We got off to a rough start in Paros as we spent half an hour waiting for our scheduled pickup at the port after disembarking the ferry. Eventually we used the phone of a nearby tour booth to call our hotel and they acted very promptly sending a taxi for us.
We never found out exactly what caused the mix-up at the port, but as you can expect, it did taint our first impression of Paros.
Luckily the arrival at our hotel was a much warmer reception. Paros Land Hotel had recently been taken over by new management and beautifully refurbished.
The entrance is a stunning, enticing hall radiating with elegance and style. The owners, a Greek family, greeted us with enthusiasm and we were shown our room. The hotel room contained 4 single beds and at the back, a balcony overlooking the scenic garden grounds.
The hotel also had a pool with a child-friendly shallow section, but most impressively a new young chef in the restaurant who was already making a splash on the Paros culinary scene.
The walls within the hotel were once again too thick for the wifi signal to reach inside, but sitting outdoors wasn’t such an issue with the beautiful greenery surrounding us. The owners also mentioned that they were still working on improving the wifi strength.
The kids were super delighted with the lollies that magically arrived on their pillows each night and they cheekily took the opportunity to pinch ours as well.
After settling in, one of the owners drove us to the nearby town of Alyki. We took a stroll around and the kids found a playground on the beach.
The kids had dinner at the hotel that evening, and then we put them to bed early after the long day, and enjoyed room service.
The next day we drove our new rental car 20 minutes north to the port town of Parikia to meet our first tour guide, Christina. She showed us through the extensive collection of artefacts at the Archaeological Museum. I was surprised how much they managed to fit into the relatively small building, yet it didn’t feel cluttered. Her insight helped to shed light on some of the wide range of interesting pieces dating from 4000 BC through to the Byzantine period. Understandably, the kids were not excited, but the significance of the archaeological finds on Paros and nearby Antiparos weaved a fascinating and rich historical narrative.
Next we walked to the aptly named, Church of 100 Doors (Panagia Ekatontapyliani). The actual translation would be more accurate for “openings” instead of “doors”, since they count windows as well. It’s an incredibly beautiful church with a history dating back to 326 AD. It is believed that Emperor Constantine’s mother, Saint Helen, visited the island on her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It contains a rare baptismal pool, which was formed in the shape of a cross. Sinners would enter through one side and exit the other cleansed.
Soon after this church was founded, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman empire and christening of babies was adopted. So there are very few ancient Christian baptismal pools designed for adults like this.
Afterwards we took a walk through Parikia and the Venetian castle. Much of the construction of this area was from the Venetian empire period. The narrow roads are lined with small shops and cafes. Although a few parts of a Crusader aged castle wall are still standing, the rest of the town matches traditional Cycladic architecture.
After we said goodbye to our guide, we stopped for lunch at Periorexius (there isn’t actually an English translation for the Greek name, but this is close enough),
which was located near the tourist information office. Unfortunately this eatery didn’t meet the high standards we had experienced at every other Greek restaurant.
After lunch we met with Catarina from the tourist office and she took us on a tour of the rest of the island. Our first stop was Lefkes - the old capital of Paros. Erin stayed in the car with the kids while I took a quick walk around town with our new tour guide. It was a very beautiful and peaceful town compared to Parikia, with relatively few tourists.
Driving north, our next stop was the port town of Naoussa. This harbour was filled with colourful boats, and protected by a small fort waving the pirate flag that Erin had to investigate.
You Won’t Find This In A Guide Book
Making our way south along the east side of the island, Catarina guided us to a non-descript building on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. This unassuming bakery (called Wooden Oven in English) sold fresh pastries and also delicious ice cream. As you can imagine, this put a big smile on the kids and turned out to be the highlight of our Paros visit.
You definitely won’t find this place in any guidebooks and tourist maps. The Greek name is “ΖΟΥΜΗΣ ΝΙΚΟΛΑΟΣ "Ο ΞΥΛΟΦΟΥΡΝΟΣ” and it’s on the main north-south highway called “Eparchiaki Odos Naoussas-Marpissas”. Check out our Google Map below for the exact location so you don’t accidently drive past it.
More Road Trippin
We continued along the east coast and drove past Molos beach. It’s a very secluded and relatively untouched stretch of beach.
Next on our beach hunting list was Kalogeras Beach. The green tinged rock that lines the shore has a reputation as a free DIY beauty mask. Erin tried scraping some of the rock and mixing it with water to create a mud mask. I’m sure afterwards she looked 10 years younger.
The small town of Piso Livadi reminded us a lot of Alyki near our hotel. It was laid back with a quiet beach surrounded by a smattering of fishing boats. There are a number of family friendly hotels in this area and the kids got a chance to play on the playground on the beach.
We stopped very briefly at Golden Beach, which is very popular with tourists. Since we were there just before the official start of the season it was pretty deserted, but I could easily imagine this place packed with scores of deckchairs on the sand, jet skis bouncing in the sea and wind surfers carving up the surf.
The scenary on the east side of the island was gorgeous so I had to stop a couple times to capture the moments.
After a long day of driving and walking we returned to our hotel for dinner.
The next morning after a delicious hotel breakfast, we packed our bags, thanked the hotel owners and staff, and scurried back to the port. As we were driving along the west coast of the island we could see the ferry streaming towards Parikia, and had to push the accelerator to the floor to reach the ferry destined for Piraeus (Athens) just in the nick of time. Phew!
Paros Wrap Up
It’s hard to compare Paros to the smaller islands we visited. When it comes to the tourism scale, Paros draws in around half a million visitors each year, much higher than Kythnos which has just 25,000 per year. Keeping in mind there are only 13,000 permanent residents on Paros, it’s quite impressive how well organised the island is for tourists.
In saying that, there’s seemingly an endless supply of beaches, which means the island doesn’t feel overcrowded, especially compared to destinations like Sunny Beach, Bulgaria. Just hire a car and take a drive around the east coast and you’ll find your own private beach, complete with golden sands, idyllic views and deep blue waters. Or if you’re a water sports enthusiast, you’ll find perfect conditions for windsurfing, kite boarding and more.
If you enjoy shopping on your holidays as well as relaxing on the beach, but want to avoid the high-priced islands of Santorini and Mykonos, then Paros may be your place in the sun.
As our last island on our 5-island Cycladic trip, we were sad to be leaving. We had experienced the most incredible Greek hospitality, food and culture on Kythnos, Sifnos, Milos, Ios and Paros. These islands provided a unique glimpse into the rich variety of experiences available in the Cyclades. There really was something we loved about each of them.
And we can’t wait to explore a whole lot more of them! Go Greece 2014!
Hopefully we have inspired you to visit several of these islands on your summer holiday. It will be a wonderful experience you are sure to remember for a lifetime. In fact, once you’ve had a taste of the Cyclades, it will compel you to come back for more – just like the drifting aroma of the tantalising cuisine. Ok, I’ve convinced myself. I’m off now to find the nearest gyro.