Into the Heart of the Cyclades: A Journey to Naxos’ Untouched Beauty

Naxos Island

A complete guide on Naxos Island, by the team at Greeklist.

1. Introduction

Nestled in the heart of the Aegean Sea, Naxos stands as the largest and perhaps one of the most multifaceted islands of the Cyclades. It offers a unique blend of ancient myths, historical richness, and natural beauty, making it a compelling destination for travelers from around the globe. Beyond its stunning landscapes and golden beaches, Naxos is imbued with a deep cultural heritage that resonates through its old churches, monasteries, and Venetian castles.

The island’s traditions are still alive in its music, dances, and the warm hospitality of its people. Visitors to Naxos are greeted by the iconic Portarav, a massive marble gateway that heralds the island’s storied past and serves as a threshold to its present allure. From the fertile valleys laden with olive groves and vineyards to the rugged mountainous interior that invites explorers and adventurers alike, Naxos encapsulates a rare blend of natural and cultural treasures.

Chora of Naxos

2. Brief history of Naxos

Naxos has been a beacon of civilization since the Neolithic era, flourishing as a center for the Cycladic culture known for its distinctive marble sculptures. Its historical richness is highlighted by its role in Greek mythology where Naxos features prominently in the legend of Theseus and Ariadne. After Ariadne aided Theseus in his escape from the Minotaur’s labyrinth, she was left on Naxos where she met Dionysus, the god of wine, who took her as his bride. This mythological connection emphasizes the island’s ancient cultural and spiritual significance.

Historically, Naxos also played a pivotal role in the politics of ancient Greece, evidenced by the significant event in 499 BC during the Ionian Revolt where it was subjected to a notable siege. This event marked a critical point in the island’s ancient history, showcasing its strategic importance in the Aegean Sea.

The medieval era marked a significant phase in Naxos’ history under the rule of the Venetian Marco Sanudo, who established the Duchy of the Archipelago in the 13th century. The Venetian legacy is evident in the robust Naxos Castle, which encapsulates the historical and architectural synthesis of Greek and Venetian influences. After centuries under Venetian, Ottoman, Italian and German control, Naxos was liberated on 1944, maintaining its unique cultural identity through a blend of its historical influences and its intrinsic Greek heritage.

Cycladic Art
Cycladic Art
The Siege of Naxos 499 BC
The Siege of Naxos 499 BC
Theseus and Ariadne
Theseus and Ariadne
18th Century Naxos
18th Century Naxos
Liberation of Naxos 1944
Liberation of Naxos 1944

3. Getting to Naxos from United Kingdom

The most common route to Naxos starts with a flight from the UK to Athens International Airport, the primary gateway into Greece. Athens is well-served by several major UK airports, including London Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, and Edinburgh, with flights operated by a mix of full-service and budget airlines. The flight duration from London to Athens is approximately 3.5 to 4 hours.

Upon arriving in Athens, travelers have two main options to reach Naxos: by air or by sea.

  • By Air: Domestic flights from Athens to Naxos Airport (JNX) are quick, typically around 40-45 minutes. During the high season, there are usually several flights per day operated by Greek & International airlines. This is the fastest way to get to the island after landing in Athens. Book your tickets from Skyscanner.
  • By Sea: Alternatively, more adventurous travelers might choose to take a ferry from the Port of Piraeus in Athens to Naxos. The ferry journey can vary, taking anywhere from 4 to 6 hours depending on whether a high-speed or conventional ferry is chosen. Ferries run several times a day during the tourist season, providing flexible scheduling options. Book your tickets from Ferryhopper.

Naxos from Above

4. The weather in Naxos during Summer

During the summer months, Naxos is bathed in abundant sunshine, offering the quintessential Mediterranean getaway with its warm and inviting climate. From June through August, the island’s temperatures comfortably sit between the low 20s to mid-30s Celsius. The weather is consistently dry, with hardly any rainfall interrupting the long, sunlit days.

The Aegean is known for the meltemi wind, which tends to pick up during the summer, especially from mid-July to late August. This northerly wind not only brings a much-needed coolness during the peak afternoon heat but also makes Naxos a popular spot for windsurfing and other wind-related sports. Evenings on the island offer a respite from the daytime heat, as temperatures drop to more comfortable levels, perfect for leisurely strolls through Naxos Town or enjoying a seaside meal under the stars.

