Paros is a Greek island in the central Aegean Sea. One of the Cyclades island group, it lies approximately 161 kilometres south-east of Piraeus. The Municipality of Paros includes numerous uninhabited offshore islets totaling 196.308 square kilometres of land. Its nearest neighbor is the municipality of Antiparos, which lies to its southwest.
The story that Paros of Parrhasia colonized the island with Arcadians is an etymological fiction of the type that abounds in Greek legend. Ancient names of the island are said to have been Plateia (or Pactia), Demetrias, Strongyli (meaning round, due to the round shape of the island), Hyria, Hyleessa, Minoa and Cabarnis.
The island later received from Athens a colony of Ionians under whom it attained a high degree of prosperity. It sent out colonies to Thasos and Parium on the Hellespont. In the former colony, which was planted in the 15th or 18th Olympiad, the poet Archilochus, a native of Paros, is said to have taken part. As late as 385 BC the Parians, in conjunction with Dionysius of Syracuse, founded a colony on the Illyrian island of Pharos (Hvar).
Shortly before the Persian War, Paros seems to have been a dependency of Naxos. In the first Greco-Persian War (490 BC), Paros sided with the Persians and sent a trireme to Marathon to support them. In retaliation, the capital was besieged by an Athenian fleet under Miltiades, who demanded a fine of 100 talents. But the town offered a vigorous resistance, and the Athenians were obliged to sail away after a siege of 26 days, during which they had wasted the island.
Paros also sided with Persia against Greece in the second Greco-Persian War (480 – 479 BC), but, after the battle of Artemisium, the Parian contingent remained inactive at Kythnos as they watched the progression of events. For their support of the Persians, the islanders were later punished by the Athenian war leader Themistocles, who exacted a heavy fine. Paros then became part of the Roman Empire and later of the Byzantine Empire, its Greek-speaking successor state. In 1537, Paros was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and remained under the Ottoman Empire until the Greek War of Independence (1821–1829).
Parikía (Parikiá), the capital of Páros, is a beautiful Cycladic village with whitewashed cubic houses and impressive neoclassical mansions. A well preserved 13th century Venetian castle stands proudly on a hill at the centre of the village offering an amazing view of Parikía. In the capital you can also admire an important ecclesiastical monument, the 6th century church of Panayia Ekatontapyliani, also called Katapoliani. The name “Ekatontapylianí” means the church with 100 gates (“Ekató Pýles” in Greek), one of which is a secret one! Don’t miss the chance to visit the baptistery (4th century AD), one of the best preserved baptisteries in the Orthodox East, and the Byzantine Museum. The Parikía Byzantine Museum is housed on the ground floor of the church. Its exhibits include icons, wood-carved iconostases and other heirlooms from various monasteries and churches on the island.
The Archaeological Museum displays exhibits from the island’s monuments (such as the Sanctuary of Asklipios and Pythios Apollonas, Delion etc.), including part of the “Parian Chronicle”, a chronological table of the 3rd century BC with references to important events and personalities of antiquity.
On the north side of the island is the bay of Naoussa (Naussa) or Agoussa, which provides a safe and spacious harbour. In ancient times it was closed by a chain or boom. Another good harbour is that of Drios on the south-east side, where the Turkish fleet used to anchor on its annual voyage through the Aegean during the period of Ottoman rule over Paros (1537–1832).
The three villages of Dragoulas, Mármara and Tsipidos, situated on an open plain on the eastern side of the island, and rich in remains of antiquity, probably occupy the site of an ancient town. They are known together as the “villages of Kephalos” after the steep and lofty hill of Kephalos. On this hilltop stands the monastery of Agios Antonios (St. Anthony). Around it are the ruins of a medieval castle which belonged in the late Middle Ages to the Venetian noble family of the Venieri. They gallantly but vainly defended it against the Turkish admiral Barbarossa in 1537.
Another important settlement of the island Paros is Lefkes (Λεύκες). Lefkes is an inland mountain village 10 km (6 mi) away from Parikia. It is a picturesque village with narrow streets. A visitor could walk and enjoy the carefully whitewashed houses and streets with beautiful and colorful flowers. In the late 19th century, Lefkes was the center of the municipality of Iria which belonged to the Province of Naxos until 1912. The name of the municipality Iria was one of the ancient names of Paros. Lefkes was the capital of the municipality Iria which included the villages Angyria or Ageria, Aliki, Aneratzia, Vounia, Kamari, Campos, Langada, Maltes and Marathi.
Sun-drenched beaches, like Chrissí Aktí, Santa Maria and Poúnda, welcome sun-loving visitors who want to enjoy the crystal clear sea, the sun or even their favourite water sports! Every year Chrissí Aktí is the venue for the Windsurfing World Championship. On the sea bed at Alykí beach, to the southwest, you can explore the ruins of an ancient town!
Don’t miss the opportunity to live experience an exhilarating touring all around the coast of the island by canoe or kayak! Enjoy the unusual natural landscape with impressive white rock formations on Kolymbíthres beach. The beach of Kalóyeros, surrounded by red and green clay rocks offers a really effective spa for free! Cover your body with clay and let it dry in the sun; after a while rinse yourself in the sea and your body will feel softer than ever!
Religious festivals are the perfect occasion for many types of festivities! If you find yourself in such an event, don’t forget to taste the sweet smelling wines produced in the island’s vineyards. Paros is in fact one of the oldest Mediterranean wine-making areas, with its own protected designation of origin wines! Another perfect occasion to visit the island is during the celebrations on August 15th, when cultural events are organised around the church of Panayia Ekatontapyliani. Easter celebrations are quite impressive, especially in the villages of Márpissa, Mármara and Pródromos. In autumn the locals pay tribute to their “rakidia” a locally made spirit and celebrations culminate in the Feast of Ayios Georgios Methistis, when the new wine made that year is uncorked for the very first time.
Extra tip: Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the small islet of Antíparos, lying southwest of Paros, which can easily be reached from Poúnda or Parikiá by boat. The Hora (Main Town) of Antíparos is built around a 15th century Venetian castle. The stone paved streets, the whitewashed alleys, the houses decorated with thriving pink and purple bougainvilleas and the central square in the shade of eucalyptus trees create an enchanting atmosphere. On Áyios Ioannis Hill lies the cave of Antíparos, distinctive for its marvellous stalagmite and stalactite formations whereas sun-kissed beaches will offer you unforgettable moments of serenity.
Paros is connected by ferry to Piraeus, Rafína, Lávrio and the rest of the Cyclades. You can reach Paros by aeroplane from the airports of Athens and Thessaloniki.
You can use local buses or taxis or rent a car or a motorbike to get around the island while small boats can transfer you to the most remote beaches.