The museums of Irakleion are veritable treasure chests of knowledge about the history, culture and traditions of Crete. What’s more, they have adopted new technologies to provide unique interactive experiences.
5,500 years of history brought to life
Treasures of world cultural heritage, including the Phaistos Disk, the Snake Goddess figurines, the bull-leaping frescoes from the Palace of Knossos, the gold bee pendant from Malia, and the colorful Kamares pottery, are all beautifully presented in the newly renovated Archaeological Museum of Irakleion. The tour begins on the ground floor dedicated to Neolithic Crete and the Minoan civilization, and continues onto the first floor in the room that features the Knossos frescos. Here, The Prince of the Lilies competes in the beauty stakes with La Parisienne, also known as The Minoan Lady. Returning downstairs, you can conclude your tour at the display of archaic sculptures, which includes some of the oldest in existence in Greece.
Meet El Greco
Irakleion was the birthplace of Domenikos Theotokopoulos, better known as El Greco, and here at the Historical Museum of Crete you can see two of the artist’s most important works – the View of Mount Sinai and the Monastery (1570) and the Baptism of Christ (1569). The museum is housed in 1903 mansion and covers the history of Crete from the early Byzantine period up to the World War II. Of particular interest is an impressive 15m2 scale model of the city of Irakleion, then called Chandakas. The hall devoted to Christian religious art is also a must-see. Browse through one of the applications designed especially for the museum and when you’re done, finish off your visit in the garden, sipping homemade lemonade while enjoying the sea views.
The life and times of an eminent Greek
The village of Myrtia, lies 15 kilometers outside Irakleion; it is “the soil where they (the ancestors of Nikos Kazantzakis) were caught and buried,” as the famous writer, poet and philosopher put it in his novel Report to El Greco. During renovations in 2009, the museum took the opportunity to modernize its tour methods, leveraging digital media to create a “living, breathing” space where you can open the drawers of the furniture, browse through the author’s work via touch screens and take an up-close look at the table where he sat and wrote most of his novels. You can also see his pipe, his glasses and his handwritten manuscripts. The room dedicated to Katzantzakis’ epic poem The Odyssey stands out, as does the space with the suspended suitcases that symbolize all his voyages.
Homage to Byzantine Iconography
With the low lighting, an atmosphere of solemnity and prayer chants, it’s easy to think that you’ve come to church instead of a museum dedicated to Christian art. Housed in the largest monastery of the city – St Catherine of Sinai, a 13th century Venetian building – this recently renovated space serves as a small museum while still operating as a church. Among the treasures housed here are 15th century icons attributed to the great icon painter Angelos, as well as six icons by Michael Damaskinos and the 1721 icon of the Virgin Kardiotissa. After the occupation of Irakleion by the Ottomans, the monastery was converted into a mosque known as the Zoulfikiar Ali Pasha. At the coin exhibit, press the button and look left: a section of the minaret which remains visible becomes illuminated.
A look back at everyday living in Crete
More than 3,000 objects, most of which were part of the lives of Cretans up until the middle of the last century, are on display at this museum, in operation since 1973 and located in Voroi, just a few kilometers from the archaeological site of Phaistos. A tour of the two-story 500m2 building is an initiation into popular Cretan culture and into the history of the island. The objects date from 1000 AD until the middle of the 20th century. Another space is dedicated to those crafts that have been lost as professions, such as basket-making.
Meet a Deinotherium!
The most striking exhibit at the museum is the model of the third largest mammal to have ever walked the Earth, Deinotherium giganteum. This creature, which lived in Crete 9 million years ago, has been modeled by the scientists at the Natural History Museum of Crete. Set in an industrial building on the coastal road, the Natural History Museum of Crete delivers a full sensory experience, with impressive representations of nature presented in actual scale, as well as a simulated earthquake. Children love the animated dinosaurs and the Discovery Center, where they can play in caves, look for fossils in the sand and watch a video projection.
*Originally published on Greeceis0 Read More
The resolute cultural dynamism of Greeks, despite a long-drawn-out debt crisis that their county has faced, has landed Athens on the New York Times list of “52 Places To Go in 2017.”
