Naxos: The best kept secret in Greece
To those in the know, Naxos has developed a reputation as Greece's best kept secret. The island is called the Cyclades archipelago home, and it offers travellers the chance to rest their weary feet in a sun kissed land that boasts everything a popular Greek holiday destination offers, without the crowds. Don’t be fooled by the island’s lack of international airport – this is a world class destination.
The islands main town is as picturesque as you’d expect any ancient Greek town to be, with whitewashed houses, cafés and a Venetian castle that is simply begging to be explored.
Of course one of the main reasons anyone visits Greece is for the beaches and Naxos will not disappoint. Anyone looking to visit these sandy shores will likely want to set their sights on the South Western coast, including Plaka, Agios, Kastraki and Prokopies. The beaches range from the more organised to the more remote, depending on a travellers individual tastes – and unlike some of the more popular island destinations in the country, there are rarely crowds to fight over the best spots.
As Naxos is comprised of a handful of smaller villages nestled among the region’s mountainous terrain, trying the local cuisine is a must. Here, farmers offer some of the tastiest cheeses, creamiest milk – and for those with a more Mediterranean palette; olives.
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Life’s a Beach on Naxos
The biggest draws for anyone visiting Naxos are the beaches along the islands South Western edge which stretch from Agios Prokopios all the way down to Agiassos. It is here where the sand softens under a traveller’s feet and the waters take on a crystal blue hue.
The beaches don’t simply offer travellers the chance to relax – they can also inspire the adventurer in a wide-eyed visitor. The wind is always blowing on Naxos, especially on the Western edges and so it makes for the perfect destination for windsurfers and kite surfers. Anyone looking to join in will likely want to visit Mikri Vigla, Gyflada, Orkos or Agios Georgios beaches. Visitors should keep in mind that rental equipment is available along these beaches, and the schools offer lessons to beginners. Even if you don't fancy giving it a go yourself, the site of beautiful coloured kites racing across the lagoon, and the impressive jumps from the kite surfers themselves, is a must see.
Transport Yourself into the Past
The island of Naxos seems to have one foot in the modern world and the other in the ancient. This is especially evident when you visit Kastro, the oldest area within Naxos Town. It is here that visitors will get the chance to immerse themselves in Medieval architecture, constructed by the Venetians many centuries ago.
A visit to the island isn’t complete – or necessarily possible – without viewing the Portara, the marble gate that was built in the 6th century and stands as the only remnant of the temple of Apollo. This is usually the first sight a visitor gets when they approach the island from the ferry so it is hard to miss.
Another temple on the island is The Temple of Demeter, the goddess of grain, which is situated just a short bike ride from Ano Sangri. Constructed in the 6th century, it is constantly undergoing restoration, to maintain and preserve this historical place.
Take a Hike
Hiking is a natural allure for those to Naxos, as the area is mountainous and offers some of the most astounding views in the country. The hike to the Monastery of Kalamitsia is perhaps one of the most popular hikes opted for by visitors to the island. The trail is littered with stone footpaths, ancient sites that are prime spots for venturing off the beaten track, and Venetian towers, built centuries ago. Hikers even have the chance to take a break on one of the many secluded beaches that boast azure waters.
The Festival of Naxos
The Naxos Festival is a summer-long affair that has a multitude of events to offer throughout the warmer months, including art exhibitions, concerns and theatrical performances. The island gets many visitors during this time and accommodates them by offering some of the events in English – if that doesn’t make a visitor feel welcome, nothing will.
Getting Around Naxos
There are a few different ways that visitors can ensure they don’t miss out on a single thing when visiting the island of Naxos – ferries, bus services, car hire and bikes. All of these options will get visitors where they need to go – whether that is a secluded beach or the neighbouring ferry ports of Piraeus and Crete. Those opting for the bus service should be aware that the service is limited to a handful of beaches and the main villages. Of course, those who want to have all the independence that comes with driving their own vehicle will be happy to know that car hire is available on the island, and of course motorbikes too. Its worth noting that if hiring a bike, be conscious that the roads on Naxos are not what you might find on other more built up islands, like Santorini for example. When visiting and venturing out to explore the secluded beaches take your time, after all this is Greece.
The Culinary Delights of Naxos
Visitors to Naxos can immerse themselves in the culture in a variety of ways and one of the most exciting ways is the food. Naxos is known for the high quality meats and cheeses it produces, as well as the world-famous Naxos potato. The two must-have cheeses for any traveller to dine on include xinomyzithra and kopanisti. The former is a crumbly cheese while the latter is a soft, fermented cheese.
Fine dining enthusiasts will not be left wanting as the island boasts a range of top quality eateries, serving both Greek and international cuisine. Seafood lovers will want to make sure that they try the lobster and fresh caught fish, which are brought in fresh from the shores surrounding the island. Naxos has an array of restaurants on the island that aren't just Greek, ranging from Italian to Mexican. Delicious.
Where to Stay on Naxos
The best areas to stay when visiting Naxos depends on what visitors are interested in. For those looking for accommodations overlooking some of the most remote and luxurious beaches in the world will do worse to book their hotels along the South Western edges of the island, in locations such as Agios Prokopios, Plaka, Agiassos and Orkos.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve seen it all, you haven’t seen a place like Naxos. The island is a reminder of Greeces ancient heritage and it’s not difficult to imagine the great Poseidon ruling the azure waters surrounding the island, or even Demeter herself running through the farmer’s fields, turning the wheat a yellow gold. It’s a destination that any traveller should have on their bucket list.