This Elysian Greek Island Should Top Summer Travel Wishlists

Paros is pure Cycladic charm, and Cosme is its most sublime stay — even during low season

May 24, 2023 6:24 am
Naoussa is one of the prettiest villages in the Cyclades
Naoussa is one of the prettiest villages in the Cyclades
Visit Greece

Greece has inhabited islands, and on an eleventh-hour trip last October, I discovered there is no easy — or fast — way to reach any of them ­from California. My destination was Paros, the third largest of the Cyclades in the central Aegean Sea. Per Greek mythology, the Cyclades were once nymphs that Poseidon turned into islands, one of which was Paros. While other more hyped spots get the majority of attention, it’s a sublime cruise ship-free alternative to nearby Mykonos and Santorini. Not quite under the radar — the isle and its little sister, Anti Paros, have been a favorite of jet setters and European fashion royalty, including Margherita Missoni, for years — but despite cooler climes and a little rain, its quiet charms and newest hotel had me at kalimera.

Cosme is a pared back, dreamy design hotel
Cosme is a pared back, dreamy design hotel

San Diego to Paros: four flights and one ferry ride later

Flights and ferry timetables refused to align neatly, and I arrived on Paros via Seajet after dark. A crowd of travelers, myself included, rushed to board one of the “fastest ferries in the Cyclades” with no explanation as to what caused the now-hours delayed departure from Mykonos. I had flown in the evening before — first to New York, then Zurich, and down to Stuttgart before landing on the Island of Winds (because, hey, “life is a journey, not a destination,”) — and spent the next half day wandering its main drag Matoyianni Street and meeting a few local cats. 

My original arrival time on Paros would have seen me pull into its tiny port city Parikia while the sun still shone. I had envisaged sitting poolside at my hotel — beverage in hand — watching the sun dip below the Aegean. Instead, I hustled off the boat onto the quay, where a gentleman holding a Cosme Paros sign took my bag and ushered me into a nice warm car. (Greece might be all swimsuits and golden suntans during the summer but come fall, evenings are chilly.) In the darkness, I didn’t get the lay of the land, but it was a quick seven-mile drive to the island’s northeastern corner and dreamy Cosme — the 40-suite beachfront boutique hotel that opened last June as part of Marriott Bonvoy’s upscale Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts portfolio. It’s the latest luxe addition to the Empiria Group, a Greek-based company run by husband-and-wife founders Antonis Eliopoulos and Kalia Konstantinidou, which has since landed on several coveted “It Lists” for 2023 travel and getting to stay there before crowds descend this summer feels even more special in hindsight.

The Ocean Suite
The Ocean Suite

Welcome to Cosme — a dreamy design hotel with a private beach, sea views and stargazing

I might have missed the countryside on my arrival, but after flying through 10 time zones,  the following day I was rewarded with the kind of view reserved for a chic quarterly travel magazine — shutters from my Ocean Suite opened to reveal a dawn sky framing the farthest edge of Naoussa Bay dotted with a handful of sugar cube houses. Highlights of cool hotel stays are many, although favorite touches are often simple ones — a nice robe, some slippers — but also coffee. Even better when it’s Nespresso. A well-stocked cupboard revealed the essentials, and I grabbed a blanket to settle in with a cup on my private patio before walking along the shore.

With its sleek lines and geometric details, aesthetes will love Cosme. Inspired by Greece and the Cyclades, Athens-based architecture and interior design team ID Laboratorium created an elegant escape that blends flawlessly with the landscape. Design details also reference Paros’ natural beauty, including the half-moon infinity pool that mirrors Naoussa Bay. Rooms and suites feature chic earthy décor and local artwork; some have sea views and private plunge pools. There’s an intimate village-style feel thanks in part to several meandering pathways — one of which leads to a dedicated space for stargazing, yoga and meditation rituals on the spa roof; another to the lobby and lovely breakfast spot, Volta. Several nearby beaches are considered some of the best on the island (Kolymbithres, Santa Maria), but with Cosme’s private stretch of sand, Beach Club, and Circe Bar steps from sun loungers, they clearly face stiff competition. 

