First of all let me tell you why Parga is such a special place to us. We first visited Parga back in 1973 when it was a very small fishing village. Most of the people were fishermen or worked in their olive groves or made local crafts, it was a very beautiful place and still is although much has changed in the last thirty three years. We have visited Parga on many occasions and have many friends there. Our children have been able to go off and play when they were young without us worrying because Parga is a very safe place. They have made friends there and I am sure that someday when they have families of their own that they will take them there also.
Parga is very picturesque with a very mild climate. The seas are crystal clear and there are many sandy beaches along the coast. It is in the area of Epirus which is in North West Greece and can be located by first finding Corfu or Paxos and following the mainland coast opposite to them. North of the Epirus region is the country of Albania. The nearest port is north of Parga and is called Igoumenitsa and the nearest airport is at Preveza which is south of Parga. The tour operators all use the airport but we like to fly to Corfu and then make our own way to Parga via the ferry and then the local bus which passes through the small villages on the way to Parga. This journey is probably longer than the tour operators route but it is much more interesting and challenging
Now more about Parga,
Parga has a beautiful harbour with many colourful boats which are used for daytrips or to take visitors to small secluded beaches or maybe to Valtos or Lichnos which are the popular local beaches. In the bay is the Island of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Parga was originally located further inland but myth has it that a shepherd whilst herding his sheep saw a light in a cave and as he came nearer to the cave he saw an icon of the Virgin Mary with a candle burning next to it. He went straight back to his village to tell the priests of the icon he had seen. The priests took the icon back to their church in the village. Strangely the icon was found again in the cave and the shepherd dreamt that the Virgin told him that the town should be built at the spot where the icon was found and so the villagers followed the wishes of the Virgin and built Parga on the spot where it is found today.
A brief history of Parga,
Parga has been occupied many times during it’s history, by the Venetians, the Turks, the British and also the French. Much to our shame we actually sold Parga once to Ali Pasha the Turk for the figure of £156.00. We did this because Ali Pasha guaranteed the security of the people of Parga and their properties and that he would pay compensation to anyone who left his territory. Unfortunately Ali Pasha was not a man to be trusted. At this time and in desperation the people of Parga left their homes and did not return for one hundred years. At this time the people of Souli were also fighting to keep their freedom, many of the women joined the fight. As defeat came close 22 of the women threw themselves off the cliffs and onto the rocks to escape slavery, other women threw themselves into the waters of the River Acheron. When the Pargians left their homeland they went to Corfu or to the other Ionian islands where they stayed until 1912 when during the Balkan wars the Greek army defeated the Turks and liberated Epirus.
Places to visit in the area,
High above the town is the castle which was built by the Venetians to protect Parga from the Albanian Turks and pirate raids. If you visit the castle you can see evidence of the various occupations, inscriptions such as ’’Year 1820 Visier Ali Pasha’’. Ali Pasha had a secret path made down to a cave to enable him to escape should there be any danger, after the path was made he had all the workmen killed so that the secret would be his alone. You can take a trip to the River Acheron and to the Oracle. You can go on a boat to the south of the town to the mouth of the river and then walk for a short while to the site of the Oracle. The Oracle is built on a hill just above the village of Mesopotamos. People used to visit the Oracle and they would spend time fasting, praying in silence until they were in a state of ecstasy and they would then hear the voices of their beloved dead who would tell them what their future would be. After communicating with their dead the people would leave by a different route so as not to meet anyone and they would not tell what the oracle had said.
To the north of the oracle in the mountain called Erimitis where there is a precipice which ends in a cave. The ancient Greeks believed that the water dripping from the top of the cave into a small dark lake called Styx was the water to immortality and that this is where the goddess Thetis brought her son Achilles to dip him into the lake to make him immortal.
The main beach is called Valtos and can be reached either by water taxi or by the much more interesting way of walking. You could visit Parga a dozen times and each time you would find a new path to take to reach Valtos. The most obvious is from the main street and to climb the steps up past the array of small shops and bars all vying for your attention with so much colour and so many goods on show. There are also many little paths you can take on the road way which leads up passed the primary school, whichever one you decide to take they all take you to the top of the hill. You climb to the top and you can visit the castle on your way over to the beach. When you reach the far side of the hill the sight that greets you is wonderful. In front of you is a beautiful stretch of beach which is shingle at the start but follow it along to the furthest end and it gets very sandy. There are water sports, sun beds and umbrellas, tavernas for a lazy afternoon lunch. You can walk along to sheltered harbour at the far end of the beach, where you can spend an hour or so talking to boat owners or the visitors on their flotilla holidays. If you walk behind the beach about half-way along you come across olive groves and can follow the path up to Anthoussa which is high above the beach. Walking through the olive groves make sure to keep your eyes open, you will see many types of flowers and fruit, we spotted green figs, pomegranates, bananas, walnuts and many more. There were cyclamen, tobacco plants, the list is endless. When you reach Anthoussa you can walk another couple of kilometres up to Ali Pashas Castle which has a wonderful view over the coast. You can see Paxos, Anti-Paxos and on a very clear day maybe even Corfu. Look to the south and you can see as far as Lefkas and Preveza. Stop for a coffee in the village and people watch. Many of the old men will try their best to talk to you if you are English and will want to shake your hand.
Another fine beach is Lichnos, this can be reached again by water taxi, but you can also walk through the olive groves again. It is a little more difficult to find this route so you may have to ask a villager to point you in the right direction, but it is worth it because as with Valtos when you reach the end of the walk you are met by such beautiful views that it makes the walk very worthwhile.
If you would prefer a smaller more secluded beach you can arrange for one of the water taxis to take you to other beaches along the coast and they will return for you at the time you ask, or at least somewhere near the time. The lifestyle in Parga is very laid back , you slow right down and take life easy. Try an ouzo at one of the waterfront tavernas or stroll along to one of the bakeries and have a tiropita (cheese pie) with a coffee. There is an abundance of restaurants and it wouldn’t be fair to pick out one as being better than another, but try a few we’re sure you will find a place you like.
If you decide to go for a boat trip, you will have a wonderful time, there is always plenty of ouzo, retsina, food and a lot of laughs to be had on the trips. You could hire a motor bike and ride up into the mountains behind Parga to the little village of Agia and then higher behind Agia where you will reach the top of the mountain and find lots of wild flowers and look down over majestic countryside and a fantastic coastline. The white sails of the flotilla yachts sailing in from Corfu, the colourful villages on the mountainside, the olive groves, there is so much to see. If you ride your bike south out of Parga you can visit the beach at Ammoudia or go further to the mountain where the Souli women threw themselves off to avoid Ali Pashas cruel reign.
You can go inland to Joannina which is the main town of Epirus or to Dodoni to visit the island in the lake.
One thing that we are sure of is that once you have visited Parga you will never forget it. The smell of the herbs and flowers, the jasmine is wonderful, the food and mostly the friendliness of people will stay with you as it has with us. If this page spurs you on to visit Parga we wish you a good holiday, learn to enjoy life at a slower pace, relax and enjoy.