One of Greece’s Most Popular Islands Has a Secret Side
How to lose the crowds and find tranquility on Paros.
This is the latest edition of our twice a month series on underrated destinations, It’s Still a Big World.
My boyfriend and I were coming to the end of our weeklong holiday on Paros, Greece. Sitting on the terrace of our Airbnb, looking out over the shimmering waters of the Aegean, we discussed how to spend our last two days. We’d already visited the island’s most popular spots—the maze-like mountain village of Lefkes, the charming seaside port of Naoussa, the lunar landscapes of Kolymbithres beach. Now that we’d seen the highlights, where to go next?
“Why don’t we go watch the kite surfers?” suggested Philippe.
We’d seen the colorful swarm of kite surfers a few days earlier, on our ferry ride from Paros to the neighboring island of Antiparos. Levitating in the air, under the banner of vivid kites, the surfers appeared to be dancing in the sky.
Neither Philippe nor I had any illusions about getting harnessed in and attempting backflips or other aerial feats. But we were eager to see the action up close—and curious to discover the south side of Paros, which we’d yet to explore. So, the following day, we navigated our scooter from the central coast of the island, where our Airbnb was located, toward Pounda Kite Beach, just south of the Pounta port.
When we arrived, the beach was abuzz with wetsuit-wearing kite surfers, who were busy unspooling their kites and smearing thick slabs of zinc oxide on their faces. Bystanders gathered on the shore, cheering on their airborne friends, while the tanned and the toned ordered cappuccinos and avocado toasts from the beach’s vibey, open-air café. Next to the café was a lounge area with bean bag-style poufs and a sail shade, under which students of all ages gathered for lessons.
We walked into the café and nabbed a front-row table, where we ordered fresh fruit smoothies and colorful salads and watched, mesmerized, as powerful gusts of wind carried kite surfers 20 feet in the air. For the first time on our trip, we didn’t feel like dumb tourists who had blindly followed the crowds, but in-the-know visitors who’d been tipped off by a local.
How had the guidebooks missed this?
Travelers to Paros typically congregate on the island’s north side, home to all the top-rated spots and attractions we’d visited on the first half of our trip. It’s easy to see why this is the case: the landscapes in the north are rugged and vast, the restaurants are uniformly excellent, if not a little touristy, and the seaside villages are straight out of a postcard: all whitewashed architecture and yacht-filled harbors.
As beautiful as it was, Paros–at least what we’d seen of it—seemed only a notch or two away from the wattage levels of Mykonos and Satorini. Philippe and I struggled to get a table earlier than 9:30 pm at the popular Taverna Glafkos, in Naoussa, and we had been crammed in like sardines on the coves of Kolymbithres beach. If we were to visit Greece again, we both agreed we’d want to seek out a less trammeled island (if such a thing even exists).
Then we started exploring the island’s southern corridor, a sleepier but no less alluring side of Paros. There, we discovered the Paros we’d envisioned—a still-secret isle, with craggy coves and unspoiled beaches, and locals mingling with visitors.
After our kite surf adventure, Philippe and I set out to discover other gems in the area. A short walk north brought us to the chic waterfront hotel Seesoo, which swung open its doors in 2020. With its chilled-out atmosphere and daily roster of wellness activities like yoga and hiking, it’s the go-to spot of style-conscious kite surfers and other active travelers. Each of the 11 rooms face the sea and are furnished with low-slung beds, rattan pendants, and coastal tones, and the pool deck is one of the sleekest and sexiest I’ve ever seen. While the cocktails at the pool bar looked delicious, someone at the kitesurf café had told us about another local spot called Les Amis, a wine bar and restaurant that had recently relocated from Naoussa to a serene perch on the port of Pounta.
We showed up just in time to watch the sun set behind Antiparos. Located inside a former winery facility, the restaurant is an airy space with cool stone floors and beamed ceilings, with views of the yacht-filled harbor and an outdoor patio facing the sea. We ordered a bottle of pale rosé from the Macedonia region’s Domaine Costa Lazaridi—one of many Greek wines on the menu—followed by the zippy sea bass ceviche and the sinful linguine vongole. To finish, we split a deliciously nutty (and vegan) katifi filo, topped with a swirl of halva mousse and rounds of fresh orange. It was the best meal we had all trip, and we were back at our Airbnb, soaking in the Jacuzzi, by 9:30 pm.
The following day—our last before flying home—we climbed on our scooter and drove even farther south, with no destination in mind, eventually stumbling on the fishing village of Aliki. The U-shaped enclave features a smattering of traditional whitewashed buildings, situated around a boat-strewn port. There were tourists there, no doubt. But unlike northern ports like Parikia, it was clear that Aliki hadn’t lost its soul. Most people were conversing in Greek and the village still had a traditional feel.
In recent years, the area has seen an uptick in beautiful new restaurants—and when it came to finding a spot for lunch, we had our pick. To dine on the sea-facing patio of seafood restaurant Sayini, or on the lively sidewalk patio of Pela Luz? We were also tempted by Kima, an elevated Greek tavern with a soaring, all-white dining room, serving Greek octopus and mezze.
Ultimately, we didn’t go to any of the new restaurants in Aliki. We opted for a table in the sand at the Apoplous Taverna & Ouzeri, a local spot that feels like it’s been there forever, where we ordered a Greek salad with oregano-dusted triangles of fresh feta, and grilled fish with lemon wedges and a pile of salty French fries. It was simple and perfect.
With bellies full, we contemplated driving back to our Airbnb and lounging by the pool. Instead, we followed a young Greek family to the pebble-and-sand Piso Aliki beach, located a short stroll from the center of the village. There were only a handful of other people there, and the waters were as clear and inviting as any we’d seen on the island. We jumped in and splashed around, then spread our towels on the sand. Relaxing under the shade of a tamarisk tree, we dozed off to the sounds of waves lapping the shores and children playing in the distance. I wondered when, or if, we had to go home.