At the centre of the Cyclades, in the middle of the Archipelago this cosmopolitan island has its roots in the very distant past. A place where myth, history and culture converge, rich in traditions and natural beauty combined with modern tourist infrastructures
Low relief, (the highest point is marked by Mount Prophet Ilias (766 m)),
leveling out into gentle rolling hills, sloping smoothly down to the coast. Dazzling-white animated villages, landscapes, churches, windmills, beaches, picturesque small ports, cobbled roads and narrow alleys, archaeological remains testifying the passage of many centuries.
The 120 kilometres of coastline form, all around the island, many small beaches and leeward harbours in alternation with impressive rock formations. Ag. Irini, Parasporos, Farangias, Alyki, Nea Chrysi Akti (New Golden Beach), Dryos, Molos, Tsoukalia, Kolymbithres, Monastiri, Santa Maria are just a few of the island’s beautiful award-winning beaches.
Paros, like most of the Cycladic islands, gives the impression of being dry and barren, especially in the hot summer months. A closer look, however, reveals the particularly abundant and interesting flora. The Parian landscape is bedecked, according to the elevation, with wonderful wild flowers such as cyclamens, anemones, mandrakes, hardy xerophytic rock plants, medicinal and aromatic herbs, rosemary, oregano, thyme and sage.
The particular climate
favors the growth of an amazing variety of plants: higher up are gorse, cedars, holm-oaks, arbutus and pomegranates, Spanish broom and oleanders as well as impressive agaves and prickly pears whereas, close to the shore, osiers, thrift, stock and myrtles sway in the sea breeze.
The cultivation of cereals and grapes, olives, garden produce and fruit trees in terraces on the hillsides lends special beauty to the landscape since, from a distance, the ground appears to undulate in the Aegean sea breeze.
The natural wealth of the island does not lie, however, only in the land. The Aegean Archipelago provides shelter for millions of birds in the wetlands and countless rocky islands. Silver seagulls, shags and cormorants, black peregrines and eagle hawks are just a few of the approximately 200 species of birds which either live permanently, stay for a few months or stop off here since the Cyclades mark the first resting place for birds migrating north from Africa.
But that is not all. The deep blue waters surrounding the island are a living treasure trove hiding thousands of different life forms. Many of the around 5000 marine species that live in the 2000 islands of the Archipelago can be found in the depths off Paros. Moreover, the island has the largest fleet of fishing boats and the highest production in the
Paros through the Ages
An island of exceptional archaeological interest since traces of civilization testify that it has been inhabited for 6,000 years. On Saliago – a desert island between Paros and Antiparos – traces of an entire civilization that had developed from Neolithic times are visible beneath the sea. Subsequently the Cycladic, Minoan and Mycenean civilizations left their indelible marks. Palaces, Acropolises and towns are buried all over the island. Paroikia, Dryos and Koukounaries, with the ruins of the temple to Goddess Athena which is considered one of the most ancient in the Aegean area, and so many other places provide evidence of Paros’ prehistoric past, offering examples of art and culture to museums throughout the world. Marble and earthenware vessels, burial offerings, bronze implements and idols are housed in the Archaeological museum on the island.
The Parian Marble
Parian marble, famed even outside Greece for its texture, purity and lucidity which made it translucent up to a depth of as much as 10 cm, was produced in the famous ancient quarries at Marathi. Prized for the plasticity that it lent to the works of sculptors from the 6th century B.C onwards, but especially during the classical period, it animated the works of renowned artists of antiquity such as Parios Skopas and was used in 70% of the sculptures in areas washed by the Aegean Sea. The Temple of Apollo and the Treasury of the Syphnians in Delphi, the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, Praxitles’ Hermes, the Venus of Milo, the Temple of Apollo on Delos, were all sculpted from Parian marble.
Monasteries and Churches
These played an important role in the history and culture of Paros. The first Christian churches appeared shortly after the 3rd century A.D. and were built over the foundations of ancient Greek temples, while most of the island’s surviving churches date from the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the most ancient and important Christian monuments worldwide is the Cathedral of the Panagia Ekatontapyliani (Our Lady of a hundred doors) in Paroikia that was begun under Constantine the Great and completed under Emperor Justinian. Paros also boasts dozens of monasteries which for centuries protected not only the Orthodox faith but also Byzantine art forms and, in particular, treasures from antiquity since the monks were the ones who studied, copied and saved works by classical writers of Ancient Greece. Five monasteries are still in use today and are notable examples of typical monastery architecture.
Around the Island
Paroikia, centred round the Castle, in addition to its bustling outward appearance, hides a beautiful town. The central street of the Market with its neoclassical mansions and marble fountains, the cobbled streets and buildings with their traditional architecture, the chapels, the galleries and the courtyards in full bloom create a magical scene where colours and fragrances mingle with the rhythm of the “Ballos”, an island folk dance.
In the northern part of the island the Bay of Naoussa is one of the most beautiful and picturesque natural harbours in the Aegean. Still today, village life remains that of the fishing boats, the fisherman and the celebrated seafood delicacies, blending harmoniously with the nightlife and partying until dawn.
At the centre of the island, at a height of 250m, Lefkes, the best preserved traditional village of Paros, invites exploration. Particular architecture, winding alleys, scattered chapels, picturesque squares with welcoming traditional cafes and, the pride of the island, the church of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity).
Lefkes is the point of departure for most of the island’s paths which are
Walking and exploration.
- The Byzantine Road which ends at the hidden village of Prodromos
- The path to the monastery of Agios Georgios (Saint George).
- The ascent to Agios Pantes (All Saints) which is the highest point on Paros and offers an unprecedented view of all the Cycladic islands.
Paros, just like other remarkable places in Greece, has all the requisites for tourism which it is aiming to develop in conjunction with culture, environment, quality. It deserves love and respect. It will surely reciprocate.