Unlike its showier sisters Santorini and Mykonos, Paros may be the Cyclades’ best-kept secret. This quiet island in the Aegean Sea offers the same stunning sunsets, beautiful beaches and charming architecture as its neighbors, but its tamer crowds and more affordable prices make it a dream destination for travelers.
Paros is best known for its miles of pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters perfect for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and sunbathing. It’s also the breeziest of the Cycladic islands, thanks to the easterly Meltemi winds that blow in from Turkey every summer. As a result, Paros has become a global hub for water sports, with the Professional Windsurfing World Cup held there annually.
The island is also widely considered to be the source of the highest-quality marble on Earth, having provided the raw material for classic sculptures like the Venus de Milo, Praxiteles’ Hermes and Dionysus and the Winged Victory of Samothrace.
The island’s two largest towns, Parikia and Naoussa, offer a wide range of dining, nightlife and sightseeing options, while smaller villages like Lefkes and Marpissa provide a glimpse into a slower, more traditional way of life. Whether you’re searching for a peaceful seaside getaway, a fast-paced, party-packed holiday or something in between, you’re sure to find it in Paros.
Best Time to Visit Paros
Summer is peak season for tourism in Paros, so you’re likely to pay higher prices for flights, lodging and other expenses than you would during the rest of the year, and you’ll be competing with thousands of other travelers for accommodations and tours. However, the warm, dry weather is ideal for hitting the beach and sightseeing, and nightclubs, restaurants and shops will all be open.
Spring is the second-busiest season in Paros, so you’ll find plenty of activities to enjoy, although the water likely won’t be warm enough yet for swimming.
Fall and winter see comparatively fewer visitors to the island, so prices will be at their lowest. Some shops, restaurants and clubs may be closed for the season, but the generally mild temperatures (with average high temperatures ranging from the high 50s to 80 degrees Fahrenheit) mean you can still enjoy strolling the beaches and admiring the historic churches.
Places to Stay in Paros
Average hotel prices in Paros are significantly lower than those in Santorini or Mykonos, so it’s possible to find very nice accommodations at bargain prices here. If you’re looking to cut costs, you can book a budget hotel and spend very little, or you can splurge on luxury lodging and pay prices on par with mid-range hotels on the other Cycladic islands.
Cheap Hotels in Paros
- Hotel Irene: Just steps from the Parikia city center, the family-owned Hotel Irene features traditional Cycladic architecture and a lovely garden and courtyard for enjoying the refreshing sea breezes. The comfortable rooms and studios include free Wi-Fi, refrigerator, air conditioning and private balconies, among other amenities.
- Holiday Sun: Guests at the Holiday Sun hotel in Punda Beach will revel in its lush gardens, sparkling pool, bright white walls and seaside scenery. Rooms include private beach access, fridges and flat-screen TVs.
- Albatross Hotel: Slightly off the beaten path in the quiet village of Marpissa, the Albatross Hotel sits along Lograras Beach, creating a tranquil environment for guests to relax and take in the spectacular views of the Aegean Sea. Each room comes with a private balcony or terrace, mini bar and satellite TV.
- Roussos Beach Hotel: Located near the sandy shores of Naoussa, visitors to the Roussos Beach Hotel are welcomed by a handsome stone-paved courtyard and fragrant garden. Rooms are furnished with cool tile floors, wrought-iron beds and traditional Cycladic whitewashed walls. Dozens of excellent restaurants, chic shops and friendly tavernas are just a few hundred meters’ walk from the property.
- Hotel Iris: Also in Naoussa, the Hotel Iris is conveniently located near the city’s vibrant nightlife, traditional fish taverns and the popular Piperi Beach. All rooms offer air conditioning, Wi-Fi and refrigerator, and rates cover daily visits to the hearty breakfast buffet.
Mid-Range Hotels in Paros
- Alexandros Studios: This peaceful complex sits along the picturesque stone-paved streets of Naoussa, creating a peaceful refuge with convenient proximity to the town’s commercial district and beaches. Free breakfast and Wi-Fi access are included in the price of each room.
- Summer Senses Luxury Resort: This surprisingly affordable Punda Beach resort complex maintains 100 beautifully-appointed rooms and suites, each with a private balcony offering garden or sea views. The property features two pools, a gourmet restaurant, fitness center and spa, and breakfast is included in the rental, making Summer Senses an excellent value for couples and families.
