If you are looking for a new European destination this summer, I have a proposal for you….visit the town of Parga in Greece, and you won’t be disappointed. I have stayed in this charming town three times and I would be very happy to go back.
Parga is located in Epirus, north-western Greece, approximately 65 km from Aktion National airport in Preveza. This airport receives charter flights from several European destinations.
The amazing location of the town makes it even more desirable. Parga travel agencies and port authorities offer numerous day trips at a reasonable cost. We took advantage of most of the offers, including:
- boat trip to the mythical Acheron river;
- boat trip to Corfu island;
- boat excursion to Paxos and Antipaxos blue lagoon;
- bus tour to the mythical River Styx, Necromanteion (the ancient Greeks believed that this was a site of the door to Hades) and Zalongo Monument;
- bus tour to the Meteora Monasteries (where parts of the James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only” were filmed), and the picturesque town of Metsovo;
- Ionian Islands day cruise (including Ithaca – the home of Homer’s hero Odysseus; Scorpios – island of Arsistotle Onassis, overlooking the church where him and Jacqueline Kennedy got married; Kefalonia island with its turquoise blue water, impressive caves and rare geological formations, where the mythological Nymphs lived in the Melissani cave; the breathtaking Porto Katsiki beach where we stopped for an enjoyable swim; Papanicolis Cave, rich in the Word War II history).
Day Trip To Athens
Being adventurous the way we are (that’s my husband and I), we also decided to take advantage of the local buses, for a trip to Athens. Mind you, this would not be for everyone, especially when you decide to make this a one day trip….some people called us crazy! That was one long trip, but it was all worth it! The distance between Parga and Athens is 420 km. The journey on the local buses (including one transfer) took 7 hours one way. We left on the earliest bus from Parga and got back very late at night. Since our main purpose visiting Athens was to see the Acropolis, we were able to achieve this in a day. Of course, if you decide to go on an Athens sightseeing tour, or to visit the amazing Acropolis Museum, you have to add another day to your plan.
Beaches In Parga
For some of you that would prefer a more relaxing vacation, the town of Parga has a lot to offer. This picturesque town and area have eight beaches. We visited five of them on numerous occasions: Valtos, Lichnos, Piso Krioneri (which means “cold water”) and Sarakiniko beach. Lichnos beach is accessible by taxi, water taxi or on foot if you feel like walking up the hill, through the olive grove. Piso Krioneri is a small but beautiful beach situated close to the Krioneri town beach. All of the beaches that we visited are accessible by foot, taxi or water taxi.
Around The Town
Most hotels/apartments are self catered. This is not an issue since the town is full of local restaurants, cafes and bars, many of which are open until the last patron leaves (even at 2 am!). We loved getting freshly baked bread, delicious pastries, spanakopita, sausage rolls and other goodies from the local bakeries (go in the morning before they are sold out of the good stuff!). Parga has several small grocery stores, a fishmonger (which offer fresh fish caught the night before), fruit and vegetable stores, and THE MOST IMPORTANT….THE ICE CREAM Parlors!!!
The local restaurants pride themselves in catering to different palates. You will find many restaurants serving traditional Greek cuisine, English, Italian and other European delicacies. Prices vary, so always check the menu before you decide to stay for a meal. One of our favorite restaurants (based on food quality, quantity, price, service and hospitality) was the home of authentic Greek kitchen – “Taverna Thomas”. This restaurant is located just a few minutes away (on foot) from the town’s main street and harbor, but it is really worth trying out.
If you like to do some shopping, Parga is the town for you. You can find a selection of genuine leather shoes, purses, belts and other accessories, some of which are even imported from Italy. There is a big selection of summer hats, clothing, hand painted artisan souvenirs, oil paintings, trinkets, dry herbs (especially, very potent Greek oregano), gift bottles of Ouzo liquor and a lot more. Don’t forget to take home a bottle (or more) of the excellent local Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Oops, I almost forgot to mention my favorite jewelry store “Argo,” located on the sea front. By visiting this beautiful store, I always seemed to end up purchasing several pieces of unique jewellery! The owner of the store, Elsie, is knowledgeable and very pleasant to deal with. You will be amazed by the original designes of rings, bracelets, pendants and earings.
