In the oldest quarter of Naxos Town lies Kastro, constructed by the Venetians in Medieval times. It is out of a Medieval dream with stone buildings and paths. This district has a lively atmosphere with many cafes, shops and boutique hotels.
While you are in Naxos Town take time to Climb to the Venetian Castle. Located at the top of the town, it’s an easy and interesting walk from the waterfront. The castle is very picturesque and gives great views of everything below.
Relaxing on the Beach and Windsurfing
Naxos Island is known for its lovely beaches with crystal clear waters and soft plush sand, a nice break from the rocky beaches of other Greek islands. My favorite three are Plaka Beach, Agios Prokopis Beach, and Agia Anna Beach.
Plaka Beach is ideal for a lazy, relaxing day. The sand is the best here and it’s usually not as crowded. (FYI nudity is accepted on Plaka). Agios Prokopis is probably the most popular beach on Naxos. It has lots of sand dunes which are fun to crawl up and over and great for taking photos. Last, but certainly not least, make sure to try windsurfing or kitesurfing on Agia Anna Beach. The western side of Naxos is one of the best places in Greece for wind sports and there are plenty of companies renting equipment and providing training for beginners.
Discovering Ancient Greek Temples
From the village of Ano Sangri you can easily walk, or better yet cycle, over to the Temple of Dimitra, the goddess of grain. This temple was constructed in the 6th century BC and although it is currently undergoing reconstruction, it is definitely worth it to see.
The marble gate of Portara is the iconic image of Naxos. The ancient gate is the only thing that remains from the 6th century BC temple dedicated to the god Apollo. The gate faces towards Apollo’s birthplace in Delos. It is usually one of the main places to visit on the island and is what you see first thing as you sail up to the main port. This is one of the best places to catch some sunset views as the sun lights up the gate painting it a glowing red with Naxos town in the background.
Hiking in the Mountains & Stumbling Upon Local Villages
One of the best parts of Naxos is that it isn’t completely overtaken by tourism. Being a rather large island compared to many other Greek islands, you can easily get away from the touristy parts and truly experience Greek village culture. You can conveniently ride various buses about to see different mountain villages. My favorite two were Halki and Apiranthos. Halki is worth a visit to see the Vallindras Traditional Distillery of Kitron. You can take a tour and learn all about kitron liquor, the traditional drink of Naxos. On the other hand, Apiranthes’ beauty is in its decrepitude. It is full of abandoned and aging buildings that make for great photo shoots.
Although you can take the local buses to get around easily, I preferred to get outdoors and enjoy what the mountains of Naxos had to offer. This is a great way to get some exercise and tour some of the smaller villages. There are old stone pathways that connect many of the villages to the center of town. Jump on one and see where it takes you. Start from the village of Melanes and find a nice hiking trail that leads to the Monastery of Kalamitsia.
Learning About Greek Culture at Naxos Festival
All summer long on the island is the Naxos Festival. It features a wide variety of events from art exhibitions, theater performances, musical concerts, and other seminars. The festival is located at Bazeos Tower, out in the countryside. There are quite a few venues in English I’ve heard, but I just went to listen to some local Greek music concerts. It was a really unique experience and I’d recommend checking out what they have to offer while you are there.
(Photo by trevorklatko via Flickr)
Written by Lauren DeGarmo for Alaturka Cruises