Greece is on the top of a lot of people’s travel bucket lists. However, It’s a common misconception that you need to leave the mainland and either fly out or take a ferry to the islands to experience some of Greece’s best beaches. Not only are the more popular destinations like Mykonos and Santorini expensive, but they’ve become extremely overcrowded and commercialized. Parga is a picturesque little tourist town that you’ve probably never heard of, but think of it as a hidden gem on the Ionian coast. While the candy colored houses and scenic mountain landscape may remind you of the Amalfi Coast, you’ll be able to skip out on the crowds.
What to Do:
Ali Pasha’s Castle
For a few euros, you can take a trolley ride up to Ali Pasha’s Castle. The trip lasts for about two hours, giving you more than enough time to explore the ruins and take in the breathtaking views overlooking Parga. On the ride up, the tour guide talks about the castle’s history, so you won’t be completely clueless when you arrive.
There are so many little shops and boutiques all over Parga’s winding roads. I loved window shopping and exploring all the jewelry, leather, and other specialty stores after dinner or a day on the beach.
Adjacent to Parga’s harbor and Krioneri, Parga’s main beach within walking distance from the city center, is a tiny island that you can quickly swim to. No one lives on the island, but there’s a chapel that you can go in if it’s unlocked! If you’re not a great swimmer like me, don’t be afraid to grab a floatie from a nearby souvenir shop and float over to Panagia for breathtaking views.
If you’re looking to spend a peaceful day relaxing on a quiet beach with crystal clear water, definitely head to Sarakiniko. It doesn’t get too crowded, and there are a couple of restaurants on the beach that will also bring food and drinks out to you while you’re lounging on a beach chair.
Porto Katsiki Beach, Lefkada
Although Lefkada is a two hour drive away, it's well worth the trip. With its milky turquoise water and insane views, Porto Katsiki is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to. Definitely remember to bring swim shoes; I forgot to and trying to get out of the water onto the rocky shore was way more painful than you’d expect. Keep in consideration that Porto Katsiki isn’t very accessible since you have to hike down a long winding staircase to get to the beach, trust me though, you'll be glad you did.
Corfu has something for everyone, whether it’s nightlife, exploring the lush mountain scenery, ancient churches, rich military history or gorgeous beaches, you’ll definitely wish you stayed longer. The Old Town is even an UNESCO World Heritage site! There’s multiple travel agencies in Parga that can help you book a ferry to Corfu, or any of the other Greek islands close by.
According to Greek mythology, Acheron is one of the five rivers that flows to the underworld. The springs fill the river with crystal clear water that's refreshingly cold on hot summer days. You can go horseback riding, rafting, kayaking, hiking, and more. It’s only about a 40 minute drive away, so you can take a bus, taxi, or rent a car and drive since there’s free parking!
Where to Eat:
If you love seafood like me, you’ll love Parga. Feel free to indulge in Greece’s amazing cuisine guilt-free, all the restaurants using organic, fresh and local ingredients. I recommend doing “family style” and ordering an array of different plates with whoever you’re with, so everyone can help themselves and try new foods.
This tavern is right on the water, so while it might be a little more expensive, you’re paying for the gorgeous views, especially if you go at sunset. It’s been in business since 1965, so it’s safe to say they’re the local seafood experts.
Castello has a wide range of cuisines and will have something satisfying no matter what you’re craving. You can even see their impressive wine cellar underneath the glass floor! Despite being on a quiet side road, definitely make a reservation, because they book up fast.
This family run business has incredible gyros (but if we’re being honest, where are gyros not incredible in Greece?). The staff are friendly and it’s not overpriced like some other tourist traps in the area. George's is perfect if you're looking to grab something on the go opposed to having a sit down meal.
Where to Stay
I personally love staying in Airbnbs when I travel due to being able to have my own private space. That being said, the accommodations in Parga are extremely affordable, most of them are under $50 a night! When I visited, we barely spent any time in the room unless we were sleeping or showering, so all that really mattered for us was that it was clean and located close by to the city''s main attractions.
This hotel is steps away from Krioneri beach, making this the most convenient place to stay in on your visit to Parga. Also, they offer free private parking, a restaurant with free breakfast, an outdoor pool, a bar, along with an amazing location. When it comes to hotels, this place checks all the boxes.
Things to Know
Best time to visit
The high season is June through September, but some tourist businesses start opening as early as March.
Most people, no matter how young or old, get around with mopeds, so definitely consider renting one for a day! Although the city centre itself is walkable, if you want to explore some beautiful beaches nearby, I recommend renting a car for at least a day.
Euros (1 euro = about $1.10)
Get an up-to-date conversion here.
Although the main language spoke is Greek, you’ll definitely be able to get by only speaking English, due to this being a tourist town.
Wherever you choose to go in Greece, you won’t be disappointed by the amazing food, rich history, and stunning beach. Leave your Parga recommendations in the comments below!
Blog written by our Featured Wrighter: Patris Joanidhi