When you think of Greece, the first two islands that pop up into your head are probably Santorini and Mykonos. They are both extremely popular and for good reasons! The striking white villages perched high up on the edges of those Santorini cliffs overlooking the sea are unmistakable and have attracted steady streams of tourists for many many years. And Mykonos is known for that famous row of windmills and of course – the best party scene in the Cyclades. But it’s time to add Paros to your Greece list too.
When it comes to Greek islands, we love finding the next best spot before it starts drowning in tourism and losing its charm. Today I believe that spot in Greece is Paros. It is one of the bigger Cycladic islands, located right next to Naxos. Paros is easily accessible by a quick flight from Athens and a number of ferries. It offers the same charming narrow streets freckled with colorful flowers and cute little cafes, delicious Greek food and beautiful rocky virgin beaches you’ll find anywhere else in the Cyclades. But is also offers something more unique to Paros. This special insider vibe, the feeling that just enough people know about this place that it’s interesting to visit, but not enough to make it too overwhelming.
And last but not least, Paros is the place where Yinon and I went on our first big trip together. He met my parents and we became closer than ever – and what a backdrop to have for your budding love story!
Where To Stay?
The best town to stay at in Paros is Naoussa. Like with most Greek islands, there are no big resorts here. Your only option is staying at a small family-owned hotel where everyone knows your name and how you like your coffee. As soon as we dropped off our things, we received old-fashioned but amazingly accurate directions on how to get to the town center. Just walk up the street until you get to the church, then take a right and walk down the stairs. The church is, of course, located in the most elevated central part of town and visible from any location. If you ask for directions in a Greek town and they do not include a church, you’re most likely not in a real Greek town.
Once you get to the old central part of Naoussa in the evening you’ll understand why we think it’s the only place to stay in Paros – it’s cute, it’s bustling, it feels authentic but it’s also full of trendy little shops and cafes and beautiful young people from all over Europe.
The Charm of Naoussa
Every morning we had breakfast at the same place – a cute little cafe called Sousouro. The food was delicious and healthy, the orange juice – freshly squeezed and the yogurt with nuts and fruits was the best we’ve had. We loved sitting at the outside tables right on the narrow street, people-watching and trying to imagine what it would be like to live here. After a couple days we started feeling like we got to know the neighbors and became part of the community. There was an old lady that swept the street in front of her house around the same time every day. She stopped and verbally expressed her frustration to herself every time she had to pick up a plastic bottle or some other trace left by Naoussa’s vibrant nightlife.
There was an old man with a very distinct cough who opened up the restaurant across the street every morning. We named him Nikos. I was worried about his health and Yinon about his personal life. We noticed he was nervously pacing back and forth one evening. He was fixing up his shirt and notably did wasn’t smoking. So we started speculating that he might be waiting to meet a lady. She showed up minutes later, of course, and “Nikos” became visibly more excited than we’ve seen him in the past few days. We moved our attention back to our own table before we started feeling too nosy though. It was fun pretending to be gossipy locals for a bit. Funny how this place draws you in so quickly!
Something For Everyone
The best thing about Paros is that it can suit many vacation styles. If you want to travel with your family, there are great family-friendly hotels and beaches for the kids. If you want to go out with your friends to trendy places, there’s plenty of exciting nightlife. And if you want to have a relaxing romantic trip but with still enough places to eat out and drink, this is your place. This was our first big trip as a couple and also a meet-the-parents trip for Yinon so we really appreciated the versatility of this place. No one was ever bored or left with nothing to do.
Some of my favorite spots in Naoussa were Linardo, bar Kosmos, Come Back and any of the tavernas by the marina. We also loved walking along the same little street with bright white stairs lined with contrasting orange floral pots.
There are a couple of beaches in Naoussa. They are not the most amazing greek beaches but the water is clear and blue and they are not too crowded. But we ended up going off the beaten path and exploring some areas beyond the public beaches. We ended up finding some beautiful rock formations and our own little puddles to bathe in. The exact location doesn’t even matter because you’ll find lagoons like these pretty much anywhere around Paros.
Exploring The Island Beyond Naoussa
Naoussa was by far our favorite town so we spent most of our time there. We left the last day of our trip open as we wanted to visit at least one other town. So we decided on Lefkes. We rented a car in Naoussa and it was easy to reserve it for the following day. There were a few rental places in the central part of town near the marina.
Lefkes is a quaint little mountain town, about a 20 min drive from Naoussa. Its streets are narrow, blindingly white and there is not a living soul around. There is a big church in the central part of town with amazing views of the area. But we were more interested in exploring the off streets around town. This is not a town you’d want to stay in. It’s not near the beach and there are not a lot of restaurants or hotels. But it’s still worth exploring if you want to see a more authentic Greek town and how people in this area really live.
There is an endless supply of beautiful and under-explored islands in Greece. If you are debating between Santorini/Mykonos and trying out something different, I would encourage you to go with the latter. The main draw of Paros for me is that special Naoussa vibe. You won’t know what I mean until you experience it yourself. If you end up going be sure to drop me a line and let me know your thoughts!!
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