Perfect Paros: Why Greece's lesser-known islands are having a moment

Hollie-Rae Brader heads to the Aegean to discover its best-kept secrets

You simply can’t come to Paros and not dine at Barbarossa. The restaurant is renowned for its epic food and stunning waterside location, but it’s the atmosphere that you’ll really remember. I visit after dark, when a DJ blasts out music while alfresco diners quaff wine faster than you can read this sentence.

Barbarossa has established itself as a must for visitors to the fishing village of Naoussa on Paros, the tiny Greek island paradise that is steadily gaining momentum as a rival to the better-known Santorini and Mykonos, both of which are bustling with tourists during high season.

Locals and tourists converge on the restaurant for an unapologetic night of indulgence; it’s the perfect spot to eat and dance under a ceiling of stars. The more guests indulge, the more fun they seem to have, as I discover when the crowd leap onto their seats to give the DJ some rapturous applause.

Giddy with excitement, we jump onto our chairs to join in, swinging our napkins around our heads to an unfamiliar European trance track. This wasn’t quite the dining experience I’d expected, having explored the quiet, quaint streets of Naoussa earlier in the day, but I certainly won’t forget it in a hurry.

Quintessential Greece

By day Naoussa is as cute as Greek fishing villages come – white, cuboid houses with brightly coloured balconies, churches topped with traditional blue domes and old fishing boats with freshly caught octopuses strung out to dry on their decks. Waves break against the village’s Venetian fortress, while tourists wander in and out of the many boutiques that line the cobblestone alleys. Naoussa is the crown jewel of Paros, but there’s plenty more to explore on this dreamy island, which lies in the centre of the Cyclades.

Home to a bounty of beach clubs and hilltop villages aplenty, the island is finally attracting the attention of more Brits. It has been a long-time favourite of Greek afficionados who have spent decades island-hopping their way around the area.

These guests will have likely first visited Paros via a ferry ride from Naxos or Mykonos, but since the expansion of Paros’ airport in 2016, more flight options are available – albeit mainly to and from other Greek destinations. During my time on the island, I learn of local ambitions for an international airport. When this comes to fruition it will bring even more capacity to the island.

It’s this expected investment in additional air capacity that is fuelling growth in accommodation options. Last year, Avant Mar (Review, page 104) opened as one of the latest luxury additions on Paros, joining Cosme, which opened in 2022, and numerous boutiques such as Mythic and Parilio. The villa offering is also growing.

Water adventures

Countless tiny boats line Naoussa’s harbour day and night, but fishing isn’t the only water-based activity on offer here. Paros is a paradise for watersports enthusiasts and is ranked one of the best spots in the world for windsurfing.

During a catamaran trip between Paros and Antiparos, we marvel as a dozen windsurfers circle around us, trying to outdo one other as they skim across the water. Later we spot snorkellers, while a couple donning jet packs launch themselves into the sky. Our skipper explains that kitesurfing, kiteboarding, waterskiing and kayaking are popular activities around the Cyclades.

The journey between Paros and Antiparos is short. Ferries travel regularly between the two islands, with the journey taking just eight minutes, although we travel at a more leisurely pace during our catamaran cruise. With the sun on our shoulders and a Greek beer in hand, we enjoy learning about life in Paros from our crew. I’d been keen to visit Antiparos for a while, partly because of the opening of highly hyped hotel The Rooster in 2021. The island is as sleepy as it is serene.

Whitewashed alleys are decorated with cascading pink and purple bougainvillea, while eucalyptus fills the central square. Beaming locals beckon you into their pricey boutiques with a bright “kalimera” – this island might be tiny, but it’s full of character. Clients travelling to Paros simply have to check out its quieter sister island – it certainly provided the perfect respite for me after a night of extravagance in Naoussa. A dreamy twin centre in the south Aegean awaits.

Key attractions

While postcard-perfect Naoussa might steal the limelight, there’s plenty more to see in Paros

❂ Explore the island’s epic beaches. Kolymbithres, Faragas and Monastiri are incredibly popular and well worth a visit. The latter two are home to lively beach clubs. I visited Monastiri Beach Club during my visit and loved the buzz and atmosphere as excitable sunseekers sipped rosé and danced on the shores. Mini Santa Maria Beach is just 10 minutes from Naoussa and is incredibly laid back in comparison.

❂ Head inland to the medieval villages of Lefkes, Marpissa and Prodromos. Lefkes is simply stunning. Sat on a hilltop, with plenty of traditional white-washed facades it is also home to a clutch of wonderful tavernas. Head here for a night of blissful Greek gastronomy.

❂ Wine-lovers should try some of the local good stuff on a visit to Moraitis Winery. Founded in 1910, the winery makes a vast selection of rosés, whites and reds and offers tasting experiences to visitors.

Book it: Elegant Resorts offers seven nights’ B&B at Avant Mar from £5,080, based on a June 8 departure and including economy flights, private transfers and UK lounge passes.

Hollie-Rae Brader

Hollie is editor of Aspire’s print and online products. She is responsible for the running of the club and ensuring the content produced and the events organised are relevant to the Aspire audience. She was previously deputy news editor and cruise writer for sister title Travel Weekly. She loves exploring new destinations and is gradually ticking new countries off her list. She most enjoys writing about cruise, South America and Japan. Before working in the travel industry she held news reporting roles at the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star.

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