Antiparos: the second coming
Despite being only a few minutes off the coast of Paros, Antiparos is a very different proposition to the established Cycladic destination. This was traditionally a hippy island or for those of us who remember the 90s; Greece’s indie island. Its legendary bars and clubs have been part of our summer memories and you only have to say “La Luna” to an Athenian of a certain age to get that knowing look. What happens in La Luna, very much stays in La Luna.
Antiparos has moved on since then. It’s still small enough to be manageable without a car, with a cute Chora (main town) and a number of coves to make swimming a pure pleasure even in high season. Something has definitely changed though. The island famed for its nudist spots and budget accommodation now has lavish villas, Hollywood stars as locals and chi chi boutiques. It somehow still manages to retain its laid back attitude though, despite its all-prevailing brunch menus.
What should you expect from Antiparos then? The season here is short. Be prepared for certain restaurants, shops and bars to be closed by the second week in September. On the other hand, avoiding the peak summer months will get you as close to the heart of the island as you can get. Cars aren’t necessary here, unless you’re an off road explorer type. The local bus crosses the existing road network and there are boats to take you to some of the beaches too. If you do decide to bring your own wheels, the roads are good for an island of this size.
The accommodation options include some of the most beautiful high-end villas anywhere on the Greek islands to basic rooms from 25 to 50 euros per night in low season. Not much else in between though, so the hipster crowd flock to Beach House (http://beachhouseantiparos.com/), a cute spot with its own restaurant, a concierge and yoga schedule. Despite its designer credentials and its postcard views, do be wary of the overpriced and mediocre food on offer. Choose accommodation in the Chora if you want be within walking distance of bars and restaurants, and Agios Georgios if you want to really chill out and enjoy the sea views. Agios Georgios is also the starting point for the Despotiko island complex, a unique combo of crystal clear waters, caves and culture in the form of an important archaeological site. You’ll also find some of the island’s best-known fish restaurants here, with the most famous being Kapetan Pipinos. For those of you who aren’t squeamish or vegetarian (!), this is one of the most instagram friendly corners of Antiparos. Octopus drying in the sun, cute taverna tables and chairs on the water’s edge and the most beautiful array of blue anywhere you look.
When it comes to choosing a beach, you can literally walk or drive around and pick your spot. As in many Greek islands, there is a lot which isn’t signposted or on any map so channelling your inner explorer is usually the best way to go. The most established options are those in Psaraliki right by the main town, Soros which is the island’s largest beach, the gorgeous Livadi in Despotiko and Agios Sostis / Faneromeni for pure emerald waters. In our indie days, the beach at the camping site and Sifneyiko (just on the other side of the castle in the Chora) were all we could stumble too but do try and be more adventurous if you can! Sifneyiko is still a great sunset spot though so head there post swim for that unmistakable island chilled out feeling.
Turning our attention to the Chora itself, this little gem really is why we enjoy coming here. The mood is set from the minute you get off the ferry from Paros. You won’t find any of the ugly signs, chaotic architecture or noise that greet you in other island ports. Your holiday starts here. There are only a few cobbled streets to walk through but they have everything you need. If you’re on a budget, there are the usual souvlaki or burger options but you can do better than that. Despite the island’s gentrification, you can still get good and simple taverna food. Klimataria, Ntamis and Pavlos (Pavlos Palace hotel) are the best known and follow the rule of always looking further than the main streets in any Greek town to get the more budget friendly eating options. Out of the literally endless café/breakfast options, we loved Papagalos for their really warm welcome and good prices. They also had a good lunch menu too so well worth a stop. Our old favourite, Margarita, has definitely seen better days so we’re sad to report that it’s best avoided now. If you’re in the mood for something more upmarket, head for Ageri restaurant, Kalokeri or La Louche. As Antiparos is very popular with our Italian brothers and sisters, there a handful of pizza restaurants as well, with Lollo’s being the most established.
What will really surprise old school Antiparos fans is the fact that it is now a bit of a shopping Mecca. A number of beautifully designed boutiques have opened up all along the Chora’s main road, ready to kit you out with a full summer wardrobe. Yet another sign of the changing face of Antiparos but done in its own classy way. You can really forget what date and time it is while you’re here, it was only our ferry ticket summoning us back to Paros that reminded us and this time we were able to leave without an infamous La Luna hangover!
This article was first published in Australian newspaper Neos Kosmos on 8th October 2016. Reproduced with kind permission, all rights reserved.