- Contaratos Beach Hotel: If Santa Maria Beach is on your must-visit list, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better lodging location than Contaratos Beach Hotel. Relax on the lovely sun terrace, take a dip in the refreshing pool and unwind in the hot tub after a fun-filled day of water sports or sightseeing. All rooms are equipped with flat-screen TV, luxury bath products and free Wi-Fi, and you can rent a bike or a car directly from the hotel.
- Manis Inn: Situated on Piperi Beach just a stone’s throw from Naoussa’s main square, Manis Inn offers a range of room sizes at reasonable prices. The beachy, light-filled accommodations were recently renovated with new beds and bathroom facilities, and both double and triple rooms contain their own microwave, refrigerator, flat-screen TV and balcony.
- Poseidon of Paros: This family-friendly 52-room complex sits on the famous Golden Beach, blending traditional Cycladic design with modern amenities. Guests enjoy access to two main pools, two children’s pools, two poolside bars, playground, tennis court, fitness center, spa and restaurant. In-room features include private balconies, flat-screen TVs, ergonomic mattresses and pillows, high-end bath products and mini fridges as well as complimentary Wi-Fi.
Luxury Hotels in Paros
- Paros Palace: Near the bustling streets of Parikia, you’ll find Paros Palace Suites, a luxury resort with breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea. With easy access to both beaches and the city center, guests will appreciate this conveniently-located “home base” during their travels. With bright white walls and blond wood accents, even the most basic rooms feel like a piece of island paradise, with in-room amenities like Nespresso coffee machines, fridges and plush bathrobes. If your budget allows, spring for the peak of luxury with a premium suite, which includes a private pool and terrace, MP4 player and enhanced architectural details.
- Calme Boutique Hotel: Designed by renowned architect Iossif Alighizakis, the Calme Boutique Hotel is a marvel of modern design at Golden Beach. The hotel’s attentive staff strives to provide first-class services including concierge, room service and bicycles for all guests. In deference to the splendor of its seaside setting, this ecologically-sensitive property uses only natural cleaning products.
- Parilio Hotel: This 33-suite Naoussa hotel stands out for its exquisite attention to detail: Distinctive structural features such as soaring arches, proud columns and robust masonry represent classical Greek architecture, while contemporary sculptures and North African ceramics create visual contrast. Each breezy, light-filled suite includes a private terrace with dining table for savoring a cup of coffee or light meal while watching the sky explode in the vibrant hues of sunset over the Aegean Sea.
- Minois Village Boutique Suites: This five-star property provides the ultimate seaside escape for visitors to Paros. All suites include spectacular sea views and private balconies, and the two-bedroom grand suites are perfect for families or groups traveling together. An onsite gourmet restaurant with daily breakfast buffet, art gallery, spa and library are among the hotel’s extraordinary amenities, as well as a main pool and children’s pool. Complimentary shuttles to and from Parikia operate four times daily.
- Stelia Mare: Location is everything at this high-end boutique hotel, which is just a few minutes’ walk from a host of popular Naoussa attractions, including the Venetian Castle, Folklore Museum, Santa Maria Beach and dozens of restaurants, shops and taverns. Guests receive a warm welcome from the moment they step onto the property in the form of a gift basked filled with locally-sourced beverages and snacks. Room amenities include bathrooms with hydro-massage facilities, plasma TV, fridge, small office and free Wi-Fi. A small souvenir shop, fitness center, pool and library are also located on-site.
How Long to Stay in Paros
If Paros is your primary destination, you can easily spend a week or more here relaxing on the beaches, exploring the culture of each small village and sampling fresh local cuisine in the many cafes, tavernas and restaurants. Paros is relatively affordable compared to the other Cycladic islands, meaning your budget stretches farther to accommodate a longer stay.
Paros does enjoy a position as a prime ferry hub in the region, making it a good jumping-off point for excursions to Santorini, Mykonos, Ios, Naxos, Crete and even Athens. If your vacation includes multiple destinations, give yourself at least three full days on Paros to fully appreciate its unique attributes before sailing off to your next stop.
Getting Around Paros
For traveling around and between the island’s main cities, including Parikia, Naoussa, Golden Beach, Prodromos and Marmara, the public bus system is reliable and affordable, especially during high season. Routes run regularly throughout the day, and round-trip tickets are only a few euros. You can pay the driver when you board, but purchasing passes in advance at the bus terminal or local markets will save you some cash.
