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This is Alan, the author of the blog “Trails to Culture”. Follow me on the trails to discover the heritage and cultures of the world in style!

The most authentic Greek island: one week in Paros

The most authentic Greek island: one week in Paros

Paros is our favorite island in the Cyclades. After visiting 8 islands in the archipelago, we found there a unique combination of authentic villages, rugged mountains, wide sandy beaches and deep blue sea. Did we mention the amazing food in family-owned tavernas and local white wine? Paros feels laid-back and has the perfect size to explore slowly. From there, we also visited her small sister Antiparos during a day trip. We share with you our most memorable experiences and tips for your travel.

Staying in the village of Dryos

We decided to stay in Dryos, a small village of white houses scattered in the Mediterranean nature on the south-eastern side of Paros. The village is essentially made of vacation houses owned by Greek people, family-run tavernas and a small church.

White houses of Dryos scattered in the Mediterranean nature

White houses of Dryos scattered in the Mediterranean nature

Here are few reasons we decided for this location. The main one is that we found a dreamy hotel on a hill overlooking the Aegean sea.

The second reason is that the “best” beach of the island called Chryssi Akti (a.k.a “Golden Beach”) is located only 5 minutes away by car and is even reachable by bike. Third, it is a relaxing place compared to “busier” Naoussa or the harbor of Parikia, which is also the capital of the island.

Given that the island is relatively small, most places to visit are easily reachable by car in less than 30 minutes from Dryos. We went there in June at the start of the summer season and we felt we had the whole island for us!

View on the bay of Golden Beach and Naxos island from our hotel in Dryos

View on the bay of Golden Beach and Naxos island from our hotel in Dryos

The church of Agios Georgios by the sea outside Dryos

The church of Agios Georgios by the sea outside Dryos

Enjoying the wonderful Golden Beach

Golden Beach (called Chrissi Akti in Greek) is a wide stretch of fine sand backed by the mighty central mountain of Paros.

It is the most famous beach of the island and certainly the largest as well. It is the perfect spot for relaxing on sun-loungers or renting a wind-surf. You will certainly hear that Paros is a mecca for wind- and kite-surfers thanks to the local wind called Meltemi. On the backside of the beach, you will find some open-air tavernas and parking spots.

Golden Beach: probably the best beach of Paros and of the Cyclades islands

Golden Beach: probably the best beach of Paros and of the Cyclades islands

We spent some time there playing tennis rackets, swimming in the transparent water and gazing at the beautiful scenery of the mountain.

It was early June and still very quiet. We visited 8 islands in the Cyclades and this is one of the best “traditional” beach that we found in the archipelago. It is also perfect for families with kids because the water is shallow and super clear for dozens of meters.

Walking on Golden Beach with the central mountain range in the background

Walking on Golden Beach with the central mountain range in the background

The water is shallow and transparent on several meters

The water is shallow and transparent on several meters

Staying at the Calme Boutique Hotel, the perfect retreat for couples

The Calme Boutique Hotel is the perfect place if you look for style, luxury, and great panoramic views over the Aegean sea.

The property is built in traditional Cycladic style on the gentle slope of a hill overlooking Dryos. It is located just 15 km away from the harbor of Parikia where all ferries arrive from Athens and other Cyclades islands.

We arrived by boat from Mykonos because our direct flight from Switzerland was landing there and the ferry journey to Paros was under an hour.

In Parikia, we took a cab to reach the hotel but then the staff helped us to arrange a rental to explore the island by ourselves. The bus connections are fairly limited and driving in Paros along the coastal road is very relaxing. During our stay, roads were pretty quiet.

Our room with a private terrace and direct access to a pool at Calme boutique hotel

Our room with a private terrace and direct access to a pool at Calme boutique hotel

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a staff member with a glass of homemade lemonade on the terrace overlooking the deep blue sea.

Sipping fresh homemade lemonade at Calme hotel

Sipping fresh homemade lemonade at Calme hotel

From the terrace, we could admire up to 10 Cycladic islands including Naxos just in front. We were then guided by the efficient and welcoming staff to our room. We picked online the room called “Mint” because it was connected to a large open-air terrace with the longest private pool of the property.