The NYT listing recognizes and celebrates what it describes as the Greek capital’s “thriving arts scene.” The paper’s recommendation singles out for mention Radio Athenes for its pop-up lectures and performances, the recently renovated National Museum of Contemporary Art, which houses some of the most exemplary artworks by Greece’s modern artists, the Nomadic Architecture Network, which runs events in urban and public spaces; and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, which opened at the end of summer and will be home to the Greek National Opera and National Library. It also entices its readers to dive head first into the city’s cultural action, its “surge of galleries, collectives and nonprofit art organizations built for leaner times” and artistic events, such as the Documenta 14 art exhibition.
*Originally Published on greeceis.com0 Read More
Kasos is located to the east of Crete and is the southernmost of the Dodecanese island cluster. At first glance, its rugged landscape makes it appear somewhat savage and hostile. But this is an island of pleasant and welcoming people that is very rewarding for those who make the effort to visit.
Located near the main port of Fri, locals in the pre-Ottoman era poured all of their considerable skills into the construction of this 2,000-year-old port. At the Church of Aghios Spyridonas, with its ornate bell tower, the owner has an important collection of family photographs that illustrate life on the island in the past century.
Take a walk from Pounta to Emboreio to enjoy the sunset or a swim at its beach, which is particularly pleasant when there is no northerly wind. Next, head for Panaghia, a pretty village with a number of well-maintained stately homes that stand out for the imposing archaic-style columns at their entrance and their beautifully carved wooden doors. The same village is home to the Church of Pera Panaghia, which hosts one of the biggest fetes on the island on August 15, a national holiday marking the Dormition of the Virgin. The six small churches located in the village also constitute a fine example of Byzantine architecture.
This landmark is best visited off-season so that you can truly appreciate the synergy between the Byzantine architecture and the stunning Aegean seascape. September 2 is an important date for this church; locals gather for a major religious festival and stay at the monastery’s dormitories overnight.
Passing Fri and Bouka as you head west, you will come across a small church dedicated to Saint Constantine (Aghios Constantinos) that marks the turnoff to Ammouas beach. If you keep going for about 5k further along the road, you will reach Antiperatos beach, which consists of three small coves with excellent blue-green waters that can get a bit choppy in northerly winds. The beach at Helathros is also worth a visit, made up of massive rocks embracing a pretty bay with clear waters.
Set sail from the port and in 35-40 minutes heading west you will reach the islet of Armathia, where you can swim at one of the loveliest sandy beaches in the Mediterranean, known as Marmara (Marbles). Another amazing tour – though you will need a local guide – is along the eastern coast of the island, allowing you access to beautiful beaches that cannot be reached in any other way, such as Agali and Gialoui.
Kasos is renowned for its excellent cheeses and other dairy products. Near the entrance to the village of Aghia Marina when traveling from Antiperato, is the dairy of the Vonaparti family, the only large business on the island producing fine local cheeses and exporting all over Greece. Aghios Georgios in Hadia is about 15k further along the central road and along with Mytata, is where the people of Kasos have been producing cheeses for decades.
Nothing will make your visit to Kasos more worthwhile than attending one of the many traditional feasts that islanders are so fond of hosting, mostly to celebrate a marriage or baptism, or to mark some religious holiday or other. Local bands perform traditional tunes mainly on lyres and lutes, while songs have the narrative lilt of Cretan mandinades. There is also no shortage of theatrical flair, as the meaning of the lyrics is often illustrated with dramatic hand and facial gestures. As you sip your raki, you may find that you’ve lost track of time and the sun has already started to come up, but don’t worry, these are experiences you’re sure to remember for many years to come.
Christos Doumas, emeritus professor of archaeology, takes us on a tour of Akrotiri, one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in Europe.
Akrotiri was a settlement with stone-paved streets and squares, a prudently designed zoning plan and an advanced sewage system. The houses were two- and three-story, built with stone and mud. The ground floors housed craftsmen’s workshops and storerooms, mainly for food. The rooms of the upper stories were bathed in natural light streaming in through large windows. Most walls were decorated with elaborate paintings depicting people, animals and plants. The furniture was wooden and the loom was an essential household item, used by the lady of the house to weave the family’s clothes. The inhabitants were traders, artisans, mariners, farmers, stock breeders and craftsmen. They kept flocks of sheep and goats. They planted wheat and barley, which they harvested with stone or bronze sickles. They stored produce in large earthenware jars and cultivated olives, from which they made oil. Indeed, output was so high that they also exported. Wine production was another key economic activity. Locals further supplemented their income by supplying Crete with large quantities of obsidian (black volcanic rock) and metals. Their diet consisted of pulses, vegetables and all sorts of fish, caught in the surrounding waters and sold in the harbor. But their favorite delicacy was snails, brought to the island from Crete.