Overall, Naxos’ summer weather is predictably pleasant, combining high temperatures with cooling breezes to create an ideal holiday environment for both relaxation and adventure. You can check weather conditions for Naxos on meteo.gr

Meltemi Wind
Meltemi Wind

5. Top Destinations and Attractions in Naxos

Naxos is a treasure trove of attractions, offering everything from time-honored historical landmarks to picturesque mountain villages. Each destination offers a unique glimpse into the island’s rich cultural heritage.

  • Portara (Temple of Apollo): This iconic ancient doorway, standing alone on a small islet connected to Naxos Town, offers spectacular sunset views and a glimpse into the island’s ancient past.
  • Portara
  • Kastro (Naxos Castle): Located in Naxos Town, this Venetian castle is a labyrinth of history with old mansions, traditional shops, and panoramic views of the town and sea.
  • Naxos Castle
  • Apiranthos Village: A picturesque mountain village with marble-paved streets, traditional cafes, and museums, often referred to as the ‘Marble Village’.
  • Apeiranthos Village
  • Temple of Demeter: Near the village of Sangri, this ancient temple dedicated to the goddess of agriculture is a fine example of classical Greek architecture.
  • Temple of Demeter
  • Mount Zas: The highest point in the Cyclades, offering challenging hikes and rewarding views across the island.
  • Mount Zas
  • Kouros Statue: At the entrance to Flerio, this massive unfinished ancient statue lies in a Naxian marble quarry, a reminder of the island’s rich archaeological heritage.
  • Kouros
  • Agios Nikolaos Church: A quaint and picturesque church situated on Sangri Village, known for its traditional Cycladic architecture. Dedicated to Saint Nicholas, patron of sailors.
  • Agios Nikolaos Church
  • The Olive Press Museum: In Eggares village, this restored old olive mill has been turned into a museum that showcases traditional olive oil production techniques, complete with origin
  • al equipment and machinery.
  • Olive Press Museum
  • Alyko Cedar Forest: Enjoy a tranquil walk through this lush cedar forest, home to some of the island’s most secluded and pristine beaches, and view the unique graffiti art on the abandoned hotel structures.
  • Alyko Cedar Forrest
  • Panagia Drosiani Church: One of the oldest Christian churches in the Balkans, located near the village of Moni with remarkable frescoes. Dedicated to Theotokos ( Virgin Mary).
  • Panagia Drosiani Church
  • Halki Village:  Formerly the capital, this village boasts neoclassical architecture, the Vallindras Kitron Distillery, and lovely artisan shops.
  • Chalki Village
  • The Archaeological Museum of Naxos: Located in Chora, this museum houses artifacts from various periods of Naxian history, from Neolithic to early Christian times.
  • Archeological Museum of Naxos
  • Filoti: This charming village is nestled at the foot of Mount Zeus and is known for its traditional architecture, picturesque streets, and lively tavernas. It’s a great place to experience authentic Greek hospitality and cuisine.
  • Filoti Village

6. The best beaches in Naxos

Experience the pristine beauty of Naxos with its array of stunning beaches, each offering a unique slice of paradise.

  • Agios Prokopios Beach: Frequently rated as one of the best beaches in Europe, it boasts fine, golden sand and clear, turquoise waters.
  • Agios Prokopios Beach
  • Orkos Beach: Located between Mikri Vigla and Plaka, Orkos is known for its series of small coves and beautiful sandy stretches, offering privacy and a quiet escape.
  • Orkos Beach
  • Plaka Beach: Known for its tranquillity and natural beauty, this long stretch of beach is perfect for those looking to relax in a serene setting.
  • Plaka Beach
  • Mikri Vigla Beach: A favourite spot for wind and kitesurfers due to its excellent wind conditions, offering an exhilarating experience for sports enthusiasts.
  • Mikri Vigla Beach
  • Pyrgaki Beach: Situated on the southwestern coast of the island, Pyrgaki is a peaceful beach with golden sand and dunes, backed by cedar trees that provide natural shade.
  • Pyrgaki Beach
  • Alyko Beach: Famous for its wild natural beauty and the surrounding cedar forest, this beach also features intriguing abandoned hotel murals.
  • Alyko Beach
  • Agia Anna Beach: Adjacent to Agios Prokopios, this beach is well-loved for its vibrant beach bars and scenic views.
  • Agia Anna Beach

7. Cuisine and Dining in Naxos

Naxos stands out in the Cyclades for its rich culinary traditions, boasting a splendid array of local dishes that highlight the island’s agricultural bounty. From fresh seafood to unique cheeses and organic produce, dining in Naxos offers a delightful exploration of authentic Greek flavors enhanced by the freshness of local ingredients.

