Three days in Paros
Never heard of Paros? Neither had I, except for knowing about the flawless, sparkly white Parian marble the Greeks used for their statuary, but for some reason I’d never made the connection that Parian marble might come from an island called Paros. Honestly, apart from holidays as a kid and a trip to Athens about 10 years ago for nerd-related reasons, I haven’t been to Greece for years or had any particular desire to go. But Paros totally changed my view and now I can’t wait to go back.
I have 2020 to thank for this discovery as Paros was one of the few Greek islands I could still travel to from the UK without needing to quarantine in either direction. After researching a few places to see what was there and how easy or not they were to get to for a short trip I settled on Paros.
I should note up front that since this journey was made in September 2020 I can only guess at how representative or not my experience was both in terms of the prices of things and the number of people visiting the island. I expect prices might have been lower and it may have been more empty than usual, albeit it is not one of the ‘big ticket’ islands like nearby Santorini.
Why go to Paros?
The island itself is rather sparse and rugged, a bit how I imagine a vegetal Mars might look. But don’t be put off as you land in a scrub and scree scattered wasteland, once you’re in the towns or on the beaches it is one of the most picturesque places I’ve been.
Paros is part of the Cyclades islands which includes some of the most famously beautiful in Greece like Mykonos and Santorini. It’s also the location of the dramatic chalk island of Milos with its lunar-like landscape.
All of these islands feature the famous Cycladic architecture in their towns and villages which is what many people think of as being typically Greek; white washed walls, blue roofs, coloured doors and ‘crazy paving’ with the stones ringed in bright white.
In short, Paros is stunningly beautiful with both beautiful towns and beaches. It’s probably the most picture postcard perfect place I’ve ever seen. It also has wonderful restaurants serving fresh seafood, a few historical sites to keep you interested and has the relatively unspoilt feel many Greek islands had 20 or 30 years ago given it’s both less well-known and less accessible than its larger neighbours.
How to get to Paros
You have two choices: a domestic flight from Athens (multiple per day) or Thessaloniki (one per day), which takes around an hour; or a ferry. Ferries arrive in Paros from Athens Pireaus (between 3.5 and 4.5 hours), Mykonos (between 40 and 90 minutes) or Santorini (between 2 and 4 hours). A number of ferry companies operate these routes so using a website like Ferryhopper is the best way to work out timetables, costs and durations. Ferries for all routes cost around €20 – €40 one way for a single adult and no vehicle.
I really only had the option of flying given both Santorini and Mykonos had just recently been put on the UK’s quarantine list and passing through them would have defeated (part of) the point of going to Paros.
Flying is also the best option if your itinerary is short or you aren’t also planning on spending time in Athens. It’s easy to get to the port from Athens but travel between port and airport takes over an hour.
It is easy to transition from an international to domestic flight in Athens as the airport is all in one terminal. I was easily able to make the connection despite booking two separate flights just 2 hours apart, although I only recommend this if missing a flight wouldn’t be a serious issue for you!
Olympic / Aegean Air and Sky Express both fly between Paros and Athens. I bought my flight with Olympic which was a flexible fare which included baggage and free re-schedules. This was the only option when I booked – I’m not sure if that’s because all tickets have those terms or if cheaper seats had sold out; it cost around £160 return, but was booked just 4 days before travel. I imagine this route is always slightly pricey as it’s so much quicker than the ferry journey.
If you’re booking a holiday to Greece (or frankly, anywhere else) make sure you check the latest travel information which is changing rapidly at the moment. In the UK you should use the Foreign and Commonwealth website and ensure you have filled out passenger locator forms for Greece and for your return into the UK – these both had specific timelines around submission so make sure you read the instructions and requirements carefully.
Where to stay in Paros
Luckily I had already come to the conclusion that Naousa was the best place to stay before a friend familiar with the island told me it was the best location. Naousa is a small fishing town on the north side of the island, around 15 minutes’ drive from the capital, Parikia, and around 25 minutes from the airport.
