When I was growing up, the small Cycladic island of Antiparos, a short ferry-ride from the more commercial and larger island of Paros, was a popular, off-the-beaten-track getaway for Greek youth taking their first vacation away from their parents. Antiparos meant hippie-style camping, partying until dawn, binge drinking, beach bonfires, summer love, casual sex and sunbathing. The island’s other beauties would go unnoticed amid the sunstroke- and hangover-induced haze. While Antiparos nowadays may have become more mainstream and trendy, it is still synonymous with youth and the frivolity, bravado, physical carelessness and lack of inhibition that youth entails. And there is now cinematic evidence to prove it.
In his brand new feature film Suntan, Greek director Argyris Papadimitropoulos captures, with an almost documentarian eye, the essence of what Antiparos was, and remains, for both its tourists and its locals. In telling the story of 40-year-old Kostis, who’s just relocated to the island to work as the resident doctor, Papadimitropoulos charts life on the island from its dark winter hibernation to its radical transition into a bright summer stage for the frenzied, inebriated, ecstatic and ephemeral youngsters. The story may be fictional but the island-life depicted is not. Antiparos in Suntan is more than a backdrop, however; it is one of the protagonists, and as such it deserves a proper introduction. Here are ten of its locations that have been the set and home for cast and crew for two months back in the summer of 2014.
“Antiparos in Suntan is more than a backdrop; it is one of the protagonists, and as such it deserves a proper introduction.”
1. Camping Antiparos
Camping Antiparos was both a film location and the film’s headquarters since cast and crew stayed there for the duration of the shooting. Hidden among trees and right next to the beach, this legendary campsite has been hosting guests since the 1970s, offering modern and clean washrooms, hot water, a minimarket and a self-service restaurant with delicious Greek specialties. Tent or camper space is offered within the compound under the shade of low-hanging trees, or if you want some privacy you can opt for one of the bamboo compartments. No reservation is needed and a special bus is available to carry you and your luggage from the port to the campsite (a three-minute drive).
2. Campsite’s nudist beach
The beach next to the campsite features some gorgeous, clear, turquoise waters and attracts many of the campers, especially those that want to go about in the nude. This was the first nudist beach in the Cyclades and it’s been popular since the late 1970s when the last dope-smoking hippies would come here seeking tranquility away from touristy Paros. The beach was used for quite a few scenes in the film where its protagonists are getting their suntan under the scorching Greek sun and among actual (nude and clad) vacationers.
3. Disco La Luna
You cannot visit Antiparos and not make a pilgrimage to this legendary cult open-air discotheque, which has been at this spot since 1981. It opens for the summer around July 10 and traditionally operates daily after 1 am, that is, after partygoers have had a few drinks at the village bars and walk here along its dusty, dim-lit road for some frenzied dancing to ’80s tunes. The real party starts after 4 am, lasting until 7 am, and the alcohol of choice is beer. You know when the party is ending when you hear Nina Simone’s “My baby just cares for me,” which has been established as a farewell tune. Papadimitropoulos shot quite a few scenes here among actual tourists, giving a more documentary-like feel to his scenes. Aided by Christos Karamanis’ exceptional photography and camerawork, the end result does justice to the true spirit of the place and makes for some of the film’s truly great (and trippy) scenes.
4. Faneromeni beach
Some 12km (a 25-minute drive) from the port, towards the south of the island, you will come upon a chapel (of Saint Faneromeni) and a long, deep, narrow bay with incredible turquoise waters that ends in a small, 30m-long sheltered beach covered with thin and soft sand. This is an ideal destination for anyone looking for relaxation and intimacy and, therefore, for romantic couples; no wonder the beach was selected for the film’s romantic escapade. If you decide to visit, come prepared with an umbrella, for there are no trees (only oregano and thyme bushes) nor shade. Make sure you also bring water and something to eat because the nearest café-restaurant is 4km away in Soros village.
5. Route from the port to Aghios Georgios village
Take a 20-minute drive from the port to the southwest of the island and the village of Aghios Georgios (Saint George), in the style of the film’s gang, by renting a scooter or a quad bike, and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way. Sea, mountain, salt and thyme will take you on a visual and olfactory journey as you wind down the road.
6. Aghios Georgios and Despotiko island
Once at Aghios Georgios village, named after the picturesque chapel of the same name, you can choose from the homonymous beach, Vathys Volos beach or Kako Rema beach for a refreshing swim in clear water. Alternatively, board the boat that departs from the village’s little harbor and go for a swim on Despotiko island, opposite. The uninhabited island is an important archaeological site and features beautiful beaches. Plakakia beach, located opposite Aghios Georgios and near Panaghia chapel, as well as Livadi beach, in the island’s south, are both suitable for swimming. The latter boasts silver sand and extremely clear, crystalline waters.
7. Captain Pipinos fish taverna
Combine your swim at one of Aghios Georgios’ beaches with late lunch (or early dinner) at the family-owned, seafront Captain Pipinos, while watching the sun set on the horizon beyond ebbing fishing boats and Despotiko island. The taverna operates from Easter to November and is the ultimate destination for fresh fish, seafood and finger-licking mezedes, as an accompaniment to ouzo. Make sure you try grilled octopus or the famous gounes, a sundried mackerel, which is then grilled. You will see them drying in the sun.
8. The Doors bar
The various bars that line Antiparos’ main cobbled street, leading from the port up to the town square, provided the backdrop for the many bar scenes in Suntan. One of them was the authentic rock joint The Doors, dedicated to Jim Morrison, which, as one local told me, “has brought up generations upon generations.” Rumor has it that if you know all the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane,” the owner – a longhaired, mustachioed Greek man – serves you free shots. Another rumor says that the owner once served Bruce Springsteen without realizing who he was. Or maybe he did and simply wanted to respect Bruce’s wish to mingle with the locals and be a mortal for a change.
9. The Family souvlaki shop
The aesthetics of this souvlaki joint go against any previous image you may have of a typical Greek establishment serving this quintessential Greek delicacy – but this is by no means a bad thing. Plus, quality is guaranteed. Get your ap’ola (with everything) pita bread wrap and indulge in it, serenaded by cicadas in the yard under the shade of the pine tree. Open from 14:00 until 5:00, you can also come here early in the morning to satisfy your post-bender hunger, as the film’s protagonist does in one scene.
10. Venetian castle
Fortifications are a regular sight on many islands since piracy was a constant problem, especially from the Middle Ages up to and following the Greek revolution of 1821. Settlements were usually built within a fortress enclosure or in naturally fortified positions. In the case of Antiparos, however, the fortification, built around the mid-15th century, is the settlement itself; a single, continuous block construction comprising of 24 two-story dwellings whose outer walls provided the defensive wall of the fortified settlement. The dwellings were arranged around a square courtyard, in the middle of which rose a central tower, only the base of which remains today. The castle is an ideal setting for a leisurely, late-afternoon stroll, with the local cats following foot.
Getting to Antiparos
By airplane from Athens International Airport to Paros (20 minutes) or by boat from Piraeus or Rafina port (4 1/2 hours). Once in Paros port, by bus to Pounda (15 minutes), where a ferry will take you to Antiparos (7 minutes, with departures every 30 minutes), or from Paros port by boat straight to Antiparos (25 minutes).