While on Naxos, you must taste the following:

  • Graviera Cheese: One of the island’s most famous products, Naxos Graviera is a hard cheese with a sweet and nutty flavor, often served in wedges or used in cooking, such as in pies or simply grilled as “saganaki.”
  • Graviera Cheese
  • Naxian Potatoes: Highly prized across Greece for their exceptional quality and flavor. These potatoes are grown in the fertile plains of the island, benefiting from the ideal climatic conditions and mineral-rich soil. They are known for their rich, earthy taste and fluffy texture, making them perfect for a variety of dishes from simple roasted potatoes to elaborate casseroles.
  • Potatoes of Naxos
  • Kitron Liqueur: Although not a dish, this unique citrus liqueur made from the leaves and fruit of the Citron tree is a must-try. It’s exclusively produced in Naxos and comes in different varieties, from sweet to dry.
  • Kitron Liqueur

Don’t forget to check our special guide about Greek cuisine!

Top-10 Restaurants in Naxos 

  • Ntouzenia: Seafood, Mediterranean, Barbecue, Vegetarian, Vegan & Gluten Free Options
  • To Souvlaki tou Maki: Grill, Barbeque, Greek, Vegetarian, Vegan & Gluten Free Options
  • Nostimon Hellas: Greek, Mediterranean, Healthy, Vegetarian Options
  • Alos (by Ostria Inn): Seafood, Mediterranean, Barbecue, Vegetarian, Vegan & Gluten Free Options
  • Menu me nou: Greek, Mediterranean, Healthy, Vegetarian, Vegan & Gluten Free Options
  • Rotonda: Local cuisine, Mediterranean, Greek, Healthy, Contemporary, Vegetarian Friendly
  • Nissaki Restaurant: Seafood, Mediterranean, European, Greek, Vegetarian Friendly
  • Antamoma Naxian Cuisine: Seafood, Mediterranean, Greek, Healthy, Vegetarian, Vegan & Gluten Free Options
  • Taverna Dalas: Mediterranean, European, Greek,  Vegetarian & Vegan Options
  • Delfinaki: Mediterranean, Greek

Find more top restaurants in Naxos on Tripadvisor!

8. Accommodation Options in Naxos

Naxos offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit all preferences and budgets, from luxurious beachfront resorts to charming family-run villas,  nestled in quaint villages.

Top-10 hotels in Naxos

Find more Greeklist exclusive Hotel deals for Naxos and HotelBrain here!

9. Naxos: A paradise for watersports and scuba diving

Naxos is an exceptional destination for enthusiasts of scuba diving and watersports, thanks to its crystal-clear waters and diverse marine environments. The island’s underwater world is rich with vibrant marine life, intriguing shipwrecks, and natural formations, making it a paradise for divers of all skill levels. Watersport enthusiasts can also find plenty to enjoy, from windsurfing and kiteboarding, taking advantage of the famous Meltemi winds, to more serene activities like stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking.

Beaches such as Mikri Vigla, or Plaka offer excellent conditions and facilities for watersports, ensuring that every adventure is both thrilling and safe. Whether you’re exploring the depths of the Aegean Sea or riding its waves, Naxos provides a unique blend of natural beauty and aquatic adventure that is hard to match.

Naxos Watersports

10. Day trips from Naxos

Due to the islands central location in the Cyclades makes it an excellent base for day trips to nearby islands, each offering unique attractions and experiences. Here are some great options for day trips from Naxos.

