White houses string their blue windows along the narrow alleys of the old port of Parikia. The tiny doors and windows are left open. You peek inside: you see people sitting and listening to bouzouki on the radio or clanking pans. The bougainvillea climb the walls, coloring the roofs pink. The sweet scent of fig trees fills the air. Entering the deep shade of a stone archway, you find a hidden garden with cats lazing about beneath laundry swaying in the wind. It’s a pleasure to lose yourself in the labyrinth of silent streets, cooled by the soft shade of olive trees.
This maze of narrow streets is only one of Paros’s many secrets. You’d think you could lap the whole island in some thirty minutes and in a way, it’s true. But Paros always finds a way to lure you into new fascinating discoveries. Following an off-road path you find a cove you’ve never seen before, occupied by goats. Drawn by the smell of grilled fish, you end up stumbling upon a hidden restaurant, its roof weighed down by bougainvillea.
When you adventure along the coast between the monastery and the lighthouse of Cape Korakas, the island starts to look like the end of the world, everything but the air seemingly swept away. But in the small port of Naoussa, Paros shows its vibrant side. On the promenade resembling the Croisette, freshly caught octopuses hang by the dozens on linen threads. You’ll find the pier decked with chairs and tables, the port’s restaurants offering grilled fish fresh off the colored boats. In the evening, this is the place to drink an ouzo or a cocktail as the lanterns light up and the atmosphere becomes festive.
Whether fine sand or large gnarled white rocks, bristling beaches or secluded coves, the seaside has as many faces as the rest of the island. On the beaches, the legs of the café chairs stand in shallow water. The dolce vita invites you to the bars of the trendy beaches and to the traditional taverns nestled against the rocks alike. The wind blows on the west coast, the stronghold of sailing enthusiasts.
Take a daytrip to Antiparos: sister island to Paros, its miniature, more sophisticated and wild. In the castle of the pirate Barbarossa, there are remains of small houses built into the walls. You can best get to know Antiparos if you go there by boat, easing between the small coves all the way to the clear waters of Agios Giorgios bay.
Paros, like many Cyclades, owes its beauty to its barren vistas, its ochre hills dotted with olive trees contrasting with the cyan of the Aegean Sea. Walking the heather-lined paths, numerous villages add white to the relief. Lefkes, at the very peak, is perhaps the most charming of all. From a high perch at the café in the tiny square, you can spend hours watching people exiting the church while cats slink and prowl through the pines and cypresses. In the coppery light of the late afternoon, yellows, blues and greens splash across the little white houses adorned with flowers. Further on, the Byzantine path winds up the hill, like a balcony suspended above Paros.
In Lefkes, as everywhere on the island, time stretches gently over its terraces, its tiny squares, its beaches, its cobbled streets. Paros’s great beauty lies in its charming way of life, embodied in the simple and warm reception of its inhabitants.
When to go?
During the summer season, from June to August, the island is very busy. To really enjoy it, the months of April and May are a better choice. In the spring, the island is quieter and full of wildflowers. The Aegean Sea has already been well warmed by the sun and it is easier to share a moment with the locals over a glass of raki.
How to get there?
Flying with Aegean Air, you can get to Paros, via Athens, from most major European capitals. But in the summer season the fastest way is to fly to Mykonos, from where you can reach Paros in 45 minutes by boat. For a more exciting (but also longer) journey, head for Paros in one of the Blue Star Ferries that leaves the port of Piraeus daily. As for Antiparos, it is accessible by boat from Parikia.