Unlike most of the Cycladic islands, Naxos –the largest of the Cyclades- is verdant and particularly fertile. The mountains with their picturesque villages, the long golden beaches, the medieval castles and Venetian towers, the ancient temples and the delicious traditional products, all contribute to Naxos’ distinct character.
Where to go
If you want to get the real essence of the island, leave the coast and head inland. Stop at Filoti village for a coffee under the huge plane tree on the main square. Climb up to Apeiranthos, walk around the narrow arched alleys and stop at Lefteris’ for a mouth-watering slice of delicious galaktoboureko (traditional Greek custard pie) and a glass of ice cold water. Once you reach the village of Halki, you will discover that Venetian architecture can be present even in the Cyclades. East Naxos also hides its own unique beauties.
Its long coastline offers easily accessible, beautiful sandy beaches for every taste. Agia Anna, Agios Prokopios, Glyfada; whichever beach you choose, you are sure to enjoy crystal clear waters and have fun in the sun.
Indulge in the gastronomic delights of the island and do not forget to try its delectable cheeses, such as the excellent graviera Naxou (gruyere cheese, the most famous of all the Naxian cheeses), thilikotiri (sweet and sour semi-hard cheese) and arsenic (yet another famous Naxian cheese, aged, with firm texture and pungent flavour), and of course its famous potatoes and the special Naxian ham (one of the finest Greek cold cuts).
How to get there
By boat from Piraeus and Rafina and by plane from Athens.
Where to stay
Naxian Collection Luxury Villas & Suites: Villas and suites of Cycladic architecture located on the hill of Stelida. Comfortable rooms with a nice, relaxed atmosphere, ideal for both families and couples. All villas have a swimming pool and a fully equipped kitchen. Breakfast is based on local products some of which come from the hotel’s farm. In Plaka, you will find its sibling Naxian on the Beach Luxury Boutique Hotel in bohemian chic style, just 10 m from the beach. (Stelida, +30 22850 24300, www.naxiancollection.com)
Melidron Luxury Hotel & Suites: A beautiful hotel with Cycladic flair. Just five minutes from Agios Prokopios beach. The modern-style rooms are characterised by discreet luxury and feature beautiful balconies with wooden pergolas. The pool area is atmospheric and very inviting. (Agios Prokopios, +30 22850 44216, www.melidronnaxos.gr)
Belogna Ikons: Spacious and comfortable autonomous villas that feature fully equipped kitchens and are suitable for families. The exterior is dominated by the Cycladic style, while the interiors have a lighter, rather traditional decoration. Each villa has its own terrace and its own parking space. The common pool is large, while the complex overlooks the Aegean Sea. What is more, your first breakfast is on the house. (Naxos – Galanado, +30 693 266 97 73, www.belognaikons.gr)
Hotel Semeli: Family hotel with various types of very well-kept rooms, some of which have a kitchenette. The hotel’s swimming pool is quite large and the beach is just 2 km away. (Agios Prokopios, +30 22850 41977, www.hotelsemeli.com)
Faros Villas: Faros Villas offers rooms, studios and apartments with sophisticated decoration. The main pool area is lovely, while there is also a playground for younger guests. It is located just 150 m from the beach and the cedar forest. (Alyko beach, +30 22850 75244, www.farosvilla.gr)
Coralli Beach Apartments: Coralli Beach offers charming blue-white apartments and studios and is ideal for families. The rooms are neat, with a simple, yet pleasant decoration. The surrounding area of the hotel is very beautiful, full of plants and flowers. (Mikri Vigla, +30 22850 75229, www.coralli-naxos.gr)
Where to eat
Stou Vasilarakiou: It is both a butcher’s shop and a tavern offering meat skillfully grilled or stewed with fresh-cut French fries. (Kinidaros, +30 22850 32088)
Apanemi: A picturesque fish tavern on the harbor of Moutsouna offering delicious mezedes (a selection of small dishes traditionally served as appetizers). Here you may enjoy fresh fish, cured, fried or carpaccio. Noteworthy is also their selection of ouzo brands. (Moutsouna, +30 694 413 86 10)
Axiotissa: One of the most famous taverns on the island, offering mouth-watering dishes based on local traditional products and a wide selection of delicate Naxian cheeses. (Kastraki, +30 22850 75107)
Palatia: Scrumptious dishes with the best local ingredients and the freshest fish and seafood, very close to the harbour. (Agia Anna, +30 22850 41591)
Stou Lefteri: Tavern in the style of an old mansion with a beautiful paved terrace. The menu is relatively short and emphasizes on high-quality produce. T-bone steaks, goat meat roll and burgers stuffed with graviera Naxou are among their best dishes. (Apeiranthos, +30 22850 61333, +30 694 56 54 257)
Local products: Kitron liquor (traditionally and exclusively produced on the island, made from the fruit and leaves of the citron tree), Naxian ham, graviera Naxou, arseniko, potatoes, kalogeros (beef stew with eggplant recipe), rosto (local dish, made with pork), amathies (festive Naxian dish made with pork belly, stuffed with rice and herbs)
What to see
Naxos is an island full of beauties. Its vast history is evident everywhere you look. Medieval towers and ancient temples coexist harmoniously.
