Parikia is the capital of the island with the largest traditional settlement of all the Cyclades. It is worth visiting the many historical and cultural sites on the island.
The holy temple of Panagia Ekatontapiliani is located in Parikia, capital of Paros, a short distance from the port. It is one of the oldest and best preserved Christian churches, in Greek land. Beneath the impressive arches of this temple, prayers of the faithful are rising to heaven for 17 centuries. The temple is built by three Byzantine emperors. This unique monument of Christian witnesses in the world its own history.
17 centuries later, and despite the hardships, the temple of Holy Mary is impressive next to the port of Parikia. It is the best preserved early Christian monument in Greece. The church serves as a place of worship and prayer in the 4th century. This beautiful corner of the Aegean has the honor of hosting the oldest cathedral in the world in service and attracts thousands of pilgrims every year.
In 326 AC mother of the Emperor Constantine, Helena, was leading a large campaign for the discovery of the Holy Cross. A big storm, however, forced the Byzantine fleet to take shelter in the port of Paros. When Helen arrived from the ship sought a Christian church to pray. So, she found the small church of Holy Mary and asked for help to complete her mission. There, she promised to the Holy Mary that she would build a magnificent temple dedicated to Her when she would find the Holy Cross. However, this vow did not take place because Helen passed away and the project took her son, Constantine.
The church’s interior fills with awe each faithful. The four arches give the cruciform shape, while in the center the huge dome looks like a gateway to heaven. In the four triangles that support the dome, lies another connection of the church with the legendary Agia Sophia in Istanbul. Forms of angels have been depicted in two of the four triangles. Just below the dome, are preserved two columns of the ancient gymnasium on which was built the church of Holy Mary.
Paros has a rich history to exhibit since time immemorial. The valuable antiquities that have been come to light by excavations demonstrate the huge contribution of this island to culture, arts and literature.
The oldest findings date from the late 5th millennium BC and are located in the archaeological museum of the island, behind the church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani.
In the archaeological site there are important findings of Neolithic, Early Cycladic, Mycenaean, Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman sculptures, architectural elements, urns, Roman mosaic floors etc.
Frangokastelo was built in the 13th century immediately after the fall of Constantinople in 1204, by the Venetian Duke Marco Sanudo of Naxos, in order to protect the city from successive pirate raids and conquerors. Scholars believe that the castle was built on the ruins of the ancient temples that were scattered in and around the island of Paros. It is a very impressive building, as ancient columns and marbles, with a chapel are incorporated into the only surviving wall. It is worth a visit and to enjoy it with the panoramic, breathtaking views of Parikia.
In one of the most beautiful places in Paros with spectacular views towards the open Aegean sea, are the ruins of the temple which was dedicated to Asclepius, god of medicine. Asklepion is perched on the hill of St. Anne, demonstrating, once again, that the ancient Greeks did not built anywhere their religious shrines, but they were always choosing the most ideal locations.
The sanctuary was open, a relatively common practice in Paros, built on a hill, known as the Hill of St. Anne, around a spring, with the white, translucent Parian marble.
It is a rectangular building of the late Classical period (4th cent. BC), with a surface of 45m. over 15m., surviving today only some architectural elements that you can admire. The temple in the narrow side had galleries, while worship was undertaken in an altar, located in the middle of the open church.
At the same location were discovered traces of another church, which was dedicated to Apollo Pythium.
Valley of the Butterflies
Valley of the Butterflies is located in Psychopiana and to get there you can just take the peripheral road, starting from Parikia towards southwest. The road is in very good condition and in your path, not exceeding 5 km, you will find the monastery of Christ Forest and the majestic, snow-white church of Agios Arsenios, protector of the island.
Following the groomed trails with bows you will wander around in the valley and enjoy the natural beauty. Wild olives, figs, sloes, and dozens of other pear trees have filled by brown butterflies, who are hooked in the trunks, thus giving an another tone with characteristic touches of their wings.
Many of them are getting as swarm around you, probably wanting to numbness out after all this time of immobility. And then you can see a unique spectacle, unfolding in front of you : brown butterflies appear in front of you with all the splendor of crimson shades, that they hid just a little before, in their little folded wings.
Walking to the stone paths, under the sound of running water from the fountains, can hold as much as you want. If you get tired you can relax in the nice cafeteria as much as you need to start your walk from the beginning.
Ancient quarry in Marathi
Another valuable treasure hidden in the bowels of the Aegean island is the Parian marble, that in ancient times was called lignite because of its high transparency but also because of the flashlights that were kept by workers in the process of mining.
To the east of the picturesque village of Marathi and just 5 km northeast of Parikia, are the ancient underground marble quarries of Paros.
Extraction of marble launched from the Cycladic period (3200 BC – 2000 BC). From here, was produced the famous Parian marble, the main source of wealth for Paros in all periods of history, used mainly in architecture and sculpture of the classical period.
The “rogue stone”, as it was known the Parian marble in ancient times, was an important source of growth for the island from the 7th century, when began the its systematic exploration and exploitation.
By this coveted marble of unique quality, white and clean, almost transparent, were created by the greatest sculptors of various eras, some great works of classical ancient times, as the famous Cycladic figurines, Aphrodite of Milos, Hermes of Praxiteles, Nike of Samothrace, Kores of Acropolis, Nike of Delos, Apollo’s temple and treasure of Siphnian in Delphi, temple of Zeus in Olympia, Temple of Apollo in Delos, and many of the exhibits in the archaeological Museum of Paros.
Overall, it is estimated that by Parian marble is made 70% of the sculptures of the Aegean islands. Even the Temple of Solomon was said to have been built by the marble of Paros!
Venetian castle of Naoussa
Venetian Castle of Naoussa in Paros is located in front of the harbor of Naoussa, built on a reef amongst colorful boats, seaside cafes and fish taverns. Venetian castle or Castelli, a former vigilant guardian of the city, stands half sunk in the eastern end of the harbor with its jetty visible under the surface of the sea. A unique Venetian relic of the 15th century, work of the dynasty of Sommaripa that although tempest, remains a unique gem on the island.
Folklore museum in Aluki
This museum, located at the entrance of Aluki, a picturesque fishing village on the southern tip of Paros, hosts works by self-taught folk artist Benetos Skiadas. A virtuoso in construction, Benetos Skiadas has created amazing miniatures, with most important of all, these of ships of all historical periods. The artist had participated in various competitions and won. In the mouseum’s courtyard are exhibited in miniatures, some replicas of the Castle of Parikia, monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa, a Tinian dovecote, Panagia of Tinos and other themes on the Cycladic landscape.