It seems like it’s been forever since I last traveled to the Cyclades Islands in Greece. Still, my hesitancy of traveling internationally during a pandemic soon disappeared as I arrived at the island of Paros. I decided to book a resort that did not require a rental car, instead choosing a property where I could walk into the bustling, white-washed harbor village of Naoussa, which is the center of activity on the island.
While Mykonos and Santorini were becoming packed with tourists, the more relaxed vibe of Paros and its smaller neighbor Antiparos appealed to me as a safer, relaxing sanctuary. I crafted a wonderful few days of exploring both islands, focusing on less touristy options and more private excursions.
It was genuinely refreshing to see that numerous new hotels on the islands are owned and operated by powerful young women, all dedicated to spectacular design, hospitality, and creating a unique experience for guests that will last forever.
Cove Paros is owned by the beautiful and charming Youli Papaioannou; her family has been in the hotel industry for years, having launched their first hotel in Zakynthos in 1992. Tourism and hospitality have always been a part of her life, and she has a personal attachment to the island and the childhood nostalgia surrounding it. Having spent countless summers there with her family, she wanted to recreate the magic of those moments for her guests.
“The passion for hospitality is an enduring mystery that Greeks are well acquainted with,” says Youli. “It’s in the culture, in the history, there were ancient laws protecting its sanctity. It’s also probably unavoidable, at some point or another, that an entrepreneur in Greece like myself would take an interest in tourism and the opportunities it makes available. Just the topography of the Cyclades on its own would inspire anyone to fantasize about their own boutique sanctuary. But it takes a special formula of creativity, will, and commitment to realize our aspirations and make our inspirations tangible.”
Paros is one of the most popular of the Cyclades Islands, famous for its wide sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and secret coves for exploring. It is also easily reached from Athens, with high-speed ferries or short, direct flights. I preferred the ferry, and when booked in first class, it features a top deck private space with a butler offering up food and bar service.
The main village of Paros is Naoussa, which is filled with traditional tavernas, upscale restaurants, and bars. The area is quite packed with young locals and visitors every night, adding to the thriving energy of the area, but there are many options for finding a waterfront table for dining. Around my stay, there were superyachts delivering celebrities like Justin Bieber and Charlize Theron and billionaires like Jeff Bezos, all exploring the charm of the island.
Cove Paros is the newest resort on the island of Paros, located an easy walking distance into town. The high-end aesthetic of the resort matched with authentic Cycladic hospitality makes the property one of the most sought-after for visitors. With its enviable location positioned directly on the soft sandy beach overlooking the tranquil Agioi Anargyroi coast, it is the perfect retreat for couples and families alike.
The resort was created with stunning 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 as if you are in your own private villa.
The hotel offers 45 suites, of which five are signature suites with private swimming pools and are truly the best way to experience this beautiful hotel. They have elegant interiors, a big outdoor terrace, a master bedroom with a sumptous king size bed, a seperate living room with two sofa beds, and a stunning bathroom with possibly the best water pressure I have ever experienced at an island resort.
Lazy days here are spent soaking in your private pool, swimming in the gorgeous main pool, or reclining on the sandy beach with plush chaise lounges, palapas, and foodservice. Meals are expertly crafted at the resort’s own RADA restaurant overlooking the beach, utilizing pure produce and seasonal ingredients. The staff is young and energetic, and by the end of your stay you will likely know everyone by their first name.
Dinners are a late experience in Greece, usually starting at 10 pm. We spent hours walking through the narrow stone passageways of the town past countless boutiques and many tavernas. The charming waterfront is filled with colorful fishing boats seemingly melted together in the packed harbor. There are numerous dining options, including the most popular (and overpriced) Statheros and Barbarossa, but try and select a taverna where 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 her 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 great deal about Antiparos and safeguarding it. You will never see a beach club with cocktail service or DJ thumping main pool at this property; this is tranquility at its finest.
Antiparos is located less than one mile from the larger island of Paros, where the seven-minute ferry travels 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, which is located on Livadia Beach.
Antiparos is a quiet, reserved island filled with special charm and loaded with attractions. It is obvious why so many famous faces make this island their summer home (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 blending into the hillside. This is slow living at its best.
The Rooster offers up 16 individual houses, all with a unique style where you feel like you are in your own private home. There is also a separate Farm House that sleeps six guests. All of the houses include private gardens, outdoor showers, and direct views of the sea or the surrounding landscape. You may never see another guest during your stay unless you venture to the main lobby and bar area. There is no central pool or service on the beach in order to create a more tranquil, private, less resort-like experience.
The House of Healing is one of the true highlights at the property where guests can participate in guided rituals, like the sacred bath, sound healing, or practicing yoga and meditation during the entire stay or a day visit like myself.
The therapists are masterful, including Abi, who provided 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.
Headed by rock star Executive Chef Andreas Nikolakopoulos, dinner in the secret garden under the stars is an evening of pure foodie pleasure. The farm-to-table restaurant features freshly caught fish, locally sourced vegetables from the resort’s farm, all incorporated into modern international cuisine.
One of my favorite spots at the hotel is the huge open-air bar overlooking the sea, where the bartender mixes up passionate cocktails as you watch the spectacular sunsets over the isolated bay.
HOW TO EXPLORE BOTH ISLANDS
I discovered Seacret Cruises after doing extensive research on the best way to explore the islands of Paros and Antiparos when you have limited time. The young, handsome owner of the company Dimitris Vakakis created a masterful morning of exploring with a luxury RIB boat, enabling us to venture into hidden caves, tunnels, and secret bays.
Most charter companies have catamarans or yachts that do not provide access to these hidden spots, but with Seacret Cruises, you have the opportunity to truly discover new places for privacy far away from the boats filled with tourists.
We embarked from Aliki port on Paros around 9 am for a tour around the best spots of Southern Paros and Antiparos Islands. The typical day cruise lasts 8 hours, or a half-day cruise can be booked for either morning or at sunset.
We visited caves for underwater exploration and stopped at rocks for diving all along the landscape of South Antiparos. The boat gave us access through cave tunnels opening up to ideally still water for swimming. Dimitris also provided snacks and cocktails at the most romantic private sandy coves.
The perfect itinerary for the morning was visiting the stunning Panteronisia (blue lagoon), Faneromeni Beach, the famed Seal Caves, the uninhabited island of Despotiko with its archaeological finds, and then dropped off for lunch at the famous sea-side restaurant Captain Pipinos on Antiparos. There are many more options for land exploring but in the sweltering summer heat, being on the open sea and swimming in the warm waters was the best way to spend your holiday.