Paros vs Naxos – Which Island is Right for You?

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When whittling down your perfect Greek island hopping itinerary, you are likely to be faced with a choice between several similar islands.

A common dilemma for visitors planning a trip to the Cyclades is whether to visit Naxos or Paros?

Naxos vs Paros?

These two islands have a lot in common. Both have domestic airports, fantastic sandy beaches, whitewashed villages, and great ferry connections.

They are located close together in the heart of the Cyclades with good access to surrounding islands and are easily combined with Greece’s two most popular islands – Mykonos and Santorini.

Rustic beach on Naxos.

Naxos is the larger of the two islands. The terrain is hillier – it has the highest peak in the Cyclades – and is also slightly greener. Apart from tourism, its main industry is agriculture.

The population on Naxos is concentration in the area around its main town and ferry port, known as Naxos Chora. The most popular beach areas are just south of town. It’s ideal for those who don’t want to rent a car as you can stroll off the ferry and walk right to the beach or your accommodation.

The rest of the island is mountainous, quiet and unspoiled. It’s greener than Paros and has a more rustic feel. Its inland villages are beautiful and traditional, and have a more remote location up the mountains which give them a different feel to other Cycladic villages. The food is generally fantastic and on the cheaper side. 

If you want to discover the traditional side of an island but not give up tourist comforts or sandy beaches then Naxos is ideal. The atmosphere is low-key and very relaxing but with lots to explore, including lots of small historic sites.

Old streets in Naoussa.

Paros has flatter towns, rolling hills and a drier landscape. Apart from tourism, its main industry has been marble mining (this exists on Naxos too but not to the same degree) and fishing.

There are two main settlements on Paris – its capital and main port Parikia, and the attractive harbour town Naoussa. Popular coastal spots are spread out around the island and it’s easy to drive or take the bus between many of them.

You can drive a circular route around the coast on Paros, whereas it’s not really possible on Naxos due to the geography.

Both islands have a large year-round population (relative to most Cycladic islands) and are good to visit in the shoulder season although the beach season on Naxos seems to last a week or two longer than on Paros.

Paros has more expats, and is particularly popular with artists. The Aegean Center for Fine Arts (an American art school) is based here. If you like to eat international cuisine you’re marginally better off on Paros. There are several yoga studios, retreats, and a nascent eco scene.

Where to stay – Naxos Chora vs Parikia vs Naoussa

Naxos Chora is a small atmospheric port town with a lovely old town with a hilltop castle. It has a unique blend of of Venetian architecture as well as the traditional cubic Cycladic buildings and a pleasant waterfront area. The narrow old town streets wind their way up the hill to the Kastro.

It’s a 5 minute walk to the wonderful sandy beach of Agios Georgios beach which is lined with beach bars and has a gentle buzz. It’s a popular area to stay and perfect people-watching territory. If you want a one-stop-shop with a bit of everything within a short distance then Naxos Chora is one of the best places in Greece to stay.

Parikia is a the capital of Paros and its main ferry port. This is where most of the local Parian population live and it’s a lively working town with a tangle of narrow whitewashed streets at its centre. It has plenty of shops and bars aimed at tourists but also has a more Greek feel than Naoussa and a wider range of eateries. There are beaches on either side of town. It has similarities with Naxos Chora but looks very different – it’s flatter and more typically Cycladic, but perhaps not as immediately appealing as Naxos Chora or Naoussa. But there’s lots to discover and is a good choice out of season.

Naoussa (pictured above) is the most famous and photogenic town on Paros. It’s a former fishing village with a beautiful harbour which has recently become known for its nightlife (like a smaller and low-key Mykonos Chora). It attracts a mix of tourists but increasingly a young and cosmopolitan crowd. The small dense old town is packed with designer shopping, modern cuisine, and cocktail bars. 

There are several small beaches but the best ones are a drive or boat trip away. It’s 15-minute drive from from Parikia and connected by regular buses.

If you’re used to getting off the beaten track in Greece then you may find Naoussa feels a bit commercial. It’s more seasonal than Naxos Chora or Parikia.

Church in Naxos Chora.

Naxos vs Paros: Best Hotels

Both islands have a wide variety of accommodation and have seen an explosion of great places to stay over the last decade.

