So you have decided to spend your summer vacation in Greece and visit the relatively lesser-known islands of Paros and Naxos.
And here comes the happy dilemma: which one do you choose for your vacations? Paros or Naxos?
They are both at the heart of the Cyclades, relatively similar in size and tourist attraction levels, and they are just as easy to get to. How do you make your choice?
Ideally, you shouldn’t have to! Go to both!
Sometimes, however, that simply can’t be done, and you will have to choose one of the two as the best vacation location for you. And with this guide giving you a rough comparison of the islands and what you can find in each one, you will be able to.
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- Paros or Naxos? Which one to choose?
- Paros Overview
- Naxos Overview
- Naxos vs. Paros: Which one is easier to get to?
- Naxos vs. Paros: Which has the best beaches?
- Naxos vs. Paros: Which is the most family-friendly?
- Naxos or Paros: Which has the best nightlife?
- Naxos or Paros: Which has the better sights and cultural attractions?
- Naxos vs. Paros: Which has the better nature?
- Naxos vs. Paros: Which is the best for water sports?
- Naxos vs. Paros: All in all which is the best?
Paros or Naxos? Which one to choose?
Right at the heart of the Cyclades, you will find Paros, one of the cluster’s biggest islands.
Paros is quite versatile in combining the traditional with the cosmopolitan, relaxing mornings with high octane nightlife, history with modernity, and adventure with luxury.
Known to the locals and many Orthodox Christians as a place of pilgrimage thanks to one of the most remarkable church complexes in Greece, the church of Panayia Ekatontapyliani (i.e. Virgin Mary of A Hundred Gates), Paros is great for anyone seeking to immerse themselves in folklore and heritage.
Paros is also well known for its several gorgeous sandy beaches that go on forever, with crystal clear waters and a lot of amenities available at most. At several of those beaches, you will be able to do a range of water sports, especially windsurfing and kite surfing.
Finally, Paros boasts some of the most picturesque and traditional villages you can find in the iconic style of the Cyclades, coupled with amazing histories and sites.
You might want to check out: The best things to do in Paros.
Also at the heart of the Cyclades, you will find Naxos, the cluster’s biggest and most verdant island.
Naxos combines the iconic beauty of the Cycladic architecture against the backdrop of the deep blue waters of the Aegean with the beauty of lush vegetation and the much-needed shade from the relentless sun of the Greek summer.
Naxos is extremely versatile in the vacations it can offer. It can range from traditional and picturesque to adventurous and sporty to pampered and relaxed.
Naxos’ beaches are breathtakingly beautiful, with white sand and great expanses. You can find organized and unorganized beaches to suit your taste. There are also smaller beaches to find after some exploration that gives the feeling of being virgin and free from human interventions.
Finally, Naxos boasts the tallest mountain peak of the Cyclades and has some excellent hiking trails. Its villages are picturesque and full of history from all eras. You can explore the Byzantine castle or one of its many temples. You can discover the giant abandoned statues from the archaic period, or visit some of Naxos’ many important churches and monasteries.
Naxos is bigger than Paros which means it needs more time to be fully explored and experienced compared to Paros.
Check out: The best things to do in Naxos.
Naxos vs. Paros: Which one is easier to get to?
Both Naxos and Paros have airports with flights from Athens or Thessaloniki so they are both equally easy to get to by plane. Neither Naxos nor Paros has any direct flights from abroad, so you need to get to Athens or Thessaloniki first. Alternatively, you can fly to Mykonos, or Santorini that have international airports, and take the ferry from there.
Both islands also have good ferry connections with Athens as well as several of the other Cycladic islands and Crete.
Therefore, access to Naxos and Paros is exactly the same in terms of ease and comfort!
Click below to check the ferry timetable and book your tickets.
Naxos vs. Paros: Which has the best beaches?
Objectively both islands have gorgeous beaches. To give you an idea of how compatible both islands are in this, Paros is famous for its beaches as a whole, while Naxos is known for having some of the most beautiful beaches of the Aegean. So it is really a matter of personal taste to prefer one island’s beaches over the other’s.
Being slightly smaller, Paros’ beaches tend to be a bit more manageable in terms of accessibility. You can reach most of them by car. Several of them are huge, but there are also a lot of smaller ones, tucked away in coves that give them a sense of purity and privacy thanks to the island’s jaggy coastline.
If you are a fan of organized beaches with many amenities you are likely to like Paros’ beaches a little more than Naxos’. Paros boasts a lot of very organized beaches where you can learn or enjoy water sports and get all the services you want, such as Golden Beach or Parasporos beach.
Naxos’ beaches are also extremely beautiful, with some combining the sandy white and sapphire or turquoise blue with the rolling green from its many hills. You are more likely to find a range of semi-organized or unorganized beaches in Naxos compared to Paros. You also can get to explore more to discover them so perhaps you will need to have more vacation time to fully enjoy them compared to Paros.
Naxos is also known for its warm shallow waters which are perfect for families in beaches such as Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, and Plaka. Those are also well-organized so there will be amenities to enjoy.
Naxos vs. Paros: Which is the most family-friendly?
