The readers of Travel and Leisure magazine have recently voted Paros as the best island in Europe, and the second best island in the world. I decided to try it out for myself and on 5th June I boarded a plane from London Gatwick to Mykonos before heading to Paros to experience the island for myself.
There are thousands of stunning islands in Europe, and like Paros, many of these are in the Mediterranean. I am sure we have all heard of Santorini, Sardinia, Ibiza, Mykonos and Corsica etc, but how many of us would have known where Paros was if we had been asked 5 years ago? I certainly knew of many Greek islands, but not this one.
In June 2018 Paros saw 77,594 visitors to the island. The island is in the stunning Cyclades Islands of the Aegean Sea, just 5 miles from neighbouring Naxos. A brilliant spot for windsurfing, Paros is home to a number of stunning beaches, as well as a sprinkling of picturesque towns such as Naoussa and Lefkes.
I have visited a number of Greek islands including Mykonos, Corfu, Lesvos and Kefalonia, but nowhere quite took my heart like Paros did. But why? The towns themselves are characterised by those typical Greek, whitewashed streets with pink Bougainvillea raining down on them. Beautiful fishing villages and ports can be found all over the Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean as a whole. But being able to walk through the streets of Naoussa during one lunchtime in June, I thought I had reached heaven. For this island did not seem quite so overrun as so many others do, my sister and I at 1pm had a vast amount of the harbour to ourselves, we enjoyed a seafront meal without being surrounded by hoards of people.
Don’t get me wrong, Mykonos is beautiful, Kefalonia and Corfu too, but when you add in the peace and quiet, you know you have really reached somewhere special. But what lies in the future of this quaint island? In 1998 Greece saw 6.2 million tourists. In 2018 this number reached over 32 million. Nowhere in Europe has seen such a sudden and sharp growth that Greece has. Whilst it is great for the struggling Greek economy, I do believe we are at serious risk of trampling all over the charm of these islands.
The islands offer a maze of stunning streets, ones that look like they belong in a painting rather than real life, but what happens when you have 5 cruise ships bringing in 15,000 visitors alone each day? These streets get blocked up, prices increase, the islands chase the tourism rather than focusing on the historic charm. Luckily, Paros does not tend to get these cruise ships (other than the odd much smaller one), instead, they stop in nearby Mykonos, and I truly believe that is why the island has remained as wonderful as it is. But times are changing and with Instagram putting this island firmly on the map, I imagine beautiful Paros will undergo some serious changes over the next decade.
When I spoke to one of the locals she told me how she hopes Paros Airport will grow enough to bring in more tourists. Currently, you are unable to fly direct from the UK, I felt like hugging her and telling her everything she needs is already here. However, when these people rely on and make their money from tourists, you can’t really blame them for wanting more, can you?