Making our way to the oldest cave in Greece wasn’t a thoroughly planned activity. We had arrived in Paros from Athens and were going to spend the next 3 days in the first Cyclades Island of our 2 week Greece Getaway. With so much to cover in 3 days, we didn’t manage to properly research the attractions in our itinerary but absolutely no one pays a visit to Paros without visiting The Cave of Antiparos. Without much information about the cave, we went ahead anyway.
The Cave of Antiparos is located in Antiparos Island which is a 7 minute ferry ride from Pounda port in Paros Island. As we had rented a car for the trip, we decided to ferry it with us to Antiparos so we 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, we drove 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, we parked our car a short distance away and 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 on low peak season, particularly during 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 hotel or head elsewhere for the day. But we weren’t feeling well-behaved that day and something about not being back home in Singapore makes your inner badass inhibitions run wild.
Since we had already paid for our ferry ticket to Antiparos and drove a good distance to the attraction, we decided heading back to the main island without satisfying what we were in Antiparos for was not an option. Apart from the both of us, there was no other soul 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, we 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 we were on the other side, we checked to see for security cameras and found one mounted at the other end of the brick wall. Precariously making our way to the security camera in an effort not to be filmed, we were glad to find out it wasn’t operating.
When all was in check, we paused to breathe in the spectacle that was before our 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 us with silent darkness like a scene from a clichéd horror film. But for skipping the €3 entrance fee, we couldn’t ask for anything more.
Alas, it wasn’t long before we reached a locked gate leading to the first chamber. This time we weren’t able to break past it as neither of us knew how to pick a lock. At this point, we decided to succumb to the fact that we couldn’t enter much deeper into the cave and see the ancient writings on the wall. Dejected, we turned on our heel and made our way back up and out of the cave.
Although we 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 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 quite a secluded island. Make sure you 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, so don’t do it.. but I guess no one told the famous ancient people that.