Antiparos Island

Sites & Villages

Either somebody chooses Antiparos as a destination for holidays or for a one-day excursion, he will definitely have a good time.  Antiparos is a place with natural beauties, amazing  beaches, interesting historical and natural sights, but most of all it offers the opportunity to escape from the hectic city life and enjoy the slow pace of life.

Antiparos Town or Kastro (castle) is the only village on the island with its traditional Cycladic narrow paved streets and the white houses full with wonderful flowers. A wide paved street that starts from the seafront is the main artery of Antiparos and along this street are all the shops, tourist offices, café, bars and restaurants; a place that gives life to the island from the morning till the night.
This street ends at the main square of the town where lies, the metropolitan church of Agios Nikolaos. Next to the church is, almost hidden, the only entrance to the ancient Venetian castle.  In 1440 the son in law of the Duke of Paros, Lorentano, built the castle for the protection of the people against pirate’s invasions.  Originally the castle was a square building with houses surrounding it and a yard at the interior, with a round tower in the middle of it which was the residence of the local nobleman. Today only the base of the tower has survived. The back walls of the houses were the exterior walls of the castle and therefore were 2-3 meters thick, exactly like the castles in Parikia and Prodromos (villages of Paros).

The cave of Antiparos, known also as refuge, is a unique sight of natural beauty, famous for its stalactites. It is located almost in the middle of the island on the hill of Agios Yiannis, 177 meters above sea level. Years ago people went with donkeys from the main road up to the cave, but today the road reaches the entrance where the small church of Agios Yiannis Spiliotis welcomes the visitors. At the entrance of the cave there is a huge stalactite, the oldest in Europe, estimated to be 45 million years old.

In total the cave covers a surface of 5.600 square meters.  In order to reach the heart of the cave inside the mountain we have to go down 411 steps, built in a circular way in order for the visitor to enjoy the magnificent and impressive shapes of the stalactites on his way down. The depth of the cave is more than 100 meters and the base is a space 216 meters long and 203 meters wide.

Inside the cave scientists have discovered ancient pots which prove that the cave was known also in antiquity.  In the later years, although people knew its existence, it was only in 1673, when Marquis De Novandel, the ambassador of Constantinople, arrived at  the island and together with 500 workers went down using ropes the cave became known again.  Fascinated by its beauty, when in Christmas Eve they lit 100 candles and 400 oil lamps, the Marquis decided to celebrate a Mass on a stalactite that looked like an altar. Even today we can see the inscription in Latin “Here, Christ himself, on His birthday came in the middle of the night to celebrate, 1673”.
Nature was the least concern for damages on the stalactites through the years. People’s vanity for eternity, makes them carve their names everywhere they can and it is a habit that doesn’t change over the years. Anyone who visits the caves can see carved the name of the Parian poet Archilochos from the 7th century B.C. or the names of Macedonian generals who were hiding there after betraying Alexander the Great. On the 27th of October 1840 the first King and Queen of Greece, Otto and Amalia, also left their message on one of the stalactite. After that and while Antiparos was under the Russian Dominance, the Russians caused considerable damages to the caves by breaking parts of the stalactite in order to take them to museums back in their country. Later during the 2nd World War, Germans looking for hiding enemies threw grenades and gunshots that caused some damages but luckily without spoiling the  beauty of the cave.
The caves operate only in the morning between 10:00 and 14:00 and there is a local bus from the port of Antiparos that starts at 09:00 in the morning making it very easy to visit the caves.

West of Antiparos are three small uninhabited islands with great archeological interest, Despotiko, Tsimidiri (between Antiparos and Despotiko) and Strongilo (Round).
Despotiko is according to history researchers, Stravona (67 B.C. – 23 A.D.) and the Latin scholar Plinio (23 – 79 A.D.), the ancient island of Prepesinthos. 
The first excavations were carried out by Mr. Tsounta Christos in the 19th century around 1898, who discovered two cemeteries from the primary Cycladic era and various remains of pre-historic settlements.
In 1959, during excavation works in Madra and Zoubaria in the northeastern side, under the guidance of N.Zafiropoulos, parts of a temple of Dorian rhythm were discovered dated back to 500 B.C., while the same year other excavations in Zoubaria, brought to light 20 graves from the primary Cycladic Period.
In 1997 a large part of the secondary areas of the temple was discovered from excavations in Madra by the archaeologist Yiannos Kouragios. This part was a long building stretching  from south northwards, consisting of five continuous and parallel rooms. The west wall was 35 meters long and 1, 70 meters high. The entrances of these rooms were preserved in an excellent condition so the archeologists have a variety of Dorian columns, fulcrums and other findings to study.

In the southeastern part of the island scientists found constructions of a later period that were built from parts of the first temple which proves the activity on the island during the Middle Ages. In a deeper level, under these findings, archeologists found the continuation of the southern part of the archaic temple, which forms the Greek letter Γ and is 60 meters long.

During the works of excavation different findings came to light, like archaic movable parts from Rhodes, Cyprus and Egypt. It is possible that all these parts were used for the reconstruction or maintenance of the temple during a second phase of the archaic period. From the first and later Corinthian period archaeologists found many ceramic pots used for oil storage or for the athletes, seals made out of precious stones, small sculptures, copper clasps, decorative stones for swords, an ostrich egg and plenty of tools. An important discovery was the unfinished word “Apoll” carved on five potsherds from the 6th till the 3rd century B.C. which lead to the conclusion of the existence of an Apollo temple. The conclusion is supported firstly from the similarity between Despotiko’s ruins and the ones from Delion temple of Apollo and Artemis in Paros, and secondly because it is believed that Delos being the center of Apollo’s worship, very common practice at that period, had about 22 secondary and smaller temples around the area of Cyclades, one of them being Despotiko.

Also important is the discovery of a big idol of a female goddess, a unique art from 680-660 B.C., as well as a square marble altar dedicated to one of the goddesses worshiped during the classic period, Estia Isthmia. The goddess’s name reveals the name of the cape, Isthmos, and verifies the existence of an isthmus.

Excavations continue till today with the goal to make the area a walking through museum so people will be able to enjoy one of the most beautiful uninhabited virgin islands of the Aegean Sea with a history from the 7th century till the Roman period.

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