This may be one of the most common questions tourists have: which Greek island should they venture to? To help you decide on your next holiday destination, here is a list of facts that may help you reach a conclusion.
- Best hotels in Naxos
- Best hotels in Paros
Paros and Naxos are 2 of my favorite islands in Greece.When people ask which island to visit in Greece, my first answer is Santorini and my second is usually Naxos or Paros (with Crete nearby, although Crete requires at least one or two weeks to fully explore). Both Paros and Naxos have better beaches than Santorini.
Both Naxos and Paros are a short ferry ride away from Santorini and if you’re considering visiting another island after Santorini, Naxos and Paros should be at the top of your list.
Naxos or Paros – Summary
- Both Naxos and Paros are two of the best Greek islands.
- Both have great beaches but Naxos has slightly better ones.
- Both have incredible restaurants that serve wonderful local food.
- Paros has a better nightlife and feels a little more fashionable with more shops and boutique hotels.
- Naxos is a little more familiar.
Paros vs Naxos
This is not a question of which island is «better», but which one is more suitable?What is suitable for someone on one trip may not be suitable for the same person on another trip and of course what is suitable for one person may not be suitable for another person.
Paros and Naxos are very similar in some respects, very different in others.
Size and characteristics
Naxos is the second largest island in the Cyclades, Paros the third.both are quite large.Naxos has a mountainous interior, Paros has a mountainous interior.Both islands are quite fertile compared to other Greek islands, but mostly Naxos keeps alive the agricultural tradition, while on Paros more and more people are leaving these occupations and relying on tourism.On both islands, there are people who live from grazing and fishing, although not as many as a few years ago.
Orientation and travel
In the centre of activity on Paros for the locals is the capital city, Parikia, but a large part of the economic life, shops and services are also found in Naoussa.in Naxos, the centre of activity is Chora (Naxos city).Parikia and Naoussa are both port cities, but Parikia seems a bit more chaotic, because Paros is the main ferry centre of the Cyclades and receives a lot of traffic. Furthermore, perhaps due to the altitude and the characteristics of the local architecture, the «local colour» is more obvious when approaching Naxos Town, while you have to explore Parikia further to discover its charm.Both towns have their share of the old town, with its cyclic architecture, narrow streets, arches and a Castro area.both towns have a very decent sandy beach.Naoussa is a very picturesque little port with a small Venetian «castle» ruin, backed by the old town of Naoussa with its charming streets and arches, and a surrounding area that is expanding, very commercial.
Getting around by public transport is much easier in Paros than in Naxos.There are many buses per day, which start early in the morning and go from Parikia and Naoussa to most of the island, especially during the high season, making life easier for visitors who want to explore towns and beaches.The buses are geared to serve the local population, so most of the first buses leave from other parts of Naxos to Chora, and later in the afternoon there are buses from Chora to the villages, making life easier for the locals, but difficult for visitors.The exception to this rule is the excellent bus route that connects Chora with the beaches of Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna and Plaka, and sometimes even more beaches in the south.
Car/motorbike hire is widely available on both islands.The road system is very decent as well.Paros is flatter, and most of the inhabited parts of the island are on the coast.it’s easy to make a tour around the whole island in a day.Naxos is much more mountainous and its city and villages are spread all over the place.there is really no circular route around the island.the road network of Naxos is best on the west coast, where you find most of the activity, while there are many bends as you go inland.To get to the towns and beaches on the east, you have to climb the Zas mountain and go down the other side. The roads on this side of the island are full of sharp curves, while on the east coast, if you want to explore further than the real towns, you have to use unpaved roads full of potholes.
On Paros, boat «taxis» connect Parikia and Naoussa to the nearby beaches.
Naxos or Paros: Villages
Most of the cities/villages on Paros are located in places by the sea.Due to the good travel network and their particular location, most of them have some tourism involved, which is very basic and discreet in places like Drios or Aliki, or a little more evident as in Punda Beach and more recently Pounda Antiparou and Piso Livadi.There are also some inland villages, more notoriously Lefkes, of course. Lefkes is a very nice traditional village, well looked after and recently developed in a good way: some high quality shops and galleries, taverns that preserve the traditional paths, citizens who are renovating their old houses according to the local architecture, etc.
In Naxos, most of the villages are located inland instead of by the sea. There are coastal resorts such as Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna, which are charming, but may have been a bit too commercial.There are some coastal towns like Apollonas that receive a certain amount of visitors, but places like Lionas or Moutsouna, perhaps because they are difficult to reach, are still almost the same as they used to be 20 years ago.some inland towns, like Halki and Filoti or Apiranthos, receive a good number of visitors every day, while others, like the towns of Potamia, hardly see any tourists.time seems to have stopped in towns like Koronos.
Paros or Naxos: Beaches
Both Naxos and Paros have some of the best beaches in Greece and the islands are famous for their wonderful sand. In Paros there are super busy organized places like Punda Beach or Santa Maria or the popular Golden Beach, while in Naxos there is St George Beach, Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, Plaka and more.In Paros there is the picturesque (still) disorganized Molos, with its neighborhood of Kalogiros beach, where one can cover oneself with a therapeutic cast, or Tripiti and Glyfa, where one can be alone, while in Naxos there are Kastraki, Pyrgaki, Mikri Vigli.Aliki, or Ayiassos.In Paros there is nudism at Laggeri, while in Naxos at Plaka.