“ Men, women and children are equally depicted in wall paintings. For this reason, Akrotiri is also called the Prehistoric Venice of the Aegean. ”
This is how Christos Doumas, emeritus professor of archaeology at the University of Athens, describes life in Akrotiri during the 2nd millennium BC. He also speaks about the wealth accumulated on Thera in that distant time from commerce: “The island had trade relations not only with Crete but also with mainland Greece, the Dodecanese, Cyprus, Syria and Egypt.” Thus, the prehistoric Therans, having satisfied their basic needs and thanks to the wealth they gradually acquired, were able to turn their attention to more pleasurable pursuits, for instance the art of good eating. Doumas focuses in particular on how art flourished as a means of projecting social status, and on the democratic structure of Theran society. “It is telling that men, women and children are equally depicted in wall paintings. For this reason, Akrotiri is also called the ‘prehistoric Venice of the Aegean’.”
This then was the situation until the spring of 1613 BC, when the island’s volcano came out of its slumber. The eruption that followed, the most powerful in the world of the past 10,000 years, completely destroyed Santorini (Thera) and the nearby islands. “If there had been no volcano, however, there would have been no Santorini as we know it today and, of course, there would have been no Akrotiri. Thanks to the volcanic ash, the remains of the prehistoric settlement have been preserved down the centuries,” explains the man who has made this place his life’s work.
In 1975 Doumas took over the excavations begun by the eminent archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos. Since then, he has brought to light an incredible wealth of information about the “Pompeii of the Aegean.” And at the age of 82 he continues to work ceaselessly. “We should be proud of Akrotiri,” says Doumas. “It is part of archaeology courses at universities all over the world. In the history of Aegean civilization, it is considered to have equal importance with the Acropolis (for the Classical period) and Mount Athos (for the Byzantine period). It is a momentous legacy.” All this makes a visit to Akrotiri a unique experience. The archaeological site (covering an area of 12,000 m2) is protected by a bioclimatic shelter that is supported by 96 steel columns, designed by the architect Nikos Fintikakis. Specially designed walkways take visitors around and through the settlement, while there are viewing platforms that provide excellent vantage points.
“ The prehistoric Therans, having satisfied their basic needs and thanks to the wealth they gradually acquired, were able to turn their attention to more pleasurable pursuits, for instance the art of good eating. ”
And, of course, at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira, the experience is enhanced with important finds from the excavations: marble figurines, pottery, bronze implements, cooking utensils and impressive storage jars with designs indicative of their content. Pay close attention to the celebrated Theran wall paintings (Blue Monkeys fresco, House of the Ladies fresco, etc), the work of outstanding artists, as well as artifacts (seals, lead weights, clay tablets inscribed with Linear A script) that provide evidence that the complex society of prehistoric Akrotiri devised and used systems of writing and measurement. That is, they applied methods for the management of goods, developing a type of bureaucracy. Finally, just before leaving the exhibition area, don’t forget to visit the most impressive find: a gold ibex figurine, quite unique, which was found in December 1999 in excellent condition in its wooden case. Concluding our conversation with Professor Doumas, I ask him what Akrotiri means to him personally. “The scene of the… crime,” he replies laughing. “I will always return here, as long as I can still stand. And when you consider that only 3 percent of the prehistoric settlement has been investigated, we archaeologists still have many centuries of work beneath the shelter!”
There is always something new to discover in a country like Italy — even for Italians. Thanks to a special person, I had the chance to visit Bologna and fell in love with it at once. Emilia Romagna’s main urban center is one of the most beautiful and ancient cities in the country, and a treasure trove of artistic riches. And that’s not all: Bologna’s food is delicious, there are a lot of secrets to discover and plenty of other things to do. Of course, there are also numerous sights to visit, but since the weekend only lasts a few hours, we picked the best ones according to G&I Custom Luxury Travel.
Book your trip with G&I Custom Luxury Travel, we are here with a list of activities for you!
Ristorantino Il Tinello (Via Dè Giudei, 1c)
You can’t be thinking of leaving town without trying tortellini, right? In this little place, just a few steps away from the Due Torri, the two towers that are a landmark of the city, you will eat the best tortellini in brodo (tortellini in a broth) in town. The place isn’t very touristy, but still, it is very small so we really recommend that you book. And if you really don’t like tortellini, don’t worry: tagliatelle al ragu — also known as bolognese to foreigners — are the wonderful fallback option here.
