Making my way to the oldest cave in Greece wasn’t a thoroughly planned activity. I had arrived in Paros from Athens and was going to spend the next 3 days in the first Cyclades Island of my 2-week Greece Getaway. With so much to cover in 3 days, I didn’t manage to properly research the attractions in my itinerary but absolutely no one pays a visit to Paros without visiting The Cave of Antiparos. Without much information about it, I decided to go ahead. #yolo
The Cave of Antiparos is located in Antiparos Island — a 7 minute ferry ride from Pounda port in Paros Island. As I had a driver for the trip, I decided to ferry the service with me to Antiparos so I could maximise its use. This turned out to be a good thing because no buses were available en route to the cave in winter.
Upon arriving at Antiparos island, I was driven a good 10km to the entrance of the cave which was situated atop Agios Ioannis hill. As the roadway was pretty narrow leading to the entrance, my driver parked the car a short distance away and I walked the rest of the way up.
The 100m deep cave was first explored in the 1600s and is thoroughly adorned by stalagmites and stalactites as old as 45 million years. It is famous for being visited by the likes of: Alexander the Great; King Otto and Queen Amalia (First King and Queen of Greece); Ancient poet Archilochos; Marquis de Nouadel (French ambassador to Constantinople (Istanbul today)); and one of my favourite poets, Lord Byron, back in the Neolithic period. In fact, some of them have left their inscriptions on the walls.
Unfortunately, a drawback to visiting tourist destinations during a low peak season; particularly winter, is the chance that main attractions might not be open for business. When faced with that situation, what normal, civilised people would do is to head back to their accommodation or head elsewhere for the day. However, I wasn’t feeling well-behaved that day and something about not being back home in Singapore made my inner badass inhibitions run wild.
Having already paid for my ferry ticket to Antiparos and riding a good distance to the attraction, I decided that heading back to the main island without satisfying what I was in Antiparos for, was not an option. Apart from myself, there were no other souls in sight, no tourists, no guards and no ticketing staff. The entrance was locked..
But it sure as hell looked easy to climb over.
So break in, I did. Strode to the side of the guard house, climbed up the elevated ground, stepped over the brick wall and clambered over the sharp iron fence spires. Once I was on the other side, I checked to see for security cameras and found one mounted at the other end of the brick wall. Precariously making my way to the security camera in an effort not to be filmed, I was glad to find out it wasn’t operating. #phew
When all was in check, I paused to breathe in the spectacle that was before my eyes: the oldest stalagmite in Europe – at 45 million years old, located 171m above sea level.
The colossal stalagmite towers over a small church known as the 18th century church of Agios Ioannis Spiliotis. The cavernous beauty is 100m deep and the descent to the last chamber is a good 411 steps to the bottom. Formed by the corrosion of limestone, every inch of the cave is covered with stalactites that date back to millions of years ago.
As the attraction was closed for winter, every step deeper into the cave greeted me with silent darkness like a scene from a clichéd horror film. But for skipping the €3 entrance fee, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Alas, it wasn’t long before I reached a locked gate leading to the first chamber. This was when I realised I was no longer able to break past it as I sure as hell did not know how to pick a lock #learninginprogress. At this point, I decided to succumb to the fact that I couldn’t enter much deeper into the cave and see the ancient writings on the wall. Dejected, I turned on my heel and made my way back up and out of the cave.
Although I didn’t manage to enter into the very depths of the cave, I was still happy to leave the site with memories of exhilaration, awe, and admiration. To think that I had been standing in the same spot as historical people, and imagining the stories the stalagmites could hold was really quite amazing for me.
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of the Antiparos Cave if you ever visit one day:
- Wear comfortable shoes because at 411 steps down, it’s quite the descent and climb.
- There are no shops nearby – Antiparos is a rather secluded island. Make sure to bring a bottle of water.
- Because of high levels of humidity prevalent inside the Cave, persons with respiratory/ heart problems are not permitted to enter. Pregnant women are not advised to make the trip down too.
- Writing on the walls and surfaces of the Cave is apparently… prohibited. But I guess no one told the famous ancient people that.