Not quite sure which of the Greek islands of Paros and Naxos to choose for your next holiday? Here’s the definitive guide to choosing between the two – from their towns and beaches to their nightlife and day trip options, and best places to stay, eat and drink – here’s how to choose the right one for your vacation.
Paros and Naxos: things to know before you go
Paros and Naxos are among the top 3 largest greek islands. They’re regional hubs and so have multiple ferry connections daily to neighboring islands, and to Piraeus and Rafina ports in Athens. Make sure to book your ferry tickets in advance for these very popular destinations. You can also fly directly to Naxos or Paros islands from Athens and Thessaloniki.
Paros is just 40 minutes away from Naxos (only 10km). Both are close to Mykonos and Santorini but offer ample authenticity at lower prices. Paros and Naxos have better beaches than Santorini and offer more day-trip options and ferry connections to nearby Greek islands.
Both islands are best explored by rental car. Go for one from the harbor or airport agencies and drive straight off. If it’s summer though, book one well in advance online or you might find you’re catching buses instead!
If traveling without a car, Paros might be better as it has better bus schedules and an easier road network. Paros is easier for novice drivers as the island is spanned by a ring road. Naxos is a mountainous island with winding roads.
I recommend at least a 3-night stay on each of the islands, but a week would be perfect. It takes time to get immersed in the islands’ pace, and visit the must-see sights, beaches, tavernas, and festivals.
Where to Stay in Paros
Paros – Stay in the seaside towns of Parikia and Naoussa for unique Greek island charm. A fishing village of Piso Livadi or Aliki is also a great option. Read about the best options in the towns and fishing and hill villages in Where to Stay in Paros: best areas in Paros Greece
Cosme, a Luxury Collection Resort – this property has only perfect reviews & is 50 meters from the beach. The infinity pool looks over the sea & some rooms and suites have mini-infinity pools in private courtyards.
Cove Resort – This is my favorite place in Paros – there is a wonderful holiday feeling in the landscaped private gardens and infinity pools, the lighting of the property at night, and just spectacular pool and beach areas. The rooms are lovely, but their private outdoor spaces make them extra special.
Mythic Paros – Adults Only – 5 star at Agia Irini, about 3 km from Parikia and above the coast with lovely views. It is a sophisticated, calm, and romantic retreat with good wellness facilities. The suites and rooms have terraces and feature wood, glass, and stone. There is a separate accommodation with a large private pool.
Summer Senses Luxury Resort – a Small Luxury Hotel of the World Property near Marpissa at Logaras on the east coast. There are 3 swimming pools & one of the restaurants has a collaboration with a Michelin-starred restaurant in Athens. Exquisitely furnished rooms with spectacular freeform pools and bar environments.
Where to Stay in Naxos
Naxos – Stay in one of the boutique hotels set in century-old townhouses & village mansions, right next to tavernas, coffee shops, artisan ateliers, & narrow cobblestone streets with white cube houses. Naxos town is the obvious first choice, but also Apiranthos, Halki, & Filoti villages.
Iliada Suites – a travel sustainable property that is my favorite hotel on Naxos Island. The beachside suites are self-catering, loft-style, with incredible sea views, elegantly furnished, and with a stunning pool area overlooking the sea and the Portara. 100m from beaches, bars, restaurants, and a small supermarket.
ELaiolithos Luxury Retreat in Naxos– ‘Farm tIn Halki village, their ‘farm to fork’ meals prepared by the hosts using local bio-organic products ensure you are completely stuffed before you embark on your day.
Paros or Naxos in a nutshell
Both islands are at the core of the Cyclades and are the epitome of the Greek island experience. They both feature white sugar cube architecture, traditional villages, azure waters, sandy beaches, and tons of different things to do and experience.
Paros is more cosmopolitan and fancy, and Naxos feels a bit more rural and authentic. During August Paros tends to be busy as it is one of the favorite islands of the Greek holidaymakers, while on Naxos you will never feel crowded. Both islands are family-friendly, while Paros is a better option for couples.
Paros, as the party island of the two, has more beach clubs, organized beaches, and a lively nightlife scene, while Naxos is sporting empty beaches even in the high season.
The main towns of Paros are its cosmopolitan assets, while the ferry port of Naxos and the former fishing village next to it are giving out the feeling best reserved only for embarking/disembarking.
Naxos reveals its charms away from the main ferry port and main town, where inland villages are, almost walking distance one from another, while Paros’ liveliest towns, activities, and sights are along the coast.
Nightlife options are plenty in Paros and limited on Naxos. Sightseeing is great on both islands, where millennia of culture and passing civilizations mark local landmarks and fill up many of the island’s museums.
Both Naxos and Paros have a fantastic gastronomic scene, although fine dining and international options tend to be on the Paros island side.
