Sandwiched between Naxos and Antiparos in the Cycladic island chain sits the picturesque island of Paros. The island has a rich history that is largely overshadowed by the island’s modern-day glamorous edge. And there’s no doubt about it: Paros is glamorous; arguably the most alluring of the Cyclades with its charming, colorful harbor, a vast selection of high-end boutiques, a wide range of excellent dining, and a je ne sais quoi that makes you simply feel like you’ve arrived. It offers the romance of Santorini with fewer crowds (though the demand on Paros is ever-growing), the glitter of Mykonos without the hard-partying club scene, and the pockets of authentic Greek life to give it texture. I had visited Paros briefly a decade ago, taking a jaunt around the main port of Parikia and not delving much deeper. The real spirit of the islands can be found through exploration though, and the standout on the island for first-timers is the stunning port town of Naousa. Below, check out my mini guide to Paros, perfect for first-timers planning their getaway to Greece!
If this is your first trip to Paros and you’re researching where to stay on the island, you’ve likely narrowed it down to three primary spots: Naousa, Parikia, or Lefkes. Parikia is the main port town and will be your point of entry if you’re arriving on the island by ferry. The area brings a traditional Greek scene with narrow streets, a range of restaurants, and a host of shops worth exploring. If you’re looking for easy access to ferries and are in search of something more budget-friendly, staying in Parikia is your best option.
While we enjoyed meandering the streets of Paros’ capital city for an afternoon, it lacks the upscale slant that you’ll find in Naousa. Once upon a time, Naousa could best be described as a quaint Cycladic fishing village, and you’ll see vestiges of the fishing industry with brightly colored boats bobbing up and down in the harbour. In the past few decades though, Paros has earned a spot as a must-visit for visitors, becoming a Greek island go-to over traditional hot spots like Mykonos and Santorini. In that time, Naousa in particular has been transformed into a prime hotspot for tourism with bustling bars for sunset cocktails, wonderful restaurants, and boutiques spilling out onto the picturesque streets. For first-timers with a more flexible budget, opt for Naousa for a plethora of evening activities within walking distance of your accommodation.
The charming town of Lefkes, Paros’ former capital, will appeal to those wanting something off-the-beaten-path situated away from the island’s main tourism areas. Green and mountainous, it’s a bit of a change from the seaside experiences of the other two towns above. We visited Lefkes during one of our days exploring Paros by ATV, and while it was utterly charming, I didn’t think there was enough to draw a first-time visitor for an extended stay.
Hotels to Consider in Naousa, Paros
⇢ Parilio, Paros // Just on the outskirts of Naousa in Kolymbithres, Parilio is the go-to for clients wanting a luxe 5* option on the island.
⇢ Mr. and Mrs. White, Paros // We chose Mr. & Mrs. White due to its location in Naousa and due to the fact that it falls under the Small Luxury Hotels collection, which is a loose affiliate with Hyatt. We used points for this stay and found it a great option on the conversion; truly one of the hidden gems for points use in the Cyclades. For anyone interested in the Hyatt card (that’s how we earn for these stays), you can use my link for a 60,000 point bonus, plus I’ll get a few points for a future stay, too!
⇢ Lilly Residence – Sea View Suites // Also in Naousa, Lilly Residence offers an upscale adults-only vibe in Naousa. Lilly is positioned slightly closer to the heart of Naousa with views over the water.
As with all of the islands, I firmly believe that getting out and exploring is key to finding which island you vibe with most. Naousa is a stunning home base, don’t get me wrong, but there are nooks and crannies to discover further afield. A car will suffice, but if you prefer the wind in your hair and the ability to go off-road, opt for an ATV. We did this on every island (not an exaggeration) and it was one of my favorite elements of uncovering the gems in the region. We rented our ATV from Paros on Wheels, located in Naousa, for about €40 per day. Before heading off grab a road map or map your day with some hot spots to help guide your adventure.
As much as I adore Greece, coming from the Caribbean I tend to temper my expectations a bit when it comes to European beaches. That said, there are some stunning stretches in the Cyclades and many locales that offer a unique beach vibe. Paros offers a typical Mediterranean feel with the crystal clear, crisp Aegean sea contrasted with craggy outcroppings and stretches of sand.
For a dramatic, boulder-laden stretch, head to Kolymbithres to explore or nestle into a chair at a low-key day club for the day. While the beach here is far from traditional, I found it the most stunning and enticing of the beaches we visited during our day touring the island by ATV. For a more traditional beach experience, Santa Maria gets a lot of love for its long stretch. During our visit, the beach wasn’t particularly crowded though that may not be the case during traditional years. For a salty dip in the Aegean with hidden coves to enjoy, head to Lageri. Only after our visit did I discover that Lageri is famed for being a clothing-optional gay-friendly area, but I wouldn’t have known that from our experience there (everyone we saw had a bathing suit on). We discovered plenty of little pockets where you could nestle in with a towel or a beach chair at the edge of the sea.
