The central island of Paros, lying some 8 km west of Naxos, is occupied by a range of hills of gently rounded contours, rising to 764 m in Mount Profitis Ilias (rewarding climb, magnificent panoramic views). Three bays cut deep inland – in the west the sheltered Paroikia Bay, with the island’s capital that serves as the main sailing port and as a yacht charter base; in the north the bay which shelters the little town of Naoussa, which in Roman times was the island’s main port for the shipment of Lychnites marble; and in the east the flat Marmara bay. The whole island is covered with a layer of coarse-grained crystalline limestone, in which lie rich beds of pure marble.


The island’s considerable prosperity has depended since ancient times on agriculture, favoured by fertile soil and an abundance of water, and on the working on marble, which is still quarried on a small scale. In recent years the rapid development of the tourist trade has brought changes in the landscape, the island’s economy and its social structure.


South-west of Paros, separated by a very narrow but navigable channel is the island of Antiparos, the ancient Oliaros. The main town, also called Antiparos, clusters round a Venetian castle. There is a beautiful cave with stalactites on the island.
Off the northern tip of Antiparos you can sail up close to two islets of volcanic origin, which guard the channel. Some 500 m south-west of Antiparos is the small island of Despotiko, with a sheltered harbour on the south. Still farther south-west is the islet of Strongoli, ‘the round one’.

Excavations have yielded evidence of settlement in the Late Neolithic period (5th-4th century BC). The island, which has preserved its ancient name, was already well populated in the age of the Cycladic culture (3rd century BC). In the 1st century BC the Ionian Greeks settled on Paros and made it a considerable sea-power, minting its own coins; in the 7th century BC Paros founded colonies on Thasos and in Thrace. In the 6th and 5th century BC Paros was celebrated for its school of sculptures. It was a member of the first Attic maritime league, and its unusually large contributions to the league (30 talents in 425 BC) are evidence of the island’s wealth.
In Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine times Paros was of no importance. In the 9th century it was depopulated as a result of raids by Arab pirates, plundering and burning. From 1207 to 1399 it belonged to the Duchy of Naxos, and thereafter was ruled by various dynasts until its capture by the Turks in 1537. It was reunited with Greece in the 19th century after the foundation of the new Greek kingdom.