Naxos: A bit of everything in the largest of the Cycladic islands
Naxos has been overshadowed by its more glitzy neighbors like Mykonos and Santorini but it doesn’t seem to mind the quieter, more family-friendly role in the tourist landscape of the Southern Aegean. In fact, it seems to relish it, offering a variety of activities that will leave you wondering why you had never considered visiting Naxos before.
Naxos is one of the few islands where their most famous archaeological site is the first thing you see when you arrive by ferry. Portara, the doorway to the ancient Temple to Apollo, sits on a small island in the harbor. They say if you stand in the doorway and make a wish you can feel the force of Apollo working his magic.
Sitting above the town is the Kastro (castle), the most interesting archaeological site of the town. Built by the Venetian despot Marco Sanoudo in 1207, it includes within its walls a number of Venetian residences, a Catholic Cathedral, and the French School where Nikos Kazantzakis studied. The school is now an Archaeological Museum which contains some fine examples of white marble figurines and ceramics. The castle has been continually inhabited since it was built and during the summer hosts concerts and exhibitions. The Venetian Museum also hosts concerts and art exhibitions and boasts the most spectacular view of the harbor and the sea. Bourgos is where the Greeks lived under Venetian rule and its winding streets are full of restaurants and shops. The harbor itself is a lively area of cafes, restaurants and shops.
Naxos is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Greece, with long stretches of golden sand and the most amazing color of blue sea you will ever see.
The beach of Agios Georgios is the main tourist attraction of the island. If you like windsurfing, water-sports, people watching this is the place to be.
The beaches of Agios Prokopis and Agia Anna are a little quieter but also very popular and there are rows of umbrellas and sunbeds that you can rent. If you love scuba-diving, be sure to look for the “Lost Beaufighter”, a British bomber that sank off the coast of Agios Prokopios during WWII.
Further on, Plaka is another long beauty of a beach with about five kilometers of golden sand. Plaka is an unofficial nudist beach, so be warned if you’re not into that kind of thing. Many of Naxos beaches have been given the Blue Flag award by the EU.
To discover all the interesting places the biggest island of the Cyclades has to offer, you’ll need transportation. Naxos has a good enough bus system to get you to where you want to go and bring you back before sunset.
There is a lot to see on this island if you are not the type who is satisfied lying on the beach all day. The beautiful Bazeos Castle, just 2 km outside Naxos town was built in its original form as a monastery during the 17th century, and was later bought by the Bazeos family. The castle now functions as a cultural centre and stages art exhibitions and the annual Naxos Festival in July to August, when concerts, plays and literary readings are held. A few kilometers down the road is the Sanctuary of Demeter. Built in 530 BC, it is a monumental, all-marble temple dedicated to the ancient goddess of fertility, located in the middle of a valley full of vineyards.
There are a number of traditional villages like Apeirathos, Halki and Apollonas that were once remote fishing villages but are now tourist resorts. In Apollonas you can see the giant Kouros, a tall marble statue that was left unfinished in the ancient quarry above the village. In the town of Moni you’ll find the Monastery of Panagia Drosiani, built in the 6th century with a roof made of field stone and some interesting Byzantine frescos. The town of Komiaki is famous for its locally-produced liquer, the kitron.
There are many places to visit in Naxos. If you plan to see the whole island, it is best to break it into sections and plan accordingly. Any way you decide to go, Naxos is sure to offer an unforgettable and enjoyable journey. Contact us to arrange a vacation package!