Made from Water and stone
- Getting there, accomodation
- Chora and Molos
- A peculiar Venetian castle
- The northern peninsula
- The beaches on the east coast
- The southern peninsula
- The western coast and Despotiko Bay
- Aghios Georgios
- Despotiko and the sanctuary of Apollo
- The cave of Antiparos, the history
- The entrance to the cave and the descent
- The secret base of Aghios Georgios
A trip to the island of Antiparos! A travel in white and blue, in water and stone, like any travel in the Cyclades Islands! Small and beautiful, one step from Paros, Antiparos is one of the most attractive destinations in the Aegean Sea. Calm, relaxing, it has good tourist infrastructure, magnificent beaches and one of the most beautiful caves that fascinates thousands of visitors every year.
Antiparos is located southwest of the island of Paros, too close to it, east of the island of Sifnos, from which is 13 nm, and north of the island of Sikinos, from which is 14 nm. It has an area of 35 sq km, with a length of 12.5 km from north to south and a width of 5.5 km at its center.
The northern part is low in contrast to the central part. The highest peak is Prophet Elias at a height of 299 m. On the hill of Aghios Ioannis (St. John), with a height of 177 m, is the famous cave of Antiparos. The southern part of the island is rocky as it has volcanic origin.
The coastline has a length of 57 km. The shores are lacy, with beautiful sandy beaches in the northern and the eastern coast, as well as in the middle of the western coast.
A channel, called the Strait of Antiparos, separates the southwest coast of Paros and the east coast of Antiparos. The strait has little depth, especially at the narrowest northern rim. The shorter distance is from the port of Pounta in Paros to the port of Molos in Antiparos, where small ferries come and go.
Between them are three islets like bells stretched in the water; Revmatonessi, private property, also called Boudaria or Kato Nissaki (Lower Islet), next the smallest Saliangos or Messako Nissaki (Middle Islet) and then Oros (Mount) or Pano Nissaki (Upper Islet). Saliangos is one of the most important prehistoric sites; the oldest known Neolithic settlement in Cyclades was discovered there. In the sea between the three islands are reefs, so the sailors have to be careful.
Too close to the northern coast of Antiparos is the islet Kato Phira or Diplo (Double) and next the islet Pano Phira or Kavouras (Crab). North, two amazing rocks, Mavros Tourlos (Black Vault) and Kokkinos Tourlos (Red Vault), and a little further the Spyridonissia, three islets and among them rocks and reefs.
South, into the strait, near the coast is the small rocky islet Aghios Antonios and in the south five small islands in the line; Tourna, Preza, Glaropounta, Tigani and Pantieronissi. All together are called Pantieronissia. On the other side, opposite the western coast of Antiparos is the island Despotiko and next to it the smaller Strongylo. Between Despotiko and Antiparos is the islet Tsimintiri.
Antiparos has no direct connection with Piraeus or other great ports. We have to get first to Paros and then to Antiparos. There are ferries every day, in the morning and in the afternoon, from Piraeus to Parikia, the capital and harbor of Paros. The ferry takes four hours and fifteen minutes, the high speed ferry three hours. We can also go to Paros by plane.
There are two routes from Parikia to Antiparos; the one by sea, the other by road and then sea. If we go with our own vehicle the second is the only way.
If we go directly by sea, we take the small motor boat connecting Paros and Antiparos. In Parikia it ties up next to the pier for the big ferries. It takes about thirty minutes for a distance of 5 nm.
If we go with our own vehicle, we take the peripherical road of Paros to the south. Our destination is Pounta, a small port on the west coast at a distance of 8 km from Parikia, opposite to the port of Antiparos. Small ferries come and go every thirty minutes. For those without a vehicle there is the bus or a taxi from Parikia.
Here is the narrowest point of the strait; the distance is 1.700 meters. The ferry takes seven minutes for the crossing. There are scheduled departures every half an hour. From Punta on the hour and on the hour and a half – at twelve, twelve thirty etc – from Molos, the port of Antiparos, on the hour and fifteen minutes – a quarter to twelve, a quarter past twelve etc. In summertime the last departure is usually at two thirty at night. Some changes from year to year are possible.
The ferry connection started in 1986. Until then, for years and years, there was a rather peculiar way for the crossing. In the small port of Pounta there is a tiny church dedicated to Panaghia Ypapanti. So, the travellers had to open the door of the church and wait to be seen by the boatmen in the port of Antiparos. When they saw the open door, they knew that someone was waiting to pass across and one of them came to take him. If it was nighttime the travellers didn’t only open the door. They had also to light candles.
The ferry from Pounta ties up at the first dock arriving in Molos, the port of Antiparos. The coastal road of Molos begins in a few steps, following the border of the harbor. There it starts also the peripherical road of the island, heading south on the east coast to the other locations – Kambos (6 km), Livadi (7 km), Spilaio (Cave – 8 km), Apandima and Soros (9 km). It ends on the west coast, in the region of Aghios Georgios (St. George – 12 km).
In summer a municipal bus goes from Molos to the Cave, Soros and Aghios Georgios. The terminal is after the ferry dock on the right. For the Cave there is also a tourist bus starting from the same point. There is no taxi in Antiparos. But we can rent a vehicle, car or motocycle.
