Home Destination Guides Accommodation 27th January 2020


     Naxos is located north of Thira (Santorini), and occupies the centre of the Cyclades group of islands. It is the largest of the Cyclades and one of the most popular.  Naxos combines a winning mix of beautiful sandy beaches, traditional villages, great scenery and interesting sites.  Until recently there was no airport on Naxos and as a result Naxos avoided being deluged with tourists.  The island has benefited from this by retaining all its local charm, and authenticity, making it a popular choice with those who do visit.  Tourism to the island has steadily increased and relies mostly on the excellent ferry links Naxos has built up between Athens and the surrounding islands, particularly Paros, Mykonos and Santorini which are all popular in their own right.  Due to the proximity of these neighbouring islands, Naxos makes a good choice for island hoppers and two-centre holidaymakers. Whilst tourism is centred on Naxos town and the surrounding area, the unspoilt interior of the island abounds with green valleys, fertile plains and scenic mountains, making this a popular destination for hikers. The pace of life is relaxed and the local people have retaining their traditional lifestyle, making a good living from farming and agriculture.  The island is especially renowned for its cheeses and local wines. 
     Naxos town, sometimes referred to as Hora by the locals, is the capital and main port of the island.  It is a lovely town, with a bustling, working harbour where colourful local fishing boats rub fenders with private yachts, ferries and tour boats.  Naxos town also has the most spectacular harbour entrance of all the islands in the Aegean and the welcoming sight as you approach the town by ferry is a dramatic arched stone doorway, called the Portara Gate.  The Portara Gate is set out at sea, on the islet of Palatia, which is linked to Naxos town by a causeway. In medieval times windmills were built on the causeway, but now tourists flock to the causeway to have their picture taken under the landmark arch.  The ruins date from the 6th Century BC and the Portara Gate is all that remains of an unfinished Temple.  Whilst there are few remaining records regarding provenance, the favourite theory is that the Temple was dedicated to Apollo, but romantics suggest that the Temple was built by Dionysos - the God of wine, whose home was on Naxos.  Legend states that Dionysos seduced the beautiful Ariadne on Palatia, and that the ‘Portara’ was the doorway to Ariadne’s house.  Following her death, Dionysos is said to have cast her bridal crown of 7 stars into the sky to form the northern constellation we now know as Corona Borealis.
   The main street of Naxos town follows the attractive waterfront, which is lined with a variety of cafes, shops, tavernas, bars, restaurants and a Bank.  The main bus station offering services to the rest of the island is conveniently located at one end of the main street next to the ferry quay.  Behind the busy main street is an intriguing warren of narrow streets and alleyways leading into the centre of the Old Town and culminating at the walls of the wonderfully preserved 13th Century Venetian Kastro. The Kastro is built on the site of an ancient acropolis and contains a Roman Catholic Church and the island’s Archaeological Museum, home to some coveted marble figurines from the Early Cycladic period.  There is a different feel to this picturesque quarter, filled with the colour of geraniums, largely because of the Venetian occupation between 1207 and 1566.  There are some excellent restaurants at the foot of the Kastro offering a welcome break from sightseeing.
     To the south of Naxos town, the coastline is a necklace of sandy beaches behind which small resorts are starting to flourish.  The first is at Agios Georgios, a lively area not much more than 10 minutes walk from Naxos town.  There is a long, sandy, tree-lined beach, with water sports and beachside tavernas, great for families and couples alike, but can be busy in high season.  Further along from Agios Georgios, a small dam was built, (at great cost to the local wildlife that lived on the salt flats behind) which has created a windy section of beach north of the dam - much appreciated by windsurfers.  Part of the salt flats is now home to the island’s airport just a short distance from Naxos Town.
     Approximately 8 kilometres south of Naxos is Agios Prokopios and a little further on, Agia Anna, both of which have soft, golden sandy beaches gently shelving into the clear blue sea.  Both of these small resorts are easily accessible by local bus from Naxos town and they offer a choice of restaurants, tavernas and bars to chill out in.  Further south the beaches get even better with sloping sand dunes and even fewer people.  Pyrgaki and the more isolated beaches at Kalando and Rena on the south coast are renowned for their great swathes of golden sand.  Beach boats are available from Naxos town and the pretty harbour at Agia Anna for those who wish to enjoy these lovely beaches.  Inland from Pyrgaki is the ancient Temple of Demeter, which dates from the 6th Century BC and is noted for its unique architecture.
     On the northern side of Naxos town is Grotta Beach and lying just offshore are the submerged ruins of an early Cycladic settlement.
     The only other resort to speak of on Naxos is located in the northeastern corner of the island at Apollon.  You can take a tour bus to Apollon along a scenic mountain road that winds its way up through the highest village on the island, the attractive hamlet of Koniaki.  Apollon is a small fishing village and is the site of an ancient marble quarry where the main attraction for tourists is the giant Apollon ‘Kouros’, a huge marble statue over 10 metres tall, believed to be of the God Dionyssos.  In Archaic times Naxos was renowned for its marble sculptures and most of them were made for export.  On the neighbouring island of Delos lie the remains of a Naxian marble ‘Kouros’ of similar proportions to the one at Apollon and the ‘Lions of Delos’ are also made of Naxian marble.  The central village of Melanes has an ancient marble quarry where more ‘Kouroi’ can be seen.
     Inland, Naxos not only has delightful villages but great scenery scattered with ruined ‘Towers’ (remnants of old fortifications), and medieval Castles.  There are some excellent walks for those who enjoy walking and suggested walking itineraries can be bought from the main town.  Paleopirgos Castle is fairly well preserved and can be reached by following a track for about an hour from Plaka Beach.  The delightful inland villages include Chalki, the former capital of Naxos, pretty Filoti and the lovely Apeiranthos, with its Venetian towers, streets of Naxiot marble, Archaeological and Geological Museums.  Filoti is also the starting point for a long 2-hour get-your-boots-on trek to the highest peak on the island, Mount Zeus in the south, which rises to a breathtaking 1001 metres.  This hike requires enthusiasm and stamina but once you reach the summit, the views of the archipelago are well worth the effort.   Half-way up to the summit there is a Cave where legend has it that the God Zeus was raised - however the Dikti Cave on the Lassithi plateau, Crete, also lays claim to a similar tale as the alleged birthplace of Zeus – so the choice of legend is yours!
Package holidays are available from Greek specialist tour companies with charter flights usually to Santorini and onward travel by ferryboat to Naxos.  The ferry will take approximately 2 and a half to 3 hours from Santorini to Naxos.  Olympic Airways offer scheduled flights from the U.K. to Naxos via Athens, or you can travel with any airline to Athens before taking either a ferry or domestic flight onwards.  Timings will vary depending on how long you need to wait for the connecting flight to Naxos.  The Olympic Airways domestic flight time from Athens to Naxos is approximately 40 minutes and Naxos airport is located a short drive from Naxos town.  Ferries from Athens to Naxos take between 3 and a half to 6 hours depending on how many other islands the ferry is calling at prior to Naxos, not to mention the prevailing weather conditions.  It should be noted that between July and August the ‘Meltemi’, a strong wind, blows across the Aegean and whilst this wind brings relief from the midsummer heat it can cause chaos with ferry and flight schedules.  Naxos has excellent ferry connections to most of the other main Greek islands, but these will usually be via other intermediate islands.
The foregoing information was last reviewed in November 2006. Things change, and whilst we are often travelling in Greece we do rely to some extent upon others to provide updates in order to keep the site as current and accurate as possible!  If you have updates or information that you think should be included here, please mail the webmaster@aguide2greece.com  - thank you.


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