Enjoying the view from the hotel terrace over 10 islands

Enjoying the view from the hotel terrace over 10 islands

Our room also had a private veranda with couches and sun-loungers. This long infinity pool (130 square meters) was only shared by three rooms and we were lucky enough that these rooms were not occupied during our stay

While swimming, we could suck-up the amazing views and try to guess the names of all the Cyclades islands in the horizon. The interior of the room was decorated with style in white and earthy tones with a very comfortable bed and all possible amenities.

Enjoying our private pool at Calme boutique Hotel

Enjoying our private pool at Calme boutique Hotel

Another advantage of the Calme Hotel is the breakfast served on the main terrace adjacent to the lobby.

It was one of the best breakfast we had in the Cyclades with a large à-la-carte choice, a perfect presentation and a smiling service. Each morning, we picked freshly squeezed orange juices, Greek white yogurt with local honey, cheese from the Cyclades, fried eggs with Parma ham, and Greek olives.

It is also a “must” to try the Greek cold coffees that locals enjoy sipping in the summer.

Greek yogurt with local honey is a must for breakfast

Greek yogurt with local honey is a must for breakfast

Breakfast with local products

Breakfast with local products

At night, we often walked down by foot to Dryos in less than 10 minutes to have diner in family-run tavernas such as Restaurant Anna.

The chef, Anna, and her family offer delicious traditional Greek food in a typical house built on 2 levels. We went there many times and had wonderful dishes on the second floor surrounded by locals. One night, there was a huge family diner with all generations from kids to grand parents. We were the only “foreigners” in the place for sure.

After drinking a few glasses of ouzo, a regional dry-anised alcohol, we would walk back up to the hotel in pitch black, without light, only guided by the bright stars in the sky. Alternatively you can use the car but it’s literally a 2 minute drive.

All rooms offer a fantastic panorama on many Cyclades islands

All rooms offer a fantastic panorama on many Cyclades islands

Exploring the traditional villages of Paros

Paros offers a wide range of atmospheric villages ranging from the hotspot Naoussa to the quiet mountain village of Lefkes until the harbor of Parikia. Let’s explore these places in details.

Naoussa

Naoussa is located north of Paros on the shore of a large bay. It is the main tourist hot-spot of the island and many travelers decide to stay there. It still looks like a fishermen’s village articulated around the small harbor full of fishing boats. We strolled many times through the narrow streets admiring the white-washed houses decorated with flowers and purple Bougainvillea.

The charming streets of Naoussa near the fishing harbor

The charming streets of Naoussa near the fishing harbor

Naoussa offers many restaurants and fancy boutiques proposing local crafts and clothing. Several eateries are actually located next to the sea around the harbor or along the shore.

We once picked Taverna Glafkos and tasted there delicious fried fishes with a bottle of Moraitis, the local white wine from Paros. The Moraitis winery is based in Naoussa and you can book a wine tasting session. We absolutely love wines from the Cyclades Islands but we cannot find them back home! Make sure to leave some space in your luggage!

Fried fishes with a glass of Moraitis wine in Naoussa

Fried fishes with a glass of Moraitis wine in Naoussa

Lefkes

Another suggestion is to drive up to the village of Lefkes, a quiet place built in the shape of an amphitheater on the slope of the central mountain. Lefkes was founded in the 15th century by people coming from the island of Creta who picked this location to find protection from pirates.

The small village and its 500 inhabitants are surrounded by olive and pine trees in a beautiful setting. It is a nice place to wander for one or two hours and the starting point of the best hikes in Paros.

One famous path is called the “Byzantine Road”. It brings you down the mountain until the village of Prodromos through olive trees via an ancient paved-way constructed 1’000 years ago.

Church of the Holy Trinity (Agia Triada) made of white marble

Church of the Holy Trinity (Agia Triada) made of white marble

We visited the village in the early afternoon when it was very quiet; we could only hear the noise of the crickets. After leaving the car at the entrance of the village, we walked up and down through the narrow pedestrian streets between Cycladic white houses decorated with flowers.

We arrived at the main church of the Holy Trinity (Agia Triada) constructed with white marble from Paros, one of the finest in the world. Paros marble has been used for the tombstone of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in Paris in the 19th century and for famous ancient Greek sculptures such as the Medici Venus housed in Florence.

