Greece's north-western region of Epirus is a forested getaway that is less publicized as far as tourism goes. While the Greek islands are most talked about, Epirus is a part of Greece that is certainly worth visiting. Located along the western coast of the region is the town Parga. Built on the shores of the Ionian Sea, the town is small but striking. The buildings all form a wave of terracotta roofs and colorful walls.
Mentions of Parga are relatively recent in terms of human history. Although there are accounts of an ancient town called Toryne in that area, Parga was not mentioned until the fourteenth century AD.
Parga would fall under the rule of many conquerors until the Greek victory against the Ottomans in the Balkan Wars of the 20th century.
Because of this constant threat from land and sea, a castle was built atop the tall hill hovering over the town. The castle dates back to the eleventh century and was continually altered by whoever proceeded to have rule over Parga. The mountainous region Parga is located within provides plenty of lookout spots from which to scan over long distances. Situated between the larger towns of Igoumenitsa and Preveza, Parga is a little paradise known to generations of Epirotes.
The small town does in fact attract its fair share of visitors, including many who travel by car from the northern neighboring countries. Aside from Greeks, Slavic travelers make up most of the crowd in Parga. It's a popular destination to come from or go to the adjacent Ionian islands like Paxos and Corfu. Larger ferry boats that can accommodate cars leave from Igoumenitsa which is about a forty-five minute drive north of Parga. Smaller tour boats leave from Parga's marina and generally operate as day trips. Getting to Parga is also simple because there are public transport buses leaving from major cities throughout Greece. It is a longer drive if you are coming from as far as Athens, so prepare for about five hours on the road. No worries though because there is always something amazing to see on your road trips through Greece, and lots of places to stop along the way.
When you arrive in Parga, get ready to dip your toes into the refreshingly cool sea. The Ionian is mostly stone beaches, which purify the water and keep it from getting too warm under the Grecian sun. The most popular beaches in town are the larger Valtos beach located to the west of the castle on the hill, and Krioneri beach to the east. From Krioneri beach you can see the town and the marina. You can also see the small island called Panagia, that sits adjacent from the town. The island gets its name from the Panagia Holy Chapel, which is the only structure built there on the minimal piece of land. Many people host weddings and baptisms at this church and welcome their guests over by way of small speed boats.
From Panagia Island you can see all of Parga and the way its buildings ascend the hills surrounding it. As you get closer, you will find that Parga actually has a lively labyrinth of walkways full of shops and restaurants. There is a large variety so everyone is sure to find something they like. Be ready for the uphill climb along the stone walkways, as it can be a bit tiring. But know that the climb is certainly worth it, and many establishments have an incredible view of the town and sea below. There is always a new shop to discover around every unexpected turn. One important find along the way is the Paragaea Old Olive Oil Factory. They offer olive oil and wine tastings, as well as guided tours around the factory that give a first-hand view of the process for making olive oil. If you are looking to get more out of the experience, there are also cooking workshops that seem to take the form of a small dinner party. Although there are countless shops, the parking is limited and in organized lots will run you no more than ten euro.
If you would like to beat the crowds and the parking dilemma, there are many road trip worthy places close to Parga. About a thirty minute drive east, you will arrive at the storied Acheron Springs. It is a fresh water water-way that is situated within a towering gorge surrounded by forest. In the general area there are a number of paths, which each have something special to see. The water is an icy blue color and flows through various paths of orange and dusty cliffsides. It's a natural treasure not often listed as a major tourist attraction. A seaside location that is a must see is the nearby town of Syvota. It is about a forty-minute drive north of Parga, and is even smaller in size and development. Filled mostly villas and rooms for rent, Syvota has a small strip of shops and eateries along its seaside. People mainly come here for the beaches and the nearby tiny islands that are reachable by speed boat. One notable beach is called Bella Vraka, which is generally a sandbar and allows you to walk through shallow water from one beach to the other.
Every corner of Greece has its own unique character and vibe. Here in western Epirus, Parga gives the vibe of appreciating the things we have around us. The sea, the mountains, the gifts we receive from the Earth, like the olives and olive oil in Parga are all cherished up here. Parga is relatively secluded, tucked down by the coast between mountains of an endless chain. These mountains are green and full life and fully accessible, with new modern highways and every amenity you could need. Arriving at your destination, Parga is definitely worth your journey there.