It seems like it’s forever since I last traveled to the Cyclades in Greece. Still, my hesitation to travel internationally during a pandemic quickly disappeared when I arrived on the island of Paros. I decided to book a resort that did not require a rental car, instead I chose a property where I could walk into the busy, whitewashed port town of Naoussa, which is the center of activity on the island.
While Mykonos and Santorini were being filled with tourists, the more relaxed atmosphere of Paros and its smaller neighbor Antiparos appealed to me as a safer and more relaxing sanctuary. I made a wonderful few days exploring both islands focusing on less tourist opportunities and more private excursions.
It was really refreshing to see that many new hotels on the islands are owned and run by powerful young women, all dedicated to spectacular design, hospitality and creating a unique experience for guests that will last forever.
Cove Paros Hotel
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Cove Paros is owned by the beautiful and charming Youli Papaioannou; her family has been in the hotel business for years, after launching their first hotel in Zakynthos in 1992. Tourism and hospitality have always been a part of her life, and she has a personal connection to the island and childhood nostalgia around it. After spending countless summers there with her family, she wanted to recreate the magic of those moments for her guests.
“The passion for hospitality is a lasting mystery that the Greeks know well,” Youli says. “It is in culture, in history, that there were old laws that protected its sanctity. It is probably also inevitable at some point that an entrepreneur in Greece like myself would be interested in tourism and the opportunities it provides. Just the topography of the Cyclades itself would inspire everyone to fantasize about their own boutique sanctuary. But it requires a special formula of creativity, will and commitment to realize our ambitions and make our inspirations tangible. ”
Paros is one of the most popular of the Cyclades, famous for its wide sandy beaches, crystal clear water and secret coves to explore. It is also easy to reach from Athens by high-speed ferries or short, direct flights. I preferred the ferry and when booked on first class it has a private room on the upper deck with a butler offering food and bar service.
The capital of Paros is Naoussa, which is full of traditional taverns, exclusive restaurants and bars. The area is quite crowded with young locals and visitors every night, which increases the area’s thriving energy, but there are many opportunities to find a table by the water for dining. Around my stay, there were superyachts delivering celebrities like Justin Bieber and Charlize Theron and billionaires like Jeff Bezos all exploring the island’s charm.
Cove Paros is the newest resort on the island of Paros, within walking distance of the town. The resort’s exclusive aesthetics matched with authentic Cycladic hospitality make the property one of the most sought after for visitors. With its enviable location located directly on the soft sandy beach overlooking the tranquil Agioi Anargyroi coast, it is the perfect retreat for both couples and families.
The resort was created with fantastic modern design, all curated by the architectural firm eDje. Usually hotels with minimalist aesthetics are cold and sterile, but Cove Paros is so well designed that you feel like you are in your own private villa.
The hotel offers 45 suites, including five signature suites with private pools and is truly the best way to experience this beautiful hotel. They have elegant interiors, a large outdoor patio, a bedroom with a sumptuous king size bed, a separate living room with two sofa beds and a stunning bathroom with possibly the best water pressure I have ever experienced on an island.
Lazy days are spent soaking in your private pool, swimming in the beautiful main pool or lying on the sandy beach with sumptuous chaise lounges, palapas and food service. Meals are prepared professionally at the resort’s own RADA restaurant overlooking the beach using pure ingredients and seasonal ingredients. The staff are young and energetic and by the end of your stay you will probably know everyone by their first name.
Dinners are a late experience in Greece, which usually starts at. 22.00. We spent hours walking through the city’s narrow stone corridors past countless shops and many taverns. The charming waterfront is filled with colorful fishing boats that seemingly merge into the crowded harbor. There are many dining options, including the most popular (and overpriced) Statheros and Barbarossa, but try to choose a taverna where the locals hang out to avoid the tourists.
The rooster is owned by the elegant and charming Athanasia Comninos. Her adventure in Antiparos started when she wanted to create a destination for personal growth and where guests can experience happiness in simple pleasures.
Comninos has two children and left his career in interior design and magazine work at Vogue Greece. After working for her family’s shipping company, she decided to leave it all behind and focus on her personal passion project. She cares a lot about Antiparos and cherishes it. You will never see a beach club with cocktail service or DJ-pounding main pool on this property; this is calm at its best.
Antiparos is less than a kilometer from the larger island of Paros, where the seven-minute ferry runs from port to port every hour until after midnight. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about at the sparkling new hotel called The Rooster, located on Livadia Beach.
Antiparos is a quiet, reserved island full of special charm and full of attractions. It’s obvious why so many famous faces make this island their cottage (Tom Hanks owns a villa here.)
Designed as a wellness and lifestyle resort, The Rooster is not overly dramatic or pretentious. It is created more as a holistic experience and an escape from civilization, with its camouflaged aesthetic melting into the mountainside. This is slow at its best.
The Rooster offers up to 16 individual houses, each with a unique style where you feel like you are in your own private home. There is also a separate farmhouse with space for six guests. All houses have private gardens, outdoor showers and direct views of the sea or the surrounding countryside. You may never see another guest during your stay unless you venture out to the main lobby and bar area. There is no central pool or service on the beach to create a more tranquil, private, less resort-like experience.
The Healing House is one of the true highlights of the property, where guests can participate in guided rituals, such as the holy bath, sound healing or practicing yoga and meditation throughout the stay or a day visit like myself.
The therapists are masterful, including Abi, who delivered one of the best Ayurvedic massages of my life. With only two treatment rooms and a small outdoor pool, the spa was created to be your own personal sanctuary where you will rarely encounter another guest.
Led by rock star Executive Chef Andreas Nikolakopoulos, dinner in the secret garden under the stars is an evening of pure food delight. The farm-to-table restaurant offers freshly caught fish, locally sourced vegetables from the resort’s farm, all incorporated into modern international cuisine.
One of my favorite places at the hotel is the huge outdoor bar overlooking the ocean where the bartender mixes passionate cocktails while watching the spectacular sunsets over the isolated bay.
How to explore both islands
I discovered Seacret Cruises after conducting extensive research on the best way to explore the islands of Paros and Antiparos when you have limited time. The young, beautiful owner of the company Dimitris Vakakis created a masterful morning exploring with a luxury RIB boat so we could venture out into hidden caves, tunnels and secret coves.
Most charter companies have catamarans or yachts that do not provide access to these hidden places, but with Seacret Cruises you have the opportunity to really discover new places of privacy far away from the boats filled with tourists.
We left Aliki port on Paros around kl. 9 for a walk around the best places in southern Paros and the Antiparos Islands. The typical cruise lasts 8 hours, or a half-day cruise can be booked either morning or at sunset.
We visited caves for underwater exploration and stopped at cliffs for diving along the countryside of southern Antiparos. The boat gave us access through cave tunnels that opened up to ideally still water for swimming. Dimitris also provided snacks and cocktails at the most romantic private sandy beaches.
The perfect itinerary for the morning was to visit the stunning Panteronisia (blue lagoon), Faneromeni beach, the famous seal caves, the uninhabited island of Despotiko with its archeological finds, and then we dropped in for lunch at the famous oatmeal restaurant Captain Pipinos on Antiparos. There are many more opportunities to explore land, but in the hot summer heat it was the best way to spend your vacation on the high seas and swim in the warm water.