Sometimes I fancy myself a bargain basement Alan Wicker… All Aegean islands, from the trendiest to the remotest, less popular ones, have already been explored and are visited by hundreds of thousands of sun-seekers year in-year out. Nonetheless, I feel the urge to document people and places lest they be forgotten in the smoky depths of my (absent) mind!
This summer we spent 12 days in Antiparos, part of the Cyclades archipelago, one of the tinier islets sitting right next to the mother-island of Paros. They were an item once but, following Gaia’s precarious continental drift over the millenia, there came a time to cut the cord. They remained close though, just a shallow sea dotted with rocks and a couple of uninhabited islets between them. Its historic first settlers were Phoenicians from Sidon and named it Oliaros, meaning ‘wooded mountain’. It is thus assumed that there was lush vegetation which was later lost forever from excessive logging.
Antiparos is reached by boat from Paros, either from the main port of Parikia or from Pounta. From Parikia, a small boat will bring you to Antiparos in 30 minutes but, as it is exposed to wind, you may find this crossing cancelled more often than not. On the other hand, Pounta is just a 10-minute short cross (feels like swimming distance), protected from winds and high seas, so this route is always open. It is also the only way to reach Antiparos by ferry boat, if you are travelling by car or motorcycle.
Unlike other mountainous islands with their wild beauty and blue-and-white postcard villages, Antiparos’ landscape is gentle and slightly hilly -the highest point being around 300metres- sprinkled with white, sandy or pebbled beaches with water that deepens gradually. There is even a ‘baby’ beach, as shallow as a baby pool – perhaps boring for grown ups but every time we passed by it I noticed a number of toddlers, very satisfied with the ‘facilities’…
Antiparos is bike friendly, the first island we’ve visited where one can hire bikes, obviously thanks to the flat-ish landscape. It really makes a difference not to have to hire a scooter or car – we’d only got one for three days just to reach the farthest points (too hot to ride a bike)! A few beautiful beaches are easily accessible on foot: we spent most days in the Camping beach on the northern side (apparently the camping itself is also great); it’s nudist friendly and, at places, shallow enough to walk across to an islet called Diplos, inhabited solely by goats. We didn’t explore that one for lack of shade, as we both have vampire skin, in need of total protection at all times until sunset. On the camping beach there is one young tree which we were grateful to share with some very understanding fellow sufferers! Another favourite was Panagia towards the south, a long sandy beach lined with Tamarisk-temperature-dropping-trees; we stayed under their soothing, cool shade for hours… But the most spectacular of all is a huge deserted beach on the uninhabited island of Despotiko, on the southwestern tip of Antiparos; accessible by boat only.
Panagia Beach – Golden sand and Tamarisk trees:
This is peaceful little heaven, especially if you can avoid the high season. The village centre is the core of activity; with it’s pedestrianized paths, shops and tavernas, traditional houses, the Venetian Castle, the open-air cinema, it’s the epitome of simple life; where kids make friends and play outside and grown ups become kids again…
Speaking of tavernas, we frequented the famous, family run ‘Yorgis’, with tables on both sides of the main street and ‘Damis’ at the far end of the village, past the main square towards Sunset beach (where, by the way, you can catch some breathtaking sunsets), for their friendly service, great quality meat and vegetarian dishes at unbeatable prices! A weird thing about some Greek islands is that fresh fish is a rare commodity at restaurants… for really great fish one must head southwest, to the settlement of Agios Georgios. Treat your palate with anything from the grill of Captain Pipinos and you’ll definitely be returning:
This tiny island seems to be everyone’s darling: popular to the Greek public since 1960, through ‘Madalena’ a film produced by Finos Film (the most important production company in Greece at the time), its popularity has somehow risen over the years to reach international film and entertainment personalities who made some pretty heavy land investments there. I’m told that you can brush shoulders with Tom Hanks, Pierce Brosnan and Madonna if you can get your busy schedules aligned! We didn’t but there is always a next time!
These houses, surrounding the (few) remains of the mid-15th century Venetian castle wall, have been an integral part of it since its construction. They could easily double as a film set:
For all its beauty, peace and quite, there is -for good balance- a drawback: following its increasing popularity, a legion of rather aggressive mosquitoes has colonised the island; Surely the wetlands of Psaralyliki, half a kilometre south of the village, an environmentally protected area with stagnant water, is the perfect host for these annoying visitors. Be prepared to fight (gear and ammunition available in strategic positions around the island: super markets, pharmacies, kiosks). We tried every combination available; take a guess who prevailed!
Watch this space, as our exploration of Antiparos continues…
07-19 June 2013