PAROS - THE BYZANTINE ROAD
The Byzantine Road is the most famous hiking route in Paros, as well as one of the easiest. It begins at Lefkes, a beautiful mountain village scattered with neoclassical influences alongside its traditional Cycladic architecture of windy streets, shaded arches and blindingly white houses in a chaotic dance. In the old days, when pirates and buccaneers ran rampant in the Aegean Sea, Lefkes was the protected capital of Paros and a network of stone paved roads and paths linked it to the villages and harbors of the island.
The `Byzantine Road`, the most famous and best maintained section of this network, offers a taste of those old times, of a different Paros, hard to find in today`s bustling beaches. It is thought to have been built some 1,000 years ago, during the Byzantine era, and it used to be part of a central road that traversed the whole island, linking Parikia with Pisso Livadi, as well as the fortress of the former with the one in Kefalos Hill.
Today, the Byzantine Road links Lefkes with Prodromos, a small settlement which is also traditional but at the same time quite different to Lefkes: it is a typical example of a fortified Cycladic settlement, where the outside walls of all houses in the perimeter form walls that would protect the village from pirates and other intruders.
The route is about an hour long, walking through virgin Parian nature. It is pleasant, fairly short and going downhill, which makes it accessible to everyone.
While in Léfkes, here`s how you will find the Byzantine Road:
- Start at the sharp turn where the bus coming from Parikia stops.
- Take the wide central road that goes inside the village, and you will arrive at the beautiful central square, where a clearly legible sign will direct you to a typical Cycladic narrow street leading to Ayia Triáda, the largest church in Léfkes.
- Just before the church, at a crossroads, turn towards the direction shown by a smaller and not so clear sign, and after about 100 yards you will reach the south-easternmost point of the island. There a sign saying Byzantine Road and a white stone mark the start of the route.
Just a soil path at some of its parts today, but mostly as wide, stove paved and well preserved road, the Byzantine Road goes downhill lazily towards the east, traversing terraced slopes, olive trees, myrtles, wild flowers and herbs. Loosen up and let yourself inhale the intoxicating aromas of sage, thyme, oregano while walking in the peaceful landscape. Let yourself travel in time, if only for moments, to older times when peasants, merchants and sailors walked along this very path.
Half way along the road traverses a dry stream bed with a little bridge, continue slightly uphill on a slope and you reach the mountain top with awesome views of the eastern part of the island. Next go downhill northeastern bound towards Pródromos, a village very different from Léfkes, but equally beautiful and special, typical of a fortified Cycladic settlement, where the houses used to form walls protecting their village from pirates and other invaders.
Some useful tips:
You won`t need special hiking boots, maps, difficult to use GPS devices or heavy backpacks to walk along the Byzantine Road. Still, don`t forget to get your suntan lotion and, of course, water or even something to eat under the shade of a tree at any point during your hike. Alternatively, finish your walk at one of the taverns in Pródromos, Marpissa or Pisso Livádi. The most adventurous can continue towards the hill of Kéfalos to visit the monastery of Ayios Antónios and the ruins of the Venetian castle at the top, later heading to Kalóyeros beach for a refreshing swim.
You can hike the same route following the opposite direction, from Pródromos to Léfkes, but it will be more of an uphill course.
As you will notice, there is no litter on the Byzantine Road. Make sure you help it remain so.