Insider’s Guide to Parga, the Little Slice of Greek Paradise
Parga is a jewel of Epirus, located in the northwest area of Preveza, it is built amphitheatrically and overlooks the Ionian islands of Paxos and Antipaxos.
Steeped in the architectural style of the Venetians (low, colorful mansions with ceramic tiled roofs that overlook the sea, a castle and cobbled streets) that once occupied the area, but with lush vegetation mainly composed of pines, olive trees and of fruit trees and turquoise-emerald waters reminiscent of an exotic land, Parga attracts discerning visitors, mainly in summer, who appreciate aesthetic beauty from all over the world.
Elinda Labropoulou, owner of boutique hotel Villa Rossa, gives us an insider’s guide to making the most of a visit here.
Be a water baby
Although part of the mainland, Parga has a dreamy island feel. The large, organized sandy beach of Kryoneri is the most popular place for swimming, although there are many bays and coves to enjoy along the coastline of Pargas. You will find Piso Kryoneri at one end and the coast of Valtos at the other, from where you can enjoy views of the castle behind and the historic Vlaherna Monastery.
Ai Yiannaki and Lichno on the south side are also great places to swim. Climbing along the path to Syvota, stop for swimming at Sarakiniko, Karavostasi and Arilla.
From Kryoneri, rent a pedal boat or swim to Panagia (Virgin Mary) islet from where you can visit the church of the same name with its high white bell tower. Bring your mask and snorkel to explore the rocks around the islet.
“The list of beautiful beaches and secluded coves near Parga is endless and includes the nearby Valtos and Lychnos,” says Labropoulou. “They are both within walking distance and there are plenty of boats leaving from the main pier to take sun worshipers to these and other swimming spots. It’s a spectacular coastline so make sure you see as much as you can!”
Right in front of Parga, almost at arm’s length, are the Paxous Islands, known for their crystal clear waters and elegant ambience. Lambropoulou suggests taking a boat to visit, at least one for a few hours. “Paxos is a beautiful and peaceful island to explore, with stunning views, especially on the boat approach to its main town, Gaios, a natural fjord.”
According to Greek mythology, Poseidon created the island by beating Corfu with his trident, so he and his wife Amphitrite could have some peace. Most day trips also stop at the small island of Antipaxos, which has very fine sandy beaches. The boat trips also include a trip to the charming Blue Caves with their diaphanous waters,” she says.
The best things to see and do
The Venetian Castle
Parga’s most visited site – and with good reason, as in addition to its impressive beauty it offers breathtaking views of the Ionian Sea and Valtos beach on the south side – has been used for centuries to protect the inhabitants from the invaders.
The first settlement on the high rock dates back to at least the 13th century. It was destroyed twice by the Ottomans and once by pirates, before being rebuilt a third time by the Venetians in 1572. It offers panoramic views of Parga and its surroundings. Hikers can enjoy a walk (ideally early in the morning or at sunset) to the castle, which gives the opportunity to see local life – shops, houses with lovingly tended gardens and wild nature.
Stroll along the seafront promenade
A walk along the sea to the giant anchor (a classic local meeting place) is particularly idyllic after sunset. Stop for an ozonic air infused ouzo at one of the small restaurants along the way.
Head to the picturesque villages of Pargas to learn about local life, history, landscapes and culture. In Margariti visit the folk museum, in Anthoussa head to the waterfalls and in Aghia see the only remaining windmill in the area, one of 10 that existed in the 1960s.
Visit the beautifully preserved castle of Ali Pasha that stands between Anthoussa and Aghia, from where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Ionian Islands, or hop on the tourist train that offers a tour of the region.
A trip to hell
According to mythology, the famous river Styx of antiquity, the Nekromanteion, is where the dead began their descent into hell with the help of a blind ferryman. Located on the banks of Acheron, it is also where people in ancient times went to talk to their loved ones after their death. Award-winning crime writer Anna Zouroudi describes her story as follows:
“The researchers (… going to the Nekromandeion) arrived at the oracle from all over Greece and underwent preparatory rituals over a period of several days, in a program of sensory deprivation. Kept in near-silence, they were fed funeral meals of pork, beans and rye bread, and lupine seeds to induce mild cyanosis – a deadly blue tint to the lips and fingertips…
“When the priests deemed them ready, the researchers were given a dose of hallucinogens and a blood sacrifice was made. They were then slowly led through the twists and turns of a maze of stone tunnels, stopping in path with three iron gates – the gates of Hades.The Oracle itself is an ingeniously constructed subterranean chamber.
“With walls over 3m thick, its arches radiate sound waves, so that the chamber itself is eerie and oppressively silent. Guided in the darkness, the researchers would have expected the ghosts of Hades to rise through cracks in the ground, but their anticipation of encountering the spirits they sought was likely met by mechanical means – the Archaeologists have found the remains of chains and pulleys that were likely used to propel “demonstrations” around the chamber. »
Reaching the Nekromandeion is an easy drive and many travel agencies in Parga organize excursions.
“The sources of the Acheron River are definitely worth a visit,” says Labropoulou, “as it is an area of outstanding natural beauty near the villages of Kanalaki and Glyki. Apart from the natural beauty, the springs of Acheron are known worldwide for their mythological content as in ancient Greek mythology, Acheron was one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld.
On the eve of August 14, a Panigiri (festival) takes place on the Panagia islet. The next day, Parga celebrates the Varkarola, which commemorates the return of the people of Parga who were forced to leave when Parga was sold by the English to Ali Pasha of Ioannina.
*Many thanks to Elinda Labropoulou for her insider tips on Parga, where she runs Hotel Villa Rossa.