Paros has the edge when it comes to high-end hotels, suites and villas. There’s a growing cluster of high-end accommodation at Livadi, a short drive from Naoussa, including 5-stars hotel Parilio and Astir, although you’ll need wheels to reach the beach.

There are plenty of sleek boutique options in Naoussa itself including the chic Mr and Mrs White. Over near Piso Livadi there’s Summer Senses Luxury Resort and towards Pounta there’s eco-haven SeeSoo.

But Naxos wins when it comes to beachfront accommodation. A highlight is Naxian On The Beach on Plaka beaches but in all the main resorts you’ll find plenty of upmarket suites, mid-range beach hotels and even budget studios right by the sands.

Naxos vs Paros: Nightlife

It’s worth noting that nightlife in the island is very seasonal, with the evenings coming alive in July and August when Greeks take their summer holidays. Outside these months you may find nightlife options are more limited.

Paros definitely has a livelier nightlife. It’s still low-key compared to Mykonos and Ios – you won’t find wild beach parties here – but there are many beach clubs and bars in open throughout the night. Most are rocking the cocktail bar-and-deep-house vibe loved by younger Greeks. Internationals tend to head to Naoussa whereas Greeks party in Parikia too.

On Naxos the nightlife is focused in Naxos Chora, although in high summer some of the beach bars in the resorts may stay open longer. There are numerous good-quality cocktail and wine bars in town but it’s not really a clubbing kind of place, with just one or two small clubs catering mainly to locals.

Naxos vs Paros: Getting Around

Bus stop on Paros.

Both islands have good public transport systems, especially in high season when extra buses are put on between the main towns and beach resorts. 

Getting Around Naxos

Buses leave from the port in Naxos Chora and run out villages along the coast or up in the mountains – see schedules.

Routes and schedules are geared to local use rather than tourist exploration making it difficult to see several places in a day. It’s possible to visit most places on Naxos by bus but you’ll need patience and time.

Handily, there’s also a bus tour company which offers two routes around the island:

At the harbour in Naxos Chora you’ll also find several boats offering excursions around the coast to Rina Caves and the Little Cyclades. These are usually small motor boats, yachts, or catamarans.

There are lots of rental agencies around Naxos Chora and the main resorts if you want to rent wheels. The roads between Naxos Chora and the beaches to its south are ok for scooters and ATVs (if you’re an experienced rider) but if you want to visit the other side of the island it’s better to rent a car for the winding mountain roads.

Getting Around Paros

Paros is easy to explore by bus – see schedules. There are frequent buses between Parikia, Naoussa, and Pounta which is the main point for taking the ferry across to Antiparos. Bus routes cut through the island stopping at villages along the way. As the population on Paros is more spread out, the buses are also more frequent.

There is a bus tour which runs from Parikia several times a week and visits Antiparos, Aliki, Piso Livadi, Lefkes, and Naoussa – see

Overall, Paros has the better bus system however you’re also more likely to use it – it’s possible to stay on Naxos and not need to catch a bus.

Naxos vs Paros: Things to Do

Water taxi information board in Naoussa.

Main things to do on Paros:

  • Explore the main towns Parikia and Naoussa
  • Water taxis to beaches around the coast
  • Island bus tour
  • Paros Park nature reserve
  • Visit neighbouring satellite island Antiparos
  • Cine Rex open air cinema in Parikia
  • Whitewashed interior villages of Lefkes, Marpissa, Drios, and Prodromo
  • Walking trails between villages
  • Archaeology Museum
  • Moraitis Winery
  • Churches and monasteries
  • Sailing trip to the Little Cyclades
  • Boat trip to Milos
  • Windsurfing

Kato Koufonisi from a boat.

Main things to do on Naxos:

Overall, Naxos has a wider variety of things to do.

Naxos vs Paros: Beaches

Pyrgaki beach on Naxos.

Both islands are blessed with an abundance of wonderful sandy beaches. Personally, I slightly prefer Naxos for beaches but I doubt you’ll be disappointed in either.

The main beach resorts on Naxos are Agios Georgios (the town beach), Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, and Plaka. They lie in a string southwards along the coast from Naxos Chora and all have soft fine sand and ridiculously turquoise waters. They are usually sheltered from the strongest winds and also easily accessible from the airport and port and therefore unsurprisingly quite commercial feeling.

