When thinking about the Greek islands of the Cyclades, there are definitely two that immediately make the top of the list in our minds: the high energy island of Mykonos and the mecca of romance Santorini. Both are highly cosmopolitan islands, welcoming many celebrity and A-listers each summer, and providing very high levels of service, facilities, and of course, experiences. If you wish to steer clear from this beaten path, then you will be thrilled that these qualities can also be found on the neighboring islands of the Cycladic cluster. The more affordable alternatives of Paros and Antiparos also boast some other features that the locals find irresistible, making these two islands increasingly popular with the Greeks who tend to have a bit more insight when it comes to avoiding very touristy places, that could detract from a genuine island experience.
A beautiful island that offers the visitor ample diversity in terms of experiences. Not being able to fit into any one box, or be described by a single word, Paros island is an exceptional place even during the early spring months, and until the traditional autumn months of September and October.
What to explore: With a wonderful, lacey coast that enjoys the sea breezes of the Cyclades, Paros’ shores are a hub of activity. A watersports haven, Paros offers kite surfing, wind surfing, and many other water bound activities that enthusiasts of marine fun will definitely appreciate. Be sure to check Punda beach for all the action, although there are other more quiet beaches such as the exotic Kolymbithres, with some strange rock formations, too. The island boasts two ‘centers’, one in Parikia, which is the commercial center and main port, and Naousa, the more boisterous, vivacious, and party side of Paros, with its whitewashed cobblestone alleyways. The latter is where the nightlife thrives, centred around a square in front of a quaint old fishing harbour.
What to experience: Choosing to stay further away from both, in the coastal Parasporos area, you can find an incredibly soothing place for all your senses: the newly renovated Minois Village. Couples can almost feel like they have eloped in this amazing sea view property, with a private balcony into the Aegean. Families can take all the space they need at one of the spacious and uber comfortable sea view suite or private villa, while similarly friends can enjoy the fun of closeness if they choose to stay altogether. Experience a holistic culinary journey of Greek flavors that are up to par with the view from the restaurant; feel refreshed, with an environmentally conscious seawater swimming pool, and a rejuvenating Thalassa Spa that promises to lavish guests in luxurious products, you can keep fit while indulging in incredibly scenic moments, plus you can also tap into the arts by visiting the in-house Art gallery. Check out Naoussa by night and explore the rest of the island by day.
The counterpart of Paros is Antiparos. The small scale Paros is actually the Greeks best kept secret. Only accessed from Paros island, Antiparos is for those in the know, for those who want to live a bit more intensely. From Paros, you can visit Antiparos for a day trip, to explore its pristine beaches, its local tavernas, its picturesque central square, onto which all cobble stone paths lead.
What to explore: Similar to Paros’ coast, Antiparos enjoys the same conditions that allow endless hours of fun for advanced kite and wind surfers. Psaralyki beach is a throbbing hot spot for hardcore watersports, enjoying youthful vibes day and night. Antiparos’ western coast is known for such activities while for more quiet, relaxing beach time you can venture out to St. George, Vathis, or Soros beach on the eastern side of the island; even Faneromeni beach on Antiparos’ southern most tip. Feeling even more adventurous? Feed your inner Indiana Jones by visiting a natural wonder, the 100m deep Antiparos cave that is home to stalactites and stalagmites that count 45 million years of existence. You will be greeted by the small white chapel of Ag. Ioannis Spiliotis at its entrance!
Photo of a typical house in Antiparos, credit: @theagear on Instagram
What to experience: The center is usually very quiet during the day, with a few cafes, bakeries, and breakfast places open. Generally Antiparos’ center is most popular when the sun goes down, after people have returned from a day of fun on their chosen beach. Aside from the fun on the surface of the sea, Antiparos is known for its unexplored marine depths, so a diving discovery is highly recommended. The Mediterranean Sea may not be as vibrant as the tropics, but it is still rich with more modest creatures and underwater landscapes that are worth your submersion. If the sea has not taken up all your energy, the nightlife in Antiparos will definitely do the trick. Be prepared for a full night of drinking and dancing, making sure you end your morning at La Luna dance club for the ultimate clubber experience.
Insider’s tip: Why not take the first ferry back to Paros and return to Minois Village in time to feast in a hearty, homemade, freshly prepared breakfast?