Little known on the tourist trail, Paros is one of the Cyclades' brightest pearls. With quaint white-washed villages, beautiful beaches and traditional Greek architecture, this island in the Aegean Sea is a serene alternative to the paradisiacal shores of Santorini, just with fewer crowds and a more enviable price tag.
Parikia is the first port of call for visitors to the island arriving by ferry. The epitome of a traditional Cycladic village, this port town is a charming traditional settlement replete with countless white-washed quaint shops and cafés injected with the bright pink of bougainvilleas.
Old Town Naoussa also boasts trademark white-washed cobblestone alleys and a picturesque port. By day, the maze-like passages here are peaceful and quiet but by night they team with the village's surprisingly vibrant nightlife. A table outside one of the numerous bars and restaurants is the perfect spot to indulge in some people-watching, while tasting a fresh catch.
For immense views of the Aegean Sea and neighbouring Naxos Island, Lefkes is the only place to be. Sat on a verdant hill covered with olive trees, it is a picturesque mountain village famed for its traditional character, many beautiful buildings and secret passages.
WHAT TO SEE
Paros is most famous for its stunning Cycladic beaches, characterised by pristine white sand, clear blue water and fringed by white-washed buildings. On the south side of the island is Golden Beach whose warm, clear waters and powder soft sand making it a favourite among sunseekers whereas Pounda Beach, on the outskirts of Parikia, is probably the closest thing Paros gets to 'tourism', with beach bars, restaurants and endless parties all day long.
To discover ancient Greek civilisation, Paros is replete with historical buildings. The Byzantine Monstery of Panagia Ekatontapyliani (Our Lady of a Hundred Doors), a spectacular 4th century Byzantine church in the port town of Parikia, is one of the finest in the Cyclades. Legend has it that 99 doors have been found in the church but the 100th will only be discovered when Constantinople is Greek again.
Sat in the shadows of the Panagia Ekatontapyliani is the Archaeological Museum of Paros, whose collections dating from the Neolithic period to early Christianity offer an insight into the island's past. A quaint and charming museum, it houses masterpieces such as the 6th century marble statue of Gorgon, the 490BC colossal statue of Artemis, and the timeless Fat Lady of Saliagos.
But Paros isn't just a sleepy Greek island, it is also famed for its water sports. Every year, the Windsurfing World Championship takes over Golden Beach and sports such as surfing, kitesurfing, kayaking, waterskiing and kiteboarding can be found all around the coast. On land, intrepid travellers can also visit the Marathi Marble Quarries that, now long abandoned, were once a rich source of fine white Parian marble mined by over 150,000 Roman slaves.
Paros Park, a landscape of natural rock formations, offers respite from the sweltering temperatures of the beach and frequently hosts various events and exhibitions such as jazz nights and a permanent open-air cinema for entertainment under the stars. The Valley of the Butterflies is also a beautiful sight when, in summer, thousands of the creatures flutter in looking for mates.
WHAT TO EAT
Greek food has long captured the taste buds of many a tourist, with cool tzatziki, subdued olives and freshly-caught Aegean fish. The fishing village of Naoussa is Paros' gastronomic capital, sheltering traditional tavernas, harbour-front views and quaint shops for after-dinner browsing.
As for the viticulture, there is no better place to go than to the Moraitis winery, where the Moraitid family have been pressing grapes since 1910. Wander the original stone cellars or take a seat at the bar where guests can taste up to a dozen lovingly-crafted varieties. Wine made with the island's indigenous grape, monemvassia, is particularly good.
Planning a trip?
Paros: a travel guide
When is the best time to visit Paros?