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Fancy a beach holiday in Greece? Don’t overlook the mainland, home to gems like the dazzling Parga

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The sun slides over the horizon and the Ionian Sea shimmers with its last rays as we look up from our table in the Alselea restaurant of the Parga Beach Resort and experience a moment of drama.

A man and a woman eat at a table on the sand. We’ve been watching them vaguely all evening, wondering if a marriage proposal is on the way.

Sure enough, when we’re done with our entrees, they’re on the water with an intense moment. We hold our breath. Then they kiss: It’s clearly a ‘yes’ – and diners burst into applause.

Annabel Venning visits the pretty town of Parga (pictured), in the Epirus region on the northwest coast of mainland Greece

“We get quite a few proposals here,” says Roi Ioannou, who runs Parga Beach Resort with her brother Christos.

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

Parga is located in the Epirus region, on the northwest coast of mainland Greece. Its location across the Ionian Sea from Corfu, Paxos and Antipaxos gave it strategic importance and it was often attacked by Ottomans, Venetians and French.

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

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

Parga Beach Resort has more than 100 rooms - like the guest room in the photo - in stone cottages with verandas and balconies

Parga Beach Resort has more than 100 rooms – like the guest room in the photo – in stone cottages with verandas and balconies

Above is Parga Beach Resort's Alselea restaurant, where Annabel

Above is Parga Beach Resort’s Alselea restaurant, where Annabel “experiences a moment of drama” as she witnesses a couple’s engagement

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

It is rarely overcrowded and the locals ride their mopeds through the narrow streets. From the beach below the town you can easily swim to a small twin-hump island, Panagia, in the bay, with its own small whitewashed church.

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

Annabel describes Parga as 'a small town of colorful houses covered in terracotta tiles, hidden between the wooded hills above and the sea below' that 'almost feels like an island'

Annabel describes Parga as ‘a small town of colorful houses covered in terracotta tiles, hidden between the wooded hills above and the sea below’ that ‘almost feels like an island’

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

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

From the beach below the town you can easily swim to a small twin-hump island, Panagia (above), in the bay, where there is a small whitewashed church

From the beach below the town you can easily swim to a small twin-hump island, Panagia (above), in the bay, where there is a small whitewashed church

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

Near Parga is Necromanteion, which the ancient Greeks believed was the entrance to the underworld and where they consulted the oracle of death. The Acheron River would flow into the underworld. Today you can swim or kayak in the cold water.

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

But it is the beautiful sea and safe sandy beaches that are the top attractions of Parga.

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

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

Annabel reveals that the Acheron River, pictured, would flow to the Underworld.

Annabel reveals that the Acheron River, pictured, would flow to the Underworld. “Today you can swim or kayak in the cold water,” she notes

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

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

Below the town is Kryoneri Beach. To the west, Valtos beach is considered the best beach in western Greece, sheltered and quiet with a handful of hotels, none of the high-rises, 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 is below the town

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

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

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

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

If you feel like island hopping, you can take a boat to Corfu, Paxos and Antipaxos.

Or – with the money you saved by not actually staying on an island – you can rent one yourself for the day.

If you fancy some island hopping, you can take a boat to Antipaxos, pictured above

If you fancy some island hopping, you can take a boat to Antipaxos, pictured above

During a boat trip, Annabel stops for lunch in the port of Gaios (pictured above), the capital of the island of Paxos

During a boat trip, Annabel stops for lunch in the port of Gaios (pictured above), the capital of the island 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 in coves beneath limestone cliffs that tower over a shimmering turquoise sea.

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

The Ottomans and Venetians were right about the attractions of Parga and its environs. They are worth fighting for.

TRAVEL FACTS

Double rooms in 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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