Three big caiques sail every day from Molos round Antiparos visiting beaches and small islands. The cruise lasts from the morning till half past five in the afternoon and includes swimming, dancing and barbecue on a beach.
A boat from Aghios Georgios makes summer routes to the beach Livadi on the island of Despotiko, and in return passes from the sea caves on the west coast of Antiparos.
Hotels and rooms to let are in Molos and Chora, as well as in some poits on the east coast; also in Aghios Georgios on the west coast.
There are no large hotels. They all maintain the cycladic character and, like the houses that rent rooms, are family businesses. On the northern coast, near the capital, there is a camping site.
Antiparos is a favourite trip from Paros during the summertime. Many people come to visit the famous cave, swim from one of the beautiful beaches, or enjoy grilled octopus and local raki in traditional taverns.
In Antiparos there are 1.040 residents, mostly living in the capital. It is estimated that one thousand more live in the seasonal cottages during holidays. Many are celebrities, Greeks and foreigners, who have built villas-retreats. The most famous is the great American actor Tom Hanks.
Once upon a time the islands of Naxos, Paros and Antiparos were united, but Poseidon, God of the Sea, took his trident and hit them the blow separating them. According to mythology, he made Naxos larger and offered it to his wife, Amphitrite, gave Paros beautiful beaches and made Antiparos all green for the farmers. The Phoenicians, its first inhabitants, called it Oliaros that means “wooded mountain”.
The first traces of habitation are from the Neolithic era. In the tiny island of Saliangos, just four hundred meters far from the port of Molos in Antiparos, the oldest known Neolithic settlement of Cyclades, dated about 4300 BC, was discovered in 1964 – 1965 by the British School of Archaeology in Athens. In old times Saliangos was not an island but a low peninsula that probably united Paros and Antiparos. During antiquity the level of the sea was much lower than today.
Traces of three periods of habitation were found, as well as a fortified wall, small stone houses, tools made from obsidian, pots of dark clay with white decoration and stone figurines. The most famous figurine is named the “Obesse Lady of Saliangos”. The findings are in the Archaelogical Museum of Paros in Parikia.
Most Information about the prehistoric life in Antiparos came from findings in the cave in the 1970’s. The first unofficial excavations were made in 1883 by the Briton T. Bent, who discovered tombs of 3200 – 2500 BC. The first official excavation took place in 1897, when the great Greek archaelogist Christos Tsountas discovered a cemetery of Early Bronze Age and found pots and figurines, to be seen in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
New excavations began after 2009 and at the site Agriokastro (Wild Castle), at the northwestern edge of Antiparos, brought to light the remains of a city which flourished at about 1500 BC when Cyclades were under the Minoan Crete. Another recent excavation in the region of Aghia Kyriake on the east coast brought to light the remains of edifices considered as helennistic ceramics laboratories producing amphoras for the wine. Certain findings date from the Archaic and Classic years.
From the ancient times to the Byzantine period Antiparos was closely linked to Paros. After the conquest of Konstaninople in 1204 by the Franks, from 1207 to 1210 the Venetian Marco Sanudo conquered the Cyclades Islands and founded the Duchy of Aegean Sea, with Naxos as capital. The Venetian nobility formed the islands into feudal societies.
During these years Antiparos passed to the House of Sommaripa after the marriage of Maria Sanudo to Gaspari Sommaripa. But the island was often depopulated because of the pirate raids. In 1440 the master of Paros and Andros, Kroussino Sommaripa the 1st, gave Antiparos as a dowry to his daughter Francesca, on her marriage to Leonardo Lorentano. The Lorentanos were a well known and powerful Venetian family and Leonardo brought at his own expense farmers to Antiparos and built a castle to protect them, which at the same time was a settlement.
In 1480, Antiparos passed in the sovereignity of Domenico Pisani, who also ruled the islands of Ios and Anafe, and during the war between Venice and Turkey from 1537 to 1540 it was conquered as many other islands by the Turks. It experienced once more difficult times from pirate raids, while since the 17th Century became known in Europe due to its cave. More and more travellers visited it and published books with enthusiastic impressions and drawings.
Molos, the port of Antiparos, is located in a beautiful bay, landlocked, as it is protected by a small peninsula at north. United with Molos, Chora, capital of the island, stretches with its whitewashed houses to the interior. It is also called Antiparos, of Kastro (Castle) due to its peculiar Venetian castle.
The ferry from Pounta ties up at the beginning of the port, where the coastal road begins. At the same point starts the peripherical road of the island heading south.
The coastal road, large and nice to walk, follows the border of the port. A white windmill says first “welcome”. Next the church of Aghia Marina, also white with blue dome and windows; the celebration in its name-day on July 17th is a great event. The festivities last for three days.
Going on, we find restaurants and cafeterias, a big kiosk selling almost everything and a supermarket open until late at night; next the hotels, more like houses with white walls and blue doors, windows and balconies.
On the other side, the quay; small boats, most for fishing, are rocking in the water. The larger boats moor at the dock in the middle of the harbor; the motor boat, which links Molos and Parikia, caiques, sailing boats and yachts.