Paragaea Olive Oil Factory Museum
There is a lot to see and do in this idyllic town. I strongly recommend a tour to the Paragaea Old Olive Oil Factory Museum. Here, you will have a chance to explore the old olive press, the base of the mill, and other original machinery used in the making of olive oil.
The guided tour also includes bread and olive oil tasting, introduction to different flavors, colours and aromas of high quality olive oils. Information about the history of the olive trees and olive oil production was fascinating. At the end of the tour, we decided to purchase several products made from different types of olives (our favorite was a locally-made olive spread).
Originally built in the 11th century and rebuilt four times, the castle is situated at the top of the hill that dominates the town. The view from castle (also referred to as “the fort”) is absolutely spectacular. Cafe “CitaDel” inside the Venetian Castle offers a selection of salads, omelettes, waffles, pizzas, toasted sandwiches, snacks, specialty coffees, cold craft beer and cocktails.
This was our favorite place for breakfast or lunch. There was nothing better than sitting on the restaurant’s terrace, enjoying a delicious waffle and coffee, followed by amazingly flavorful dessert/ice cream and being taken in by the incredible view of the Ionian Sea and this spectacular town. The amazing scent of the tall pine trees that now grow in the grounds of the fort was equally memorable.
Ali Pasha Castle
If you still have some spare time on your hands and are looking for something interesting to do, I recommend the two hour excursion to Ali Pasha Castle on an open tour train. The train leaves from the Parga’s seafront, opposite the the tiny Panagia island. On the way to the castle, which is located five km away from the town, we passed through the village of Anthoussa, then the gorge of Despot, in the end reaching Ali Pasha’s castle, where we stopped for about a half-hour, enjoying the breathtaking view of the Ionian Sea and its islands on one side, and the mountains on the other. The tour guide introduced us to the interesting history of the castle and its original builder, after whom the castle was named! On the way back, we had another half-hour stop for a cold glass of beer at Anthoussa village. This attraction is suitable for children and adults.
Parga has an amazing night life, so if you still have any energy left after a day in the sun, you can visit the local discos, bars, restaurants with live entertainment, or just take part in the night entertainment along the seashore.
Wether you prefer to spend your time relaxing on a beach, or are looking for a more active vacation, this town will provide you with many options. If you have an opportunity to visit Parga, seize it !!!
- When planning your trip to Athens, be aware that you have to switch buses in Preveza. Even when the bus driver is aware of your destination, he may not let you know that you have to board another bus once he stops in Preveza (Preveza might not the final destination for the bus from Parga – this is from our experience).
- Never forger to apply lots of sunscreen, wear a hat and good sunglasses – it gets very hot in Greece in the summer.
- Don’t forget your snorkeling gear….you don’t want to miss the underwater life in this part of the Mediterranian.
- Buying a beach umbrella (I recommend the larger size – for about 12 Euros) is a great idea. You can definitely save money doing this instead of renting a lounger chair with an umbrella for 20 Euros a day.
- Don’t worry if you forget to bring a book with you, or are looking for more reading material, visit Alfa hotel where in the lobby’s “library,” you can find books written in different languages, left there by the many tourists who have stayed here, to be enjoyed by others. You can take a book, or exchange yours for another one (what a great idea that is!). While here, why not enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and enjoy a chat with the excellent host, Lazarus? This is a family run hotel, but they welcome guests who are not staying here.
- You can also buy fruits and veggies from the small trucks that come to town every morning (much cheaper than buying in the store).
- If you are planning to go on any excursions, find out at the beginning of your stay which trips are being offered and when. Some trips are offered two or three times a week, when other ones are offered every day. Make sure you don’t miss the one you really set your heart on by delaying your decision!
- There is car and bike rental available in town. Average daily rental price for a small, air conditioned sedan is $50 US.
- If you are planning to visit the Paragaea Olive Oil Factory Museum, check the time and days when they are open first, since the museum is not open everyday.