PARGA – A Triple-Beach Playground

Parga town might be on the mainland, but it has the familiar “island” look and feel with its picturesque harbor and its three town beaches. It’s also the perfect hub to explore the nearby coast and islands, the high mountains, and ancient sites in the vicinity.

Introduction

Parga is a picturesque resort town in Preveza prefecture, in the province of Epirus. It is nested between lush green hills and the crisp waters of the Ionian Sea.

It is one of the most popular destinations of western Greece. When summer comes, it is a very busy place. That’s when its lively streets are packed with a burgeoning tourist population that mingles busily in the narrow passages of the promenade and backstreets.

It seems to be a favorite destination of Italian vacationers who take advantage of Parga’s proximity to the Italian coast. It helps that they can bring their cars and RVs along because there are daily ferries from Italy to Igoumenitsa, a few kilometers to the north.

Parga is also a popular destination for Greeks and other northern Europeans, so when you walk in town you will be bombarded by a delightful cornucopia of languages and styles.

A Relaxing Destination and a Jumping Point

The main reason to visit Parga is to enjoy the beautiful beaches,  the important archaeological sites and museums nearby, and to combine the sea with mountain activities.

Despite the crowds, Parga exudes a relaxing atmosphere. Everyone seems  to chill and enjoy the endless sunshine by the beach or at a cafe, oblivious to the business around them.

Humans are social animals, so part of the reason the younger tourist population flocks to Parga is to enjoy being in among crowds; to see and be seeing. Parga is a good place for that.

Parga appeals to both the younger crowds that prefer the expanse of Valtos beach area, and to families that tend to congregate more in town, and in Piso Kryoneri or Lichnos beaches.

Things to Do and See

Swim at Parga Town Beaches

Bathers and parasols in Krioneri beach
The main beach of Parga: Krioneri.

If you like swimming and sunbathing, you don’t have to go far. All you have to do is walk right to the middle of the town, and swim at Krioneri beach.

Krioneri beach frames the town’s picturesque harbor and it’s usually packed with bathers by mid-morning. From the beach, you can take a paddle boat, or even swim to the tiny islet of Panagia where there is a tiny shingle beach in the chapel’s front.

Krioneri beach gets really busy, and the adjacent street noise adds to the distractions, so if you prefer a more quiet place to swim, head a few blocks to the south, to Piso Krioneri beach.

Piso Krioneri beach is a more cozy cove with dramatic rocks rising from the water all around. Being right in town, it too gets busy, but it’s a wider beach so you can find some more space to spread out.

The third option, Valtos Beach, is a bit farther than the center of Parga, a twenty minute walk to the other side of the Venetian Castle hill.

Valtos beach is long and wide, but it still gets crowded. The more quiet spots are at its flanks. There you can spread out and relax. Valtos is probably the most popular local beach with Greek youth.

Click here to read our reviews and rating of the beaches of Preveza and Parga here

Take Day-Trips by Boat

There are several boats offering day-cruises at Parga’s harbor.

You can book day-cruises ahead of time, or you may sign up when you are in Parga either through a travel agent there, or directly at the marina.

From our experience, the day-cruises to Paxos/Antipaxos, and to the shorter boat trips to the nearby beaches are the ones with the shortest sailing time.

You will see many advertisements for cruises to farther lands (Corfu, Lefkada, and even Albania).

These are a bit farther out, so you will be spending a lot of your time aboard as small cruise ship. It’s best to few days rather than a few hours in these farther destinations.

Paxos-Antipaxos island cruise

This is probably the most comfortable and enjoyable day cruise you can take from Parga.

In Paxos island to see and swim at the blue caves, and you will enjoy the sandy beach of Vrika in Antipaxos. Most boats make stops at one of the Paxos towns for lunch.

It will probably be the highlight of your trip.

Visit the nearby beaches and caves

Another good option is to sign up for a boat that will take you to the best spots around Parga’s coastline.

Options include a visit to Lichnos to swim at the popular beach and to see the sea cave there, and a stop at the remote beaches of Ai. Sostis, Spartila, Sarakiniko, and Karavostasi.

All four beaches are excellent. Theres is no good road to Ai Sostis, Spartila so they are relatively isolated and quiet–that is until the Parga boats arrive by mid-morning.