Naousa seemed the most popular spot for tourists and was well served by both accommodation and restaurants and was extremely picturesque and walkable. If you Google Paros, most of the images that come up will be of Naousa. Parikia would make an equally good base, but the island is so small that you can easily visit all of the towns no matter where you stay. I would personally recommend staying in a town rather than in a lager hotel / resort on its own on the island as so much of the charm of the place is wandering around the old streets at night finding a restaurant and popping into the lovely little boutique shops. For me, this would not be as enjoyable if I had to drive in and out each evening, especially as I then couldn’t sample the local wines and beers.
Specifically, I stayed at Villa Irini on the outskirts of Naousa and couldn’t recommend it more. Every inch was spotlessly clean in the room, common areas and pool. The pool was larger than expected from the small size of the hotel, the staff were friendly and helpful (but not overbearing) and the location was epic.
Ok, so you had to deal with a 10 / 15 minute walk into town, but for me this was totally compensated both by the quiet location and the fact that it sits on the apex of one of the hills surrounding Naousa with beautiful views from the pool area across the sea and town (and the sunrise if you wanted to get up early).
The terrace at the back of the hotel (and most of the rooms with balconies) looked out across the sea towards Kolymbithres meaning you were treated to the sun setting over the hills every night, which can’t really be seen from the town. I’m a massive sucker for both sunrises and sunsets so I’d be sold on this place hands down every single time.
The last 2 minutes of your walk home each night up a steep potholed road in the pitch dark aren’t the best (especially after a few Ezas) but to me that’s the authentic Greek holiday experience and the hotel was otherwise so faultless and well positioned that I couldn’t imagine not staying there again if I went back. It would suit families so long as you were planning to tour the island for the beaches as the pool had no shallow end (even I couldn’t stand up in it anywhere) and Piperi beach which was a 2 minute walk down the hill isn’t the cleanest (even though it was photogenic from a distance!).
How to get around Paros
There are buses and boats available for certain routes on the island and luckily this information is all easily obtainable before hand. I was easily able to track down the bus timetables for the island which were very understandable and can be found on the KTEL website. I cannot vouch for the reliability of buses as I didn’t use them but did see both buses and bus stops so there appear to exist!
Small boats will take you to other parts of the island – from the port of Naousa you could catch a small boat across to Kolymbithres beach and Monistiri beach that departed roughly hourly between 11am and 6pm. The best way to be sure of what’s on offer is to head to the port on your first day and enquire. The boats had boards up displaying timetables and there were also sunset cruises that could be booked.
By far the easiest way is to hire transport and rental places offering scooters, ATVs and cars are all over the island. I used ML Rental which had a branch 5 minutes walk from Villa Irini. They were really helpful and friendly and I was very happy with the vehicle and price (scooters are about €15 – €20 per day) . Pretty much every town / village on the island has a free public parking lot on the outskirts so it’s easy enough to find parking.
I opted for a scooter as I was alone and knew it would give me the very best flexibility in terms of being able to park and was by far the most cost effective. Make sure you hire one with enough storage for your helmet and a few bits so you’re not dragging it around everywhere with you.
However, and I cannot stress this enough, do not hire a scooter on Paros if you’ve never ridden one or another two-wheeler before. This is not the place to learn. Aside from the fact I’ve seen so many accidents on scooters all over the world and the fact it will very likely invalidate your travel insurance to ride one (please check this if you do go ahead), Paros is extremely windy, which can be scary if you’re not used to riding and some of the road surfaces are challenging. You wouldn’t even notice this in a car, but when you’re on two wheels it’s a whole other ball game and I think I would have made some very unsafe riding decisions if I had not previously owned and frequently driven a scooter. That’s my ‘don’t try this at home kids’. ATVs will give you the same sense of fun, still be easy to park and give you stability and traction you won’t get on a scooter. If you’re used to two wheels, then crack on, there was nothing insurmountable I came across. My scooter cost me €60 for 3 days (but was 80cc; 50ccs are cheaper) and about €6 in fuel. Also make sure you check what your licence will allow you to drive in Greece, most people with a UK car licence will be able to drive a scooter in Greece but I believe some countries require an international driving permit.
