The Aghia Pakou- Matzoro- Kantnelia Circular Hike
An easy to moderate difficulty, circular hike in little-visited, beautiful countryside in the heart of Paros, along dirt tracks, shepherds’ trails and forgotten stone-paved footpaths, with great panoramic views to the bay of Naoussa, the east coast and over the sea from NW to SE to boot! Variety of terrain, including some hill climbing.
Description Starting out on the morning bus from Parikia, we get off after a 15-min. ride at the Aghia Pakou (‘Aghia Ypakoi’- ‘Saintly Obedience’) Chapel just before the turn to Kostos village. Taking the downhill road, we soon leave the concrete pavement to start walking on dirt roards around the meadows and farmland in the sparse settlement of Matzoro. At Xiropotamos (literally, ‘Dry River’), we make our way criss-crossing the dry river bed surrounded by typical low-lying Cycladic woodland (juniper, lentisk, herbal and thorny shrubs mostly). Alternating dirt tracks, hunters’ footpaths, and unpaved country road, we find ourselves at the chapel of St. Nektarios, where we pause for a breath and a snack, enjoying the view to the hillsides and the bay of Naoussa all the way to the shores of Mykonos (on a clear day).
We continue on an uphill dirt road with a paved stretch towards the twin hills of Kantnelia, until we reach the relatively newly-built Monastery of Sts. Antonios & Onoufrios. We then take an old and mostly unknown westbound trail with mild elevation changes, which affords great sea views over the island’s coast below, as it gently unfolds to the E-SE, and further on to the islands of Naxos, Iraklia and Ios. As we walk in centuries-old, walled and stone-paved footpaths among herbal shrubs, olive groves, vineyards, pezoules (centuries-old terraced hillside fields) and low stone-built cottages, one can get a feeling of the island’s soul surviving through the centuries.
Taking a southbound direction, we continue uphill, with some hillside scrambling, going through unmarked shepherds’ trails (and some bush walking…) on Raches hill. This is perhaps the most challenging (and fun!) part: we gain elevation fast, going through low junipers and shrubs and abandoned terraced fields. As we almost reach the hill top (276 m.), our enhanced vantage point more than rewards the climb: to the west-northwest, the green valley of Matzoro, the Pachnias hills and Naoussa bay to the east, the plains and the coastline of Glyfades and Tsoukalia and the Naxos channel, and to the south, the valley of Lefkes and the mountains.
After catching our breath and taking in the panoramic vistas, we start on the easy last leg of our trek, past the overlooking chapel of Profitis Ilias, all the way down to Aghia Pakou, where we re-group and wait for the bus to Parikia. If one opts for a recommended visit to the former inland capital of Lefkes instead, it is just 40 minutes away on foot on the marked, so-called ‘Byzantine’ trail or less than 10 minutes by bus. Kostos village is another interesting option, only 10 minutes away on foot downhill, with quite a bit of character and a quaint little square with a traditional coffee-shop for well-deserved souma shots! Both Lefkes and Kostos have regular bus connections to Parikia.
In a nutshell [The Paros rural flavor hike] Hiking/countryside/hillside/views, moderate, distance 12.5km, duration 4-4.5h (with stops), elevation (gain/loss) ±200m