The Cyclades: Places to Explore

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Antiparos

This smaller, sister isle of Paros may have once been the best little secret of the Cyclades but thanks to such gilt-edged visitors as Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, and Sean Connery, everybody now knows about this pretty little forgetaway. And let's not forget the fact that this green, inhabited islet belongs to the famously rich Goulandris family, benefactors of the Goulandris Cycladic Museum in Athens (and much else). As a result of all this glamour, Antiparos is developing all too rapidly. A great source of information about Antiparos, with a complete listing of hotels, can be found at www.antiparos-isl.gr.

Twenty-five years ago you went to the Paros hamlet of Pounta, went to the church, opened its door (as a signal), and waited for a fishing caïque to chug over. Now, 30 car ferries ply the channel all day and a lovely seven-minute ride wafts you from Paros (from Pounta; the ride from Paroikía takes about 20 minutes) to Antiparos. A causeway once crossed the Antiparos Strait, which would be swimmable but for the current, and on one of its still emergent islets, Saliagos, habitations and objects have been found dating back almost to 5000 BC.

Antiparos's one town, also called Antiparos, has a main street and two centers of activity: the quay area and the main square, a block or two in. At both are restaurants and cafés. To the right of the square are houses and the Kastro's 15th-century wall. At the other end of the quay from the ferry dock a road goes to an idyllic sandy beach (it is 10 minutes by foot); you can wade across to the islet opposite, Fira, where sheep and goats graze.

In the 19th century the most famous sight in the Aegean was the Antiparos cave (9 km [5½ mi] from town), and it still deservedly attracts hundreds of visitors a year. Four hundred steps descend into huge chambers, pass beneath enormous pipe-organ stalactites, and skirt immense stalagmites. In 1673 the French ambassador famously celebrated Christmas Mass here with 500 guests, who feasted for three days. Look for Lord Byron's autograph. Outside is the church of Agios Ioánnis Spiliótis, built in 1774.

It is pleasant to go around to the other side of Antiparos on the good road to Ayios Georgios, where there are three excellent taverns, perfect after a swim. On request a boat will take you to the nearby islet of Despotikon, uninhabited except for seasonal archaeologists excavating a late-Archaic marble temple complex to Apollo. In autumn the hills are fragrant with purple flowering heather.

Antiparos at a Glance

Restaurants

Elsewhere in Paros and Antiparos

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