Exactly opposite the dock, a road goes to the interior. Ii is the main road of Chora; the main market, the place of gathering, the traditional stroll, the dinner, the spending of summer nights; in a few words, the center of the island’s life. In old books it is named Kombiakas. Nobody calls it this. The younger don’t even remember the name. Everybody says “I’am going to the central road”.
It is the same old main street of Antiparos, renovated, but always traditional, full of bougainvilleas, paved, with the joints between the slabs whitewashed as the islanders of Cyclades do from the old days. In the first part is like a small square. Here are the bakery and food shops. There are supermarkets elsewhere, too, but better to ask if you want to find them easily the first time.
Going on, on both sides are stores of every kind; folk art, clothing, services. On the left is the bookstore of the island; well above the pharmacy; among all these small restaurants, cafeterias and bars, whether in the groundfloor of a house, or in elevated terraces. There are also tables on the side of the street. In summertime the main road is pedestrian.
On both sides start alleys, turning round, branching out, whitewashed and clean. It seems that the narrow streets are one with the houses; houses stuck to each other, several with rooms to let; here and there taverns with home made food and small bars. A labyrinth worth-while exploring!
At the end of the main road is the only square of Chora; picturesque, traditional and quiet during the day. During the night the air is different. In and around are the bars preferred by the young people. The square fills with life and all kind of loud music.
Here is the cathedral of the island, Aghios Nickolaos, small, constructed in the middle of 17th Century with the contribution of the village curate Damenzou, as the inscription above the west door describes. There are two other churches, Evanghelistria and Aghios Athanasios. In Evanghelistria are marvellous icons by painters of the famous Cretan School of hagiography.
The square has three outlets. The one is an arcade; behind a narrow street leads to the bay Siphnaeikos Gialos on the west coast, near the capital. The second outlet brings to the east coast. The third, after the door of Aghios Nickolaos, leads to a small street under an arch. It is the entrance to the Venetian castle of Antiparos.
In the square of Chora, the alley next the church of Aghios Nickolaos leads in few steps to the entrance of the Venetian castle of Antiparos, the first residential core of the town. It is a characteristic sample of the fortified settlements created in Cuclades during the period of Latin domination.
The only entrance is under an arch. An alley goes around the huge foundation of a tower, cut in a certain height. Old houses form a wall. Their facade is on the inside. Exterior stairs lead to the upper floors. It doesn’t look like the castles we know.
At the time of Venetian rule in the Cyclades Islands, Antiparos belonged in the duchy of Naxos, founded by Marco Sanudo, and was under the House of Sommaripa. In 1440 the master of Paros and Andros, Kroussino Sommaripa the 1st, gave Antiparos as a dowry to his daughter Francesca, on her marriage to Leonardo Lorentano. But the island was depopulated because of the pirate raids. Leonardo Lorentano brought at his own expense farmers to Antiparos and built a castle to protect them, which at the same time was a settlement.
In the center of a square courtyard a high tower arised and around it twenty-four houses were built in continuous construction. In each side of the square with a length of 53, 80 meters were six houses. Their tall exterior wall, with small openings, was three meters in thick. This was the perimetrical defensive wall. The only entrance was on the ground floor of a house on the south side, protected by a Gothic portal. The houses had three storeys. The residents entered from the inner courtyard. Each floor had its own entrance, accessed by an outdoor staircase.
This was the residential core of Antiparos. Later, the settlement expanded out of the castle to the south. Twenty four two-storey houses were built, which formed a new neighbourhood named Xopyrgo, meaning “out of the tower”. Houses were also built inside the enclosure around the base of the circular central tower.
The castle was inhabited without interruption until the 19th century. Some houses are still inhabited today. Now-days only the base of the tower still exists. The upper part offered new services. A tank has been constructed to supply the town with water. It is well known that the water is valuable in Cyclades.
But even “cut” the tower is still impressive as we can see on the other side in front of its huge base. In a marble plaque above a door is the emblem of Lorentano. In another is written the year 1611. They are also churches, one of the Birth of Christ, another of John the Baptist.
The northern part of the island is a peninsula extending from the port to the small islands in the north. We can go by foot. The best moment is about one or one and a half hour before sundown. It’s not very hot and we can enjoy the sunset.
We follow the road that passes by the beach of Aghios Spyridon, west of the port. Another road leads to the camping site of Antiparos. Opposite is the small island Diplo or Kato Phira; behind it, the other islet, the higher Kavouras or Pano Phira.
The islet of Diplo is one hundred and fifty meters away. Its ground is flat and there are small lonely beaches. The beach in northwest stares the open sea. The channel between the two islets is narrow. The northeastern coast of Diplo and the southeastern coast of Kavouras form a bay open to the east, where the yachts and small boats find a safe anchorage.
Opposite to Kavouras are two amazing lonely rocks; northwest, two hundred meters away the Kokkinos (Red) Tourlos; northeast, three hundred sixty meters away the Mavros (Black) Tourlos; north of it the Spyridonessia, three islets and several rocks. Their name comes from the islet called Aghios Spyridon as is the chapel at its top, the only green point all over.