Marble made Paros famous in the ancient time and naturally attracted the interest of various conquerors: Romans, Venetians, Ottomans and even Russians.

Overall you understand that Lefkes is still away from mass tourism and definitely worth an exploration. Of course, there are some restaurants and boutiques if you need.

Piso Livadi

We did a small stop in this seaside village located halfway between Dryos and Naoussa. There, we enjoyed a drink and swam in the sea.

Even in such as small village, the combinations of colors from the architecture and nature is pleasing to the eyes: the white facades, the blue of the church dome and the purple of the Bougainvillea flowers.

A traditional Cycladic street in Piso Livadi with no tourist

A traditional Cycladic street in Piso Livadi with no tourist

White church, Bougainvillea and blue sky: what else?

White church, Bougainvillea and blue sky: what else?

Refreshing turquoise sea behind the church of Piso Livadi

Refreshing turquoise sea behind the church of Piso Livadi

Parikia

Finally if you come to Paros by ferry, you will land in the capital town, Parikia. It offers quite charming pedestrian streets. The main site is the old church Panaghia Ekatontapiliani dating back from the 4th century, which is worth a short visit.

Simple traditional church in the old-town of Parikia

Simple traditional church in the old-town of Parikia

In Parikia, you will find all the services you need upon arrival such as car-rentals, bank, ATM, restaurants and tourist shops.

We had several lunches at the Aegean Deli, a small eatery located on the central square a few minutes walking from the main pier. This restaurant proposes traditional authentic Cycladic dishes on a small terrace under the shadow. The food quality is very good and the service quite nice!

Octopus drying in the town of Parikia

Octopus drying in the town of Parikia

We liked Parikia for daytime visits but we may not recommend staying there as a base to explore Paros. Most of the time, villages hosting ferries are not the best places to stay in the Cyclades islands.

Blue dome in the old town of Parikia

Blue dome in the old town of Parikia

The little sister Antiparos

A perfect day-trip is to visit the tiny island of Antiparos, which is even more laid-back and off the beaten track than Paros. No wonder that Hollywood stars such as Tom Hanks come there to relax in peace.

It is very quick to reach the island if you are in Paros. With our rental car, we drove to the port of Punta near the village of Aliki on the west coast of the island. There, a commuter boat makes the crossing to Antiparos in less than 10 minutes. You can park your car inside the boat and then walk-up the deck to enjoy the view.

We arrived at the main village called Antiparos where we tasted fried fishes on a waterfront restaurant before starting our exploration. We drove south along the beautiful eastern coast to reach the famous Caves of Antiparos. The entrance is located on top of a hill commanding a superb view on the island and surroundings.

View of Antiparos from the entrance of the Caves

View of Antiparos from the entrance of the Caves

Scattered villas along the quiet coastline of Antiparos

Scattered villas along the quiet coastline of Antiparos

We walked down 100 meters under earth via secured stairs and could see huge stalagmites and stalactites. The Russian troops who occupied the island few centuries ago took a lot of them and brought them back to Saint-Petersburg, Russia.

Stalactite formations deep inside the caves of Antiparos

Stalactite formations deep inside the caves of Antiparos

Then we drove back to the sea shore on the eastern coast and stopped in few sandy beaches to swim in transparent water with Paros in the background.

Some Hollywood stars come to relax in this small island

Some Hollywood stars come to relax in this small island

Recap of our addresses

Hotel:

Calme Boutique Hotel / www.calmehotelparos.com

Restaurants:

Parikia: Aegean Deli / no website (page Trip Advisor)

Dryos: Anna Restaurant / no website (page Trip Advisor)

How to go there?

Flight & ferry:

If a direct flight to Paros is not feasible, we recommend flying to a nearby Cycladic island hosting international flights such as Mykonos. Then, hop on a a ferry to Paros (Parikia) with Hellenic Seaways. The journey time is below 1 hour. To note, this option may (certainly) require an overnight stay in Mykonos back and forth depending on your travel schedule.

Different Greek airlines such as Aegean Airlines operate domestic flights to the small airport of Paros, but you have to transit via Athens.

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