However, Naxos is an agricultural island, and fresh produce, meat, and fruits are second to none, best enjoyed in its laid-back tavernas. Naxos potatoes are exported nationally as a product with a protected ‘designation of origin’ label.
Naxos and Paros are two of the most visited islands in the Cyclades archipelago because they have some of Greece’s best beaches for swimming, sun tanning, watersports, snorkeling, and diving.
Paros has a bigger variety of beaches, from long stretches of golden sand to lunar-like rocky beaches, secluded coves, and harbors where you swim off the pier.
Naxos is known for its long uninterrupted golden and white sandy beaches, many of them pristine and natural.
Paros will give you better options for designer goods and fine art shopping, especially Naoussa. Naxos is better for traditional arts and crafts as well as cooking and other courses that bring you closer to the locals’ way of life.
Both islands have inland and seaside picturesque authentic villages with narrow cobblestone alleys, striking bougainvillea violet blossoms, whitewashed houses, and churches on the village square.
However, Naxos’s soul is in its mountainous villages, while Paros’ hillside settlements are always close to the coastline.
Sports, Hiking, Surfing, Sailing, and other activities are available on both islands.
Paros is one of the world’s capitals of kite and windsurfing, and the strait between Paros and Naxos is one of the best spots in Europe for wind-based watersports. Hiking is slightly better on mountainous Naxos.
Culture and Cosmopolitan Buzz
Go to Paros and head to the seaside towns of Parikia (port town) or Naoussa. You will love one of the oldest churches in Greece, the Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Ekatontapyliani, standing here since the 4th century AD, after being erected by Saint Helen on her way to the Holy Lands.
There’s a small archaeological museum, Venetian castle ruins and plenty of ancient ruins to be discovered. Evening strolls and night crowds, sunset drinks, signature cocktails, and local and fine dining around the narrow streets of Naoussa are great if you love busy island nightlife.
Tradition and Sightseeing
Go to Naxos and start exploring even before embarking.
On your left, approaching the island is one of the most spectacular welcoming sights and is a major landmark of Naxos port – the Portara, or giant entrance to a never-finished ancient Temple of Apollo. On Naxos you can also discover:
- the Temple of Demeter,
- statues of Kouros in Melanes and Apollonas villages,
- cliffside chapel of Agios Sozon,
- Hundreds of churches (especially Panagia Drossiani),
- Monasteries of Ipsilotera, Fotodotis, and Kalamitsia, waterfalls,
- Caves of Zas and Rina,
- Towers of Bazeos, Agia and Kokkos, and
- Marble quarries in Kinidaros, all set along many hiking paths along Naxos’ traditional mountain villages.
When it comes to beautiful beaches, it’s a tie! Both islands have crystal-clear beaches, beach resorts, coastal resorts, relaxed beach bars, and plenty of variety to suit your needs and the changing directions of the summer winds.
Paros has a bigger variety in terms of beach type – from Chrisi Akti and Drios area for golden beach dunes, lunar-like rocky Kolymbithres, to secluded coves around Santa Maria area and swimming-off-a-pier villages of Piso Livadi and Aliki, Paros beaches have it all.
Naxos has the longest beaches among Cycladic islands, all with clear blue waters and fine white sand. Plaka beach is the longest, followed by the beach of Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna beach. The town of Naxos boasts Agios Georgios Beach. Naxos seashore and its west coast beaches are very child friendly, while the east coast is less developed.
Activities and adventure
Naxos as well as Paros are one of the best islands in Greece if you want an active holiday. Fantastic spots for wind and kite surfing are Chrisi Akti (Golden beach) and Pounta in Paros and Mikri Vigla, Agios Georgios (Floisvos), and Laguna in Naxos.
However, Naxos offers much more options, from horse-riding, pottery, food and wine workshops, to the unique hiking trails on the Mountain Zas (where in Greek mythology, Zeus lived) and along its forests leading to sandy beaches.
Above all, Naxos and its many mountain villages offer ample opportunities for exploration, food tasting, people watching, and making the best of photographs. Things to do in Naxos should definitely include Naxos archaeological museum.
An authentic Greek island experience
Naxos tends to have a bit more authentic feeling to it due to its many lively mountainous villages, active workshops, agricultural background, and the lack of vibrant nightlife (only a few nightclubs).
Go to Vasilis’ historical café in Kinidaros village, open since 1931, or to the fifth generation of citrus distillers in Distillery Vallindras in Halki for that authentic, yet contemporary Greek island vibe. Naxos town is rather busy, real island lies beyond it.
Paros is attracting a more outgoing vivid crowd that creates a cosmopolitan atmosphere, especially in its towns of Parikia and Naoussa.
Paros vs Naxos: how to choose
Paros and Naxos are favorite islands of both Greeks and international travelers. You will do well by picking either of them.
