Paros, the second largest island in the Cyclades is filled with history, culture, and natural beauty. While not nearly as popular as its neighboring Mykonos or Santorini, it is certainly not undiscovered. Paros is immensely popular with mainland Greeks and it’s become increasingly popular with international tourists throughout the years.
Paros is blessed with a very dramatic landscape filled with rolling hills, churches, monasteries, sandy beaches and more. There are endless Cycladic villages to feed your love of beautiful white houses and blue doors. Paros offers a more “authentic” Greek island experience in my opinion even if the prices aren’t as cheap as neighboring islands. I’d say Paros is the third most expensive island after Mykonos and Santorini.
Santorini was one of the islands I visited on my month long trip island hopping through the Cyclades. If you’re also planning a multi-island trip through the Cyclades, make sure to read my itinerary and guide to planning your own Greek island hopping trip!
How to get to Paros
Paros is one of the most popular islands in the Cyclades and therefore very easy to reach. Almost every ferry route in the Cyclades stops through Paros on its way to somewhere else. You will find multiple ferries a day from Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Crete etc. which makes getting to Paros a breeze.
There is also an airport in Paros which has regular flights coming from Athens.
For a comprehensive guided on Greek ferries and navigating your way around the Aegean, make sure to read my Greek ferry guide.
Naoussa is without a doubt Paros’ most popular and vibrant town. Dubbed as a quaint fishing village from many of the travel guides, it is anything but. Perhaps decades ago, it was exactly that which is believable because of the large harbor that has many fishing boats. Nowadays, it’s the place to go and the place to be seen. Swarms of tourists descend onto this beautiful little town during the summer months but nevertheless, it still does not lose its charms.
The town itself is incredibly picturesque and reminds me of the Mykonos Chora just because it has that upscale and picture perfect appeal that Mykonos was so good at. Walking through the alleyways during the day time was a treat as it really checked off all the boxes you’re expecting in your quintessential Cycladic village. White houses, blue doors, cobblestone streets, and scores of bougainvillea trees are on offer. There are also loads of shops, restaurants, and cafes for you to peruse. Walk towards the ocean and small alleyways will lead you to open air restaurants with seating and direct views of the sea.
At night, these restaurants are totally packed and the harbor area turns into a giant dinner party with the many seafood restaurants on offer. The streets of Naoussa are completely alive and the main promenade is absolutely packed. I visited during Coronavirus times and it still felt very busy so I can only imagine what Naoussa would be like during a normal summer.
Paros is not the party island that Mykonos or Ios is however. I loved the cocktail bars in Naoussa but you can tell that after a certain hour, while still busy, it never stepped into that “next level” of huge crowds of people walking to the party. Even in Mykonos during Coronavirus, you could feel that people were looking for that next party late into the night.
Nevertheless, I stayed in Naoussa for four nights which I am happy for because there is so much to explore in this town.
Visit the other villages in Paros
As Paros is a large island, second only to Naxos, there are a ton of historical villages that are worth visiting. I still think Naxos had the most picturesque villages with the most history but Paros is no slouch either. I wish I spent more time visiting the different villages but here are the main highlights.
Lefkes was the first town I visited outside of Naoussa. It came highly recommended and is one of the most historical places in the island. Located in the middle of the island, it is roughly 25 minutes by scooter from Naoussa and absolutely worth it.
As soon as you enter the village’s traditional part, you will quickly realize that this is the cycladic village of your dreams. Located high up on the mountains, Lefkes is filled with iconic white houses with the blue outlines, cobblestone streets with the white paint, many bougainvillea trees, and just charm all around.
Simply get lost in the small alleyways as you meander from one cute street to a cuter street. There’s also lots of cafes, restaurants, and shops if that is your thing but really I just loved getting lost in these quiet and quaint villages. There is also a giant church in the edge of town with the most pretty bougainvillea tree.
Not far from Lefkes is the next town of interest. Marpissa is located high on the hills of Paros. It is a beautiful village, with the Sculpture Museum of Perantinos, its mills and its coastal settlement, Piso Livadi, with fish taverns and bars.
Marpissa is also one of the most beautiful villages of Paros. It is located at the top of a small hill, at the center of which there is the dominating church of Metamorphosis (the Transfiguration of Jesus), of byzantine style. Close by, there is the Museum of Perantinos and a bit further down, the monument of Stellas.
Parikia, the capital of Paros with the passenger and the commercial port and the Mill, which is the trademark of the village, is located at the island’s bay. This is the where the Paros ferry port is and likely the first place you see.
