Parga is a beautiful small town that gives the feeling of an island. It is built amphitheatrically on Pezovolos hill and at an altitude of 140m. at the top of which dominates the Venetian castle. At the entrance of the small and sheltered harbor is the islet of Panagia with the chapel of the same name as well as the small French-built castle.
Whichever way you look at Parga, you can see the beauty of the place. The blue of the sea, the green of the olive groves and the picturesqueness of the settlement give an image of idyllic beauty.
Parga is located in the southwest of Epirus, near the river Acheron and is about 68 kilometers away from Preveza and 40 kilometers from Igoumenitsa. Opposite Parga are the beautiful islands of Paxos and Antipaxos. The municipality of Parga, although territorially enclosed by the prefecture of Thesprotia, administratively belongs to the prefecture of Preveza.
Historical information about Parga
Numerous archeological findings, scattered along the coastline, testify to habitation since ancient times.
The new Parga was built on the site of the ancient Thesprotic city Toryni or Toroni one of the most important centers of the ancient tribes of the Thesprotians. Outside of Toryni Octavian Augustus had run aground with his fleet shortly before the Naval battle of Actium. Toryni was destroyed in 168 BC. from the Romans. In the centuries that followed after the Roman occupation, there is no information. Much later, in the Middle Ages, the city of Parga is now witnessed. The testimonies about Parga begin much later, during the Middle Ages.
According to Christoforos Perraivos, the first location of the city was in the north, an hour away from the current location near Agia. The reasons for the move are unknown and the old town remained under the name Paleoparga. The archaeologist D. Kalpakis states that tradition wants the city to have been founded by Constantinople citizens who were forced to flee after the city was conquered by the Franks. In fact, according to the tradition, the first settlers settled in a place different from today: initially in the area above the Vlacherna Monastery, at the western end of the Gulf of Valtos, and later due to the frequent raids inland, in Palioparga.
Its first name was Parageiros or Paragaia (from the Slavic word parg meaning port).
Parga in the course of time
Successive conquests (Normans, Serbs, Venetians French and English)
From 1365 to 1390 Parga was under the protection of the Normans. In the 1390s it was occupied by Ioannis Buis Spata who ruled the Despotate of Arta and later by the Serbo-Albanian bandit Bogoi, a tyrannical man whom the inhabitants overthrew and asked for the protection of the Venetians. In 1401 it came under the protection of Venice.
Its relationship with Venice and its economic development gave it an aristocratic character that was further emphasized by the tradition of the inhabitants’ origin from the Byzantine capital. At the same time, the special system of self-government that it secured from the Venetians with the Assembly of local nobles and elected high officials strengthened its position even more, while at the same time widening the distance that separated the Parginians from the inhabitants of the surrounding areas.
Source: Δ. Καλπάκης – “ΠΑΡΓΑ: Ξενάγηση – Περιηγήσεις”
During the period of Venetian rule, Parga acquired privileges and self-government, developed economically and its port became a transit center of the region. At the same time, the Venetians ordered the planting of olive groves, with the result that many of the Parginians are engaged in the production of olives and oil. In Parga, as in Preveza, olive mills and soap factories operated. This prosperity led to population growth and the city began to expand outside the castle walls.
At the same time, it was a base for charioteers, a fact that provoked the wrath of the Turks against the city.
In addition, during this period there was an important educational movement and many are the pioneers of this project (Hieromonk Philotheos, Anastasios Mospiniotis, Agapios Leonardos, etc.).
The sale of Parga to Ali Pasha
Ali Pasha repeatedly tried to conquer Parga but the city’s castle remained impregnable throughout the conflicts. In 1797 Parga passed from Venetian to French and soon to English administration. During the English rule, the pro-Turkish Lord Thomas Maitland was appointed High Commissioner of the region, who focused exclusively on promoting English interests in Parga and the Ionian Islands, ignoring the desire of its inhabitants for liberal governance.
In March 1817 the British agreed to cede Parga to the Ottoman Empire and negotiations began. The international outcry that broke out in Europe did not change the decision that had already been made. The inhabitants had to choose whether to remain in their ancestral lands under the rule of Ali Pasha or to flee far and beyond the borders of their homeland.
As part of the sale, the property of the Parginians (real estate and other assets) had to be assessed. Indeed, after several negotiations, an agreement was signed on May 17, 1817 in Ioannina between the British and the Ottoman sides for the sale of Parga, which stipulated that the Parginians would have to leave the area receiving a small compensation for the properties they would leave behind.