What It’s Like to Visit Greece’s Best New Olive Oil Farm
A visit to Greece’s best new olive oil farm
Todd Marshard's ceramic studio on
Todd Marshard’s ceramic studio on Lefkes

Around Paros: a local-led tour of ancient sites and artist studios

Henry Miller said that “it takes a lifetime to discover Greece, but it only takes an instant to fall in love with her,” and much the same could be said of Paros. It may not have the A-list credentials of some isles — ones where rockstars, like Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Bowie have owned homes or spent time — or the Slim Aarons cachet of Athens, where he took photos of “attractive people doing attractive things,” but it has been popular for several millennia. The Ionians, Persians and Romans all came through, conquered, and left their mark. Parian marble was also highly prized and used to construct ancient Greek complexes like the Acropolis and temple of Zeus in Olympia and sculpt famous statues including the Venus of Milos.

While challenging to leave Cosme and its confines, especially during the height of summer, the hotel likes inspiring guests to explore the island, and its concierge team can arrange several guided cultural experiences, one of which is a walking tour with a local historian. A nice  lady from the visitor center led our small group on an informative but well-paced look at some key site sites around Parikia, including Panagia Ekatontapiliani, a Byzantine church complex also called the Church of 100 Doors that was built in 326 AD — a mind-blowing 1,697 years ago. Next, we drove up to Lefkes, an attractive mountainside village that has become an enclave for artists. Doors to the studios of NYC fashion photographer turned ceramicist Todd Marshard (Donna Karan is a fan) and illustrator Angelika Vaxevanidou were open and we popped in to chat with them both about the allure of Lefkes and take a behind-the-scenes look at their work.

Lunch was at a restaurant called Agnadio — pillowy pita bread, fava (split pea dip) and bougiournti (baked feta), Greek salad, grilled chicken drizzled with lemon, and fries washed down with carafes of local rosé. The views across the olive grove and pine forest-covered mountainside weren’t bad either. A Byzantine road made with thousand-year-old marble connects Lefkes with nearby village Prodromos and is popular with hikers. But due to impending showers, we nixed that and a visit to the ancient marble quarries and opted to head back to Cosme instead.

Another creative who calls Paros home part-time is designer Andrea Mitsakos. Founder of folkloric home concepts line Anthologist, she partnered with the hotel on a concept shop in the lobby, which I walked through every day and gazed longingly at Goddess belts and bracelets inspired by ancient artifacts. If you only buy one keepsake from Paros, make it their Komboloi with Mati (traditional Greek worry beads with a solid brass evil eye talisman), which, among several other bestselling Anthologist treasures, are hand-forged on the island. 

Parostià Restaurant
Parostià Restaurant

Local wineries, sustainable farms and a superlative spa experience

With our catamaran trip to Anti Paros sadly rained out the next day, a few of us strolled into Naoussa. Considered one of the prettiest fishing villages in the Cyclades, even overcast skies and drizzle couldn’t diminish its appeal of its whitewashed cubic buildings, modish boutiques, galleries and bars. There was a local winery within walking distance and across the bay, Petra Farm, which runs tours and tastings and produces olive oil, fig jam and lavender tea, along with little jars of locally harvested sea samphire.

It was a shame about the rain, but I had an afternoon massage at Elios Spa to look forward to back at Cosme. Named after the Greek God of the sun, the hotel brochure describes it as a “sanctuary of the senses,” and I wouldn’t disagree. With its major Arch Digest vibes, the relaxation area and plunge pool would channel the inner water nymph in anyone. Cosme partnered with natural Greek skincare brand Korres on its menu of facials, spa rituals and body treatments. Many incorporate ­products infused with flowers and fruit, like Santorini grape, golden crocus, pomegranate and wild rose. The Elios Sunlight Journey is a signature, but I mentally earmarked the Top-to-Toe Jet Lag Rebalance for my return. 

And then, just like that, it was time for dinner. We ate underneath blankets and heat lamps at Cosme’s beachfront restaurant Parostià where Greek chef Yiannis Kioroglou wowed us with highlights from his knockout menu of “Medite-grecian” dishes — a delicate local fish crudo, catch of the day sashimi with a lavender and marjoram dressing, mackerel with aubergine purée and salads made with ingredients from the garden (naturally). To finish, pistachio ice cream from Aegina (one of the Saronic islands) with aged balsamic and caramelized filo, followed by a final poolside drink for a hardy few from the group huddled together on a lounger for warmth, yamas! 

The next morning, I departed Paros as I had arrived — sailing across the Aegean — via Blue Star Ferry toward my first of three stops, Athens. If you only have time to visit one Greek island this summer, make it Paros, where Cosme reopened for its second season this month.  


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