However, Paros is buzz and vibe, nightlife, a variety of different beaches, and easy drive/access to all of its seaside and hilly villages.
Naxos is bigger, laid-back, with long stretches of sandy beaches, full of wonderful nature and traditional villages to discover by driving and hiking.
What is easier?
The two islands are close to Athens, and you can both Naxos and Paros easily and daily by ferry or airplane. Paros is smaller, easier to navigate, and with better public bus service. The weather in both is the same, with warm cloudless summers and occasional strong winds.
You can find secluded coves and beaches to hide from it during the day and narrow streets in villages during the evening.
Visit Paros off the high season and enjoy relaxed tourist infrastructure and have popular destinations all for yourself. Visit Naxos off the high season for a real experience of the local agricultural lifestyle.
Day trips – which is better?
Island hopping is the heart of the Cycladic island experience and a major reason why so many people visit Greece each year! Paros is just 10 minutes boat ride from Antiparos, laid back-turning-luxurious island with a charm of its own.
In some ways, it doesn’t matter if you base yourself on Naxos or Paros, because they are so close together. Both islands offer full-day boat trips to other Cycladic islands (Iraklia, Schinoussa, Koufonisia, and Donoussa) or an option to visit Delos and Mykonos for a day excursion. There are many Greek islands and lesser-known island options out there to discover!
Which island has better beaches?
Paros has a better variety of different beach scenery – from sandy to rocky and town beaches, all of the best quality. Naxos has long stretches of white and golden sand, so this really just boils down to a personal preference. I do like the variety of beaches on Paros.
Family-friendly – which one is best?
Paros and Naxos are among the most family friendly islands among the Greek islands, and whichever you pick, it will be right. Both are great when traveling with children – Paros is slightly better for teenagers due to its active nightlife and shopping.
They both have sheltered beaches and high-quality resorts, and there’s plenty to do for families of all ages. However, if you have very small children, the warm and shallow waters of beaches like Agia Anna and Plaka make Naxos a good choice.
Will I find exciting nightlife in Paros or Naxos?
Yes. But, if you are looking for cosmopolitan evenings along the waterfront, dressing-up, casual and fine dining, and great cocktails, with the crowds matching your preferences, definitely go for Paros.
Parikia has a casual waterfront promenade lined with bars for sunset drinks and Naoussa has some of the best restaurants on the island. You will love people-watching there too!
Paros vs Naxos: where should foodies go?
Greece offers one of the best food there is; actually, the famous Mediterranean diet is based on traditional Greek nutritious habits. Nowadays, you can have all this fantastic food in its pure form or with a modern twist all around the country and these islands are no exception.
Paros offers both relaxed traditional tavernas and fancy fine cuisine, gourmet options, and annual new restaurant entries, while Naxos offers laid-back tavernas, with enchanting traditional recipes turning local products into culinary fairytales.
Although Paros has a wonderful natural reserve, Paros Park with trails, a monastery, a lighthouse, and picturesque cliffs, Naxos is the place for nature lovers.
The island is big, with many natural wonders besides the white beaches and azure waters. Head to its sea caves and cedar-tree forests (above Alyko or Aliko beach), Mount Kronos, Routsouna’s waterfalls, Tragaea Valley, and boat trips to nearby coves and other islands for a Greek-islands nature experience.
Why visit only Paros or Naxos?
Setting aside a week or full ten days for visiting both Paros and Naxos is ideal.
Start off with a stay in one of Paros’ towns where the majority of the sightseeing and seaside village action is located, to get to know the local heritage and the identity of the Cyclades.
Drink long morning coffees while watching the port of Parikia wake up, browse the delicacies of local bakeries and plan the trip to one of the museums for when it is too hot for the beach. Enjoy your evenings in busy Naoussa, with a table set for you on a village square, where in the morning the fishmongers sell their catch.
Arrive at Chora Naxos (Naxos town) and continue your stay in one or two of Naxos’ mountain villages where you will explore the island from the inside – hiking the trails, doing the workshops, standing in awe in front of marble slabs of local quarries, sampling the gastronomic delicacies.
As a local, you will drive down to the beach in the late afternoon hours for a swim and an ice-cold beer on the beach, before getting back to the cool shade of the village square where tsipouro awaits.
To help you plan a fantastic Naxos itinerary, read Halki Naxos (Chalkio)Self-Guided Day Trip.
Pairing one perfect Greek island with another is the best way to enjoy the Aegean Sea, its people, nature, and culture! Golden star ferries as well as Blue Star will bring you to both in style. Check out all ferry routes, itineraries, and schedules on ferryhopper.
Island hopping is one of the most fun things to do in Greece, and either island can be visited on a day trip from the other and from other Cycladic islands, meaning that unless your time is very short, you probably don’t need to choose between Paros or Naxos!