Any good trip comes to an end, and my summer greek islands trip is approaching its final destination.
If I can jump directly to the conclusion I would say that visiting Paros and Naxos after two of the most beautiful islands of the Cyclades (Amorgos and Santorini) was finally not a good choice. Not because these two islands do not deserve to be seen. But, you know, when you have two dishes to taste you make things to finish with the one you expect to be the best in order to go from the worst to the best and finish on a good note. With Paros and Naxos, it was the same.
Nevertheless, these two islands have definitively something to share.
Parikia, also called Paros Town or Hora, is the capital of Paros. Located on the north-west of the island, it is the port where you will arrive with the ferry.
Like other cycladic cities, Parikia has its own charm.
Parikia is a set of narrow streets and alleys, small hidden churches, whitewashed stone Cycladic houses and neo-classical mansions with small shops, cafes, restaurants and anything that you would find in a capital city on a mid-sized Greek island.
A few minutes walking from the port will take you to the heart of the traditional Cycladic settlement of Parikia, which is clustered around the hill of Kastro (Castle). This quarter is typically Cycladic, full of whitewashed two-storey houses with coloured windows, doors and balconies and old mansions, separated by narrow whitewashed streets forming a labyrinth.
You will definitely love getting lost into it.
One of the loveliest villages of Paros, Lefkes is situated in the central part of the island, 11 km southeast of Parikia. Lefkes is built at an altitude of 300 metres above the sea level, on a verdant hill covered with olive and pine trees.
The charm and the beauty of Lefkes are still untouched by mass tourism, which helps to maintain its authenticity.
Naoussa is the place to be in Paros. A Beautiful and picturesque fishing village located in a huge bay in the northern part of Paros, 10 kilometers east from the capital, Parikia.
Naoussa is considered to be one of the prettiest villages in the Cyclades and, despite the tourism development, this lovely place has managed to keep its authenticity, its traditional character and its charm, with its whitewashed and flowered little houses and its tiny churches and chapels, surrounded by labyrinth-like narrow, stone paved streets.
The lovely village of Naoussa is built amphitheatrically around a tiny picturesque port where little colourful fishing boats called caiques moor and remains of a Venetian castle can still be seen, creating a unique and enchanting atmosphere.
The Environmental and Cultural Park of Paros is located at the northern end of the bay of Naoussa.
The park is located within the Ai Yiannis Detis peninsula, an area which covers 80 hectares of an authentic Cycladic setting with impressive rock formations, caves, hidden coves, and beaches with crystal clear waters.
It is the first of its kind in the Cyclades, and a quite original project. Park of Paros includes a 7 kilometers footpath network around the whole peninsula ideal for easy hiking. One of them will lead you to a historical light-house.
At the entrance of the natural protected area, there is a a traditional shipyard that showcases photogenic old boats waiting of their restauration.
Just above the shipyard, there is the post-Byzantine monastery of Ai Yiannis or Agios Ioannis (St John). Climb on its roof and you will get a stunning view on the bay of Naoussa.
Drios is a small fishing village located on the east coast of Paros. If you are in the area around noon or at dinner time don't hesitate to make a little detour and settle for lunch (or dinner) on one of the typical terraces of the restaurants on the seafront. Fresh fish and seafood guaranted !
Leaving Paros now with a small hop in ferry of less than an hour, to reach its neighbour island: Naxos, the largest island of the Cyclades.
Naxos is famous for its exotic beaches. Plaka, Agios Prokopios, Orkos and Mikri Vigla are among the most beautiful beaches on the island, while the entire western coastline is ideal for windsurfing and kitesurfing due to the strong winds that blow there in the afternoon, a drive to the inland will bring you to picturesque villages and interesting sightseeing. The eastern side of the island is more secluded.
Also called Chora, Naxos Town, with its lovely waterfront and elegant Venetian architecture, is the capital and main port of the island.
Like in Paros, the port is overhung by an impressive Venetian castle surrounded by a labyrinth of narrow streets (the Kastro).
You will find plenty of nice restaurant there, either on the seafront near the port or inside the Kastro like Apostolis Taverna famous for its trademark yellow bike but also for its fantastic greek cuisine!
In the northern part of the city a long paved road leads to the islet of Palatia (Palaces) where stand the unfinished Temple of Apollo and the famous Portara (Big Door) which is the gate of the temple. Portara is the trademark of the island.
Naxos has a lot of lovely beaches to offer. It's is also the paradise for windsurfers and Kitesurfers has they are continuously windy. There, you'll find crystal clear blue water, kilometers long sandy beach where you will enjoy sunbathing.
Many of them can be reached after leaving the main road and driving through dusty tracks.
One of them I loved is Petrino's beach at Plaka beach a few kilometers south to Naxos city. Petrino is actually the name of the beach restaurant where, by the way, you will find authentic and cheap greek food.
When at Plaka beach you cannot miss the spot. Just look for the lovely wreck of an old fishing boat lying on the sand that indicates the entrance of the beach.
At night, right after sunset, the place becomes highly romantic when the light bulbs decorating the boat are lighted on.
Leaving the coastline towards the hinterland, Halki is a very small village hosting an old and traditional distillery where you will discover how the famous Kitron is made and learn that the liquor is not made from the fruits but from the leaves of the Kitron trees. The Kitron is a typical fruit of the area. It looks like a big lemon.
The Vallindra Kitron distillery is in the heart of the village and can be entered for free.
Also, close to the distillery, do not miss to taste the kitron ice cream. Delicious !
Below: Right in the center you will find a couple of traditional greek restaurants where you can enjoy some of the specialties like the Souvlakis.
Take also some time to make a quick tour of the village and its surroundings.
The many Neoclassical houses and buildings testify about the past wealth and power of the village. Many well-preserved Venetian Towers and fine Byzantine churches can be found in the area such as the 9th century Church of Panagia which is one of Naxos oldest churches.
Just a few kilometers away from Halki, further up in the mountains, Filoti will provide you with some freshness and quietness if you want to get away from the seaside. Still the whites houses and the blue doors but Filoti has also its own charm. Do not hesitate to stroll around and climb the numerous staircases to discover Filoti's hidden treasures.
Naxos is also hosting some ancient sites like the Temple of Demeter, a hilltop ruins of a 530 BCE temple built of marble that was converted to a church in the 6th century. The place is quite amazing. It's a bit in the middle of nowhere, freely accessible (like many sites in the cyclades) and well preserved.
If you are and old stones lover don't miss the spot!
Visiting the villages in the Cyclades is not only a story of blue doors and windows. Typical greek colorful chairs can play a important role too in providing a unique atmosphere to tiny and shady squares.
I cannot leave you without having talked about cats. In Greece they are everywhere. They are the kings of the islands.
Trip is over. That was the fourth and last episode of my summer trip in the Cyclades.
What an incredible journey! 3 weeks, 5 islands, hundreds of blue doors and wild cats, thousands of whitewashed stone walls and a lot (really) of churches !
If not already done, this part of Greece definitely deserves a visit.