Trattoria Del Rosso (Via Augusto Righi, 30)
In case you hadn’t realized yet, we really are giving you insider tips today. This is a trattoria that is part of the city’s history and a point of reference for locals. Their fresh pasta is rigorously handmade by the women working here. From pappardelle to lasagne, everything has the genuine taste of bygone times. I tried their spezzatino di manzo (beef stew)… And I still remember its delicious taste!
Vasinikò (Via Santo Stefano, 40)
Trust us: the best pizza in town is here… And their primi are great, too. This is a rather new place that opened recently, and it is managed by a bunch of young, friendly guys from Naples. It is big and has a lot of tables, and to honor the restaurant’s name, which means basil in the Neapolitan dialect, basil green is everywhere in the decor. We couldn’t help suggesting a pizza place: this is Italy after all!
WHAT TO SEE
Basilica di San Petronio (Piazza Galvani, 5)
This church is the biggest in town and one of the largest in Italy, too. Its unusual facade will already entice you and make you want to explore the church — which is great! Inside, on top of lots of famous paintings and a statue by Michelangelo, there is a work of art that will leave you awestruck: the famous painting that shows Prophet Mohammed in hell — an artistic masterpiece that has caused lots of controversy over the years.
Torre degli Asinelli (Piazza di Porta Ravegnana)
Looking for the best view in town? Then you should head to the top of this tower, the most famous symbol of Bologna. Don’t worry about the fact that it is leaning, it is solid enough to hold your weight while you make your way up the 498 stairs. Take a deep breath, climb up and get ready for a beautiful view.
Finestrella di Via Piella (Window of via Piella)
Guys, this is a true gem, one of those secret tips we love to discover and share with you. At first sight, this alley will look pretty boring — but you will discover very soon why locals love it. The window of Via Piella facing the Moline Canal, that winds through the buildings of the city, is a very unusual site, and absolutely deserves a visit. It looks like a corner of Venice in another location. Canals were very important for the city in medieval times, and some of them were used as waterways. The Moline Canal, specifically, was used to produce the energy necessary to power the 15 water mills of the town — as the name says, since “Moline” means “mill” in Italian.
Complesso delle Sette Chiese (Via Santo Stefano)
This might be a bit of an obvious tip, but this cluster of seven churches in one complex is a must-visit, especially since you can access it for free. You will visit beautiful medieval courtyards, crypts and cathedrals — it’s hard to explain. Just go see for yourself, it’s wonderful and moving.
Everyone knows Bologna is the city where you can stroll underneath arched colonnades: these arches are in the city center, they’re in the outskirts and even on the way to San Luca sanctuary: and this specific sanctuary is a special one, because the way up to it is the longest colonnade in the world! It’s a wonderful way to get a break from the heat in summertime, and in winter, it’s very nice for a little hike. Start training, so it will be easier for you to walk up under the colonnade — the walk is 4km long. San Luca Sanctuary and a beautiful view on the city will be awaiting you on top.
Mercato della Piazzola (Piazza dell Otto Agosto)
Last but not least, a shopping tip for those who will be here at the weekend, this place couldn’t be missing from our list and it is one of the biggest markets of the region — only open on Friday and Saturday. People from faraway areas of Italy come look for all sorts of stuff in the 400 stalls of this market, whose products range from regular clothing to vintage clothes, or flower-print shoes. The good thing is, you can find all sorts of stuff here starting from just 2 euro!
You’re not really thinking that Italy is all about seas, sunshine and summer holidays, right? I am mostly talking to you, readers from abroad: did you know that Italy is actually a widely recognized ski destination, thanks to its two beautiful mountain chains, the Alps and the Apennines? Curiosity to explore these mountains is growing every year, as does the wish to learn to ski or go snowboard for many people. Over the last few years, skiing spots have also been invaded by visitors who can’t really ski, but who still want to breathe pure mountain air, and get a break from polluted city air. Snow is fun for everyone, after all, no matter if you’re a child or a grown-up, you will love it. We chose 6 spots in the Bel Paese, and we are introducing them here, from North to Central Italy. So, grab your gloves, your scarf and your sunscreen: we hereby declare, Winter has officially started!
Madonna di Campiglio
2,400-year-old Macedonian tomb opens to the public after being painstakingly restored.