  • Mykonos: Known for its vibrant nightlife and stunning beaches, Mykonos is a popular destination. It’s just a short ferry ride away and offers a stark contrast to the more laid-back Naxos with its bustling streets and chic boutiques.
  • Mykonos
  • Santorini: Famous for its breathtaking views and iconic sunsets, Santorini is about a 1.5 to 2-hour ferry ride from Naxos. Explore the picturesque villages of Oia and Fira, and don’t miss the chance to sample some local wine.
  • Santorini Greek Flag
  • Amorgos: Slightly farther away, Amorgos is famous for its dramatic landscapes and the stunning Monastery of Hozoviotissa, clinging to a cliff face above the Aegean. It’s a quieter option for those looking to escape the more touristy spots.
  • Amorgos
  • Paros: Located just about an hour away by ferry, Paros offers beautiful beaches, traditional villages, and a vibrant art scene. Visit the historic Panagia Ekatontapiliani church and the charming port town of Naoussa.urch, windsurf in crystal-clear waters, and sample fresh seafood in seaside tavernas.
  • Paros
  • Tinos: Known for its religious pilgrimages and beautiful dovecotes, Tinos is a haven for those interested in architecture and Greek Orthodox history. The island also offers lovely beaches and artisanal food experiences.
  • Tinos

These islands provide diverse experiences and are easily accessible from Naxos, making them perfect destinations for day trips or longer excursions.

11. Local Transportation and Getting Around in Naxos

Getting around Naxos is relatively straightforward thanks to a variety of local transportation options that cater to different preferences and budgets. Here’s an overview of the main ways to explore this beautiful island:

  • Buses: The local bus service in Naxos is reliable and covers most tourist destinations, including beaches, villages, and historical sites. It operates from the main bus station in Naxos Town (Chora) and offers an affordable way to travel around the island.
  • Car Rentals: Renting a car is a popular option for visitors who want the freedom to explore Naxos at their own pace. Numerous rental agencies are available both at the airport and in Naxos Town, providing a range of vehicles from economy cars to larger SUVs for group travel.
  • Scooters and ATVs: For those looking for more flexibility, renting a scooter or an ATV can be an excellent choice. These vehicles are ideal for navigating the narrow roads of Naxos and can be a fun way to access more remote areas or hidden beaches.
  • Taxis: Taxis are readily available and can be a convenient option for direct journeys, especially if you’re traveling in a group or need to get somewhere quickly. Taxi stands are primarily found in Naxos Town, or they can be booked in advance.
  • Bicycle Rentals: Biking is a great way to enjoy the scenic beauty of Naxos. Many rental shops offer bicycles, and the island’s relatively gentle terrain makes this a viable option for both short jaunts and more extended explorations.
  • Walking: Offering a delightful and immersive way to explore, connecting you directly with the island’s natural landscapes and ancient pathways.
  • Naxos Hiking

12. Safety and Travel Tips for Naxos

Naxos is generally a safe destination for travelers, offering a relaxed atmosphere and welcoming local community. However, like any travel destination, it’s wise to observe some basic safety and travel tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. Here are some useful safety and travel tips for visiting Naxos:

  • Emergency Numbers: Familiarise yourself with emergency contact numbers, including: local police (100), medical emergencies (166), fire department (199), and the British Embassy (+302107272600) for assistance.
  • Healthcare Awareness: Familiarise yourself with the location of medical facilities and pharmacies in case of emergencies.
  • Sun Protection: The Greek sun can be very strong, especially in the summer months. Always wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect against UV rays, and try to avoid the sun during peak hours between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Stay Hydrated!: It’s easy to get dehydrated under the hot sun, especially when you’re out exploring or on the beach. Always carry a bottle of water with you and drink regularly.
  • Footwear: Comfortable walking shoes are a must, especially if you plan to explore villages with cobblestone streets or embark on hiking trails.
  • Safety in the water: Some beaches in Naxos are affected by the meltemi wind, which can create strong currents and waves. Always follow lifeguard instructions and flag warnings at beaches.
  • Environmentally Conscious Travel: Help preserve the natural beauty of Naxos by minimizing your environmental impact. Dispose of trash responsibly, stay on marked trails to avoid disrupting wildlife, and use water sparingly.
  • Language: While many people in tourist areas speak English, learning a few basic phrases in Greek can be beneficial and is always appreciated by the locals. Phrases like “Kalimera” (Good morning), “Efharisto” (Thank you), and “Parakalo” (Please) can go a long way in fostering friendly interactions!
  • Protect Against Mosquitoes: Especially during the summer, mosquitoes can be a nuisance. Use insect repellent and consider staying in accommodations with screens on windows or mosquito nets.
  • Greek Coffee: Enjoy the rich and aromatic flavors of Greek coffeeGF, a beloved tradition deeply rooted in history and culture. Served in small cups, this beverage symbolizes the essence of hospitality and encourages meaningful conversations.
  • Electrical Compatibility: To ensure you can use your electronic devices without any issues during your stay in Greece, British visitors will need a travel adapter for Europlug Type C or Type F sockets.
  • Church Etiquette: Show respect when visiting religious sites by dressing modestly and behaving respectfully. Familiarise yourself with Orthodox Church Etiquette. for a fulfilling cultural experience.
  • Local Currency: The Euro (€) is Greece’s official currency. Exchange currency before your trip or withdraw cash from ATMs upon arrival to ensure you have local currency readily available for transactions. Keep some change too just in case.
  • Visiting Naxos