Cars, scooters and quad bikes are available for rent at stations around the island, but availability can be difficult to come by during peak season, so plan ahead when possible. Daily peak season rental costs average about 45 euros for cars, 30 euros for quad bikes and 20 euros for scooters. If you choose to drive, you’ll need to secure an international driver’s license before you arrive; if you’re considering a scooter or quad bike rental, be sure to check with your insurance company to ensure coverage before hitting the road.
Cabs are easiest to come by at the roundabout in Parikia. Average fares are 20 euro for an airport run, 15 euro to Naoussa or Lefkes and 24 euro to Piso Livadi. If you plan to travel around the island, this mode of transport will get expensive quickly.
Traveling between coastal towns can be achieved via sea taxis, which depart Parikia to beaches around the island. Fares range from 8 to 15 euro depending on your destination and provide a novel alternative to land-based transportation.
Things to Do in Paros
As the island’s capital city and primary port, Parikia is the commercial center of Paros. Any services you may need during your stay, from banking to hospital care, are available here, as are dozens of delightful restaurants and shops. You could spend days simply strolling the maze of stone-paved streets and admiring the classic whitewashed Cycladic architecture accented by blue trim and colorful flowers. The medieval Venetian castle and solo windmill are also popular attractions here.
Visit Panagia Ekatontapiliani
Also known as the “Church of a Hundred Doors,” this fourth-century Byzantine structure is filled with elements of the church’s rich history. According to legend, 99 doors have been identified on the property, with the 100th to be revealed when Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) is someday returned to Greek rule. Much of the building’s architecture dates back to the sixth century, when the church was rebuilt after a devastating fire, while the painted icon of the Virgin of Ekatontapiliani has been preserved there for nearly 500 years. Admission is free, although hours of operation are limited during the low season.
Celebrate in Naoussa
With so many excellent hotels located in this seaside town, chances are you’re already staying in Naoussa, giving you no excuse to miss out on the village’s vivacious nightlife. A calm fishing village by day, Naoussa transforms after dark into a true party town with no shortage of entertainment options.
Escape to Lefkes
Nestled in the rolling hills at the island’s center is Lefkes, a charming rural village that provides a welcome escape from the tourist-packed towns near the coast. The handmade pottery, jewelry and other crafts produced by local artisans make wonderful gifts or souvenirs, and the roads are dotted with rustic stands selling honey, figs and other seasonal treats. Don’t miss the Agia Triada Church, crafted from the island’s own marble and adorned with priceless Byzantine icons.
Travel Back in Time
Reserve an hour or two in your schedule to immerse yourself in the island’s role in ancient Greek history at the Archaeological Museum of Paros near Parikia. Though small, the museum is home to an impressive array of sculpture, pottery and other artifacts dating back as far as the Neolithic period. An outdoor courtyard displays funeral friezes, mosaics, urns and more.
Take the Ferry to Antiparos
Just a 10-minute ferry ride from Paros, Antiparos makes a delightful day trip from the main island. Offering stunning scenery and a relaxed vibe, Antiparos is beloved by a number of celebrity part-time residents, including Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, whom you just might spot during their summer travels.
Spend a day on the water with a boat tour of the small Cyclades, which include Koufanisi and Danousa. Most charters leave from Naoussa and Piso Livadi, and tours vary in price depending on the length of the trip, the size of the vessel and any included activities and amenities.
Hit the Beach
The beaches of Paros are known around the world for their water sports, especially the windsurfing, kite surfing and wakeboarding made possible by the Meltemi winds. At Golden Beach, you can rent any equipment you need, including kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and wakeboards. If you’re not feeling particularly athletic, you can recline on the sand and watch more adventurous tourists and locals take on the mighty waves.
Tour a Winery
Paros is home to several acclaimed wineries, such as Moraitis Winery, founded in Naoussa in 1910. Unlike vineyards elsewhere in the world, the grapes are grown on the ground rather than on trellises, where the gusty Meltemi could knock them down. Tour the vineyards, cellar and estate and relax with a glass of red, white or rose and a light bite on the peaceful terrace.
Find a Festival
Greek culture is famous for its festivals, and Paros hosts almost a dozen religious festivals from July to September as well as a handful of secular celebrations. Nearly every week, you’ll find a village hosting a tribute to its patron saint, with church services followed by bonfires, food, dancing and sometimes even fireworks. Art festivals, concerts, workshops and sporting events also occur throughout the year but are most frequent during summer high season.