3 day Paros itinerary
Day 0 – arrival
Day 1 – exploring Naousa
Day 2 – Parikia and Lefkes
- Archaeological Museum
- Panagia Ektokanapilian
- Church of Saint Constantine and Archaic Temple of Athena
- Frankish Castle
- Lunch at Brizoladiko Steakhouse
Ancient marble quarries
Day 3 – beach hopping and exploring Aliki
- Kolymbithres Beach
- Monistiri Beach and church
- Aliki town and lunch
- Faragas Beach
- Golden Beach
- Kalogeros Beach
- Santa Maria Beach
- Dinner at Les Amis Restaurant
Day 1 – Naousa
I spent my first morning wandering around Naousa taking roughly a million photos because every turn and every alleyway had something more beautiful down it! You can easily spend a day here wandering and eating (I’ve said more about my favourite restaurants in the section below).
I recommend heading to the port area first thing in the morning to take some photos while it’s still relatively empty.
For those keen on getting some shots in from the ‘gram (I am – I hit Insta hard on this trip) then head to Linardo for photos in front of the pink door and neighbouring Karnagio.
Head to Sigi Ikthios for a lunch of fresh fish and salad before some more exploring. You can catch a sunset cruise from the harbour and then head to Soso Restaurant (make reservations) for dinner.
Day 2 – Parikia and Lefkes
Head to Parikia in the morning to explore the island’s capital. I’ve marked on the map where I parked but there are other parking lots. This was less than a 5 minute walk to the archaeological museum and church and was easy to get in and out of town from.
On the way into Parikia from the car park you come across the Archaeological Museum of Paros (€3). I would probably suggest that for most people this isn’t worth visiting. If you’re interested in the history of the area then by all means go, it will only take 30 minutes of your time and the minor entry fee, but if you don’t already have a grounding in Cycladic or archaic Greek art I think this is a tough sell. There are a few semi torsos of kouroi and some fairly interesting geometric pots (although most are tiny or damaged). There’s one nice geometric pot with a prothesis scene on the neck reminiscent of the one on the (much larger and finer) Dipylon Amphora in the Athens Archaeological museum and a fairly interesting gorgon statue which, for me, were worth seeing, but you can probably tell that boring smashed up Greek stuff is one of my jams and I think I’m in a minority.
Visit the Church of the Panagia Ektokanapilian (the church of a 100 gates). The church itself sits on an older building, possibly a temple, but was constructed from the 4th Century onwards, making it one of the oldest churches in the Aegean. It was allegedly built by the Roman Emperor Constantine’s mother, Saint Helena, after her boat docked in Paros on the way to the Holy Land in search of the True Cross.
There are various later additions to the structure. The church itself is pretty impressive from the inside, with all the masonry exposed in the domes which are built from different coloured limestone, some of which had to be reconstructed after an earthquake in the 18th century.
There’s an interesting carved stone iconostasis, behind which you can just glimpse the 17th century wall paintings in the nave (mostly on the north side).
My favourite part was the 4th century baptistery which can be accessed through the south aisle and is almost the size of the church itself. Now a very plain and simple structure, the original cruciform font is beautiful and you can just spot some remnants of wall painting and mosaic remaining in odd places. Entry fee: free.
In the church grounds is a museum of some of the icons and other liturgical items from the church dating between the 17th and 19th centuries. There are some quite fine icons in the Cretan style. Entry fee €2.
After seeing the two main sights what remains is the exciting and highly rewarding job of exploring Parikia’s warren of streets. Starting at the port I wasn’t expecting the same cute nooks and crannies as I’d found at Naousa but it turned out to be every bit as beautiful (see my Instagram map).
On your meanderings be sure to check out the 13th century Frankish castle built by the Venetians from old architectural remains, largely from the 4th century and also the Church of Saint Constantine and the Archaic Temple of Athena from where you can look out over the sea.
There are plenty of really nice shops and restaurants. I opted for a fast food lunch of gyros from Briziladiko Steakhouse (not a steakhouse). It basically looks like a standard high street kebab shop from the outside but plenty of locals were frequenting it and two delivery bikes stood outside a tiny restaurant. The menu is vast although all meat and salad based so it’s all variations on a theme.
For a more aesthetic experience sit at their tables across the road on the sea front. The pork gyros was excellent (still regret not getting a second one) and was ridiculously good value at €2.90 – you couldn’t get a Pret sandwich for that.
