Paros and Naxos … the last of the Cyclades

Kite-surfers near Paros

Paros Island – the jewel of the Cyclades

The incomparable natural beauty, beaches with crystal clear waters, beautiful Byzantine footpaths that connects traditional villages and breathtaking landscapes make Páros, one of the best loved holiday destinations in Greece. The constant strong wind in the strait between Paros and Naxos leans it perfectly to windsurfing. Golden Beach is a 700 metre long beach on the south eastern part of the island of Paros and pretty popular with windsurfers! Golden Beach got its name from the fine sand, with a sparkling effect when the sun shines on it. Close to a hundred kite surfers and a few windsurfers were entertaining us as we were passing through. It was quite exhilarating to see them swooshing only meters past the yacht! A sight to behold and great photography opportunities!

Parikia (Paroikia) the capital of Páros, is a beautiful typical Cycladic village with its whitewashed cubic houses and flat roofs with some impressive neoclassical mansions around the edges and a few beautiful old churches. A well preserved 13th century Venetian castle stands proudly on a hill at the centre of the village offering an amazing view of Parikia.

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Parikia is a lovely old town with one of the most impressive churches in Greece! That will be the one outstanding building in Parikia that I will always remember! – The 6th century church of Panayia Ekatontapyliani, (also called Katapoliani) dominates the main square of the small town. The name “Ekatontapylianí” literally means the church with 100 gates. The oldest part of the church was almost certainly built before Christianity was adopted as the state religion of the Roman Empire in 391 AD. It is said to have been founded by the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (ruled 306–337 AD), Saint Helen, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There are two very old chapels next to the church and a baptistery with a cruciform font. The church is massive and hugely impressive. The whole structure of the pillars and roof is so different to anything we have seen before. If you walk up the stairs at the side of the entrance, you end up in an open hallway going right around the church like a second storey where you can see everything from above and as well as behind the altar. It is amazing and almost a surreal, eerie walk through the medieval corridors of this ancient church! A very strange looking women was deep in meditation or asleep on her bare feet at the end of that corridor and was standing in a half shaded area and took me by surprise. I did not notice her until I was almost on top of her and got the fright of my life! I had to hold back not to break the silence during the ceremony! Lol … she really freaked me out…

The landmark of the town has to be the windmill in in the middle of the town right on the waterfront. The white well restored windmill is the information centre of town and makes a great meeting point! The old town is a picture perfect. Some of the walls of the castle and buildings were built from recycled columns and blocks of an ancient Roman and Greek buildings and temples from the 13th and 14th century. Pretty unique.

We took a bus to the marble quarries at Maráthi, where the famous Parian marble used to be extracted. Parian marble, which is white and translucent with a coarse grain and a very beautiful texture, was the chief source of wealth for the island and was used by various great Greek sculptors. (Napolian’s grave stone is also made from marble from Marathi) It was obtained by means of subterranean quarries driven horizontally or at a descending angle into the rock. We walked into the quarries and could not even imagine how much difficulty they must have had excavating them and get those massive blocks out of it. Ben picked up a piece of marble and it was amazing how heavy (due to its density) it was for its size. Operation started already from the 3rd millennium BC up to the 19th century. The old mining galleries along with remains of 19th century industrial buildings are still preserved and is well worth a visit! A wonderful modern art exhibition from the marble of that area was on display (what a bonus!) and was a fresh alternative to the traditional marble statues and sculptures we have seen so far. Very interesting and quite impressive!

The Marble pathway to the Quarries
Entrance to the second quarry
Some of the old buildings on the mining site
Massive Marble Blocks on the site
Modern art made from Marble (Carton Boxes)
Marble Modern art
Boxes of Marble
Marble-ous art!
Remains of 19th century industrial buildings at the quarry
Marble art
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A hot day of walking and waiting for busses in the blistering sun took us at last to Lefkes.
Lefkes an inland mountain village is about 10km away from Parikia. It is a picturesque village with narrow streets and is located at the highest point of Paros and provides a stunning views of the island. The village is set up in the mountains and is surrounded by a rich green landscape. The Church of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) is the village’s main church. This is a beautiful Byzantine church made of fine white marble. This beautiful village used to be the capital of Paros during the Middle Ages and is full of little traditional whitewashed houses, mixed with Venetian architecture, wonderful churches dating from the 15th century and old windmills on the hill. The charm and the beauty of Lefkes are still untouched by mass tourism, which help it to hold on to its authenticity. Walking around through the narrow marble alleys will take took us back in time and make us wonder what and who has walked these narrow alleys over the 2500 years of its existence.
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Our time with Ben, Hendri and the two Diannes are running out and we still want to see, Naoussa a nearby village that apparently is a must see! We took a bus in that afternoon to go and have dinner there.

Naoussa is a beautiful traditional and very colourful village on the island of Paros, with the ruins of a Venetian fortress at the entrance to its small harbour and hidden alleyways full of interesting shops and tugged away bars and restaurants.

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Perfectly painted fishing boats of all sizes were fringing the harbour while offloading the catches of the day. Octopus hanging on stands in front of the boats are for sale (not sure how they can just hang them in the late afternoon sun without going bad instead of putting them on ice – I am sure it will be much more appealing than the dry looking stretched versions on the quay!) The restaurants are displaying a wonderful selection of seafood that the boats have just brought in with some massive giant prawns (that looks like small lobsters to me!). This is for sure going to be a seafood night of nights!