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to dining in Paros, particularly if you’re based in Naousa where you’ll have a slew of options ranging from casual tavernas to sushi and French fare. With a month in the Cyclades, I thought there was a solid chance that I’d be over Greek food within the first couple of weeks. SO SILLY OF ME. Obviously, no one gets tired of Greek food! With the exception of about three meals, we ate Greek fare at every opportunity and never got tired of the freshly caught seafood and farm-fresh veggies. A few favorites in Paros to put on your list:
👉🏼 Statheros Restaurant for Greek fare – with homemade favorites! – right on the beach in Naousa
👉🏼 Siparos offers dining with a stunning view and elegant atmosphere on Santa Maria Beach
👉🏼 Les Amis in Naousa offers upscale Mediterranean fare with a wine focus
👉🏼 Taverna Glafkos is a fan-favorite with sea views and fabulous fresh calamari and octopus
In terms of dining time, keep in mind that Greeks eat very late by American standards! 9PM is on the early side for dining, and the thought of a 7:30PM dinner is almost unthinkable. Most of our dinners were around 9:30 or 10PM and we were somewhere in the middle timing-wise. Given the COVID situation, a few popular islands (Paros included) had a midnight curfew for food and beverage outlets. In normal years, you’ll see people dining well until midnight and beyond. If that sounds ungodly to you, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you adapt! We’re hardly late-night ragers, but were never home before 12:30AM or so. Embrace the pace and you’ll quickly fall into the rhythm of island life.
If you’re focused on wine tasting in the Cyclades, Paros is one of the better Cycladic islands outside of Santorini for locally produced vino celebrating Cycladic varietals. Visit Moraitis Winery for wine tasting with great flight options and pairings, or enjoy their satellite wine bar at the head of Naousa. For wine bars, head to Koukos Paros which has a great by the glass list with Greek wines. While there are no flights traditionally offered, you can ask to create your own flight with 75ml pours. For smaller production and less formal tastings, you can head to Katikia, a home-based winery, or to Asteras, which offers a small tasting room to try their wines.
While you’ll pay a slight premium for the prime real estate, Naousa Harbour has some gorgeous spots for a sunset cocktail. Keep in mind that if you’re heading to the Cyclades during peak months (July and August), expect sunset to hover around 8PM. You’ll enjoy gorgeously long days before heading out for evening drinks and late dinner (see my note above on dining times). For cocktails in Naousa with views of the Venetian castle, head to Agosta, San Fos, or Methystra, all of which are in close proximity to one another in a bustling square. Keep in mind all of those venues have inside options, but try to finagle a seat in the square for a view of the harbour.
Not seaside, but in the heart of Naousa, you’ll find Sante Cocktail Bar, a charming bar serving up coffee and drinks by day and night under a gorgeously enveloping tree.
I can’t recommend enough renting a car or ATV to explore the island to discover some of the gorgeous enclaves away from the crowds. In Naousa, don’t miss the Venetian Castle in the harbor. It’s a stunning fortification and particularly beautiful at sunset when you can enjoy a drink with a view at the places I’ve mentioned above.
Further afield, roughly in the center of Paros, the charming town of Lefkes is home to some gorgeous buildings, quaint shops, and a few options for dining (Lefkiano was a great option when we were there). Give yourself a few hours to wander the streets and enjoy lunch with a view.
Parikia is the main town in Paros, the hub of where ferries and transport are concentrated on the island. If you’re staying in Naousa as we did, plan on spending some time in Parikia for sightseeing, wandering + shopping. It’s a traditional Cycladic town with a maze of streets dotted with shops and restaurants and you’ll easily be able to spend a few hours meandering here.
For a seaside fix, Aliki is a tiny beach town with options for those wanting to dine on the water. We opted for To Balcony tou Aki, a perfect place to enjoy fresh octopus and calamari washed down with retsina or your favorite Greek beer.
Last, but certainly not least, Paros is arguably one of the hubs of shopping in the Cyclades. In general, the shops are higher end and unique so prepare for items that are a bit spendy but generally high quality (obviously there are exceptions to that rule, too). If you’re there in the shoulder season after the hustle and bustle of summer, be on the lookout for sales! A few places for great pieces to take home with you:
👉🏼 White in Paros – You’ll see a few of these in Naousa, each with slightly different slants on their product offerings.
👉🏼 Lolita: For fun accessories and some great clothing finds, Lolita is right at the head of Naousa – you can’t miss it! I picked up some accessories and a skirt here – plus she can help with alterations within 24 – 48 hours for a small fee.
👉🏼 Handmade with Love in Paros –Find cool handmade pieces with character for a perfect gift from the island!
👉🏼 Alenia Paros – If you’re looking for original jewelry by Greek designers, Alenia has a gorgeous selection of dainty and statement pieces.
Naousa has dozens of high-quality boutiques and nearly all of them stay open late so you’ll have plenty of time to shop pre and post-meal, well into the evening.
How to Get to Paros
Lastly, Paros can be easily reached by ferry from Athens or by flight into Paros airport (PAS) from Athens. For ferries, we typically used Ferry Hopper to check out times and either purchased online or booked in person a couple of days prior to departure. For a broader Greek island experience, considering pairing Paros with neighboring islands for a contrast. Consider adding on Naxos, which is only twenty minutes by ferry, or the tiny island of Antiparos, which is just a 7-minute ferry ride away.
For more inspiration, check out our itinerary for one month in the Cyclades!
My Paros lovers, any highlights or must-see spots you’d recommend for a first-time visitor?