Paros is a Greek island in the central Aegean Sea. A very interesting island in the Cyclades group, it lies to the west of Naxos, from which it is separated by a narrow channel of about 8 km (5 mi) and close to 150 km (93 mi) south-east of the main port of Piraeus. The Municipality of Paros includes numerous uninhabited offshore islets. Its nearest neighbor is the municipality of Antiparos, an island which lies to its southwest.
In ancient times, Paros was an important commercial and cultural center, mainly because of its strategic location, its ports and its fine white marble. Parian marble was much sought-after for its whiteness and many admirable artworks such as the world-famous Venus of Melos and the Nike of Samothrace were created with it. Today, several abandoned marble quarries and mines can be found on the island. There are many archaeological sites of interest on the island, including the Mycenean acropolis at Koukounaries, the temple of Apollo, the temple of Asclepios and the Necropolis near Paroikia. Today, however, Paros is primarily known as a popular tourist destination.
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In Paroikia, houses are built in the traditional Cycladic style, with flat roofs, whitewash walls and blue-painted doors, window frames and shutters. Shadowed by plush vines, and surrounded by orange tree groves and gardens with pomegranates, the houses give the town a picturesque aspect. Above the central stretch of the seafront road, are the remains of a medieval castle, built of the marble remains of an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo. Similar traces of antiquity, in the shape of bas-reliefs, inscriptions, columns, and so on, are numerous. On a hillside in the southern outskirts of Paroikia on the left of the Paroikia – Alyki road are the remains of a temple dedicated to Asclepius. In addition, close to the modern port, the remains of an ancient cemetery are visible, having been discovered recently during non-archaeological excavations. Paroikia has a small yet very interesting archaeological museum housing some of the many local finds.
The Paros Museum contains a fragment of the Parian Chronicle, a remarkable chronology of ancient Greece. Inscribed in marble, its entries give time elapsed between key events from 1500 BC down to 264 BC. The best pieces, however, are kept in the Athens National Archaeological Museum.
Paros has numerous beaches, organized or not, including Golden Beach (Chrissí Aktí) near Drios on the east coast, at Pounda, Logaras, Piso Livadi, Naousa Bay, Paroikia, Krios, Martselo, Agios Fokas, Livadia, Parasporos. The beach of Voutakos is ideal for families, and is also accessible by boat. At the beach of Agia Irini one encounters an almost tropical sight of palm trees growing by the beach. Further south one can find Aliki-Agios Nikolaos, Aliki, and Piso Aliki, all well-organized. The constant strong wind in the strait between Paros and Naxos makes it a favored windsurfing location, especially at Chryssi Akti and Nea Chryssi Akti, as well as Punta.
On the north side of the island is the bay of Naoussa or Agoussa, a safe and spacious natural bay. In ancient times it was closed by a chain or boom. When it is not flocked with tourists, Naoussa is a traditional fishing village, with the largest fleet of fishing boats in the Cyclades. Another good harbor is that of Drios on the south-east side. 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, and around it are the ruins of a medieval castle of the late Middle Ages which once belonged to the Venetian noble family of the Venieri who gallantly, but vainly, defended it against the Turkish admiral Barbarossa, in 1537.
Naoussa, Paros, courtesy of the Greek National Tourism Organization.
Another settlement on Paros is Lefkes, an inland mountain picturesque village 10 km (6 mi) away from Parikia. In the late 19th c., Lefkes was the capital of the municipality Iria which included the villages Angyria or Ageria, Aliki, Aneratzia, Vounia, Kamari, Campos, Langada, Maltes and Marathi. At that time, the village managed to achieve great economic development.
In the 1970s many residents moved to Athens, Maroussi and Melissia due to urbanization. However, the last few years, tourism presented a new income opportunity for the locals, that led to the renovation of homes and small businesses and upgraded landscaping for a new more peaceful and sweet life.
A picturesque street in Paros.
Marpissa, founded in the 15th c., is a traditional village with a distinctive medieval character. It is located on a hill, a few kilometres away from the famous beaches of Logaras and Pisso Livadi. You can also visit the impressive Monastery of Agios Antonios (17th c.) on the hill of Kefalos, where the ruins of a 15th c. Venetian castle stand, and enjoy a wonderful view of the sea. Petaloudes is an area of stunning beauty near the village of Psychopiana. The habitat is rich in vegetation and running water, with tall plane trees, laurels, wild olive trees, and carob trees covered in ivy that play host to the butterfly species Panaxia quadripunstaria.
Location of Tigani, between Paros and Antiparos.
Paroikia, the capital of Paros, is a beautiful Cycladic village with whitewashed cubic houses and impressive neoclassical mansions. A well preserved 13th c. Venetian castle stands proudly on a hill at the center of the village offering an amazing view of Paroikia.
Around 400 m left of Parikia's main square, is the town's principal church, the Panagia Ekatontapyliani, also called Katapoliani, literally meaning "church of the hundred gates". Its oldest features almost certainly pre-date the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire in 391. It is said to have been founded by the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (ruled 306–337), Saint Helen, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There are two adjoining chapels, one of very early form, and also a baptistery with a cruciform font. Don’t miss the chance to visit the baptistery (4th c. AD), one of the best preserved baptisteries in the Orthodox East, and the Byzantine Museum, 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. Agios Minas near Kostos, Agios Ioannis Kaparos near Lefkes, and Agion Theodoron Monastery near Agkeria are some of them.