Antiparos, home to the oldest cave in Greece, is a small Greek island in the southern Aegean, in the central Cyclades. It is only a stone’s throw from Paros, which is where you can access the ferry to cross over to the quaint island.
There is a lot that can be said about the island of Antiparos. There are wonderful, relaxing beaches on the island as well as a typical small-island sense of hospitality, meaning you will find quaint tavernas and restaurants where you feel like family while eating traditional Greek food.
The island is also a favorite vacation destination for Hollywood couple Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, who own a home there.
It’s also home to one natural wonder that has been enchanting visitors to the island for centuries, the Cave of Antiparos.
Cave of Antiparos may be oldest cave in Greece
The cave is situated on the southeastern side of the island on the hill of Agios loannis. The entrance to the cave is guarded by a small 18th century church called Agios loannis Spiliotis (Saint John of the Cave).
This cave, which sits some 177 meters above sea level, is internationally famous and is believed to be the oldest cave in Greece, dating back some 45 million years.
It is believed that the very first recorded visitor to the cave was Archilochus, a lyric poet from Paros, who lived from 728 to 650 BC.
The cave’s wonders have drawn attention over the centuries, and have brought many people to the island in hopes of uncovering the cave’s hidden treasures. It has also been a place of beauty, awe and inspiration to those who have seen it in person.
Residents on the island always knew about the existence of the cave; however, the interior remained unexplored until 1673, when the French ambassador to Constantinople, Marquis de Nouadel, visited the island to explore the cave.
He had heard information leading him to believe that there were valuable archaeological artifacts waiting to be discovered there.
The cave’s natural beauty
His plan was to discover the artifacts and take them back to France; instead, he and his team lowered themselves down on ropes only to discover the rarest artifact of all, the natural beauty of the cave itself!
Inspired by the cave, and since it was Christmas, Marquis de Nouadel decided to perform mass on the top of a stalagmite that resembled an altar.
He then inscribed: “Here Christ himself celebrated Midnight Mass on Christmas 1673.” The inscription still remains today, along with many others.
These days, visitors luckily do not need to lower themselves with ropes to explore the cave, since a 411-step staircase has been installed, and it takes you more than one hundred meters down into the depths of the cave.