Large and lively, regardless the season, with significant independence in production; countless beaches; mountainous villages and great monuments, Naxos has “the whole package” and is ideal for those who do not settle for less. An old-school tourist attraction, the island features a plethora of accommodation and restaurant options for all budgets and tastes. Humble cookhouses coexist with gourmet restaurants, surfers from all over the world with Greek families, and history buffs with bar-hopping fanatics.
Everyone takes a walk to the famous Portara of the Temple of Apollo, which dates from the 6th century B.C. But the beauty of the town of Naxos is hidden in the narrow streets of the old agora, Bourgos, and mainly its castle. It was built in the 13th century by Marco Sanudo as the seat of the famed Duchy of the Archipelago.
Enter the castle via the Trani Porta (Great Door) or the two Paraportia (side doors) and admire the stately buildings with Venetian coat of arms and built from ancient building materials, lovely churches as well as the temporary exhibition of the Archaeological Museum (everyday 09:00 – 13:30, except Tuesdays), as the main building is undergoing renovation.
The most beautiful villages of Naxos are Apeiranthos and Koronos, the main exporters of Naxian emery during the 20th century.
Walking through the marble-covered narrow streets of Apeiranthos, between the whitewashed houses, will offer some of the most beautiful moments of the summer. Notice the marble frames and impressive domed arches, explore its museums and listen for the musical dialect and rhymes coming from the locals.
In Koronos lose yourself in the white, serpentine narrow streets and steps, converse with the locals to find out more about emery rock and working in the mines, and enjoy traditional cooking at Platsa (Tel. (+30) 22850.512.43). At dusk you must head to the coastal settlement of Moutsouna, where you will find the loading ladder and enjoy an almost cinematic setting.
The sea is not just for swimming
Aghios Georgios, Aghios Prokopios, Aghia Anna, Plaka, Orkos, Mikri Vigla: from Naxos town to Cape Kouroupia with the sand dunes and cedar forest, the southwest coastline of Naxos is redolent of a continuous beach – dotted with sandy beaches, beach bars and water-sports schools.
In contrast, in the south and east of the island, you will find more quiet beaches, not organized or busy. Opt for Lagouna because you can learn how to windsurf in absolute safety under the guidance of champion Stamatis Probonas (Laguna Beach Park, Tel. (+30) 697.242.6905), Mikri Vigla for its international, micro community of kitesurfers (Νaxos Kitelife, Tel. (+30) 690.620.5807, naxoskitelife.com) and Plaka for a special meal at Tortuga restaurant (Tel. (+30) 22850.443.00).
For a genuine seaside experience at untouched beaches and caves go for a kayaking excursion with Manolis Loudaros (Οceanus Kayaking, Tel. (+30) 698.070.1092, oceanuskayaking.com).
Mystra of the Aegean
Naxos boasts more than 100 frescoed Byzantine churches. Archaeologists consider the island a “gallery of Byzantine iconography,” since the walls of its churches have been decorated constantly, from the Early Christian times to the 13th century. You will see the most impressive ones around Chalki – go to Panagia Protothroni or Aghios Georgios Diasoritis in Chalki, and Panagia Drosiani in Moni.
Yet the cultural safari in Naxos does not end here. Add to your itinerary the famous Kouroi at Melanes and Apollonas, the Sanctuary of Demeter (everyday 8:30-15:00 except Tuesdays), as well as the Venetian towers dating from when Naxos was the seat of the Duchy of the Aegean.
Famed cheeses, exceptional meats, delicious potatoes, as well as seafood, agricultural produce and citrus fruits. The Naxos locals still cultivate the land, breed animals and produce a wealth of local products. Try them in the tavernas and restaurants that pay attention to their ingredients, such as Axiotissa (Tel. (+30) 22850.751.07) in Kastraki; Vasilarakiou (Tel. (+30) 22850.320.88) in Kinidaros; Platia (Tel. (+30) 22850.626.17) in Galini; Platanos (Tel. (+30) 22850.310.38) in Filoti and Perama (Tel. (+30) 22850.419.70) in Aghios Prokopios.
If anything is worth stocking up on, that would be cheese: source your graviera, arseniko (kefalotyri), anthotyro, mizithra (sweet and sour), touloumotyri, xinogalo, etc. from the island’s dairies.
Moving around the narrow streets of Hora is difficult in the afternoons due to the crowds, and the coastal road to the port is closed to traffic. It would be better to come early in the morning – either before 11:00 when it starts getting hot, or be sure to have left by 19:00.
Traffic on the roads in rather busy, especially on the western coast, caused by rented cars, motorbikes and quad bikes. Generally the road network is not the best – be extra careful while driving.
Check out the program of the cultural Naxos Festival; with events hosted in the Bazeos Tower this is the ideal opportunity to visit the monument.
When meltemi winds are blowing avoid the beaches on the northwest coast, as the sea has strong currents and can be particularly dangerous.