We booked a table right on the edge of the old harbour and had a wonderful view across the small harbour with a buzz of people coming and going to this small fishing villages’ very interesting and some very sophisticated restaurants around the harbour. There are heaps of them with a massive amount of tables and chairs tightly packed everywhere! – Even in front of the lovely little church on the dock! It is such a charming romantic look with the blue tables

We had a great meal and a wonderful evening …… our last with our guests that left the next morning with a ferry.

On our own in Parikia:

We were dying to get out of our anchorage in Parikia just to be able to make fresh water! Our tanks were running seriously low. I was forced to give all our washing to the Laundry in Paros (and happy to do so!). Just as we were ready to move on, we realised that there is a massive Religious festival on the next day in Parikia! The Assumption of Mary on the 15th August. There was no way we would miss that!

The procession
The Assumption of Mary on the 15th August
The Assumption of Mary on the 15th August
The Assumption of Mary on the 15th August
Young girls at the procession

It was wonderful to experience such a different culture and religion with pilgrims from all over Greece coming to town – following the procession through the town with brass marching bands, the priests and bishops in their formal attires and boys and girls in traditional clothes. Afterwards the fireworks and traditional dances began and went on till late that night.

In the meantime … During the last week or two, I have connected with an acquaintance from my home town in South Africa (Vredendal) for the first time on Facebook. We have been trying to meet up with each other on a few occasions without success (they were at that stage in Naoussa). We at last got it happening on the night of the festival. Annelies is a lovely, interesting, funny, quirky, vibrant young girl with a hell of a lot of talent that has certainly become a friend after a few minutes of sharing thoughts and experiences and a cold Mythos! It was wonderful to get to know her and I hope Annelies (if you happen to read this) that we can stay in touch! Good luck with your amazing jewellery design, travels and new life in Thailand – you never know … we might meet up again (and meet Eben hopefully too) in some unusual place sometime soon! (by the way – you can meet her and see her amazing work on her website … check it out: www.witmyt.com )

Meeting up in Naxos over a Mythos
Traditional Dances

We left our lovely anchorage mid-morning the next day to anchor in Ioannou Bay near Monastiri Beach… not far from Naxos. It became a day of sleep, swim and more sleep! We needed the rest badly. The next day to Naxos will be an early start and one of boisterous winds and big waves and my friend (not) the Meltemi will accompany us all the way!

Naxos Island

It must have been one of the roughest few hours on the water in the Med we had thus far! The 35-42 knot winds and massive swells hit us from everywhere! At times it felt like we were in a washing machine that has too much water for the small load! The Genoa- only a sliver size – has been enough to propel us forward at 8.7 knots and the salt water wash all over the deck and cockpit was terribly unwelcome! We arrived in the bay of Naxos just outside the harbour wall right underneath the Temple of Apollo in wonderful welcoming quiet waters with a boat covered in salt! Watching the big ferries rocking in and out in those big waves was amazing! Yachts battling the elements and waves breaking straight over the breakwater, makes us feel save and glad that we were in time to find a good spot. There is little that beats the feeling of safety in weather like this.

Naxos is the largest island (429 km2) in the Cyclades island group in the Aegean and by far the most fertile among them. It’s very mountainous with more than 64 villages in and amongst the mountains and some on the coast.
Once we have settled we took a walk up to the Temple of Apollo and wait for the sunset to show us her glory! At dusk, as the sun slowly sinks like a ball of fire into the sea and disappears behind the horizon, the “Portara” is bathed in a glorious twilight glow. Sunset is a sheer delight on this island; despite the noisy harbour and the crowded Chora there is a sense of tranquillity which transports one back in time!

Approaching the town by sea, the first thing you notice from miles away is the imposing gate (Portara as it is known by the locals) that rises in splendid isolation above the town of Naxos. The last remains of the ancient marble temple dedicated to Apollo in the 6th century B.C. This majestic marble doorway of an archaic temple has become the “emblem” of the island. The temple was never finished but its entrance has been standing for 2500 years looking out towards the sacred island of Delos.

The town of Naxos itself is a picture! It is just wonderful to walk through the alleyways full of shops and restaurants admiring the cleanly swept painted narrow paths leading from one beautiful string of shops to the next with lovely whitewash houses seemingly glued to one another!

The winding alleys, arches and tunnels around the Venetian castle on the summit of the hill is the most fascinating part of town! It used to be the upmarket end of town and many of the entrances to the houses still have the coat arms of the noble families that use to live there in the 13th and 14th century.

Tourism is huge in Naxos! Massive actually! There has not been another island where we have seen that many huge ferries coming and going and offload and take in a seemingly never-ending line of tourist pulling luggage behind them as well as trucks and cars! The cars were parked hours before the ferry arrives in tightly fitted format waiting to leave the island. As many that is leaving is entering on the next ferry! It is amazing to think these people all need accommodation in this small village! But the turnover is huge and somehow they all find a place and when night falls, they filled every restaurant and bar and enjoy the food, wine and music of Naxos!

NAXOS

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On our third day in Naxos, we picked Phil and Mel up that flew in from London to join us for about 12 days. It was wonderful to have them on board and it felt just like the other day that Phil sailed with us along the Portuguese and Spanish coast and on to Ibiza! We were out and about in town having drinks and food, but went back to the boat early enough to get a good rest before we hit the rough seas again in the morning!

3 thoughts on “Paros and Naxos … the last of the Cyclades”

  1. Good morning, enjoying the glassy waters of Fethiyebay this morning, I hope. Have been following your travels but did not expect to see Scolamanzi.
    Conrad (on Soulmate – Knysna 440)

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