From the beach with the camping site the path leads west and then south to Siphnaeikos Gialos, a wonderful bay with a beautiful beach staring the open sea. Then, walking east we get back to Chora.
The east coast of Antiparos is lower and smoother than the other coasts of the island with beautiful sandy beaches.
Near Chora are three beaches with the same name! Psaralyki A, Psaralyki B, Psaralyki C! One after the other! There is an explanation for the name. “Psari” means “fish” and “alyki” means “salt-pan”. Near the first and the second beach is an area as large as a football field and as white as snow. The “snow” is salt and the area is a small lake which from autumn till sping fills with water offering a resort for the birds travelling to hotter climates. During the summer it becomes a salt-plan again.
Psaralyke A, a few minutes south of Chora by foot, is one of the most beautiful beaches of Antiparos. Long and sandy adorned by armyrikia, trees having the ability to live in the salty ground by the seaside.
Psaralyke B, near the first after a small peninsula, is preferred by the young because it is more open to the Strait, offering good conditions for windsurfing and sea sports.
Psaralyke C, a little further, also called Panaghia from a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is the smaller, but also hospitable with shallow waters.
To the south, in the region of Aghia Kyriaki, the rocky islet Aghios Antonios emerges two hundred fifty meters from the coast. A little further is the small sandy beach Glypha. Then the coast becomes rocky again up to the cape Akakos and next to it turns inside forming the wide open bay Peramataki.
At the beginning, a small bay between rocks is formed. If we don’t come by sea we have to descend a sloping earthen track starting from the road. It is Apandema, a natural port with a charming small beach in the deepest recess and higher a restaurant-café and some rooms to let. Here the visitors of the cave arrived before the construction of the road. Here also the ore from the old mines of the island was loaded on the ships.
Further south the long sandy beach of Soros stretches in the bay Peramataki. Several villas are dispersed in the region above the bay. They are the homes of well known people who like the ease of life in Antiparos; among them, the famous American actor Tom Hanks. On the beach is a big tavern with covered tables. Another tavern is up near the road with nice view to the bay and rooms to let.
In the middle of the southern mouth of the Strait of Antiparos “lie” the small islands Pantieronissia; first the two smaller, Preza and Tourna; a little further the three, Glaropounta, Tigani and Pantieronissi, close to oneanother.
Getting closer to the southern part of Antiparos, the road from Soros leads to the west coast οf Antiparos and the region of Aghios Georgios. But shortly after Soros a smaller road begins turning left to Petalida, the southern peninsula of the island. An off-road vehicle is the best choice. In past times the southern tip could only be reached by sea.
Petalida, which means “limpet”, is four kilometers long and one kilometer wide. The road follows the east side, more accessible than the west side. The environment becomes wild, yet strangely attractive due to the amazing white geological formations. The peninsula is the only part of Antiparos born from the volcanic explosions in the sagittal line of the Cycladic zone of the Aegean volcanoes at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch in the Quaternary period.
The soil consists almost exclusively of spherical acidic lava stones. There are also some rare volcanic ash layers and small quantities of perlite, obsidian and other elements. It is interesting that the small islands Spyridonessia in north, as well as a part of the island Diplo, are also composed of acid volcanic rocks.
Following the coast to the south edge of the island, we find a marvellous bay, divided in two by a small peninsula. It is called Sostis because of the chapel of Aghios Sostis which decorates it.
A little further is the bay of Phaneromeni, the last on the east coast before the Cape Petalida or Kavos Skylos, the southern edge of Antiparos. The spectacle is dazzling, as the white of the geological formations harmonizes with the blue of the sea. The road terminates at the small church of Panaghia Phaneromeni, celebrating on September 7th and 8th. On these days a traditional festival takes place. The road makes the approach easier. In the past the people came for years by boats.
The western side of Petalida, southern peninsula of Antiparos, is wild and imposing. North from the Cape Skylos are small bays up to the Cape Mastichias. Afterwards the coastline continues without coves, high and rough, sharp in many places. Sea caves are opened to the rocks and under stone arches are hidden beaches. They are the effects of the volcanic activity.
Opposite emerges the island Despotiko. Between the northeastern coast of Despotiko and the southwestern coast of Antiparos, the Bay of Despotiko is formed, one of the most leeward in the Aegean. In fact is a strait, but the northern opening seems to be closed by the coasts of the two islands, close to each other, and one islet between them called Tsimintiri. The yachts sail from the south side.
The central road from Soros leads to the region of Aghios Ceorgios. The gentle slopes of the hills on the right end in a smooth area on the sea side; white houses, here and there in the foreground, more densely in the background; there, the tiny strip of land in the water, the islet Tsimintiri seems to be touching the northeastern cape of Despotiko.
The road after the last houses of Aghios Georgios becomes narrower going up to the highest peak of the island, on the hill Prophetes Elias, 299 meters high. The view is spectacular. The Cyclades around; in the east Paros just a step; north Syros; northwest Seriphos; west Siphnos; south Folegandros, Sikinos, Ios.