The marble door that once sealed its entrance is on display at the Istanbul Archaeology Museums, the most striking find made by Greek Ottoman-era archaeologist Theodore Makridi during his excavations of a tomb in Derveni, near Thessaloniki, two years before the northern Greek port city was liberated.
The double-chambered barrel-vaulted tomb is among the greatest discoveries in the area and has been associated with Lete, one of the greatest cities of the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia. Nevertheless, and despite the archaeologist’s concerns about the protection of the tomb that was named after him, it lay almost completely abandoned for over a century.
The elements did their worst and this beautiful historic structure was at the point of collapse in 2011, when it was finally slated for restoration and protection under the European Union structural funds programme for 2007–2013, with a budget of 1.2 million euros. Work on the site commenced in 2012 and was completed last year, so that now the Tomb of Makridi Bey, as it is known, constitutes one of the highlights of Thessaloniki’s historic sites (with details soon available online at www.macedoniantombofmakridybey.culture.gr).
Dated to between the late fourth and early third century BC, with a monumental façade in the Ionic rhythm and a marble sarcophagus in the death chamber, the tomb is a splendid sample of architecture and burial rites, as well as evidence of the incredible wealth that poured into the Kingdom of Macedonia with the return of Alexander the Great’s army from its Eastern campaign.
“When we took over, the condition of the tomb was lamentable. The structure was distorted and the antechamber had settled onto the scaffolding that had propped it up since 1997,” says architect and restorer Fani Athansiou.
An interdisciplinary team of experts conducted a dozen studies before any moves could be taken to start restoring the structure and to protect the site with a solid and innovative shelter, part of which is submerged in the ground. The team (comprising Venetia Malama, Maria Miza, Maria Sarantidou and Alexis Papasotirou) then proceeded to restore the road that led up to the tomb, its Ionic facade and the original colors of the plaster that adorned its walls and arches.
Restored and illuminated at night, the monumental tomb – 10 meters in length and 8 meters in height – constitutes yet another piece of evidence in the narrative shaped by a plethora of other finds on the strategic significance of Lete, a city that was inhabited from early Neolithic (5,600–5,300 BC) to Roman times, archaeologist Katerina Tzanavari explains. Built before Thessaloniki, it was a fortress on the narrow stretch between the plain of Langadas and Lake Koroneia, and experienced its peak during the reign of Philip II.
Excavations in the vicinity have also brought to light the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore (1936), unlooted graves from a large Archaic cemetery (1962), the ancient settlement and masterpieces in metal and gold (including the famed Derveni Krater, metal utensils, precious vessels, marble statues and the Derveni Papyrus). These finds grace the permanent collection halls of the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.
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Gorges, rivers, dense forests, steep slopes, natural pools, rocky peaks, such as the seemingly sculpted Astraka peak, and the so-called “Dragon Lakes” (drakolimnes) – the dwelling places of dragons, according to local legend – await the more adventurous traveler.
It’s no wonder that in ancient times the Zagori region was known as Parorea, meaning “beyond the mountains”. In the 6th century, when the Slavs arrived, it was renamed Zagori, meaning “place behind the mountain.” This is an imposing place, challenging and untamed by the demands of modern civilization.
An exception to this are the friendly, warm guesthouses and luxury hotels of central and western Zagori. Especially in the autumn, when the colors change day by day, a visit to this magical place is a must for these reasons:
The renowned Vikos Gorge in Epirus is registered in the Guinness bookof records as the deepest gorge in the world in proportion to its width, with a depth of more than 900 meters, while its narrowest opening is just 1.1 meters.
For a panoramic view, head to the small Aghia Paraskevi church, located beyond Monodendri, and walk along the cliffs with caves. Alternatively, look for the two other natural terraces by heading towards Oxia or the Beloi viewpoint in Vradeto.
Listen to the silence of Zagori from this point and enjoy the clean air and the scent of herbs. It takes roughly six hours to trek the length of the gorge, to forget all your cares, your cell phone (which won’t have a signal here anyway) and to become well aware that in Zagori life follows the rhythms of nature.
At Monodendri, one of the most touristically developed villages, visit the Rizarios School of Handicrafts and their gift shop with elaborate embroidery and weaving, have a coffee under the huge plane trees and open out your map to plan your routes. Because of the intense weather conditions and the difficult landscape, the inhabitants of Zagori realized early on the importance of cooperating among themselves to survive, and build their villages in a way so that one village was in easy sight of the other, thus maintaining visual contact.