The difference in Paros is that most locals advertise even the smallest beaches, such as Farangas or Lolandonis, while in Naxos, if you want to get away from the marked route, you have to discover everything by yourself.Beaches such as Kalandos, Hilia Vrisi, Pinelo or Psili Ammos are rarely mentioned in Naxos, although they are rated from very decent to excellent. On both islands you can discover your favourite place, as there are small coves and beaches almost everywhere.
Archaeological museums and ancient sites
Both islands share a common ancient history, and important artefacts have been discovered on both sites.In both cities there is an important but not very impressive ancient site (the one covered in Naxos, the one in Parikia simply lurched, both free) In Paros, although there are many ancient sites identified as such, there is not much left to see. For example, follow the signs to the ancient Akropolis Koukounaries on Kolybithres beach, to the village of Kamares, and literally nothing is seen.Naxos does not have a very impressive site, but there is, of course, the charming Portara, and there are several sites throughout the island, such as the various Kouros, the ancient Iria, the Temple of Demeter and the ancient aqueduct.
Churches and monasteries
In terms of religious importance to the Greek Orthodox, Paros wins the day because of the church of Panayia Ekantotapyliani.Both islands have many monasteries around them, such as the picturesque Moni tou Christou tou Dasous, near the Petaloudes park with its nun friends, and the very rich Moni Logovardas, where the monks deny access to visitors.Naxos has its own monasteries, such as Agios Ioannis Chrisostomos, for example.
As everywhere in the Cyclades, you can see small churches, 2 or 3 churches next to each other, in a small village or in a church alone on top of a rock.there are very old churches, especially in Marpissa, Prodromos, Marmara.In Naxos there are several ancient churches, for example, Panayia Drosiani dates back to the 6th century.
I prefer Naxos because most of the interesting churches are in unique landscapes and retain their original features, while in Paros they are mainly within the cities and are well restored.Panayia Ekantodapyliani, for example, is supposed to have been built by St. Constantine following the wishes of his mother, St. Helena, and dates back to the 3rd or 4th century.
Sports and activities: Naxos or Paros
Both islands are famous for their windsurfing, which is mainly found on the west beaches in Paros, on the east beaches of Naxos, not only because of the winds, but also because of the current between the two islands.
Water skiing is also found in both places, mainly in St George in Naxos, perhaps a little more in Paros, mainly on the beaches of Kolibithres and Santa Maria.kitesurfing is also found, mainly in Pounda in Paros and Mikri Vigla in Naxos.there are diving centres on both islands, Agios Prokopios, Plaka in Naxos, Golden Beach, Santa Maria in Paros.
On both islands there is horse riding, mainly in Naousa in Paros and Agia Anna in Naxos.Paros has a tennis club in the area of Agia Irene south of Parikia, while there are only tennis courts in one or two hotels in Naxos.on both islands there is sailing, mainly in the area of San Jorge in Naxos, Parikia in Paros.kayaking, rings, bananas, etc.
There are good excursions on both islands, although I think Naxos gains a bit in this aspect. in Paros there is the Vyzanine trail from Lefkes to Prodrommos, which is well signposted, then there are some routes like Logaras to Drios, but not much more, while in Naxos, although less organized, there are many more hiking opportunities.Mountain Zas climb, Potamia area and so on.
Other activities – Museums – Galleries
In Naxos, there is a Kitron distillery in Halki.
In Paros, there is a winery in Naoussa.
On both islands there are lots of small museums on various themes.Near Aliki in Paros, a local artist, Benetos Skadas, created a small museum with miniatures of fishing boats, famous buildings, various ancient objects, etc. In Naoussa, in the exhibition hall of Agios Athanasios, there are important Byzantine icons, In the city of Naoussa, in the exhibition hall of Agios Athanasios, there are important Byzantine icons.In Apiranthos there are three small interesting museums, the archaeological, the geological and the popular art.
In both islands there are some art galleries, like Apothiki in Parikia and Medousa in Naoussa, and the Petalouda Art in the city of Naxos.
Both islands produce decent wines, olives, olive oil, Moraitis wine is a fairly strong brand locally on Paros, Paros produces a local spirit called Souma, similar to Raki/Tsipouro, Naxos produces Kitron and there are 3-4 flavours, and 2-3 brands, Valindras has been the most famous.On both islands, local cakes and desserts such as spoon desserts, amygdalota, loukoumades, jams etc. are widely available.Hamilothoris has been a favourable brand on Paros.both islands have excellent dairy products.Naxos is famous for its cheeses: kefalotyri, anthotiro, graviera, feta and especially mizithra and xinomizithra.Although not as widely known, the same high quality cheeses are also produced on Paros.
Naxos produces a large quantity of potatoes each year.
Paros produces a small but high quality quantity of chickpeas which are cooked in various ways throughout the island.
On both islands there are some local workshops that offer pieces of art, especially ceramics.Yria Ceramics on Paros and Fish & Olive Ceramics in Naxos come immediately to mind.
The marble and emery of Paros and Naxos are well known all over the world, on both islands the marble quarries are accessible to the public and on Naxos you can see the remaining infrastructure of the emery industry in Moutsouna and Lionas.
Day trips: Naxos or Paros?
Both islands share identical and common excursions to Delos / Mykonos, Santorini, Iraklia / Koufonisia.in Paros there is a bus tour of the island that goes through the city of Antiparos as well.in Naxos there is also a bus tour, which includes all the important places (except Antiparos).In Naxos there is a boat trip that goes to several beaches around the island, while in Paros there is no such route, I guess because all the beaches are easily accessible by vehicle, which is not the case in Naxos, but in Paros there are boat trips that take Antiparos and Despotiko.