Below, north of the hill, the land of Antiparos on this side is all green up to the hills hiding Chora. It is the lowland of the island, called Kambos which means “plain”. The road, six kilometers from Chora, goes west towards the middle of the west coast ending at the beautiful bay of Livadia. Towards the settlement of Aghios Georgios, another beautiful bay is formed, called Monastiria – in fact two small bays divided by a rocky rectangular peninsula. To the north, not far from Livadia, there is another nice solitary bay, Frangopapades, but the approaching isn’t so easy.
Aghios Georgios, at 12 km from Chora, is one of the most beautiful regions of Antiparos. White houses remind of the geometrical shapes of the Cycladic Architecture on a land with low vegetation, not rich but enough to permit numerous wild rabbits to be hidden and come out during the night from the bushes eating everything “green”.
If we climb on the hill, we will see to the east the entry of the cave of Antiparos like a dot; a walk for two hours and a half.
The “core” of the settlement with the most houses stretches near the bus terminal, by the sea. The islet Tsimintiri, a long belt in the water, is a step to the northeastern edge of Despotiko. There, a sanctuary of Apollo was discovered. At a small distance to the left on the coast of Despotiko is a fold with goats. The owner keeps the tradition of years and years in the production of the best “xynomygithra”, a special local cheese, and another called “olive oil cheese”. He goes every morning from Aghios Georgios with his small boat and returns at night. A little furher, still on the left, a tiny church, Panaghia Ypapanti, seems built on the water.
The Aghios Georgios region is inhabited mostly in summertime and is connected by the municipal bus with the capital. There are hotels and rooms to let. Also, people come to swim and eat in the taverns located by the beach. Several prefer to go with a boat from Aghios Georgios to Depsotiko, to swim in the only approachable beach, in the bay Livadi, and coming back, to pass by the west coast of Antiparos and see the sea caves, where seals are living.
The bus terminal is at an open space near the beach. On the other side is a tavern at a small distance from the shore. By the seaside, there are three choices; a tavern, another tavern next to the first and a café next to the second tavern.
On wires small octopusses and “gounes” are hanging! “Gouna”, meaning “fur”, is the name of the fish “kolios”, the “chub mackerel”. All get ready for the barbecue. Antiparos is well known among the islands for the quantity of octopusses fished in its waters. On the table small octopus, “xynomygithra”, the delicious local cheese, salad with caper – caper bushes grow everywhere in the rocks of Antiparos – and tsipouro, the local raki. Some prefer the wine, some the beer.
Attension, please! The locals drink the beer in the small glass for wine; if the waiter brings a big one, the usual for beer, they give it back. That’s how the beer doesn’t get warm!
Opposite the western coast of Antiparos is located the small uninhabited island of Despotiko, where the archaeological spade has brought to light one of the most significant ancient sanctuaries dedicated to Apollo. During the summer a boat makes daily trips from Agios Georgios to the bay Livadi on the south coast of Despotiko, for those who want to spend a few hours in a spectacular sandy beach enjoying the absolute calm of the solitary Cycladic landscape.
The island of Despotiko, or Episkopi, has an area of 6.6 sq km, a length from the east to the west of 5.4 km and a width from north to the south of 3 km. The ground is rocky and mountainous; the highest peak, Tourloto, is at 285m. The coasts rise steeply to a great height, the “hanging waters” as they are called by the seamen. Only the northeastern coast, where the ancient sanctuary has been found, is low and level. At the northwestern edge are the reef Calykes and to the west the small island of Strongylo (Round), also uninhabited and mountainous.
The ancient name of Despotiko is Prepessinthos. In antiquity the northeastern edge, where the sanctuary of Apollo is located, was consolidated with Tsimintiri, the tiny flat islet close to Aghios Georgios, where walls of buildings and four graves of the Early Cycladic Age have been discovered, almost covered by water. It is estimated that the level of the sea is at least one and a half meter higher than in antiquity, as everywhere in Cyclades.
The island is known from gravures of the 15th, 16th and 17th century with the name Sigilo. At the time, was inhabited and, as all the islands, suffered from the pirates. One day in 1675, the French pirate Daniel, surrounded by the Turkish ships, burnt his ship and landed with his men on the island. He promised a lot of money to the few inhabitants if they would hide them, but the locals let them be slaughtered by the Turks. Other French pitates took vengeance by pillaging the island and slaughtering the inhabitants. From then on Despotiko is uninhabited.
In 1756 it was bought by two rich islanders, Tzortzes Baos from Myconos and Petros Mavroghennes from Paros. At this time the lord was called “despot”. Mavroghennes was a “despot” and that explains the name of the island during the following years. The owners of Despotiko are the Greek state and the Baos family. It is proclaimed an archaelogical site and any construction is strictly forbidden; it is also protected for its environment, mainly for its unique vegetation.
The first excavations in Despotiko took place in 1889 by the great Greek archaeologist Christos Tsountas. He brought to light two Early Cycladic cemeteries and the remains of a prehistoric settlement. In 1959 the archaeologist Nicholaοs Zafiropoulos discovered twenty one Early Cycladic tombs and, in the site Mandra, a Roman building and marble architectural parts from an archaic Doric temple.