Portara (Temple of Apollo): Dating back to the 6th century BC, Portara is the trademark of the island, as it is the first thing one sees as the ship approaches the port of Naxos.
Kastro: A Medieval Castle town founded in 1207 by the Venetian diplomat of the island, Marcos Sanoudos, and built on the ruins of the ancient Acropolis of Naxos just above the harbour. The houses within the castle date back to the 14th and 15th centuries and most of them bear the coat of arms of Catholic nobles. It is, perhaps, the most picturesque part of the island with an incredible view of the Aegean Sea.
Archaeological Museum of Naxos: It features archaeological findings from the Neolithic period to the Early Christian period. (Hora, +30 22850 22725)
Naxos Towers: Venetian towers are scattered around the island and some of them are open to visitors. Worthy of your attention is the 13th century Della Rocca-Barozzi Tower in the Castle, where the Venetian Folklore Museum is housed and where you may see furniture, weapons and costumes from that era. The 15th century Crispi-Glezos Tower also located in the Castle and now housing the Byzantine Museum offers magnificent views and is definitely worth a visit.
Bazeos Tower: Located outside Sagri village, Bazeos Tower functioned as the Monastery of The Holy Cross until the 19th century. Today, it operates as a cultural centre.
Tower and Monastery of Christ Fotodotis: It is considered the oldest castle-monastery of the island, built -as the iconographies and inscriptions testify- in the Byzantine period. However, it has undergone various modifications over the years.
Archaeological site of Sangri: The temple, which dates back to the 6th century BC, is entirely built of Naxian marble and dedicated to the goddess Demeter. It is one of the first temples ever built according to the Ionic order of architecture.
The island has more than 200,000 olive trees and many olive presses, some of which function as small museums and are open to visitors, such as the oil press in Damala, the Eggares oil press and the small Vivlos Folklore Museum, located in Tripodes village. They are all worth a visit.
Where to swim
Agia Anna: One of the most serviced beaches, offering amenities such as sea umbrellas and sun beds, as well as water sports facilities. A small forest of cedar trees that reaches the coast makes the beach of Agia Anna unique.
Agios Prokopios: A very popular, serviced beach, with golden sand and pristine waters, offering a variety of hotels and apartments, as well as many dining options nearby.
Agios Georgios: With fine sand and shallow waters, the beach of Agios Georgios is ideal for families. The fact that it is very close to Hora makes this beach very popular.
Plaka: It is the continuation of Agia Anna beach, but much more peaceful; ideal for those seeking some privacy.
Mikri Vigla: The favourite beach of windsurfers. Youthful energy and amazing azure waters.
Kastraki: Turquoise waters, cedars and white sand create a paradisiacal setting. In the surrounding area, you will find numerous taverns while the small bays formed by the rocks are ideal for more private swims.
Alyko: One of the most beautiful beaches of the island, with white sand, next to the cedar forest, offering a relaxed and tranquil environment.
Glyfada: Dunes, crystal clear waters and beautiful juniper trees. Next to the beach you can find a few accommodation options and some delicious taverns. If you are looking for a crowd-free beach, this is the place to be.
Moutsouna: Relatively small beach near the homonymous settlement, once a busy harbour exporting emery. In the harbour nearby you will find a few charming taverns. The old cranes that transported the emery in the past are still in place and offer an impressive throwback in time.
What to do
Apart from relaxing on its golden beaches, Naxos is also ideal for outdoor activities such as horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, diving and kayaking.
In fact, the island is considered among the most important hiking destinations in the Cyclades with over 15 marked hiking trails. The ascent of Za, the highest mountain not only of the island but of the entire Cyclades, is the top route. Starting from Filoti village, the trail is very steep, but also incredibly rewarding, as the view of the Aegean Sea from the top is unique. The routes around the picturesque village of Apeiranthos, as well as those of the valley of Tragaia with its lush nature, neat little villages and the scattered archaeological sites are also excellent.
Cedar forest: A wonderful landscape with clusters of cedars next to the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea, golden dunes, heather and thyme. It extends over an area of 800 sq. m. in Alyko and is included in the Natura 2000 programme.
If you like water sports, the beach of Mikri Vigla is perfect for windsurfing and kite surfing.
It is also worth wandering through the narrow alleys of the lovely picturesque villages of Apeiranthos, Halkios, Filoti, Koronos and Apollon -the small fishing village where one may see the famous unfinished statue of Kouros, almost 11 m high.
Must: Ascend Mount Zas, try the famous graviera Naxou from the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, and take a walk in the Castle and a commemorative photo in Portara.
Info/ Emergency phone numbers you should know:
General Hospital – Health Centre of Naxos: +30 22853 60500
Naxos KTEL Buses: +30 22850 22291
Port Authority of Mykonos: +30 22850 22300
Naxos Police Department: +30 22850 22100
Municipality of Naxos: +30 22853 60100