A hidden gem
Looking for a relaxed holiday destination steeped in history with unrivalled scenery and authentic cuisine? Sally Evans tells us why Parga, Greece, has everything you could possibly wish for…
One of the most popular destinations in Greece, the stunningly beautiful seaside town of Parga is in the Epirus region of northwestern Greece. Undoubtedly, one of the best things about the diverse landscape and natural beauty of Parga is its laidback Greek island atmosphere, with the added advantage of easy access to the mainland and all it has to offer. Set amid breathtaking verdant hills overlooking the luminous turquoise waters of the Ionian Sea, Parga is the perfect base for excursions to nearby Sivota, Preveza and Lefkada.
With its higgledy-piggledy terracotta- roofed houses and narrow whitewashed streets flanked by boutiques selling everything from handmade bags and jewellery to local honey, Parga town makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Its pretty authenticity is due to strict laws preventing the erection of high-rise buildings or dwellings not in keeping with this traditional, harbour town with 2,500 inhabitants. The feeling of being in a bygone age increases when you look to the hilltop and the imposing Venetian fortress overlooking the bay. It’s a steady trek up winding paths and steps to the medieval castle, but the vista from the summit is worth the effort. After the initial construction by the residents of Parga in the 11th century to protect them from pirates and Turks was destroyed, the castle was rebuilt by the Venetians with eight towers to mark its boundaries and two cisterns within. It’s not hard to imagine the bloodthirsty battles that took place here, and the ruins surrounded by cypress trees and the views of the Ionian coastline are a photo opportunity not to be missed.
Say “I do”
A short distance from Parga’s shoreline is the romantic islet of Panagia with its quaint white chapel. Accessible by boat, it’s a coveted venue for traditional Greek weddings.
Board the luxurious Orca Bianca, a state-of-the-art speed boat, and head to the east coast to see rugged cliffs, hidden coves and caves. Swim or snorkel from the boat in the warm, aquamarine waters and enjoy less-accessible sandy beaches. Have lunch on Paxos, a beautiful island with a pretty harbour and traditional tavernas serving freshly caught seafood. Then sunbathe on deck and enjoy delicious refreshments provided by the attentive crew (orcayachting.com).
Marvel of nature
Culture vultures should visit Meteora, a geological phenomenon that literally means ‘hovering in the air’. The UNESCO World Heritage Site encompasses a complex of six monasteries built on top of soaring natural rock formations. A short distance from the town of Kalabaka, southwest of the Antichassian Mountains, these towering pillars with their byzantine constructions rise from the plains of Thessaly. The largest and highest of the six monasteries is the Holy Monastery of the Metamorphosis, a male monastery 2,000ft above the valley floor. It was founded in the 14th century by Saint Athanasios the Meteorite and houses priceless artefacts, scriptures and wall paintings. As the tour comes to its conclusion, visitors are rewarded with a brilliant sunset acting as a magnificent fiery backdrop to these majestic rock pillars. On entering the monasteries, visitors are asked to dress respectfully. There are full-day guided trips departing from Parga, prices from £52.66, esiness.gr
Where to stay
The Parga beach resort
Only steps away from the stunning Blue Flag Valtos Beach, the five-star Parga Beach Resort is a hidden gem, a holiday haven cocooned by verdant hills of lush green pines and copious olive trees. Upon arrival, your senses are awakened by the scents and vibrancy of the beautiful blooms and trees paving the way to the chic and airy Parisian-styled reception area. The friendly and efficient staff at this resort are absolutely key. They are all employed locally, and nothing is too much trouble.
Guests are greeted with smiles and helpful advice throughout their stay. Buildings are low-rise and rooms are just delightful – tastefully furnished with luxurious, modern decor in calming hues.
Accommodation ranges from spacious Premium Garden Rooms to Perfect Bliss Suites with private swimming pool. All have exotic flower and foliage-adorned terraces or furnished balconies with glorious sea or pool views. Accessible accommodation is available for those with limited mobility or disability issues, and all rooms are equipped with orthopaedic ecological Coco Mat mattresses and a choice of pillows, to ensure that guests sleep soundly and comfortably.
The landscaped grounds are lush green and beautifully kept. Paths are lined with huge roses in glorious pinks, reds and yellows, trailing jasmine, lavender, rosemary and wonderful 350-year-old olive trees. The surroundings and views are a joy to behold.
Things to do
Facilities at the resort include four medium- sized pools, plus a children’s heated pool, outdoor playground, wellness centre and gym. There’s also a well-stocked indoor playroom, where families and groups can cool off and enjoy a film together or just hang out.
Stretch and tone at a morning yoga session in the outdoor pavilion by the beach – novices are welcome! And if you want to treat yourself to some ‘me time’, the Blossom Wellness Centre offers a heavenly selection of spa treatments, including facials, a hammam and couple’s massage.
Soak up the sun on Valtos beach
Parasols and sun loungers line the beach front invitingly. Whether you take a dip in the turquoise sea, sunbathe with a good book or enjoy drinks and snacks from Ammos Beach Bar – it really doesn’t get much better than this…
Walk this way
Take a walking tour of Parga, only a 10-minute drive from the resort. Guests can get a real feel for this authentic Greek town, explore the ancient castle, sample traditional fare, including locally produced olive oil, and enjoy the spectacular views of the bay.
It’s important to mention the feeling of security offered at this well-planned and beautifully located resort. The atmosphere is relaxed and family-friendly, making it a great base for a multi-generational holiday, as there’s something for all ages and abilities to enjoy. And with the wealth of amenities available on site, guests can rest safe in the knowledge that if they so choose, they can spend their entire stay at the resort for some much-needed R&R.
Food glorious food
Greece is legendary for its food, and with two excellent restaurants and a superb beach bar, the Parga Beach Resort delivers on all counts. The Thalassa beachfront restaurant is the venue for breakfast, and rest assured, Covid safety precautions are in place at the self-service breakfast buffet with its mind-blowing selection of cold and hot food, pastries, salads and beverages. The restaurant also serves lunch and dinner, a selection of freshly caught fish dishes and traditional Greek cuisine, and guests can let their hair down at the weekly BBQ and Greek- themed evenings with live music, fun and dancing.
Compliments to the chef!
New for 2022, the Alselea beachside restaurant serves an exquisite à la carte menu of Mediterranean flavours and new-age Greek interpretations. Watch the sun set over the mountains as you enjoy dishes such as goat cheese with caramelised figs in Mavrodaphne wine and spices; beef carpaccio with graviera cheese and cherry tomatoes; and European lobster with orzo from Giannitsa and bottarga from Amvrakikos Bay. With an impressive wine and cocktail list to boot, this is fine dining at its best!
Time zone: +2hr GMT
Flights: Flights from London Gatwick to Preveza, from £103
Flight time: 3hr 20min
Transfer time: 90min
Good to know: If booked on an early flight and in need of overnight airport accommodation, we’d recommend a Smart Room at Bloc Hotel Gatwick, rooms are ultra-modern and spotless and only a short, covered walk from Departures. Visit blochotels.com/gatwick
Book your stay at pargabeachresort.gr
Rooms from £125 per night based on two sharing a Premium Garden Room with breakfast. Minimum three-night stay.