Ahh. Paros. I’ve already dished on Santorini just a bit, and now I think it’s time to move on (temporarily at least!) to one of it’s less talked about neighbors. Paros is another fantastic member of the Cyclades family, and one I suggest you don’t miss on your island hopping adventure.
At this time of year it’s somewhat rainy and quiet, but thanks to the bonus precipitation the fields are bursting—literally, with a spectacular array of wildflowers. Flirtatious red poppies reminiscent of opium myths, brilliant budding purples, and an abundance of daisies freckle the hillsides. It’s enough to induce the pleasure of spring fever in any traveler. Easter, or Paska, is over and tourists are starting to make their appearances. Every few days new doors along the aghora, (known as Market Street to expats and tourists) open, revealing restaurants, boutiques, and patisseries long forgotten during the lonely winter. Beaches beckon with their white sand and blue water as breathtaking as the blue-domed churches that dot the fields and hidden corners of town.
As you begin your journey throughout this amazing island, start in Parikia, the island’s port town. Admire the beautiful Parian marble, the most coveted in Greece. Parian ‘marmara’ has a translucency of 3.5 cm., about a centimeter more than any other marble in Greece and was used for the building of the Parthenon. Explore the Church of 100 Doors, and take a few minutes to learn about the legend behind it. And while you’re ooing and awing, don’t forget to walk up the stairs from Market Street to behold the captivating, funky architecture of the Frankish Castle. From here you can watch the ferries coming in out of the port against the backdrop of one of the most sublime sunsets you will ever see.
Take a ride or an even more beautiful walk if you’re up for it, to Butterfly Valley, just south of Parikia. This park is a breeding place of beautiful Jersey Tiger moths who grace the island with their magical presence every spring and summer. Equally as bewitching are the many hidden beaches and coves around the island. Nearly every islander will tell you about a beach that ‘only he knows about’…hmm. I’m not convinced, but when you visit one of these charming, hidden destinations, you may leave with a similar impression. The more popular beaches of Kolympithres, Piso Livadi, and Monastiri (for those who prefer nude sunbathing) are also worth visiting.
If you are of the adventurous sort (and of course you are! You’ve gotten up off of your couch, braved your way through Athens and made it to this little island!), you will love exploring the settlement of Lefkes, nestled in the hills in the middle of the island. From here you can grab a bite from the bakery with the best spanakopita on the island and take a whimsical stroll. Most likely you will become pleasantly lost amid the small bougainvillea spangled streets which were designed to confuse invading pirates during Venetian times. To step back even further in history, hike the Byzantine Trail from Lefkes to Piso Livadi. Here you will pass ruins of old windmills, gorgeous countryside and quaint farms with hundreds of years old terracing.
Your meanderings will happily continue to Naoussa, the second largest village on Paros and the location of the battle against the legendary pirate Barbossa. Awesome. Every year on August 23rd, there is a local re-enactment in the harbor and celebratory festivities to follow. If you find yourself in Naoussa any other day of the year, you can enjoy the tavernas, clubs, and delightful array of fishing boats that crowd the small harbor.
Last but not least, while you’re checking off everything else on the list, be sure to take several opportunities to sample the local cuisine. Number one on this list is the bakery on Market Street. You should go there. You should go there as soon as you get off the ferry. My personal fav is the bougatsa, known amongst my friends as the ‘foodgasm’ or galacticbootycall by those whose Greek is just not coming along. Recommended for everyone not wanting to miss out on a very Greek experience are the gyros. Mmm. Yes, deep fried falafel and meat dripping with oil is a facet in any home of souvlaki, but on the bright side, most of the ingredients are fresh and local, and at close to two euro apiece, you can’t go wrong. If you are trying to be a little healthier, ask for a pita ‘horis patatas’ (without fries) and chicken kalamaki instead of souvlaki meat.
A traditional Greek meal can be easily found at Christos’ taverna on the waterfront. A favorite of locals and tourists alike, it is an excellent family owned restaurant. For a nicer (and by that I also mean pricier) meal, Apollon Garden Restaurant is another traditional restaurant where you will be welcomed hospitably and enjoy an excellent meal. I also suggest visiting Happy Green Cows (doesn’t the name just put a smile on your face?). It’s vibrant decor is a kaleidoscope of color and imagination and reason enough to pop by. The menu is a clever fusion of traditional Greek and divine inspiration. Fresh, seasonal salads, mouthwatering entrees, and heavenly desserts, not to mention the wine, will leave you as happy as…a green cow?