The systematic excavation in Mandra began in 1997, headed by Giannos Kouragios, and brought to light a sanctuary of Apollo operating from the 7th Century BC until the Roman Age. So far the foundations of ten buildings have been discovered; also potsherds with the inscriptions ΑΠΟΛΛ (APOLL) and ΑΡΤΗΜΕ (ARTIME) and offerings showing that the worshippers came from far and wide; there are vases from Corinthian, Ionic and Rhodian workshops, clay female figurines, metal and ivory buckles, and offerings from Phoenician and Egypt, even an ostrich egg. All can be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Paros.
The Cave of Antiparos, or Cave of Oliaros, as was previously called, is one of the most beautiful Greek caves, known internationally since the old days. In 2009 a modernization project for the visit was completed. The care and management belong to the municipality of Antiparos.
It is located on the hill of Aghios Ioannis (St. John), with a height of 177 m, so it is also called the Cave of Saint John. The entrance is on the southwest side, at a height of 171 m.
The cave of Antiparos was created millions of years ago, probably during the Cenozoic Era, when the Greek mountains were born, long before the submersion of the land and the emergence of the Aegean islands. It is precipitous because at the time of its creation a large amount of water was passed through and ate away the rocks which were less resistant to corrosion.
The following geological period, Quaternary, the existing water leaked out from drains and chasms and the new water was less plentiful and finally just drops which over the centuries created the marvellous decoration of stalactites and stalagmites. Every centimeter needs eighty to one hundred years to be developed.
The drops flow is affected by the surface slope of the ground. In the Cave of Antiparos, which has three rooms, there are differences in slope. The flow is greater in the first two rooms, where as a result the decoration is more intense and impressive, than in the third room at the lowest level.
The scaled depth of the cave reaches 85 m. Its length is 89 m, the greatest width 70 and the height to the roof 40 m. The area is 5,600 sq m and inside there is not the usual fauna of caves. There are not, for example, bats; only a few bugs. There are also some mushrooms.
The Cave of Antiparos is known from ancient times. Arcaeological researches have brought to light shells and human bones from the Neolithic era, which are today in the Archaeological Museum in Parikia. According to an inscription, in the archaic years a visitor to the cave was Archilochus, the great lyric poet of the 7th century BC, born in Paros.
The cave seems to have had some special visitors in the years of Alexander the Great. Until the 19th Century, on the huge stalagmite at the entrance the following ancient Greek letters could be clearly distinguished:
ΟΙΔΕ ΗΛΘΟΝ-ΜΕΝΑΝΔΡΟΣ-ΣΟΧΑΡΜΟΣ-ΜΕΝΗΚΡΑΤΟΣ-ΑΝΤΙΠΑΤΡΟΣ- ΙΠΠΟΜΕΔΩΝΟΣ-ΑΡΙΣΤΕΑΣ-ΦΙΛΕΑΣ-ΓΟΡΓΟΣ-ΔΙΟΓΕΝΟΣ-ΦΙΛΟΚΡΑΤΟΣ-ΟΝΗΣΙΜΟΣ
HERE THEY CAME-MENANDROS-SOCHARMOS-MENEKRATOS-ANTIPATROS-IPPOMEDONOS-ARISTEAS-PHILEAS-GORGOS-DIOGENOS-PHILOKRATOS-ONESSIMOS
According to the tradition they are the names of Macedonians who had conspired against Alexander and when were discovered, they came to Antiparos and hid in the cave to save their lives. Some experts say that these visitors came later, in more recent times. Anyway, the inscription has disappeared and in its place there is a plaque with the names.
After the ancient years it seems that there were no visitors until the Μarquis de Noindel came. The marquis was the ambassador of France the time of Louis XIV. He was fond of the ancient Greek Culture, but something more, too; he travelled frequently to the Greek islands and collected archaeological artifacts for his king and his country.
In December 1673 he was in Paros, hosted by the notorious French pirate Daniel, Knight of the Order of Malta, who two years later was dead in a dramatic way on the island of Despotiko (see Despotiko).
In the port of Paros the marquis was overseeing the loading of antiquities for France, when he heard about a colossal statue existing in the neighboring Antiparos. He left immediately accompanied by clergy-men, painters, builders and pirates. They arrived the eve of Christmas but at the entrance of the cave the marquis lost all of his enthousiasm seeing, instead of a statue, a huge stalagmite eight meters high.
However, he asked to be lowered down by ropes into a large opening and in the light of torches and oil lamps he saw the beauty of the cave with the natural statues created by the stalactites and stalagmites. He decided to celebrate the Holy Night in the cave and chose a huge stalagmite of eighteen meters circumference and eight meters high. He named it “Holy Altar”.
The mass was celebrated at midnight by the priest John Baptist, member of marrquis’ escort. The place was illuminated by a hundred torches and four hundred oil lamps. In the Holy Altar an inscription in Latin was engraved.
HIC IPSE CHRISTUS ADFUIT RJUS NATALI DIE MEDIA NOCTE CELEBRATO MDCLXXIII
And that means:
HERE CHRIST HIMSELF CELEBRATED CHRISTMAS AT MIDNIGHT 1673
The ambassador and his companions remained in the cave for three days. The painters drew the forms and spaces, while the others broke off pieces of stalactites and stalagmites and shipped them to France. It was the first big looting of the cave.