Sarakiniko is not much different than Parga’s own beaches, and Karavostasi (the farthest one) is almost identical to Valtos beach–minus the large crowds.

Take Day-Trips by Road

Acheron River Springs

People walking in the river
The walk in the springs of Acheron river is a nice summer activity. Epirus, Greece

From Parga, about half an hour’s drive west, you will find the springs of Acheron River (click to see it on the map) near Glyki village.

Acheron is one of the legendary rivers that ancient Greeks believed to be the passage to the underworld.

Don’t be deterred by the river’s reputation as a highway to Hades. It will probably be one of your holiday highlights.

There, you may sign up for several activities and tours, including horseback riding in and by the river, whitewater rafting, or kayaking. You may also have a coffee in one of the shops that sets its tables right in the river bed.

But the best experience at Acheron’s springs is free: walk through the river all the way to the springs from the municipal parking lot. The river narrows considerably and you will be walking in a canyon between steep cliffs on both sides.

Waddling through the river’s freezing cold water framed by the steep cliffs all around is something you will remember with fondness, so don’t neglect to bring your swimsuit and waterproof your cameras and valuables.

Go Swimming at Lichnos

A short driving distance south lies the resort village of Lichnos. You can easily drive to it with  car or mopped from Parga.

Lichnos is situated in a dramatic setting with cliffs on both sides. It is a nice beach, popular for its relaxing atmosphere and ample space that absorbs the crowds.

There is a small sea cave you can get to with a paddle boat from the beach. It’s nothing you would travel around the world to see, but if you are there it’s worth the excursion.

If you have wheels, you can also visit Ai Giannakis beach a bit further up the road. It is a tiny shingle beach and besides being crowded, it’s also popular with water sports enthusiasts.

Archaeological Sites and Museums

There are several important archaeological sites in the vicinity of Parga.

Most are within an-hour’s drive, and would make for a pleasant day out, especially if you visit in the morning when the crowds are small and the sun is still making its way to its apex.

Necromanteion Oracle

Underground chamber in Necromanteion
The ancient Necromanteion of Acheron. Preveza, Greece.

One of the most interesting ancient sites in the vicinity of Parga is the ancient Necromanteion of Acheron (click for location).

It was a famous oracle where ancients went to meet an consult with their dead ancestors and family members.

They resided on the grounds for a few days, before they were taken by the priests to the underground chamber where they asked their deceased ancestors for advice.

It’s a small archaeological site, with well preserved buildings, and well worth a visit.

Nikopolis

Ruins of the Nikopolis Theatre
The ancient theatre of Nikopolis. Preveza, Greece.

If you have a car you may visit extensive ruins of Nikopolis, about 50 minutes to the south (Click to see Nikopolis on the map). It’s too far, and too dangerous to drive there with a mopped or four-wheeler.

The Roman emperor, Augustus, built the sprawling metropolis in 28 BCE to commemorate his victory over Anthony and Cleopatra at the naval battle of Aktion nearby.

There you will see extensive Roman, and Byzantine ruins, as well as early Christian buildings. Don’t miss the small Odeum (Click to find Nikopolis Odeum on the map), which is tacked away in the fields.

Nikopolis Museum

Ancient vases in the museum
Nikopolis Archaeological Museum near the archaeological site. Preveza, Greece

Once you finish visiting the ancient ruins of Nikopolis, head for the nearby Nikopolis Archaeological Museum (Click to find Nikopolis Museum on the map). Your drive will be about 5 minutes from the Nikopolis walls.

It’s a delightful little museum, with nicely laid out exhibits and explanatory illustrations.

Dodoni Oracle

Ancient theatre at Dodoni with mountain Tomaros
Dodoni Theatre with mount Tomaros in the background. Ioannina, Greece.

Dodoni is home to one of the most beautiful and well preserved theatre in Greece–second only to the famous Epidaurus theatre in the Peloponnese.

You may drive a little over an hour with your car to find it (map). It’s too far, and too dangerous to drive there with a mopped or four-wheeler.

Dodoni oracle was one of the most famous in ancient Greece (second only to Delphi oracle), and it is one of the most ancient ones. The priests consulted Zeus and relied on the sound of the sacred oak tree leaves for their oracles.

It’s definitely worth a visit, and don’t forget your camera.

Ioannina Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum of Ioannina is 45 minutes away from the archaeological site of Dodoni (map).