Naxos is very versatile when it comes to things to see when you have children. There is a Byzantine castle to explore, abandoned statues to find, trails to walk in, and the stunning “Portara” the renowned “Naxos Window” to explore. Children of various ages will be entertained with all of these experiences.
As far as beaches go, Naxos has the warm shallow ones that go on forever, with a lot of amenities that will make going to the beach with a family enjoyable and safe. When it comes to food, nearly every restaurant in Naxos has a kid’s menu and several options to satisfy particular tastes or wants.
Paros on the other hand also has several things to see, but the beaches may need a bit more caution. Still, there are family-friendly, organized beaches to enjoy in Parikia and Naoussa villages. In Paros, your kids can also enjoy the Venetian Castle and the unique Valley of the Butterflies.
Paros also has a loud and vibrant nightlife which may make it slightly less family-friendly than Naxos.
Score: Naxos is slightly more family-friendly
Naxos or Paros: Which has the best nightlife?
Naxos has a decent nightlife. Being the biggest island of the Cyclades, it is fairly popular and features quite a few cocktail bars and pubs along its various promenades.
However, the island that by far has the best nightlife and the most partying occasions is by far Paros.
Though smaller, Paros has a lot more nightlife hubs to choose from. Locals go to Naoussa, tourists enjoy Parikia, and everywhere in between, you will find chic bars, cocktail, and all-day bars, all-day cafés, beach bars, and more. Live music, loud music, and traditional lively tavernas are Paros’ specialty.
Score: Paros has the best nightlife
You might like: The best Greek islands for nightlife.
Naxos or Paros: Which has the better sights and cultural attractions?
Both islands are very similar in the wealth of cultural sites and heritage you can immerse yourself in. They were both known since antiquity for their marble (Naxian and Parian marbles were thought to be top quality) and the ancient quarries are still there to see.
However, Naxos tends to have a bit more versatility and variety in the things to see: there is the Byzantine castle, several temples from antiquity, huge statues laying about to be discovered, several villages that seem to be preserved in time, amazing churches and of course, the great Window of Naxos (Portara). There are also monasteries to see and the 17th century school of Ursulines, towers, and even an ancient aqueduct.
Paros, too, has a lot to show in terms of culture and heritage: it too has a castle from the Venetian times, the Panayia Ekantotapyliani church and monastery complex, gorgeous villages, and interesting museums with remarkable collections.
The truth is that you will have your fill of culture and heritage no matter which island you choose. It’s just that by comparison, Naxos has more to see.
Score: Naxos has the better sights
Naxos vs. Paros: Which has the better nature?
Naxos is the most verdant of the Cycladic islands, and Paros, too, is high up there. That means that if you are a nature-lover neither island will disappoint.
Upon comparison, however, Naxos is the one who has the bigger versatility in habitats and natural sights to see. With stunning waterfalls, sea caves, and lush vegetation, it is already a gorgeous island to be in. But there is also an ancient cedar forest, the tallest mountain of the Cyclades with great trekking trails, a sand dune landscape, and a beautiful spring.
If you love to explore nature, Naxos is definitely where you need to be.
Paros gives good competition with its unique Valley of the Butterflies and Paros Park where you can do bicycling and horseback riding. There are also great seaside spots to enjoy as well as the gorgeous island of Antiparos where many of the rich and famous have chosen to have their summer homes. However, it doesn’t have Naxos’ great variety.
Score: Naxos has the better nature
Naxos vs. Paros: Which is the best for water sports?
The Cyclades as a whole are known for their fierce winds! It is that very wind that will offer you some cool as you are exploring the islands under the scorching summer sun (though no protection, so sunscreen is a must!). That same wind makes the Cyclades perfect for water sports, especially windsurfing and kitesurfing. Paros and Naxos are no exceptions.
Water sports are extremely popular so both islands feature the entire range of water sports, from the family-friendly banana rides or canoeing or parasailing to the more precarious and extreme ones like kitesurfing.
On several of Paros and Naxos’ amazing beaches, there will be equipment and teachers for you to enjoy these sea sports and sea games. For the more advanced, there are even competitions and other sporting events.
The varied coastline with the many coves also makes for great snorkeling and diving experiences in both islands.
Naxos vs. Paros: All in all which is the best?
Having seen the various qualitative and quantitative differences between the two islands, the tough moment has come to pick which island is the best for vacationing.
The answer is …both.
Both are going to give you wonderful experiences. It is really up to you and what type of vacations you are going for that will determine which island is the better fit. If you are looking for nightlife, then Paros will be best. If you are looking for naturalist experiences, then Naxos is ideal. But that doesn’t mean that if you pick the other island you will find it lacking in these experiences. It’s really a competition between the best, so there is no negative, just slight differences!
And if you feel the dilemma is too hard to answer but you still can’t do both, don’t worry! A day trip from Naxos to Paros or from Paros to Naxos is always available so you can get a taste of the island you don’t pick for the bulk of your vacations.
In fact, that could be the beginning of a wonderful island-hopping trip at the nearby gorgeous little islands of Antiparos, Donoussa, Irakleia, Schinoussa, and Keros!