After postponements, the evacuation of Parga officially began on May 10, 1819, with the transfer of the Parginians to Corfu.
The money was never given to the Parginians, because Maitland, receiving the amount, fled to Corfu.
Of course, Ali Pasha did not get to enjoy his new acquisition, as in 1820 the siege of Ioannina began from the High Gate, which marked the definitive fall of the satrap of Epirus.
The inhabitants of Parga stayed away from their homeland for more than a century. In 1831, 100 families returned to their homeland, but most of the inhabitants settled in the city in 1913 after the annexation of Parga to the Greek state.
Sources: Ευγενία Δρακοπούλου – Δημήτρης Δημητρόπουλος – “Πάργα 1819. Περιμένοντας τον Αλή πασά, Εθνικό ίδρυμα Ερευνών, Ινστιτούτο Ιστορικών Ερευνών, Οργανισμός Λιμένος Πειραιώς, Αθήνα 2015“
Βράκας Φώτης – “Η Πάργα και οι Παργινοί το 1819”
What to see when you visit Parga
After the Second World War, Parga turned from a transit center into one of the most famous tourist destinations and today the economy of the region is mainly based on tourism, with what this implies in the alteration of the local color. Busy and cosmopolitan in the summer, quiet in the winter.
The frenetic rate of construction has altered the architecture of the city. The medieval past can be found in its Castle and its characteristic structure with the houses “crammed” down from above towards the beach. Parga’s radiance faded when its inhabitants abandoned it shortly before the Turks arrived.
There are a large number of churches in and outside of Parga. The interesting thing is that in a small town of 5,000 inhabitants there used to be about fifty churches, most of which belonged to private individuals. Today, Agios Nikolaos and Agioi Apostoloi stand out.
The castle of Parga
The castle, located in a strategic position, has an amazing view of the islet of Panagia with the two rocks with the the homonymous church and the small French fort from the beginning of the 19th century.
The chapel of Ag. Athanasios on the homonymous hill stands out above the cliff.
The castle has been abandoned and signs warn of the danger of the site and the sole responsibility of visitors (July 2023).
The Monastery of Vlacherna
According to tradition the monastery was the first settlement of the Parginians. Some nearby ruins reinforce this tradition. The monastery is very close to the city and a path from the northern side of the coast of Valtos leads to it. Built in a beautiful location with olive groves and a wonderful view of the Ionian Sea it is worth your visit.
The chapel of Agios Sostis
The chapel of Agios Sostis is built on a rock with a breathtaking view. The road is only for tall cars and you need directions to get there.
The water mills of Anthousa
The ruined water mills of Anthousa are located an olive grove. The road is narrow and needs some attention but it really is a very beautiful spot where there is also a cafe.
The castle of Ali Pasha in Anthousa
It is located above Anthousa and it was built in 1814 by Ali Pasha of Ioannina in order to control Parga from there. In February 1814, Ali Pasha’s army made a surprise attack on its outskirts and indulged in massacres, especially in Agia. In Parga he did not dare to attack and decided to build the fort in order to monitor Parga. The construction of the castle turned out to be unfortunate because in 1816 it presented static problems and strengthening and support work was done.
The beaches in and around Parga
As for the beaches inside and outside of Parga, there are many depending on the mood. The three organized beaches in the town of Valtos, Kryoneri and Piso (back) Kryoneri gather a lot of people and you have to be in time to be able to find a place.
Lychnos beach is one of the beaches that have been occupied exclusively by the centers.
The beach of Ai Giannakis, approximately 15 km from Parga, is a beautiful and quiet beach and is accessed by an asphalt road.
Spartila and Ai Sostis beaches are accessible by boat.
In the direction of Valanidorrahi village we approach three beaches. First Alonaki and Skala from the also beautiful beaches with canteen and parking space. Next to these two is Ormos tou Odysseus (Ulysses Bay) known by the Venetian name of Kerendza.
Also Sarakiniko beach at a distance of 11 km north of Parga.
Since 1962, Parga, which was designated as a tourist destination, had as its main criterion the beauty of the landscape, and it seems that due attention was not paid to the arbitrary intervention of tourism that altered the local architecture of the city. And to this day the natural beauties around the city combined with the beautiful beaches and the variety of activities and entertainment are what attract the visitors.