Pano Pedina see a little of Elati, while Kapesovo which is higher sees Dikorfo, Manesi, Elati, Monodenri, Vitsa and Dilofo. This last village, with only 10 inhabitants in the winter, its cobbled streets, stone houses, a huge plane tree in the square and semi-deserted square and stray cats everywhere has an almost cinematic charm and few guesthouses for those who want to stay here. Even more impressive than the architecture of the local houses are the stone bridges of the Zagori villages, such as the triple-arched Plakida-Kalogeriko structure at the entrance to the village of Kipoi.
A winding road leads to the western Zagori, and it’s necessary to drive slowly because of the many bends but also because of the herds of sheep, cows or individual wild horses which meander across the road. You’ll know you’ve reached west Zagori once the remarkable Astraka Towers come into view. The imposing cliff towers dominate the villages on this side of the region: Aristi, Megalo Papigo and Mikro Papigo. There is a bridge which the locals call either the Papigo bridge because it was built with donations from a Papigo villager, or the Aristi bridge because it’s close to Aristi village. Whatever you call it, when you reach here follow the sound of the babbling brooks and soon you’ll find yourself on the banks of the Voidomatis river.
Bronze plane tree leaves flutter in the air this time of year with even the gentlest of breezes, painting the shores of the riverbank a coppery red. White-throated dippers and wagtails flit about, while well-tended trails await anyone who feels like trekking along the river through the forest of pine, fir, oak and beech. The same trekking groups also organize horse riding, 4X4 and paragliding adventures.
Another wonderful hiking area is Kolymbithres, 500 m from Mikro Papigo. Forget about your phone once again and lose yourself in the rich natural landscape. This is basically a small canyon cut by the river Rogovo. The flow of the water with the passage of time has carved the rocky sides of the canyon, creating a beautiful landscape. Some of the water pools are deep enough to dive into. It is said that Ali Pasha of Ioannina used to enjoy summer swims here.
The bravest, most experienced and adventurous hikers, well informed about the weather conditions, follow the trail that leads to the “dragon lakes”. Alpine newts inhabit the waters of the lake located in Tymfi at an altitude of 2,050 m in a location of exceptional beauty. It is approximately one hour from Diaselo and about five hours’ hiking from Mikro Papigo.
Even further north, with its own alpine newts (th dragons) is theDakolimni of Smolikas. The autumn and spring are the best times to visit, since in the winter, the snow and strong winds make it inaccessible.
Beyond the stunning landscape and bountiful fresh air, you’ll find cozy guesthouses with a unique atmosphere of warmth and luxury hotels with minimalist aesthetics and all modern conveniences enclosed within their thick stone walls. The food is excellent, not only the famous Epirus pies, but for everything else in outstanding restaurants such as Sta Riza in Elati, sophisticated hotel restaurants like Salvia of the Aristi Mountain Resort, themed restaurants such as Kanela kai Garyfalo in Vitsa focusing on Pindos mushroom, both farmed and wild. Sterna in Kapesovo sells delicious sweets and marmalades, local raki, liqueur wine and mountain herbs. With these, you’ll be able to keep the memories of the genuine taste of Zagori alive long after you go home.
Also consider visiting eastern Zagori, which is far less developed in a touristic sense but just as impressive.
The 5 best reasons to spend a day – or week – on Antiparos, Paros’ little sister.
Antiparos, a small, anti-mainstream island, has stood its ground as an alternative offshoot to neighboring Paros, tourism-oriented and cosmopolitan with a vibrant, fancy and high-decibel nightlife. By contrast, the mild tourism development on Antiparos has not taken away the purity of the island, a focal point for the rock-punk community since the pre-digital 80s. Those unconventional camping-ground types our parents advised us to keep away from have since grown old, lives were influenced by the considerable time spent at La Luna, the little island’s legendary outdoor club, as well as at the rock-oriented Doors club, dedicated to the late rocker Jim Morrison, while the “official nudist beach” – as defined by its frequenters – behind the camping ground, was a carefree spot. The Cycladic island’s hippy spirit has not really changed over the years. Five reasons to visit the island follow:
The island’s devotees widely believe that Antiparos is its camping facility, launched in 1978. It has carved out its own history on the island as an alternative-scene focal point and, even today, stands as the reason why many visitors choose to holiday on Antiparos. The restaurant operating at this 300-tent capacity camping facility is its pivotal spot. Groups of friends gather here to play cards and backgammon in the afternoons and enjoy their first warm-up drinks for the night. Most campsite dwellers usually don’t take off for the main town, a ten minute walk away, until well after midnight. Shots and cocktails are had at Camping Antiparos before they head to La Luna for late-night partying.
