Whitewashed villages clinging on the caldera cliffs skirting the Aegean Sea may seem like a scene reserved for honeymoon hotspot Santorini. The Greek island’s sunsets are legendary (as are its super swanky cave hotels and sexy plunge pools), but for couples looking for something more secluded far away from cruise ships and tourist-clad streets, there are two other islands in the Cyclades that have honeymoon written all over them: Paros and Antiparos. Seen as a more rustic version of Mykonos, Paros (which is home to nearly 40 beaches alone) is a fave of the bohemian jetset—as well as one of the stops on the hippie trail between Ibiza and Asia. With an airport too small to accommodate private jets (meaning the main mode of transport here is catamaran or propeller plane), the island is all the more exclusive for you and your beau. Just a 7-minute ferry ride away, sister island Antiparos is even more of an insider secret with seaside hideaways (read: villas) frequented by celebs like Madonna and Tom Hanks, who skip over Greece’s more glamorous isles in favor of these tavernas and time-trapped beaches that'll steal your heart away at first sight.
From Athens, hop on the quick, 40-minute flight to Paros and settle in to one of the few haute hotels on the island—the boutique Yria near Parasporos beach. If you would rather stay in the heart of the island’s restaurant and nightlife scene, book one of the 16 rooms at the charming Hotel Papadakis in the fishing village of Naoussa, overlooking the bay. If the views here don’t make you swoon, wait until you try the homemade breakfast spread dubbed one of the island’s best. For a stay that will make Paros feel like it’s all yours, book a private villa with White Key Villas, whose concierge service can point you in the direction of a stay that suits your style (plus take care of everything from transfers to boat tours and private massages). One top pick on Paros: the Cycladic-style Villa Jasmine, tucked away on six acres along the rugged, southern coast. Walk down the path from the villa through Mediterranean gardens where you’ll find your own Robinson Crusoe-esque beach—the perfect launch point for a boat tour around the island.
Friends on Instagram may rave about Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, but right off the coast of Paros you’ll find a Greek version that’s just as picture-perfect. Tell the captain to drop the anchor once you arrive to Panteronissia, a string of small islands between Paros and Antiparos, where the crystal-clear water takes on a turquoise hue. Post up for a picnic with lunch baskets (another perk of villa life!) packed with chilled rosé and Greek goodies like farm-fresh feta and olives sourced from gourmet grocery store, Arsenis Delicatessan.
Once you’ve freshened up (here’s where the private couples’ massage comes in very handy), take a quick trip over to the traditional hillside village of Lefkes, Paros’ former capital during the Middle Ages, where Venetian architecture is intertwined with whitewashed windmills and 15th-century churches. Stroll along the stone-paved streets, pausing to sample spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) at family run café Kafénion under the town’s main church, the Parian marble-clad Church of Agia Triada. Catch one of the island’s most stunning sunsets in capital Parikia, where you’ll find the landmark 13th-century Venetian castle along the hill, as well as beach bar Cabana. While you’re here, pop in to ceramics shop YRIA, where you’ll be inspired to stock your kitchen with its octopus-stamped stoneware. For “something old,” wind your way down the nearby alley to Antiques Paros by Patricia, a treasure trove of vintage furniture and more modern pieces in the form of fabric and jewelry by Greek designers. When you’re ready for a romantic dinner for two, feast by the water at lively Mediterraneo Paros, a taverna-style eatery in Naoussa that kicks things up a notch with its more contemporary Greek cuisine.
The hard part about Antiparos isn’t getting there, it’s deciding what to do once you arrive. As soon as you take a look at the plunge pool dipping over the Aegean at Villa Melissa, set on the eastern edge of Antiparos, you won’t want to leave your sun lounger for a few days. When you’re finally ready to set off from the sprawling sanctuary (where there’s everything from a hammam to secluded beach sitting below), take a Jeep safari to one of the most untouched parts of Antiparos— Faneromeni beach, a small cove crowned by a church where you’ll be able to spend the day snorkeling in crystal-clear water. This beach is no frills (meaning no beach beds or bottle service), so if you’re after a more happening hangout, head to the sheltered cove of Apantima, home to one of the island’s best beach bars and restaurants, Beach House. The all-in-one spot features everything from a super chic concept shop selling handmade sunnies to a playground (great if you happen to be honeymooning with the kids in tow) and nine sea-facing suites.
Days in Antiparos can easily be spent basking seaside along deserted beaches, but couples up for an adventure can kitesurf; descend down 411 steps into Greece’s oldest cave, Antiparos Cave; or hike along ancient trails snaking throughout the island. After working up an appetite, head into town and take a seat along the main shopping drag at Kalokéri, a charming eatery with upscale cuisine composed of ingredients sourced from across the Cyclades (think grass-fed beef from Naxos and fava beans from Heraklia). Before cozying up for the evening, swing by local fave Boogaloo for an island-inspired nightcap like the namesake Boogalito, a rum and lemon cream liqueur-based libation topped off with basil leaves, pink pepper and refreshing lemon sorbet. This is one of the few late-night spots on the island, but the lack of parties (and lights) makes it all the more enticing to spend the evening curled up in a hammock with your other half stargazing while falling asleep to the sound of the waves lapping at your feet.