“A glass of red for you, lady. From the musician over there.” Greek hospitality at its best. And worst, when you are on your own on a single table just next to the stage…
The beauty of the town itself, possibilities for hiking in the area and numerous opportunities for excursions where all among the reasons to which I chose Parga for my second visit to Greece. Here is to a week of experiences and relaxation in Parga:
GET LOST IN CHARMING STREETS AND ALLEYWAYS
This small city on the mainland, not far from the Albanian boarder, does not have the white and blue houses often associated with Greece. Instead it abounds with colours, and is not the least bit less charming than any other picturesque Greek town. As I usually do when travelling, I got up early the first morning and set out for the alleyways winding their way up the hillsides. Some of them are squatted with small shops selling leatherware and the normal souvenirs, others are quiet living areas. Ready for a coffee? Not to worry, you will walk into plenty of small coffeshops.
PISO KRIONERI – A LITTLE PIECE OF HEAVEN
The main town beach in Parga is called Krioneri, and not to be confused with its little sister Piso Krioneri. Krioneri is larger, next to the main street, sandy and crowded. Piso Krioneri, on the other hand, is a small cove a few hundred meters east of town. Here you got plenty of space, whether you choose to rent sun loungers or just find a spot for your towel. The pebbels make sure you do not get sand everywhere (!) and make the sea oh so tempting with its clear, turquoise colour. There are two restaurants for lunch, a supermarket next to the entry and several bakeries and restaurants close by. Come here for the relaxing atmosphere and the local feel. This is where the Pargan grandmothers come with their grandchildren!
PEOPLE WATCHING ALONG THE BEACH PROMENADE
Parga’s beach promenade is made for people watching! A pedestrian street lined with cozy bars, cafès and restaurant on one side and the sea on the other, stretching approx 500 metres from Krioneri beach. The perfect evening includes a refreshing drink in one of the bars, before heading over to one of the restaurants for dinner – and believe me, you need several weeks here to try all of the charming places.
MORNING WALK IN THE OLIVE GROVES
Even in September when I visited, the temperatures were high. Hence, hiking had to be done in the morning. One of my first days there I headed out for the olive groves east of town. The path starts just next to the entrance to Piso Krioneri and easy to find. You do not have to walk far before getting a great view of Parga. Continuing uphill you first come to a small chapel along the path, but I recommend to walk further until you get to the Holy Church of Agia Eleni. Not just is the small church itself pretty, but views are something else!
If you continue even further, you will eventually end up on Lichnos beach. I had planned to do this one of the following days, but after hearing a rattling sound next to the path that first morning, I got scared to walk the whole route on my own… As long as you are two, it should not be a problem.
TAKE A DAY TRIP TO CORFU TOWN
There are plenty of opportunities for excursions and daytrips from Parga. Both a trip to Albania and to the monasteries of Meteora seemed interesting to me, but having only one week there I did not want to spend too much time on a bus. I therefor chose a day trip by boat to Corfu town instead. And I could not be happier about my choice – Corfu town is such a charming city! Beautiful architecture, fortesses, interesting history, lots of narrow streets and welcoming people. The boat to Corfu leaves Parga at 08:00 every Thursday throughout the summer season, and returns around 18:30. The boat trip takes approx 2,5 hours, leaving you with just enough time to get a good sense of the city. Corfu is on my list of places I wish to return to.
SWIM ACROSS TO CHURCH OF PANAGIA
The only reason I would recommend to spend time on the packed Krioneri Beach is for the view of the small islet of Panagia with the church of Virgin Mary. As long as you can swim fairly well I also recommend to head over and walk around the small island. I do not swim a lot, but had no trouble getting over and back. Just remember a dry bag for your essentials.
THE VENETIAN CASTLE BY NIGHT
The Venetian Castle of Parga is hovering over the town on the hill between Parga and Valtos Beach. The first fortress was built in the 11th century by the Pargans to protect the town from pirates and turks. The Venetians rebuilt the partly destroyed fortress in the 15th century, and from then it was occupied by the Venetians and the Turks back and forth for centuries. Today the castle is a must visit when in Parga, both for the great example of Venetian architecture and for the fantastic views. Head up after nightfall for a even more spectacular view! When I visited there was also an art exhibition inside.
DINE AT W&F by SUGAR
I have to admit, even though it is beautiful and people are kind, Parga will not go on my top 10 solo travel destinations. Package tourists are their main market, and even in September it was crowded and the restaurants fill up without any trouble. One night I actually struggled to get a table, because they were all reserved for couples and more. The feeling when you are about to give up and rather get a take away gyros for dinner, but instead get welcomed by a big smile at the last place you bother to try is fantastic! And so was the food. And the service. Greek food with a modern twist and great wine (you can see the wine cellar through the glass floor inside). I came here twice and was more than happy both times.
VISIT ANTHOUSSA CASTLE
With all that greek food and wine, some exercise is needed. Instead of jumping on the typical red sightseeing train, I recommend to tie your hiking shoes and walk up to the ruins of Anthoussa Castle. The castle is located on top of a hill behind Parga, and is the longest walk I did during my week there. The castle itself is not that old, it was built by Ali Pasha in 1814.
Walk out of Parga on the main street towards Anthoussa, it is only 5.5 km but uphill – so start early. Going back, take the road towards Valtos Beach and walk past old watermills, a waterfall and the Monastery of Panagia Vlacherna. Spend the rest of your day on Valtos Beach and walk back via the Venetian castle of Parga.
SPEND A DAY EACH AT KRIONERI AND VALTOS BEACHES
If you have read this far, you have understood that my beach favourite number one in Parga is Piso Krioneri and that I am not a huge fan of its big sister Krioner. That said, it is still worth spending some time there. First and foremost to swim over to Pagania, but also for morning and evening sun. If you prefer sandy beaches, this is also the one for you.
Valtos Beach is the largest beach in the area, and located on the opposite side of the Venetian Castle. It is partly sandy, partly pebble, and is the place to go for background music and water activities.
There are taxi boats from Parga to the Valtos, Lichnos and Sarakiniko beaches.
EXPERIENCE LIVE GREEK MUSIC AT GOLFO BEACH
And last, but not least, head over to Piso Krioneri again at night and dine at Golfo Beach. They offer live music several days a week, the waiters even put up a dance show in the middle of the meal – everything without being too touristy. Travelling alone? Make sure to find a table at the back or in the middle – if you do not want a free glass of red and an elderly guy with a mandoline playing just for you. If you do want this, you know what to do 😉