The bars at the town’s square close at around 3 to 3.30am to avoid disturbing neighbors. As a result, revelers relocate to either the late-night La Luna disco or Mylos, a dance club.
The former, an open-air, down-to-earth nightlife oasis that enjoys cult status, is said to have once been the location of a poultry enclosure. Since opening in 1979, its owner has hardly touched a thing. Any signs of wear or tear have been left unattended, which has added to the spot’s accumulating vintage charm. La Luna is located deep amid fields. The moonlight serves as a useful guiding light to locate the spot, it is said. Everybody dances a lot here. The music is dominated by old classic tunes from the 70s and 80s. Revelers know when it is time to leave when Nina Simone’s “My Baby Just Cares For Me”, the club’s signature closing-time song, comes on. Strictly order beer here.
Extremely different, Mylos plays mainstream dance music. It is housed at an old mill with a view of the sky. At daybreak, the sunrays enter from the glass roof and revelers party on donning their sunglasses. Should you lose track of your friends in the crowd, you may climb the mill’s outdoor staircase to the top and try and spot them from there. Otherwise, the climb is ideal for the breeze and sunrise experience. Without a doubt, the two clubs represent two entirely different camps. You either belong to Mylos or La Luna. There is no between.
Sifneiko beach, named as such because it looks towards Sifnos, also known as Iliovasilema, meaning sunset, is a lovely beach offering an uninterrupted sunset view. As the “golden hour” draws nearer, scores of people, especially couples, rush through the alleys to make it to the beach on time for the experience. Two laid back café-bars also operate here if you feel like treating yourself to a drink. The route to Sifneiko runs by a mid-15th century Venetian castle located within the town. It was built by Giovanni Loredano, a Venetian nobleman, to protect the island from pirate invasions. Twenty-four houses were later built in the surrounding area. Many of these are still inhabited today.
Soros beach is one of the most renowned and essential places to visit. Its Megalos beach is more cosmopolitan and offers a good beach bar. The Mikros beach, which is not organized and covered with fine pebble, offers greater privacy. From this point on, the shoreline features numerous delightful coves with turquoise waters and clean water.
Besides the beach by the island’s camping facility, part of which has been defined as “nudist” by frequenters, Faneromeni and Aghios Sostis, are the island’s other leading swimming spots. Located on the west side of the island, they are challenging to reach but well worth the effort. On the east side, Monastiria and Livadia are great spots for windsurfing and kite surfing.
One of the world’s most significant caves, located in the centre of the island, may be reached by descending 411 steps or 85 metres. Its entrance is located at the top of the Ai-Giannis Mountain, also the name of the charming small church perched on the rock. Fragments of ancient vases, as well as carvings and inscriptions on stalactites and stalagmites by a number of historic figures, have been discovered inside the cave. The descent to the cave’s bottom is safe and reached by a concrete staircase. The heart of the cave is divided into three sections. The first features stalagmites and stalactites, resembling waterfalls. The second is renowned for having hosted a Christmas Day mass in 1673, during Ottoman rule. The third section is known as Vassilikos (Royal) as a result of a visit to the cave by King Otto, the first monarch of modern Greece, and his wife, Queen Amalia. Their inscriptions still exist.
Significant findings from ancient times have been made on Despotiko, an uninhabited island west of Antiparos, as well as at two other neighboring virgin islands, Tsimintiri and Stroggylo. The oldest Cycladic settlement was discovered on Saliagos, an islet off Antiparos. However, the archaeological interest is focused on Despotiko, identified as the location of Ancient Prepesinthos, where proto-Cycladic tombs and cemeteries were discovered a century ago. Two constructions were also discovered a few decades later. One of these, a superb sanctuary dedicated to the god Apollo, is estimated to have been used from the 7th century BC until the Roman era. The people of Paros built this place of worship as they were determined to consolidate their dominance in the Aegean. Numerous parts of sculptures, six kouros heads and over 500 architectural pieces are some of the discoveries that have been made over the years, shedding intensifying light on ancient Greek history. Despotiko may be easily reached by boat from the small Ai-Giorgis port at Antiparos. Once there, do not miss out on the opportunity to swim in this little island’s superb turquoise waters, whose beaches are covered with fine golden sand.
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