After lunch I grabbed my scooter and headed for Lefkes, another pretty town on the island. Lefkes has even narrower, more warren-like streets than Naousa or Parikia and is built into a hill so you find yourself constantly moving up and down steps and slopes.
Lefkes is worth visiting (and is home to one of the island’s hottest Instagram spots) but being inland it didn’t have the same views out over the sea as Parikia or Naousa and didn’t feel any prettier to me.
There is a well-reviewed restaurant there, Klarinos Tavern (no website), which I didn’t visit as I’d already eaten but if I’d come to Lefkes on a different day I’d have stopped there for lunch. Another popular spot is Kafeneio Marigos opposite the church of Agia Triada which is another opportunity for the ‘gram and also a pretty open square to sit in for a break.
On the way between Parikia and Lefkes you can stop at the Ancient Marble Quarries in Marathi. There isn’t much to see except some tumble-down buildings and holes in the ground, but I still found it an interesting stop to see the place they quarried the marble that made the Venus de Milo and Nike of Samothrace. The ground sparkles with glittery sherds of Parian marble.
Day 3 – beach hopping and Aliki town
This was supposed to be a relaxing holiday so I didn’t complete this exact itinerary and kept myself generally to the north and east of the island, but if I went back I’d definitely tour the whole island, which only really takes 30 / 35 minutes to drive across.
There are so many beaches to explore that you could easily spend a week on Paros going to different beaches everyday and I would happily do just that on a return visit! The only two beaches I ended up visiting are described below (Kolymbithres and Monistiri), but I’ve also included the list of beaches that I’d researched and put on my list and they’re also included on the map at the bottom.
Kolymbithres is less than a 10 minute drive from Naousa which makes it easy as a day trip or shorter visit (I only went for a couple of hours). This is one of Paros’ most famous beaches due to it’s unusual rock formations. There are both rocky and sandy areas to sit.
There is plenty of parking on site as well as a choice of beach areas with beds and umbrellas which cost about €20. Bars near the car park provide drinks direct to your sun lounger.
If you don’t want to pay, I recommend clambering onto one of the rocky areas as it’s a bit more secluded and you can get in and out of the water without getting sandy! The water here is really beautiful so it’s definitely worth the trip. I recommend going there first thing in the morning before the first boat trip from Naousa arrives around 11:15am and it starts to get busy. I had parts of it to myself until around 10am.
This hadn’t been on my list before going to Paros, but it’s only another 5 or so minutes round the coast from Kolymbithres, so I stopped here straight afterwards to see the church, which is a well known Instagram spot.
The church is really beautiful against he sea and rocks, many of which have similarly interesting formations as at Kolymbithres. You can climb right up to the rocks that form part of the wall and roof of the dome for the best photos.
I didn’t stop at the actual beach, but could see it from the rocky outcrop by the church and it looked really picturesque and not too busy. It also has plenty of parking and sunbeds and umbrellas to rent.
Most of the locals opted for the rocks just below the church (which also has parking) which was prettier and more secluded than the beach, so I would recommend setting up on these rocks rather than going to the beach unless it’s not practical for you.
Continuing around the island to the west you can visit the pretty fishing town of Aliki for some lunch and on to the other beaches on the island. I didn’t make it to Aliki but a number of people on the island recommend that I visit for good seafood.
The other well-known beaches on Paros that I didn’t visit are:
This is a small, pretty beach less than a 10 minute drive from Aliki and often appears in lists of Paros’ best beaches.
Continuing around the island to the south side you come to the ultimate in sandy beaches on Paros. It’s pretty big with sunbed / umbrella areas and other areas you can sit for free. This is one of Paros’ more famous beaches.
Continuing your island tour you’ll come to Kalogeros, which has a slightly more rustic vibe than the other beaches on this list. It’s popular for the clay there that people use as a natural mud bath! It could be easily combined with a visit to Lefkes and Marpissa as it’s only a short journey east from there. If you have time on day 1 after seeing Lefkes then I’d recommend stopping briefly in Marpissa and then spending an hour or two here.
