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Thanks to a New York Times article declaring Naxos, Greece “not to be missed,” travel heavyweights have been including it year after year on their roundups of must-see destinations within the Cyclades.
Unlike its neighbors Santorini and Mykonos, Naxos remains relatively unfazed by the North American hype – despite the fact that the picturesque island continues to surface on Greek island round-ups. Its low-key ambiance and quiet pace provide visitors with an authentic Greek island experience, only three and a half hours from bustling Athens.
When to Go
The weather in Greece is warm from March/April onwards, with peak crowds in July and August. Early September is an ideal time to experience the island. By September, fewer tourists are packing the ferries and beaches, as children across Europe are back in school.
The easiest way to arrive to Naxos is by ferry from Athens. From the port of Piraeus (just outside of Athens) a high-speed ferry will deliver you to Naxos in roughly 3.5 hours, while other ferries offer a more scenic 5.5-hour journey. Purchase your tickets in advance to alleviate any headaches at the port and guarantee your arrival time.
What to Do
Naxos, an enchanting jewel in the heart of the Cyclades archipelago, beckons travelers with its rich history, captivating landscapes, and authentic Greek charm. This island, often overshadowed by its more famous neighbors, holds a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. From ancient ruins and golden beaches to charming villages and delectable cuisine, Naxos offers a well-rounded Greek getaway that caters to diverse interests.
Eat. Simply arrive hungry, and don’t leave until you’ve eaten just about everything. Local Naxian cheese and olive oil are not to be missed, as is imbibing on a glass of island-made Kitron (a spirit made from citron trees, a relative of the lemon). There are plenty of restaurants directly across the street from the port, however going inland (even if it’s a block or two) will often reveal restaurants aimed at locals instead of tourists, complete with more reasonable prices and authentic cuisine.
While it’s a drive nearly 45 minutes inland, a visit to Rotonda (located in the Apeiranthos region of Naxos) will deliver gourmet food with jaw-dropping views of the island and sea. Tip: Reserve a table for sunset, the views are some of the best on the island.
Unique to Naxos is the Eggares Olive Press Museum, one of Naxos’s oldest remaining olive mills. A brief complimentary tour showcases the history of the mill, including original production materials once used at the site. Don’t miss a tasting, I dare you to leave without buying some of their oil. You’ll be hooked.
A Tapestry of History and Mythology
Stepping foot on Naxos is like stepping back in time. The island’s history is intertwined with Greek mythology, making it a land of captivating tales. Visit the imposing Portara, a colossal marble doorway that stands as a remnant of an unfinished temple dedicated to Apollo. Legend has it that this doorway was meant for the god of light himself. Wander through the alleys of Naxos Town, where Venetian influences blend seamlessly with Cycladic architecture. The Kastro, a medieval castle, offers panoramic views and a glimpse into the island’s past.
Beaches of Golden Splendor
Naxos boasts some of the most stunning beaches and beach bars in the Aegean. From the Chora (town center) the first beach is Agios Georgios, an easy 15-minute walk from the center of town. While there are ample oceanfront restaurants and beach bars, Agios Georgios is often the most crowded due to its proximity to the town center.
Outside of the town center, three well-known beaches dot the coast – Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, and Plaka. Each boasts crystal clear turquoise water, not unlike the Caribbean, and Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna are within walking distance of each other. All three beaches are easily accessible by public transit that runs every half hour from the town center. If you want to rent a sun-bed for the day (highly recommended to find reprieve from the scorching Mediterranean sun) visit any number of the beach bars along the beach. Some will rent two beds and an umbrella for a flat fee, others will include them for ‘free’ with the purchase of food or drinks.
Plaka Beach, with its seemingly endless stretch of soft sand and azure waters, is a haven for relaxation and water sports. Agios Prokopios offers a family-friendly atmosphere, while Agia Anna’s calm waters are perfect for a leisurely swim. For windsurfing enthusiasts, Mikri Vigla and Laguna Beach provide ideal conditions to ride the waves.
Authentic Villages and Local Life
Venture beyond the tourist hotspots to discover the island’s authentic character. The village of Apeiranthos, perched on a mountainside, exudes traditional charm with its narrow alleys and well-preserved architecture. Sangri village is home to the Temple of Demeter, an archaeological site that gives insight into ancient religious practices. Embrace the warm hospitality of the locals, and don’t miss the chance to savor homemade dishes at family-run tavernas.
Naxos tantalizes the taste buds with its culinary offerings. Indulge in fresh seafood, locally produced cheese like the famous graviera, and sweet treats such as the mouthwatering kitron liqueur. Wander through local markets to sample the island’s flavors and bring home a taste of Naxos.
Hiking and Nature
Nature enthusiasts will find solace in Naxos’ diverse landscapes. Hike to the summit of Mount Zas, the highest point in the Cyclades, for breathtaking panoramic views. Explore the lush greenery of the Melanes Valley or take a stroll through the olive groves and citrus orchards that dot the countryside.
Where to Stay
There’s no shortage of accommodation options on Naxos, ranging from luxurious private villas to basic room rentals.
Kavos Boutique Hotel is located a ten-minute walk from Agios Prokopios beach and offers guests their choice of villas, apartments, or suites overlooking the Aegean sea and nestled among the bougainvillea. With an outdoor pool, restaurant, and pool bar, guests will want for nothing.
Hotel Grotta Is rated #1 on TripAdvisor for good reason. The Greek hospitality is evident from the moment you arrive, welcomed with a snack and glass of white wine from the family’s vineyard. Don’t miss the legendary breakfast spread, it’s something dreams are made of.
Naxos, Greece, is a destination that transcends the ordinary, offering a tapestry of experiences that cater to history buffs, beach lovers, adventurers, and food enthusiasts alike. Its serene beauty and authentic Greek essence make it a haven for those seeking a well-rounded and unforgettable travel experience. Whether you’re exploring ancient ruins, basking in the sun on golden beaches, or savoring local delicacies, Naxos promises an immersion into the heart and soul of Greece.
Interested in visiting Greece, or maybe island hopping for your next vacation? Schedule a complimentary consultation with me to start planning your next vacation. I’d love to curate your perfect Mediterranean escape (or another destination on your bucket list)!