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Fancy a seaside holiday in Greece? Don’t overlook the mainland, home to gems such as dazzling Parga

The sun slides down the horizon and the Ionian Sea glistens with the last of its rays when we look up from our table at the Parga Beach Resort’s Alselea restaurant and catch a moment of drama.

A man and a woman are dining at a table on the sand. We have kept a vague eye on them all evening, wondering if a marriage proposal is imminent.

Sure enough, as we finish our starters, they are standing by the water’s edge having an intense moment. We hold our breath. Then they kiss: it’s clearly a ‘yes’ — and diners erupt in applause.

Annabel Venning visits the pretty town of Parga (pictured), which is in the region of Epirus on the north-west coast of mainland Greece

‘We get quite a few proposals here,’ says Roi Ioannou, who manages Parga Beach Resort with her brother, Christos.

It’s easy to see why, with the backdrop of bobbing boats and the romantic ruins of Parga Castle looking down from the headland.

Parga is in the region of Epirus, on the north-west coast of mainland Greece. Its position across the Ionian Sea from Corfu, Paxos and Antipaxos gave it strategic importance and it was frequently attacked by Ottomans, Venetians and French.

Annabel stays at Parga Beach Resort (above), where her fellow guests are a 'mixture of families and couples from Britain and Scandinavia, as well as Greek holidaymakers'

Annabel stays at Parga Beach Resort (above), where her fellow guests are a ‘mixture of families and couples from Britain and Scandinavia, as well as Greek holidaymakers’

Parga Beach Resort has more than 100 rooms - such as the guest room pictured - in stone cottages with verandas and balconies

Parga Beach Resort has more than 100 rooms – such as the guest room pictured – in stone cottages with verandas and balconies

Above is Parga Beach Resort's Alselea restaurant, where Annabel 'catches a moment of drama' as she witnesses a couple get engaged

Above is Parga Beach Resort’s Alselea restaurant, where Annabel ‘catches a moment of drama’ as she witnesses a couple get engaged

Now a small town of colorful houses topped with terracotta tiles, tucked between the forested hills above and the sea below, Parga feels almost like an island.

It is seldom overcrowded and locals navigate the narrow streets by moped. From the beach below the town, you can easily swim across to a little two-humped islet, Panagia, in the bay, with its own small, whitewashed church.

Actually, there is a little church on almost every corner of Parga. When local fishermen were caught in storms, they would promise God that they’d build a church if He got them safely back to land.

Annabel describes Parga as 'a small town of colorful houses topped with terracotta tiles, tucked between the forested hills above and the sea below' that 'feels almost like an island'

Annabel describes Parga as ‘a small town of colorful houses topped with terracotta tiles, tucked between the forested hills above and the sea below’ that ‘feels almost like an island’

Parga is 'seldom overcrowded and locals navigate the narrow streets by moped', Annabel reveals

Parga is ‘seldom overcrowded and locals navigate the narrow streets by moped’, Annabel reveals

From the beach below the town, you can easily swim to a little two-humped islet, Panagia (above), in the bay, which is home to a small, whitewashed church

From the beach below the town, you can easily swim to a little two-humped islet, Panagia (above), in the bay, which is home to a small, whitewashed church

Parga's position across the Ionian Sea from Corfu, Paxos and Antipaxos gave it strategic importance and it was frequently attacked by Ottomans, Venetians and French

Parga’s position across the Ionian Sea from Corfu, Paxos and Antipaxos gave it strategic importance and it was frequently attacked by Ottomans, Venetians and French

Near Parga is Necromanteion, which Ancient Greeks believed was the entrance to the Underworld and where they consulted the oracle of death. The river Acheron was said to flow into the Underworld. Today, you can swim or kayak its chilly waters.

Another nearby archaeological site is the ruined city of Cassope, complete with the remains of a temple to Aphrodite, goddess of love.

But it is the dazzling sea and safe, sandy beaches that are the star attractions of Parga.

Pictured is a bird's eye view of the archaeological site of Necromanteion, which Ancient Greeks believed was the entrance to the Underworld

Pictured is a bird’s eye view of the archaeological site of Necromanteion, which Ancient Greeks believed was the entrance to the Underworld

Annabel reveals that the river Acheron, pictured, was said to flow into the Underworld.  'Today, you can swim or kayak its chilly waters,' she notes

Annabel reveals that the river Acheron, pictured, was said to flow into the Underworld. ‘Today, you can swim or kayak its chilly waters,’ she notes

A nearby archaeological site is the ruined city of Cassope (above), complete with the remains of a temple to Aphrodite, goddess of love

A nearby archaeological site is the ruined city of Cassope (above), complete with the remains of a temple to Aphrodite, goddess of love

Below the town is Kryoneri beach. To the west, Valtos beach is considered the best beach in western Greece, sheltered and peaceful with a handful of hotels, none high-rise, including Parga Beach Resort.

There are more than 100 rooms in stone cottages with verandas and balconies. Some have private pools, but there are four other pools around the resort, plus a yoga platform.

There is also a wellness center — I fall asleep during my massage, the ultimate compliment to the masseur, I think — and a gym, games room and playground.

Beaches are the 'star attraction' in Parga, Annabel reveals.  Above is Kryoneri beach, which lies below the town

Beaches are the ‘star attraction’ in Parga, Annabel reveals. Above is Kryoneri beach, which lies below the town

The 'sheltered and peaceful' Valtos beach (pictured) adjacent to Parga to the west is considered the best beach in western Greece

The ‘sheltered and peaceful’ Valtos beach (pictured) adjacent to Parga to the west is considered the best beach in western Greece

Our fellow guests are a mixture of families and couples from Britain and Scandinavia, as well as Greek holidaymakers.

If you fancy a spot of island-hopping you can take a boat to Corfu, Paxos and Antipaxos.

Or — with the money you have saved by not actually staying on an island — you can hire your own for the day.

If you fancy a spot of island-hopping you can take a boat to Antipaxos, pictured above

If you fancy a spot of island-hopping you can take a boat to Antipaxos, pictured above

On a boat tour, Annabel stops for lunch in the port of Gaios (pictured above), the capital of the isle of Paxos

On a boat tour, Annabel stops for lunch in the port of Gaios (pictured above), the capital of the isle of Paxos

Our boat, chartered from Orca Yachting through the resort (orcayachting.com), takes us cruising around Paxos and Antipaxos, stopping for lunch in Gaios, anchoring up in coves beneath limestone cliffs that tower above a glittering turquoise sea.

We snorkel through caves and swim to deserted bays, before returning to Parga Beach Resort for another feast.

The Ottomans and Venetians were right about the attractions of Parga and its surroundings. They’re well worth fighting for.

TRAVEL FACTS

Double rooms at the Parga Beach Resort (pargabeachresort.gr) from £98 per night B&B (in October). EasyJet flies from Gatwick to Preveza from £54.99 (easyjet.com).

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