It is very hectic around the port area but just simply walk into the town center and you’ll be immediately greeted with a chilled out atmosphere.
The central street of the market (Lohagou Fokianou st.) in Parikia, in Paros, with stores along both its sides is quite attractive, with old buildings that are preserved in an excellent condition. Venetian mansions, the residence of the Dimitrakopoulos family and Mayor Mavrogenis’ fountains, all fit harmoniously with the small touristic shops and the antique shops of the city.
Most of the stores, taverns, restaurants, bars, cafeterias are situated on the street along the coast of Parikia (Giannis Parios st.) from the Mill in Bountaraki to Livadia.
Parikia was not my favorite town and it’s nowhere near as pretty as the Naxos Chora which also doubles as its port town. I stayed here for one night after spending 4 nights in Naoussa which I found to be much more idyllic.
Beaches in paros
Paros is filled with countless beaches. Any type of beach that you’re into you will find in Paros. From flat rocky beaches to wide sandy beaches, you’ll find everything here. Although it’s not quite as amazing as the beaches in Ios for example, you have everything you need here.
As I came in August, the beaches were quite busy so I didn’t spend much time going to packed beaches (not really my style).
Kolimbithres rock formations
Kolimbithres is legendary for its turquoise water and incredible rock formations.
Located in the northeast of Paros, this is my far the best beach I went to. It’s located in a bay so you get calm waters but most importantly, it was far away from the tourist strip. While there were still people here, it wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as other places.
The water here is also very beautiful and crystal clear making it a perfect place for a swim.
Where to eat in Paros?
Since I stayed in Naoussa, I focused most of my dining game in the town. Naoussa is definitely a more upscale town and therefore you can expect to find lots of upscale restaurants, especially near the sea. Prices in Paros are generally higher than in other islands but still much lower than in Mykonos or Santorini.
There are also many modern style fusion-esque restaurants in Naoussa which seemed like they had a good vibe but I know after months of traveling Greece that traditional Greek food reigns supreme.
If there’s one place to eat a Greek meal in Naoussa, it has to be at O Katsounas. Located right in the middle of the town, O Katsounas is a meze style Greek restaurant with no frills serving the most delicious food. It gets very busy in the summer nights and no reservations are accepted. You know it’s good when there are people waiting to eat there at 10pm at night.
I had a little bit of everything at this restaurant and absolutely loved everything. The prices are also very fair especially considering Naoussa has some of the most expensive restaurants in the Cyclades outside of Mykonos and Santorini.
I came here twice actually because it was just that good and what I was looking for. .
For a quick lunch or dinner specializing in gyros and souvlaki, look no further than Allas Souvlaki. It’s in the heart of Naoussa town and serves perhaps some of the best gyro I had in my entire trip through the Cyclades. The pork is layered on differently than other shops but it is incredibly juicy and flavorful. I ate here for multiple lunches because I just couldn’t get enough of the Greek streetfood specialty.
For breakfast, my go to spot every morning was the Ragoussis bakery. It seemed like it was definitely the morning hotspot for everyone else too. They had all the delicious breakfast delicacies I had become used to like spanakopita and chicken pies as well as brunch items like eggs, greek yogurt etc.
For the best cocktails in town, go to Sommaripa along the pier. It’s located next to all the other high end seafood restaurants and has its own little balcony where you can enjoy the sunset. They made a damn good negroni, perhaps one of the best I had in Greece.
This place also opened in the mornings for coffee and breakfast.
Day trip to Antiparos
If you’re spending a few nights in Paros, you should seriously consider a day trip to the island of Antiparos. Anti, which means opposite in Greek, is a small island located to Paros’ southwest.
Getting to Antiparos for Paros
Antiparos is easily accessible from Paros. There are multiple ferries that go to Antiparos from either the main port town which takes 30 minutes, or from the port town of Parikia where the ferry departs every half hour and takes only 10 minutes.
The ferry is easy and only costs 2 euros per person and 7 euros for a car.
Every Greek person raved about Antiparos calling it the spot to be so I decided I had to visit. Sure enough, it is indeed beautiful. The island is like a much smaller and more laid back version of Paros. The main Chora in Antiparos is beautiful and fulfills all the quintessential Cycladic checkboxes you’re looking for. In olden times, Antiparos was a very remote island with few tourists or infrastructure. However, like any modernization story, Antiparos has done a complete 180 in recent years.