The discovery of the cave by the French ambassador made it known in Europe. Travellers came to admire it and several published their impessions accompanied by gravures based on drawings made into the cave.
Some, however, were not limited to admiration. When in 1770 – 1774 during the war between Russia and Turkey the Russian fleet ruled the Aegean Sea, sailors visited the cave and cut out many pieces of its natural treasures, which since then decorate the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
The number of visitors, Greeks and foreigners, increased as time went by and this can be seen in the names engraved here and there, mostly in the huge “pillar” of the enrance. Among them there are the names of well-known persons. In the third last room in the depth of the cave the name of a distinguished visitor is engraved.
ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΤΗΣ ΕΛΛΑΔΟΣ ΤΗ 27 ΣΕΠ. 1840
OTHO the First
KING OF GREECE 27 SEP. 1840
The King and his wife Queen Amalia visited the cave but the Queen lost her bracelet. Three years later, a local found it, gave it back and received ten thousand drachmas as reward.
The last major damages in the cave were made by Italian soldiers during the Second World War.
The entrance to the cave
The cave of Antiparos is eight km from Chora. Following the peripherical road we arrive in the region of Apandema and then we take the road to the interior. Before the construction of the road the visitors arrived in the small harbor of Apandema and came up to the hill of Aghios Ioannis riding donkeys or mules driven by locals.
Nowadays the vehicles stop in a large parking from where the view to the east coast and the Strait of Antiparos is marvelous. We have to walk a little and in front of the entrance we take the ticket and all the necessary information.
In a sign we read that the descent is not allowed to persons with heart or respiratory problems. Inside the cave the humitidy reaches high levels. The descent is dangerous for persons with disabilities and for pregnant women. Not permitted are the use of flash in taking photos, smoking, breaking stalactites or writing on the surface.
We pass to the interior in a large yard. In front of us, an arch; in its center one huge column; behind it a big vault opens. It is the entrance of the cave. Centuries ago the roof in the front part was demolished and two areas were created, one uncovered and one covered.
On the right in the uncovered space a chapel touching the rock; it is dedicated to Aghios Joannis the Spiliotis (St. John of the Cave) and is connected with a smaller chapel dedicated to Zoodochos Pigi. Every year on May 7 a folk festival takes place. On 7 May 2009 the modernization project for the visit to the cave was completed and inaugurated.
With the modernization the external entrance and the place in front of the entrance of the cave were added; 411 wide steps were constructed with a hand rail for the visitors’ safety; a new lighting system and cameras were also installed.
The systematic exploration and mapping of the cave are the work of the Greek speleologist Anna Petrochilou in 1979. She also studied the tourist route inside and gave the names to the different locations.
From the courtyard in the uncovered space, we descend some stairs in the covered area and we are in the “Lobby”. It has a length of twenty two meters, a width of twenty five and a height of eight meters. It stretches at three levels.
The first level is the “Covered Square”. It is higher than the other two and there are benches for visitors to rest from climbing. In the opening rises the enormous column that we saw entering, the “Huge Central Column” as is called. It is the “statue” of Marquis de Noindel, who gave the example to the visitors who followed the next centuries until the construction of the first steps in 1931. We can see the dozens of names and dates on it.
On the right and left are two smaller stalagmites like statues or guards. The one stands left from the first step going down; it is the second level of the “Lobby”. The third level extends behind the “Huge Central Column”; it is the “Hidden Chamber”.
Descending the first steps, at the edge of the wall on the right, three meters above the ground, a small opening leads to a room called the “Krypt”. Here the arcaelogists found, in 1974 – 1975, the prehistoric shells and human bones which can be seen in the Arcaelogical Museum in Paros.
Starting the descent some kind of adaptation is needed; get used to the air, the lighting, the shadows, even the steps.
The first room is the “Chamber of Stone Waterfalls”, seventeen meters long, twenty-seven wide, ten high. Stalactites and stalagmites compose an exhibition of natural sculptures. On the right side the name is fully explained. Stalagmites and stalactites “flow” on the wall.
Going on twenty five meters down is the second hall, larger and more impressive. It is the “Chamber of the Cathedral”. It is clear. Here the Marquis de Noindel celebrated the Christmas of 1673! It was surely different with the ropes, the one hundred torches and the four hundred oil lamps.
The chamber is thirty three meters long, twenty wide, thirty high. On the right are all white stalagmites and hanging “chandelier”; a little further the “Black Waterfall”. On the opposite side stand stalagmites; the beneath is the “Holy Altar”. On one side, at a small distance, a smaller room is decorated with the “Umbrella”, a magnificent stalagmite. It’s called “Hall of the Precipice”. There it is an opening of two meters diameter and eight meters deep.
Down, the third room, at the bottom of the cave, is also large but less impressive; it is twenty-seven meters lohg, fifty wide, twenty high. King Otto and Queen Amalia came this far in 1840.
In the Aghios Georgios region, on the west coast of Antiparos, a significant chapter of the Greek resistance history during the Second World War is written. A story of heroism and sacrifice!