It’s a delightful little museum, with an extensive collection of artifacts from Epirus’ archaeological sites. Most interesting are the stone-age collection, and the artifacts from Dodoni oracle.

Visit the Parga Venetian Castle

Castle gate overgrown with vegetation
Abandoned gate at the old Venetian castle in Parga, Greece.

The castle overlooking Parga’s harbor is within easy reach, so inevitably you will climb through it’s rampant to enjoy the beautiful views of the town and the surrounding coast.

The ascent to the castle from the harbor will take about 10 minutes through a steep cobblestone street lined with tourist shops.

Go early in the morning to avoid the intense summer heat, or in late afternoon when the sun will hit the town just right for your pictures.

The castle interior is easy to navigate but it does feel a bit neglected. Be extra careful as you step towards the edges of the ramparts because they look like they may crumble at any moment.

If you get tired, there is a cafe in the middle. It serves mostly drinks but it does have a limited menu of food and snacks.

Visit the Ali Pasa castle

You need wheels to get to Ali Pasa castle, but once you get there you will enjoy beautiful panoramic views of Parga and the surrounding seascape.

The castle itself is interesting if you like military history and architecture.

Practicalities

Parga is one of the most popular tourist destinations in western Greece, so it has no shortage of hotels, motels, apartments, and organized camping grounds. They all seem to burst at the seams to accommodate the multitude of visitors in July and August.

Getting to Parga

Parga is a bit out of the way if Athens is your main entry/exit point to Greece.

It’s best to combine Parga with a tour of northwest Greece. If you are planning to see the islands of the Aegean during your visit, you will spend a lot of time on the road. It’s a five-hour trip from Athens to Parga by car, and longer by bus.

There are daily busses between Parga and Athens , all stop in intermediate destinations, and you might have to change busses along the way.

Alternately, you can fly to Aktion Airport near Preveza. From there it’s a little over an hour to Parga.

The best way to get to Parga from Aktion is to rend a car at the airport because a taxi ride would be too costly (85 to 100 euro) , and a public bus ride would be too uncomfortable (you have to first get to Preveza, and from there to Parga with another bus).

As we mentioned earlier, if you travel by ferry from Italy (Bari, Brintizi, Angona, Venice), you will arrive at the port of Igoumenitsa.

Parga is a short 45-minute drive from there. You may take the public bus from Igoumenitsa to Parga.

Best time to Visit

Early June, and early September are the times when Parga is a bit more peaceful.

July and August are the busiest months when the town loses all semblance of a sleepy port and sinks under the weight of tourists. Despite the crowds, it’s not a bad time to be there. There is a general exuberance in the air.

If you go in the winter, you will witness  genuine Greek coastal life, complete with bitter cold, rain, and strong winds.

If you only plan to visit Parga for a day or two, try to avoid weekends. Just about the entire population of western Greece seems to converge there. Traffic and parking is an actual nightmare at this time.

You will find good organized camping sites at Lichnos, Riza, and Monolithi along the coastal road from Parga to Preveza. They are packed in the summer, so make early reservations.

Other Places of Interest Nearby

The entire coast of Preveza is delightful in the way the mountains roll right onto the coast.

Driving south the coastal road from Parga to Aktion will expose you to some spectacular seascapes, and bring you to a host of nice beaches. The road is narrow and old, so drive carefully.

In order of appearance from Parga to Preveza, the most interesting beaches and places to visit are:

Loutsa and, Vrahos are one long beach. The north end is called Loutsa and it’s favored by families. The rest is packed with bars, and parasols.

Lygia is a sleepy village with a decent beach, while the nearby Riza beach is lasser known and very quiet swimming spot. The nearby Artolithia is the most picturesque, albeit a bit hard to find (map).

If you drive a Mobile Home (RV) Lygia, Riza, or Artolithia beaches are good for an overnight, free-camping stop by the beach.

A bit farther south you will find Kanali, and Monolithi beaches. The former is nothing to write home about, while the latter might be one of the longest beaches in Greece.

Preveza town is a nice place to visit for one, or even a few days. It’s a popular yachting anchorage with a delightful promenade.

From Preveza, you can take the underwater tunnel to Aktio, and to the Island of Lefkada that’s connected to the mainland by a drawbridge.

Map

Click here to see Parga on the map and to get directions in a new window.