Paros is a beautiful island in the Cyclades group in the central Aegean Sea. It has a rich and diverse history that spans from the early Bronze Age to the present day. Paros is famous for its high-quality marble, its poets and sculptors, its churches and monasteries, and its picturesque villages and beaches. In this blog post, we will explore some of the best historical and cultural sites in Paros and what they can teach us about the island’s past and present.
The Temple of Ekatontapiliani
One of the most impressive and important monuments in Paros is the Temple of Ekatontapiliani, also known as the Church of 100 Doors. It is located in the center of Parikia, the capital of the island, and it dates back to the 4th century AD. It is one of the oldest and best-preserved Paleo-Christian monuments in Greece, and it has a complex architectural structure that includes a main church, two smaller chapels, a baptistery, and a courtyard. The temple is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and it is said that it was built by Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, after she found the True Cross in Jerusalem. The temple has many remarkable features, such as its marble columns, its carved capitals, its mosaic floors, its Byzantine icons, and its ancient inscriptions. The temple is also home to a museum that displays various religious artifacts, such as vestments, manuscripts, relics, and votive offerings.
The Venetian Kastro
Another prominent landmark in Parikia is the Venetian Kastro, or castle, that dominates the old town. It was built in the 13th century by the Venetian Duke Marco Sanudo, who conquered Paros and other Cycladic islands after the Fourth Crusade. The castle was constructed using materials from ancient buildings, such as marble blocks, columns, statues, and inscriptions. The castle served as a defensive fortress against pirate raids and Ottoman attacks, but it also housed the administrative and religious center of the island. Today, only a part of the castle remains standing, but it still offers a stunning view of the sea and the town. Inside the castle, there is a small chapel dedicated to Agios Konstantinos, which was built on the site of an ancient temple of Athena.
The Archaeological Museum of Paros
If you want to learn more about the ancient history and culture of Paros, you should visit the Archaeological Museum of Paros, which is located next to the Temple of Ekatontapiliani. The museum was founded in 1960 and it houses a collection of artifacts that date from the Neolithic to the Roman period. Some of the highlights of the museum are:
- The Parian Chronicle: a marble stele that records important events in Greek history from 1582 BC to 299 BC.
- The Nike of Paros: a marble statue of the goddess of victory that dates from the 5th century BC.
- The Gorgon: a marble relief that depicts a monstrous female figure with snakes for hair that dates from the 6th century BC.
- The Sphinx: a marble statue that combines a human head with a lion’s body and wings that dates from the 6th century BC.
- The Marble Bull: a life-size statue of a bull that dates from the 5th century BC.
Moving away from Parikia, we find Lefkes Village, which is considered one of the most beautiful and authentic villages in Paros. Lefkes was founded in the 16th century by Venetian settlers who were looking for a safe place away from pirate attacks. Lefkes became the capital of Paros until 1840 when it was replaced by Parikia. Lefkes has preserved its traditional character and charm, with its whitewashed houses, narrow alleys, colorful flowers, and panoramic views. Lefkes also has many cultural attractions, such as:
- The Church of Agia Triada: a majestic church that was built in 1830 using Parian marble. It has an impressive bell tower, a carved wooden iconostasis, and a rich collection of icons.
- The Folklore Museum: a museum that showcases various aspects of rural life in Paros, such as agriculture, weaving, pottery, carpentry, and beekeeping.
- The Byzantine Trail: a hiking path that connects Lefkes with Prodromos, another picturesque village. The trail follows an ancient paved road that was used by pilgrims and merchants in the Byzantine era.
For nature lovers, Paros Park is a must-see destination. Paros Park is a natural and environmental park that covers an area of 800 hectares at the northern tip of the island. It was created in 2009 by the Paros Municipality and the Archilochos Cultural Association, with the aim of promoting the natural and cultural heritage of Paros. Paros Park offers a variety of activities and attractions, such as:
- Three hiking trails that lead to scenic spots, such as the Cape Corakas Lighthouse, the Monastery of Agios Ioannis Detis, and the Kolymbithres Beach.
- An open-air cinema that hosts film screenings and concerts during the summer months.
- A museum that displays the history and ecology of Paros Park, as well as temporary exhibitions and workshops.
- A café-restaurant that serves local delicacies and organic products.
Paros is an island that has something for everyone. Whether you are interested in ancient history, Byzantine art, Venetian architecture, or natural beauty, you will find it in Paros. Paros is also a place where you can experience the authentic Greek lifestyle, with its friendly people, delicious cuisine, and festive spirit. Paros is more than just a tourist destination; it is a living museum that invites you to discover its secrets and enjoy its charms.