13. Interesting FAQs about Naxos

Do you have any questions? We have answers!

What is Naxos known for historically?

Naxos is historically known for its role in ancient Greek mythology, particularly as the island where Theseus abandoned Ariadne after she helped him escape the Labyrinth. It was also a significant cultural center in the Cycladic civilization and a prominent player in the maritime trade of the ancient world.

What does the name Naxos mean?

The island of Naxos in ancient times was called Zeus, because it is the largest in the Cyclades Islands. So it was named after the greatest of the gods. When it was colonized by the hero Naxos, Son of Endymion the Lover of the Moon, it was named after the hero’s name it now has.

What are the best areas for nightlife in Naxos?

Most of the nightlife in Naxos is centered around Naxos Town (Chora), where a variety of bars, clubs, and live music venues offer entertainment until the early hours.

How old is Naxos Town?

Naxos Town (Chora) has a rich past; in fact, the settlement has been built upon the ruins of an ancient town. The oldest local findings date back to 4000 BC.

Who is the patron Saint of Naxos?

Saint Nicodemus the Hagiorite (Agios Nikodeimos Agioritis), who was born in Naxos in 1749 is the patron Saint of the island and also considered a major monastic figure of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

How many days in Naxos is enough?

Naxos is a large island with many sights, villages, and beaches. We recommend 3 to 5 days in Naxos to visit as many places as possible. Naxos is a multifaceted island, so you need days to understand it.

Which is the bluest beach in Naxos?

Agios Prokopios beach is only 5km away from the centre of Naxos Town and is, according to most visitors, the most beautiful beach of the island. Its main characteristic is its deep turquoise waters and its tiny pebbles.

Which is the most famous ruin in Naxos?

Naxos Portara (or Temple Of Apollo) The Portara of Naxos (or the Great Door) is a massive marble doorway that stands proudly as the jewel of Naxos. It lies close to the port, on the islet of Palatia.

What is unique about Naxos?

Because of its many plains and valleys, Naxos is famous since ancient times for being fertile and producing various agricultural products like olives, and high-quality wine.

Is Naxos too windy?

On Naxos the climate is Mediterranean, with mild, rainy winters and warm, sunny summers. The island is fairly windy, and in summer is cooled by a frequent wind which blows from the north.

Why is Naxos special among the Cyclades Islands?

Naxos is the most fertile island in the Cyclades. Self-sufficient in every way possible, from water and vegetables to fruits and cattle breeding, the island takes immense pride in its agricultural ancestry.

Saint Nicodemus the Hagiorite
Saint Nicodemus the Hagiorite

14. Conclusion

In conclusion, Naxos offers an enchanting blend of natural beauty, historical depth, and cultural richness, making it a must-visit destination within the Cyclades. Whether you’re exploring its sweeping beaches, ancient ruins, or charming villages, Naxos captivates with its authenticity and diverse attractions. The island invites visitors to experience a slower pace of life and connect with local traditions, from savoring its culinary delights to participating in its vibrant festivities. With each visit, Naxos reveals a new layer of its identity, promising unforgettable memories and a deep connection to this stunning slice of Greece.

Naxos

Check our Summer travel guides to Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete, Nafpaktos, Ioannina and Mykonos!

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