Places to Eat in Paros
Like its fellow Cycladic islands, food in Paros leans heavily on fresh seafood and local produce with a strong Mediterranean influence. While fine dining in the larger towns is easy to find and worth the cost, you’ll find plenty of hidden gems across the island in the form of small tavernas and even cheap street eats. You can ask your hotel concierge for recommendations, but if you seek advice from locals on their favorite places, you’re more likely to have one of the best meals of your life during your stay.
Best Breakfast in Paros
Start your day right with the mouthwatering breakfast offerings at Meltemi Café, a charming coastal café with plenty of patio seating. Indulge in a freshly-baked waffle topped with fruit, Nutella or even ice cream, which is a perfectly acceptable breakfast item when you’re on holiday. If you prefer a lighter morning meal, choose from airy croissants, yogurt parfaits and freshly-squeezed juices. You can also return later in the day for one of Meltemi’s creative cocktails as you watch the sun set over the Aegean Sea.
Best Lunch in Paros
For some of the freshest seafood in Paros, head to The Balcony Taverna in the tranquil fishing village of Aliki. This no-frills waterfront pub is celebrated by locals and tourists alike for its fried calamari and octopus and classic Greek salads served alongside a chilly beer.
For a slightly different take on seafood, stop by Mediterraneo in Naoussa, where the menu blends meze (Greek tapas), creative salads, fresh fish and pasta dishes in an exquisite waterfront setting along the marina.
Best Dinner in Paros
Hidden along an unassuming stone-paved alley in Naoussa, Soso has become one of the island’s culinary stars, preparing highly-rated Mediterranean fare with contemporary flair. Menu standouts include honey-drizzled haloumi cheese, orzo with prawns, sea bass and pork loin with apricot sauce. During the summer months, take advantage of the warm weather and request the romantic outdoor seating along the alleyway, and be sure to make a reservation several days in advance to secure your table.
Best Dessert in Paros
Some of the finest desserts on the island can be found well outside the two major cities. In Lefkes, the Ramnos Café serves rich cakes, pies and other pastries; don’t miss the chocolate souffle and walnut pie served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
In Naoussa, plan a visit to Nikolas’ Donuts, which serves not only its namesake treats, but also sweet crepes, ice cream, cupcakes and more.
Top Photo Spots in Paros
- Streets of Parikia: The labyrinthine layout of stone streets flanked by whitewashed Cycladic buildings and colorful bursts of begonias and bougainvillea make for striking photos.
- Venetian Castle: Located at the highest point in Parikia, this site provides a bird’s-eye view of the city as well as an up-close look at its centerpiece. Built during the 1200s, the Venetians repurposed materials from the ancient temple of Demeter for its construction.
- Port of Naoussa: The port reflects not only the livelihood of Paros, but also a critical piece of its identity. This location will allow you to capture commercial ships, colorful private yachts and the island’s signature architecture, and it’s also a great place to catch the region’s famously photogenic sunsets.
- Panagia Ekatontapiliani: The historic “Church of 100 Doors” offers a clear visual departure from other Cycladic churches; instead of white walls and blue domes, its exterior is crafted from sand-colored stones. Inside, don’t miss the baptistery’s rare marble cruciform font.
- Butterfly Valley: About three miles south of Parikia, this lush valley is best photographed during the summer months, when foliage is at its peak and Jersey Tiger Moths seem to flutter above nearly every surface.
- Kolombithres Beach: This unique stretch of shoreline west of Naoussa is dotted with massive granite boulders that have been worn smooth by churning waves over the centuries.
- Upper Windmill: This solo windmill above Parikia is Instagram-worthy in its own right, but you’ll also enjoy panoramic views of the city from its lofty perch.
- Churches of Marpissa: This modest village is home to nearly two dozen of the traditional whitewashed Cycladic churches typically associated with the Greek islands.
- Golden Beach: Capture the colorful sails of windsurfers and kiteboarders dotting the brilliant blue sea.
- Lefkes: Set in the foothills of central Paros, this small village offers dramatically different scenery than the island’s coastal towns. From behind your lens, you’ll see lovely homes, quaint cafes, medieval churches and even a few traditional Cycladic pigeon houses.
Though it’s not as well-known as its more glamorous sister islands, Paros delivers the same stunning views, sparkling seas and warm hospitality as Mykonos and Santorini—with smaller crowds and lower prices to boot. Whether you’re island-hopping or plan to spend the length of your holiday in one place, don’t miss out on Paros—the hidden jewel of the Aegean.