Secret Hotels of the Greek Isles
If you're seeking peace, quiet, and a killer tan, look no further than the islands of Páros and Antiparos.
"We want everyone to leave with the best impressions, not just of the hotel, but of Páros," says Stella Logaridou, owner of Albatross Bungalows, which her family opened in 1992 on the east side of the island, in the town of Logaras. To that end, she'll arrange sailing, fishing, sea kayaking, and more. Logaridou cheerfully oversees all the minutiae involved in running the property: making sure the TV room is stocked with children's DVDs, sourcing the yogurt served at breakfast from a small farm in northern Greece, and making note of guest preferences. "For the past six years, the Dimitriades family has wanted Room 317," she says, showing off the view from the balcony to the mountaintop monastery of Agios Antonios. All but 10 of the 36 rooms have sea views, but Logaridou notes, pointing at the village of Marpissa seen from Room 205, "The sea views aren't necessarily the best." Each room has a terrace and deftly combines old-world charm--evident in details such as the curtains embroidered by Logaridou's godmother--with modern conveniences like A/C and a television. 011-30/22840-41157, albatross.gr, from $75, open May to October.
If Páros is the perfect honeymoon destination, Antiparos (with only a thousand full-time residents) is the ideal spot to bring the kids years later. "It's a family island," says Magda Maounis, who runs Kastro Apartments with her husband, Markos. To say the Maounises are accommodating would be an understatement. They'll take the ferry across to Páros to pick up guests who are in danger of missing the last boat (they can cajole the captains into waiting). They insist on meeting visitors at the harbor, so they won't get lost on the two-minute drive to the hotel. They'll organize cooking classes and sunset cruises and even plan weddings. The eight studios and six larger apartments are sparely furnished, but all have sea views. The hotel is steps from two sandy beaches, and it's a short walk down a cobblestoned street from charming Antiparos town. 011-30/22840-61011, antiparosgreece.com, from $52, open April to mid-October.
Oliaros is the ancient Greek name for Antiparos, so it's appropriate that the eight rooms at Oliaros Studios are very traditional, with terraces, whitewashed walls, embroidered curtains, blue doors and shutters, and folk art on the walls, as well as kitchenettes, satellite TV, and air-conditioning. There are three doubles and five duplexes with two beds downstairs and a master bedroom on a mezzanine (or vice versa). The owner, Vassilis Germanopoulos, runs the family hotel on property his grandfather bought right above Agios Giorgos beach at the southern tip of the island. Germanopoulos's youthful energy is evident in the popular sea-kayaking excursions he organizes from Oliaros out to the sea caves of Antiparos and the uninhabited satellite island of Despotiko, with its many archaeological excavations. 011-30/22840-25305, oliaros.gr, from $75, open May to October.
"Here, people really to come to relax," says Lilly Arber, describing both the Jimmy Buffett--esque vibe of Antiparos and the feel of her hotel. A Swiss interior designer who met her Greek husband, Derek, on her first night of a vacation in Greece, Lilly believes she was fated to build a home on Antiparos. "It was kismet," she says. "Even coming over on the ferry, I loved the feeling of escaping to this small island." The hotel's four doubles, five studios (one room with three beds), and three 2-bedroom apartments have verandas; several have two, "to catch both the morning and evening sun," explains Lilly. Views vary: Room 15 has a marvelous sea view, while Room 8 lacks one. There are also two freestanding houses within the complex: Romantic House, a snug double; and Sweet House, which sleeps as many as four in its bedroom and sitting room. In the morning, guests gather around the pool for a breakfast of homemade marmalades and cakes. Afterward, they walk five minutes to the beach or hitch a ride with Lilly and Derek to swimming spots farther away. At 9:30 p.m., after the pool bar closes, guests wander down the path leading to town, in search of the restaurants Lilly has recommended: Sifneiko for sunset drinks and "the best pizza anywhere," and Tsipouradiko for Greek mezes (small plates) enjoyed while looking over the harbor. 011-30/22840-61411, lillysisland.com, from $65, open May to October.
Páros and Antiparos: Getting There and Around
Olympic Airlines flies several times a day from Athens to Páros (olympicairlines.com, from $75 each way, 45 minutes). Lots of ferry companies make the run between the Athenian port of Piraeus and Páros harbor at least twice a day. Hellenic Seaways' three-hour superfast ferry is the quickest (hellenicseaways.gr, $57; book online, then pick tickets up in person at Piraeus).
A seven-minute ferry ride brings passengers from the town of Pounta on the southern coast of Páros to Antiparos harbor, with departures roughly every half hour (no reservations are necessary, passengers 75¢, cars $8). The main drag in Antiparos town is home to several places where you can rent cars, mopeds, and bikes.