Greek Guide

 

Paros Tourist Attractions Day Trips Greece Greek Travel Guide

You'll find plenty to see and do if you're staying in the lively port of Parikia where the ferries dock and the majority of holiday accommodation on Paros is centred. But take the time to venture further afield because the island offers a wealth of places of interest to explore including its famous marble quarries, the extraordinary Valley of the Butterflies, some ancient monasteries and pretty villages.

The big attraction in Pirakia is the splendid Panagia Ekatontapyliani cathedral dating back to 326 AD. No other church in Greece has been in continuous use for such a length of time. Its name means the Church of 100 Doors though only 99 have ever been found. According to legend the city of Constantinople (now Istanbul) will return to the Greeks when the last door is discovered. Legend also has it that both the cathedral's architect, Ignatius, and his mentor, Isidore of Miletus (a master builder from Constantinople), both met their deaths after the latter flew into a jealous rage over the sheer magnificence of the building. He tried to fling his talented student from the roof of the building but Ignatius grabbed his assailant by the ankle and both men plunged to their deaths. The pair have been immortalised in stone in the courtyard in front of the church.

The cathedral is surrounded by a huge wall, built to guard it against pirates, and consists of three inter locking churches the largest of which is Agios Nikolaos containing some beautiful columns of Parian marble. An allegedly miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, a footprint set in stone of the island's patron saint Agia Theoktisti, a marble throne and an 11th century baptistery are among the cathedral's many points of interest.

Pirakia's Archaeological Museum, behind the Ekatontapyliani, has some fascinating exhibits including a fragment of the priceless 4th century marble engraved Parian Chronicle which records the major cultural and artistic achievements of ancient Greece from around 1500 BC to 260 BC.

Another "must see" on the island if you're visiting between May and August is the incredible Valley of the Butterflies at Petaloudes to the south west of the ferry port. Millions of brightly coloured tiger moths smother the valley's dense foliage during the mating season as they have done for the last 300 years. Early morning or early evening is the best time to visit if you want to see any activity because the moths remain dormant during the fierce heat of the day. You can take a mule ride to and from Pirakia a fun but pricey way to do the round trip.

Visit the famous marble quarries at Marathi which have produced the raw material for some of the finest sculptures of ancient Greece including the famous Hermes of Praxitelous, now displayed in the museum of Ancient Olympia, and the Venus de Milo whose current home is the Louvre Museum in Paris (much to the vexation of the Greeks). The last slabs to be mined here in the 19th century were used for the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The island's ancient capital Lefkes, 12 kilometres south east of Pirakia, is the highest and prettiest village on Paros with a magnificent cathedral, a folk museum, medieval houses and labyrinthine alleyways.

Take an excursion boat over to the island of Antiparos (a 10 minute hop to the west of Paros) to visit the stunning stalactite cave which has attracted many illustrious visitors including English poet and lover of all things Greek, Lord Byron.