Selecting a Greek island to travel to can be like picking a nice-looking needle from a stack of nice-looking needles. Any which one you choose is likely to be beautiful, charming and loaded with lovely beach touchpoints overlooking the gorgeous Aegean Sea.
There are about 6,000 Greek islands recorded and while many of them might be too small to be worth a visit, there are still a significant number of islands that you can check out. Most people would usually select the popular Santorini or Mykonos to explore, simply because everyone else goes there and therefore information on these places are easily available.
Plus, you probably don’t want to end up spending money going somewhere that turns out to be rather uninteresting.
There is a case to be made for some of these smaller islands though, given each one offers a slightly different glimpse on the whole Greek island experience. At least, this is what I discovered after a holiday in the island of Paros with my wife.
Paros is located on the west of the more popular Naxos, and is part of the Cyclades group of islands. Historically, the island is known for producing fine white marble, but today, tourism is becoming a strong industry.
Like a lot of Greek islands, Paros’ central hub of activity is located at the port towns Parikia and Naousa. The Parikia harbour is where most of the major Aegean island ferries dock at. Parikia is the busiest township in Paros, with a lot of travellers buzzing through during the day. You can visit the Archaeo-logical Museum and the ruins of Frankish Kastro here.
The real charm of Paros, though, is located about a 20-minute bus ride away at the northern side of island, in the town of Naousa. Naousa offers travellers a proper small-island experience, with intricate alley ways adorned with little trinket shops and boutiques lined up next to wonderful Mediterranean-style restaurants.
There’s a nice buzz in the night but it never gets too busy or crowded to put you off.
A lot of the major restaurants are situated just next to the harbour point, and you get to see fishing boats come in with their catch in the morning. Many of the boats will dock right next to the restaurants, and you can watch restaurateurs select their choice picks straight off the nets.
For someone who spends most of his time in a city, it was amazing for me to think that the octopus I was eating that night was caught earlier in the morning and procured on a boat that was parked just next to the restaurant.
The seafood here truly is some of the freshest you can find in the world. A friend of mine once remarked that Greek food is “very simple”. That’s true because there is not much you need to do with the food when they are really fresh. Most of the seafood is grilled and seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper.
The town centre in Naousa is not that large, although it feels like it is. This is probably due to the countless alleys there that are lined with coffee nooks, trinket shops and “gellatorias”. What we noticed was that the prices of some things were more affordable in the smaller islands. You can do quite a bit of shopping here.
The Greek style, like its architecture, is very much minimalistic and if you like that, you would find their design aesthetic quite pleasing.
Greek islands are always going to be about the beaches and Paros offers more than 30 options to choose from. If you prefer more organised beaches with umbrellas for rent and cocktail menus, then check out Kolymbithres or Monastiri.
We went to Kolymbithres because of its peculiar rock formations that give the beach a unique feel and look. The water was also an unbelievable aquamarine hue – you must simply see it to believe. These beaches are located at the other side of the island but we caught a 15-minute boat ride from Naousa to get there. There is a boat almost every hour starting from 10.30am.
However, if you prefer beaches that are more rough-around-the-edges, Agii Anargiri is a good choice. It’s located a short 15-minute walk away from the town centre. While you can still find some deck chairs for rent there, the beach is mostly just an open space where you can lay a mat and soak in the sun and sea for free.
How to get there
To get to Paros, I would recommend you take a ferry. While there is an airport that services Paros, it might be more advisable to catch a ferry ride from a more popular island because flights are costlier and airports at the islands tend to be quite small and chaotic.
Paros is not too far from Mykonos so the ride will only take about 45 minutes. Also, and trust me when I say this, there is usually a high possibility that domestic flights between islands are delayed (our flight from Santorini to Athens was delayed by about an hour!).
To be fair, ferry ports can be chaotic as well, especially the ones heading to popular islands, although our experience of taking the ferry from Mykonos to Paros was relatively smooth. Sure, queue management is poor and there are no counters to get general information from (we had to queue at the ticketing booth even though we had already purchased our tickets online and had them printed out by an agent), but things eventually sorted themselves out.
Ferries heading to Paros are less crowded. Still, you may want to plan your itinerary in a way that sandwiches Paros between more popular islands so that your ferry experience can be ... less stressful.
If you’re looking for a nice Greek island to go besides the usual ones, Paros is a good option. It’s charming and quaint, relatively untouched by commercialisation and offers enough dining, shopping, beaches and night life options to keep things interesting.