Santa Maria Beach
Also a short drive from Naousa but in the opposite direction to Kolymbithres is Santa Maria beach which is a popular area for watersports. I’ve heard this is typically more sheltered on windy days (which are often!). This is more your typical sandy beach and also has a beach bar providing drinks. I think this is a fairly popular spot and so might be a bit busier than Monistiri and it looks quite closely packed from the photos I’ve seen, which some people won’t enjoy. I think it attracts a slightly younger crowd.
There are plenty of other secluded beaches off the beaten track so it’s definitely worth doing some research or just setting off on an adventure to find your own!
Where to eat in Paros
This was my first meal of the holiday and the best! I’d read rave reviews of Soso and it totally lived up the the hype.
The service isn’t particularly friendly but it’s in a very pretty setting and the food was amazing. I bitterly regret not going back for a second meal. The hand written menu gives you a sense of how fresh and seasonal the food is.
Reservations advised – open for dinner only. Note that I attempted to contact them but they didn’t reply to my reservation requests on Facebook so it’s best to phone them or make a reservation in person once you’re there.
This is a traditional Greek restaurant serving home cooking. It had amazing reviews and is in one of Naousa’s pretty streets.
I didn’t enjoy this meal as much as I expected. It was perfectly good but I don’t think I ordered quite the right things and so didn’t enjoy as much as I hoped – I’d still recommend visiting as it’s one of Naousa’s best restaurants.
Reservations advised – open for dinner only
Les Amis serves only local wines but largely serves Italian dishes (which I hadn’t realised when I booked).
I was hoping for a final Greek meal on my last night, but grudgingly accepted that the food here was pretty good. I had a sea bass ceviche followed by a tomato pappardelle dish was was really excellent. It’s a very pretty place with tables on the street as well as a pretty balcony upstairs with views over Naousa.
Reservations advised – open for dinner only
Kargas (no website)
This is a tiny kebab place in Naousa but frequently comes up if you Google ‘best souvlaki in Paros’ and is typically packed with both locals and tourists.
I had the pork gyros (…I might have had two), which was delicious – the meat was tasty and the pita beautifully light. It’s unbelievably good value with brisk, friendly service. This is a must try in Naousa and I recommend going there more than once!
Open 12pm to 12am
This was one of my favourite lunch spots but I also enjoyed a sunset dinner here. The service is extremely friendly and helpful and they serve super fresh seafood and other traditional Greek dishes as well as an assortment of local wines.
Sigi Ikthios is right on Naousa’s harbour, one of the prime spots to enjoy the day or evening. I just kept ordering the octopus in vinegar because it was so good.
Open 12pm to 12am
Here you can purchase all manner of baked goods to take away as well as baked goods and other food to eat in all day.
I tried some baklava one night which was so good I ended up taking a load home with me. Don’t miss an opportunity to try the selection of super gooey baklava in a really pretty setting.
Allegedly open 24 hours!
Not a steakhouse but a kebab house. I stopped here for lunch in Parikia on the recommendation of the good citizens of TripAdvisor and was not disappointed. Excellent value gyros in a seaside setting.
I didn’t eat in Lefkes, but had researched restaurants in case I ended up there during lunchtime. Klarinos was the hands down winner every time I looked up Lefkes restaurants and reviews.
Instagram locations in Paros
You will see from the photos throughout this post that Paros is a super hot location for those who like their Instagram shots. The key areas are below and have been added to the Paros map at the bottom of this post
Linardo – Naousa
Karnagio – Naousa
Secret pink door – Naousa
Harbour front – Naousa
Pretty square (Sante cocktail bar) – Naousa
Green door bougainvillea house – Parikia
Corner bougainvillea house – Lefkes
Green door house and cafe – Lefkes
Church – Monistiri
What would I do differently
Given more time I would have completed my tour of the island, visitiing the additional beaches listed above, as well as the towns of Aliki and Marpissa. I’d have also taken the ferry to Antiparos, the smaller island next to Paros. This is easily accessible by ferry from Parikia (c. 30 minutes) or Pounda (c. 10 minutes and much more frequent than the Parikia boats). You can check the schedule here. The alternative is to hire a boat for the day to visit a number of beaches and towns as well as making the trip to Antiparos. In making the crossing to Antiparos you should see the beautiful blue lagoon.