the restaurants and bars, with their tables spreading their tables all the way to the water’s edge, are filled to the brim on summer nights. If you’re after an equally idyllic setting but prefer to steer clear of the crowds, head to TAOS (tel. +30 22840.288.82), a yoga, meditation and wellness centre. Its founders, Israel-born Tsiki Ben Saadon and Ran Dagan, ditched their conventional jobs to start the centre 13 years ago. They began scouting for a place in Greece and fell in love with Paros’ wild, authentic feel.
“It felt good from the first second,” says Dagan. On top of a hill in the fields of Ambelas, they’ve created an unpretentious, open space where locals and international visitors come together. Head to TAOS just before sunset for a yoga or tai chi class on the rooftop, and stay for a relaxed al fresco dinner at their Asian bar and restaurant. In the expert hands of Thai and Japanese chefs, locally-sourced ingredients get an Asian twist: Fresh fish caught by Paros fishermen gets turned into sushi that goes beyond the classic tuna and salmon-based offerings, while home-grown herbs straight from TAOS’ garden make for fragrant Thai-style curries. This summer, there will also be live music every night.
If you’re after a great cocktail, head to Golden Garden, behind the popular Golden Beach (Chrysi Akti). Tucked away by the main road, it doesn’t look like much on the outside — but within its whitewashed walls, you’ll find a hidden oasis: an open-air patio filled with lush greenery, romantic lights and relaxed music (tel. +30 22840.430.07).
Don’t forget to look up and make a wish: just like every summer, the so-called “shooting star rain” (actually a meteor shower) starts in mid-July and intensifies in mid-August, when you can often see more than one shooting star every minute.
5. A PIECE OF PAROS TO TAKE HOME
Make sure you’re get to Parikia, the port town, with time to spare before your ferry leaves, and go by L’Atelier. This workshop has been making quintessentially Greek, quality leather sandals since 1935. You can find leather sandals in almost every shop, of course, but the ones here are something special.
If you can’t find what you like, you can even order a custom pair: pick your favourite style, choose from over 60 different colours and, if you want, add an anatomical sole. They’ll make it just for you and ship it wherever you ask them to. They’re the ideal companion to any summer holiday, and their classic designs never go out of style.