But there’s not much to Agios Prokopios or Agia Anna except sand, beach bars, a few tavernas, and a block or two of hotels and guesthouses. It’s a short bus ride into town from these resorts. Tourism on Naxos is really focused on this small area, the rest of the island is very quiet and traditional. There are a few fishing villages with beaches such as Moutsouna and Apollonas but they feel very remote from the main part of the island. If you rent a car you can find plenty of empty beaches especially on the east coast. 

If you love sandy beaches it’s worth visiting the nearby island of Koufonisia if you can – it’s home to some the most beautiful sandy beaches in Greece.

Kolymbithres beach.

Beach tourism on Paros is more equally spread out around the island and its coastal resorts have more of a village feel to them. Naoussa and Parikia both have a handful of small beaches within walking distance as well as water taxis to tucked-away coves. The best long sand beaches are on the east coast.

Paros probably has a wider variety of beaches than Naxos. A highlight is Kolymbithres with its giant boulders – visit by bus or water taxi from Naoussa. It’s also easier to visit the other side of the island when either in search-of or hiding-from strong winds.

If you prefer to stay in smaller coastal villages check out Piso Livadi, Ambelas, and Aliki.

Both islands are popular destinations for windsurfers. The best beaches for windsurfing on Naxos are Agios Georgios, Mikri Vigla and Plaka, and on Paros are Golden Beach and Santa Maria.

Ferry Connections

Ferries Between Naxos and Paros

Naxos and Paros are connected by frequent ferries as they lie on the same main routes. If taking the ferry from Athens, Paros is usually the stop before Naxos and so slightly closer.

It’s easy to take a boat trip from Naxos to Paros or vice versa, although the ferries might not be as frequent as you expect given how close they look on a map – it’s not exactly a short hop on a water taxi. The main connection is the large car ferries like Blue Star which take 45 minutes. These big ferries tend to run through the islands in the morning and then at night, so you might find you’re limited to a long day which isn’t ideal for everyone. There are extra ferries in high season which give you more choice. 

Visiting Other Islands

Both are well connected to Syros and Mykonos to their north, and Ios and Santorini to their south.

However Paros is better connected to the western Cyclades (Sifnos, Milos, Folegandros), and Naxos to the eastern Cyclades (Amorgos, Little Cyclades). In high season you’ll find extra ferries on the main routes plus fast catamarans linking the eastern and the western Cyclades (Naxos – Milos, for example). Times and distances are not always ideal (or possible) up for day trips though.

The closest island to Paros is Antiparos and it’s a popular day trip, with frequent small boats running from Pounta (supported by buses).

From Naxos you can visit the islands of Little Cyclades. It takes 1hr + to reach them however ferry schedules don’t always allow for a full day. Day trips are available with excursion boats though (including yachts and catamarans) if you can’t stay overnight.

Excursion boats from both islands visit Santorini and to Mykonos/Delos, however they don’t necessarily run every day (except in late July and August). At this time of year you may also find additional excursion routes available such as Paros-Milos and Paros-Little Cyclades. Be aware that boats can be cancelled if rough seas are forecast.

Overall, Paros is more of a ferry hub and the better base if you want to visit other islands.

We recommend using Ferryhopper to check routes and book tickets.

See Greek Island Hopping 101 for more information.

Cat in a Naxos alley.

Summary: Naxos vs Paros

Long-time Greek island-hoppers seem to be divided into two camps: Paros people and Naxos people. My own theory is that the first one you visit will remain the one you love the most (for me it’s Naxos all the way)! 

If you’re trying to choose between Naxos vs Paros: Naxos is for non-drivers, beach-bums, rustic explorers, ancient history geeks, hill-hikers, and staying in one place to explore. Paros is better for drivers, those who like buzzy towns, boat trips, a variety of beaches, photogenic Cycladic villages, and exploring something different every day.

Read more:

Naxos – A Quick Island Guide

Naoussa, Paros’ Chic Harbour Village

Where to Stay in the Cyclades: Ultimate Beach Hotel Guide

A-Z of Greek Islands

A Complete Guide to Island Hopping in Greece

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Collage of Naxos and Paros with text overlay 'Naxos or Paros?'.