After the German invasion and occupation of Greece in April 1941, the Greek soldiers, who have faced victoriously the Italian army in the Albanian front, came back hungry and tired. Among them were many Cretans who had to return to Crete.
A group of the resistance found them temporary places to stay in Athens and Harry Grammatikakes, a courageous and daring Cretan fighter, organized the escape. He found e boat, named “Despina” (“Rosemary”), carrying goods from Piraeus to Parikia in Paros. In Aghios Georgios, where at this time few habitations existed, three men, Spyros Tzavellas, Ghiannes Pateles and Vassiles Pateles, offered their houses.
The plan went like this. The boat sailed from Piraeus. Destination was Paros. It passed from Anavyssos, on the southwest coast of Attica, near to cape Sounion, where the fighters went on board. They disembarked in Aghios Georgios and hid in the tree houses, while the boat went to Parikia and left the merchandise. There it got a license to carry goods to Crete, sailed again to Aghios Georgios and took on those who it had left.
At that time in Athens there were still several British of the British expeditionary force that had fought in Greece and among them a staff officer, who had to escape at any cost according to the wish of the Allies. The resistance followed the same route. From Crete, after a ten days odessey with bad weather – bad weather is an ally in these cases – Harry Grammatikakes led the British officer to Alexandria, Egypt.
The success of the operation gave to the Allies the idea to organize in Aghios Georgios the secret base “Konya” with a British officer as coordinator. Headquarters was the home of Spyros Tzavellas. The fugitives arrived the same way and then boarded a submarine on the south side of the Bay of Despotiko. At the same time the base transmitted valuable information to the Allies.
All this went on until January 6, 1942, holiday of the Epiphany. The Italians, who occupied the islands, learnt in Paros the secret. In the afternoon a boat with soldiers arrived in Aghios Georgios. At the home of Spyros Tzavellas, they were the English Capt. John Atkynson, the Cypriot wireless operator Lt. K. Kypriades or D. Arvanitopoulos, an English sergeant major and a soldier. Spyros Tzavellas had gone to Ghiannes Pateles house to get wood for the fireplace. The Italians went there first and asked Tzavellas to open his house. He told them that he had lost the keys but unfortunately Atkynson had lit the fire and the smoke betrayed them.
As it got dark, the Italians breached the door, while Spyros Tzavellas, Ghiannes Pateles and Vassiles Pateles were leaving. Atkynson injured the Italian officer Lt. Ripoltsi fatally, but he was gravely injured in the feet by a grenade. Kypriades carried him on his shoulders and they tried to reach the hill. They did not get very far. At dawn they were arrested.
The two brothers, Ghiannes and Vassiles Pateles, surrendered as the Italians threatened to burn Antiparos in reprisals. Spyros Tzavellas, after hiding a month in Paros, surrendered for the same reason. The prisoners were transferred to Syros and then to Rhodes. The investigations unfolded and others were arrested in Athens.
In the first trial the Italian military court sentenced John Atkynson, K. Kypriades, Spyros Tzavellas, Vassiles Pateles, Ghiannes Pateles, Fraghiskos Tsantanes and Giorgos Kapoutsos to death. The penalty for Ghiannes Pateles and Giorgos Kapoutsos was changed to life imprisonment because they had many children. Giorgos Kapoutsos died in prison in Italy. The others were shot by the firing squad on February 23, 1942.
The Italians continued with the investigations in order to dismantle the entire organization of patriots who helped in the operation of the base. Many were arrested in Paros and Antiparos and in a new trial in June 1943 Giorgos Zambetas, commander of the gendarmery of Paros, Michales Crispes, president of the community of Parikia, Jakovos Rangouses and the Italian antifascist Vero Liqueri were sentenced to death; Polychrones Mourlas, Agapetos Katres and Antones Moustakas to life imprisonment; and dozens of others to many years of imprisonment. Among them Manoles Pateles, father of Ghiannes and Vassiles, who died in prison in Rhodes.
Those condemned to death were saved from the firing squad because of the amnesty after the fall of Mussolini. Four habitants of Paros – Agapetos Katres, Venizelos Rangouses, Panagiotes Katsourakes and Polychrones Mourlas – took the road to the concentration camps. Katsourakes and Mourlas did not return.
Harry Grammatikakes returned that January to Aghios Georgios, he had perceived the Italians and escaped by swimming. He disappeared from island to island.
The struggle of the patriots is honoured in the old chapel of Aghios Georgios, at a small distance north of the settlement in which gave the name; a lonely chapel, by the seaside, with old graves on the one side.
On the other side, to the sea, the Greek flag is waving. Here Aniparos made the monument to their heroism and sacrifice. We read on the honorary plaque.
Antiparos honours the fighters of the Resistance
Georgios N. Kapoutsos
Vassilios Emm. Pateles
Emmanouel D. Pateles
Ioannes Emm. Pateles
Spyros V. Tzavellas
Fraghiskos I. Tsantanes
Below are written three phrases, the last letter of Spyros Tzavellas to his wife.
My Annitsa, the lies are over. In a few minutes they take us for the execution. I wish you to raise the children in the Hellenic way. Spyros Tzavellas.