Paros and Antiparos: Getting Hooked on Two Greek Isles

Paros and Antiparos should be on your list

I have chartered in Greece four times and I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are so many island groups, each with a distinct personality, that you could keep busy for a lifetime of boating. The Cyclades to the south of the mainland are spectacular. Two of those, Paros and Antiparos, should be on your list if you find yourself setting sail in this part of the world.

paros and antiparos cocktails
Cocktails at the Rooster after a strenuous hike. Photo by Zuzana Prochazka

Situated at the heart of the Cyclades group, Paros and Antiparos could alone commandeer three days of your charter. We arrived at the Parikia Harbor early and had to wait for boats checking out. Nobody moves here before 10 a.m. Although I could have sworn no cat would fit, we wiggled our Lagoon 42 chartered from Navigare Yachting into a space that we weren’t going to leave easily. Careful lining up, serious engine power, and sheer determination squeezed us in as Greek men on the dock shouted directions I couldn’t understand anyway. No meltemi wind was going to mess with us here.

Our dockmaster rode his tiny bicycle over to collect cash, turn on the water, and tell us which rental car agency to use. The weather was sketchy. I was glad we were parked up and spending the day wandering the tiny alleys of the chora or old town. The passages here are paved from wall to wall, and when a downpour hit the steep “streets,” we were knee deep in rushing water that ran past the cafes and craft shops. Wet flipflops aside, we were hunting for a dinner spot, but truth be told, you can’t swing a cat without hitting one remarkable eatery after another here. And the wine…

Rooster Antiparos Lifestyle and Wellness Center
Lunch at the Rooster Antiparos Lifestyle and Wellness Center. Photo by Zuzana Prochazka

The next morning, we rented a vehicle and drove down to Pounta to take the 30-minute car ferry to neighboring Antiparos. The smaller island is a getaway of sorts for both Athenians as well as full-time residents of Paros and Naxos. Our goal was to visit the famous cave. Reaching down nearly 300 feet, this cave was first explored in the 15th century, but it had served as a site of refuge and worship for millenia. The oldest stalagmite at the cave’s entrance is 45 million years old and the 411 steps down into the cave’s belly will give you a workout on the way back up. 

Cave in Paros
A cave the author explored. The oldest stalagmite at the cave’s entrance is 45 million years old.

After a fairly tiring climb, we needed to rejuvenate, so we headed to the west coast of the island and the Rooster Wellness Center for lunch. This is the kind of spa where the staff wear silk pajamas and everyone speaks in hushed tones. It was hard to decide which was the best part—the designer grounds, the organic cuisine, the spectacular cocktails, or the view of the ocean. I could have lived here a while. 
You could easily spend two days on tiny Antiparos, hiking around Kouros Village or visiting Despotiko Island next door, which is a combination of beaches and ancient Greek ruins. But when in Greece, there’s a spectacular island right around the corner, so we returned to Parikia, handed off the car, and wiggled our way out of our “slip” the next morning to set sail like Odysseus. 

The Cyclades are a sprawling group, and I’ve still not visited all of the islands. The sail down from Athens is usually a fun and fast ride, but the return against prevailing winds can be a tricky bash. If the dreaded dry northern meltemi is blowing, you’ll have to wait for a weather window which is tough to do on charter; so plan ahead. 

The Navigare base is at Agios Kosmas Marina south of Athens. You can drop anchor at Sounion on the way down and at the island of Kea when heading back up. Sounion has a stunning hilltop temple to visit, and Kea is a gorgeous island terraced with olive groves and quite different from the rest of the dry Cyclades. This will make two long days at sea to reach Paros, but you’ll sail at least one of them. Two weeks is always better for a charter in the Cyclades and worth it after you fly all that way. If you book during the shoulder season of May, you’ll have a better pick of boats and few crowds to contend with.

I can hardly wait to revisit Greek waters. It’s some of the most scenic, friendly, and fabulous chartering anywhere. Once you go, you’ll be hooked, too.  

by Zuzana Prochazka

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