Greek people told me twenty years ago, Antiparos was barely on the radar and was a place where few people went and even fewer people knew about. Nowadays, Antiparos is the poster child of Cycladic gentrification. There are countless hipster style cafes, brunch restaurants, and juice shops in the Chora. In August, the place was packed full of tourists (largely Greek) and it’s definitely ascended to that posh upscale type of mentality.
In addition, celebrities like Tom Hanks, Matthew Mcconaughey, Pierce Brosnan, and Bruce Willis have all bought property here so the trajectory of the island has become wealthier and more upscale leaning.
To me, Antiparos is an island that is trying to Folegandros but is turning out to be more like Mykonos. It wants to remain an island that’s away from the beaten path, laid back, and undiscovered, but really, it’s become a place for wealthy Greeks to party it up.
Nevertheless, I still really loved the vibe of the island just because of how pretty the main Chora is. I would certainly come here again but just avoid the crazy August rush of tourists.
The most important site on the island is the Cave of Antiparos which was discovered in the modern age in 1673 but is mentioned by the lyric poet Archilochus in the 6th Century BC. People have been climbing down into the cave for hundreds of years and carving their names and the dates in the stalagmites and stalactites hundreds of feet below. There are now stairs that go all the way down and the cave is mostly vertical. It looks like the stairway to hell as you look down and as you descend you can’t help but thinking that you hope there is an elevator at the bottom to bring you back up. There isn’t. I walked to the next to last level while Andrea went all the way to the bottom. There was a Scandinavian couple huffing and puffing their way up the stairs that convinced me that I had seen enough. But Andrea, who was climbing the walls to get photos of all the historical signatures including King Otto and Queen Amalia who visited the cave on my birthday, September 27 1840 would not leave the cave until she saw every inch and read every signature.
Beaches are amazing
The beaches in Antiparos are much nicer than in Paros. They are less busy and are largely long sand stretches of beach. I spent time at the Soros beach before noon so avoided all the crowds and it was very pretty. In the afternoon, this beach quickly turns into a big party as there is a big beach club here.
Lunch at Captain Pipinos
For a good lunch option, look no further than Captain Pipinos in the southwest of the island. It’s something of an institution this restaurant as it’s always busy and attracts plenty of foreign and domestic tourists.
The food is primarily seafood and you’ll find everything your heart desires here!
Sunset at Sunset Deseo
The place to be for sunset in Antiparos is Deseo, which is located on the west side of the island just past the Chora. This place is a bit of a scene but much less involved or wannabe-posh as in Mykonos. Deseo has a nice outdoor spot right along the cliffs facing the sunset directly. They made very good cocktails for a reasonable price which was a plus.
The sun set directly in front of me and was one of the better sunsets I saw during my two months in Greece.
Dinner in town – Taverna Kyklades
There are so many dinner options in Antiparos as the Chora is just chalk full of appealing restaurants. I wanted something less involved and just wanted some down and dirty Greek food that didn’t break the bank. Taverna Kyklades had good reviews and fit the bill. They served amazing local Greek fare for a very cheap price, by any island standards.
I had seafood with a Greek salad which never seems to get old, and loved it. Highly recommend this place.
Getting around Paros
Paros, like pretty much every other island in the Cyclades is really meant for a DIY type of adventure. While there are cabs you can take, they are not cheap and not easy if you’re looking to explore multiple places. If you’re staying in the Chora and just want a cab ride to the nearest beach, then that will suffice but otherwise it’s best to have your own transportation.
In Paros, the best way to get around is by scooter or ATV in my opinion. Cars are also an option but I always prefer a good scooter as it’s more interesting. Paros is a large island so if you’re not really a fan of scootering, then I’d recommend renting a car since you’ll need to cover more distance.
Rent an ATV or Scooter
Renting an ATV can be done pretty much anywhere on the island. There are countless shops in the port towns of Naoussa and Parakia that have scooter/ATV rentals so there’s no need to book before hand. Prices are mostly set but there is always some negotiation room but do not expect to get huge discounts because the shops work with each other to form a minimum price.
ATVs can be rented for around €30-40 depending on the motor size. Gas is not included in the price but they do not take much. Scooters can be had for around €20 for a 125cc engine.
You will need an EU Drivers license or international drivers license to rent a scooter or ATV
Greece is famously strict about adhering to the drivers license rule. If you have an American drivers license, they will not rent you anything unless you have an international license to go along with it. I did not find anyone that would skirt these rules, even with the shadiest looking of places. Thankfully, living in Europe and having the right US drivers license, I was able to convert mine into a EU license quite easily.
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