Best Things to Do in Paros
Best Things to Do in Paros – Right at the centre of the Cyclades, the island of Paros is a holiday destination cherished for its phenomenal beaches and cute Cycladic villages of snow-white houses. Parikia, the main port is a knot of winding streets below a castle made from re-used marble from an ancient temple, while the small fishing port at Naoussa is one of the Cyclades’ most endearing scenes. Paros is synonymous for the high-quality marble that was quarried here in ancient times, used for the Parthenon’s roof tiles and iconic sculptures like Nike of Samothrace and the Medici Venus. The beaches on Paros are almost too good for words, bathed by shallow waters of shades ranging from turquoise to royal blue. In the capital is an early-Christian wonder, the Panagia Ekatontapiliani church founded by St Helen 1,700 years ago.
In the mountainous centre of Paros, Lefkes is a gorgeous village settled on the slope at a height of 300 metres. Not many tourists get up to this place, and you can park outside the village and take a tour with your own two feet on little alleys and pine-shaded squares with tavernas and traditional bakeries. The Agia Triada Church, built from fine Parian marble and flanked by two majestic belfries, is a good place to begin and has some invaluable Byzantine icons. On the streets you’ll see a couple of washhouses, which are still used by a few inhabitants, while the slopes above the villages are sprinkled with windmills. Occasionally you’ll be caught off-guard by a long-distance view to the neighbouring island of Naxos.
Naoussa Old Port
Easily the most beautiful feature of Naoussa in the north of Paros is its sweet little rectangular harbour guarded by the Venetian fort, which we’ll talk about below. Small fishing boats are tied the narrow quays, just a metre or two away from the dozens of restaurant tables that crowd the waterside and the square in front. Understandably this very picturesque place is big with tourists, and things can get very busy in evenings when people even queue up to take a photo of the sunset from the quays. Early in the morning there will be nobody around at this lively resort so you can get a shot of the rising sun illuminating the wall of the Church of Agios Nikolaos and the fort behind.
The main port of Paros, Parikia is an enchanting maze of streets and passages paved with marble and fronted by Cycladic cube-shaped houses with blue doors, balconies and shutters. Geraniums, bougainvillea and potted flowers bring added splashes of colour to the city’s white walls. Parikia was port, shipping the island’s marble in ancient times, and its current buildings are constructed over the ancient city. There’s also method to the bewildering tangle of streets, designed by the Venetians to confound pirates and potential invaders. Parikia’s Venetian castle is on a hillock, dating to the 1200s and composed of marble spolia (re-used stone) from a temple that stood here before. On a roundabout at the port is the Parikia’s signature, a lone whitewashed windmill.
“The Church of a Hundred Doors” in Parikia dates to the 4th century and is said to have been founded by St Helen, the mother of Constantine when she stopped on the island during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. As such it is one of Greece’s outstanding early-Christian monuments, with architecture mostly from the 6th century during the rule of Justinian after the first church was damaged by fire. The interior eschews the normal colourful hagiography for simple, Byzantine stone patterns and decorative friezes. Most eye-catching is the iconostasis in front of the apse, which is held up by marble columns with Corinthian capitals that were fashioned in the 500s. Here you can view the most venerated of the church’s icons, the Virgin of Ekatontapiliani, painted in the 1600s. Give yourself time to view the baptismal font and learn about the church’s history at the museum in the cloister.