In Greek Mythology, Dionysus the god of wine, drunken merriment and fertility is said to have been born on Naxos. Which makes a great reason to visit Naxos and see it for yourself, but that’s not why Naxos is the best of the Greek Islands . . .
Why Naxos is the Best of the Greek Islands
Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades Islands and there is a lot to see and do. It is less touristy than some of the other islands and also considerably less expensive. There are a number of small villages, each one slightly different, tavernas by the seaside and some lovely beaches to just relax. So if you are looking for one of the Greek Islands that has it all, Naxos may be the best choice for you.
Naxos has more natural resources than the other islands in the Cyclades including what was once a very large marble mine in the center of the island. There is quite a bit of agriculture here and it is reflected in the quality and variety of the food. Olives, grapes, figs, citrus fruit and potatoes are grown here. There is quite a bit of wine production on the island.
The island has been continually inhabited since 4000 BC which has created a considerable amount of history to explore as well. It was a cultural center during the Greek and Byzantium periods. The Venetians have also left their mark on the architecture of the island.
The population is only 20,000 so there is a lot of rural area between the towns. The interior of the island is quite rugged and Mt. Zeus at 1004 meters is the islands highest point. Old monasteries and churches can be found on the hillsides and in the villages.
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Naxos is much too large and there is just too much to do to attempt it all at once so we will break it down into smaller separate articles and discuss some of the historic villages, great foods and local products, tavernas and traditions from the island.
An Overview of the Island of Naxos
The western part of the island and area near Naxos Town, or Chora as it is also called, is the most developed. There are a lot of hotels, resorts and residential areas along this side of the island. It can be quite windy and attracts those interested in windsurfing and kite surfing. Many of the island’s sandy beaches are located on this side.
The interior is quite rugged. It has some beautiful villages. Each of the villages is somewhat unique and there is a network of trails between some of the villages following the traditional footpaths. These are fairly well sign posted. Many of them can be quite exposed though so be careful in the summer. Start early and take sunscreen, a hat and plenty of water.
The eastern side of the island is much less developed. With pebble beaches rather than sand. The beaches are not as busy, but the water is still crystal clear. There are a number of small villages along the coast and some excellent seafood tavernas well worth the drive.
Exploring the Villages
There are a number of villages on the island which are worthy of exploring. As you are planning your explorations keep in mind the roads can be quite slow and many things close for the afternoon. If you plan to explore one village a day you will be fine.
Have a wander around in the morning, have some lunch and then see what is left for the afternoon. Many of the larger villages do have accommodation so you can stay there overnight. There is a bus service on the island but it does not run very frequently so a car might be more convenient.
Some of the large and more popular villages include:
Chora (which means town in Greek) also known as Hora or Naxos town, is the largest town and where a lot of people will stay. If you come by ferry or airport, this is where you arrive. There are a lot of restaurants and hotels in town. It is very picturesque and pleasant to have a stroll around in the evening, (Most things in town are closed in the afternoon between 2-5 pm.)
The landmark of Naxos, the Portara, a large marble gateway, visible from the harbor is a popular place to watch the sunset. The gateway itself is part of an unfinished temple to Apollo from the 6th century BC.
More about the town and some of the restaurants and typical dishes can be found in:
- You Need to Know Why Drunken Pork is Perfect with Red Wine
- Easy Greek Village Salad from Naxos Revisited
One of the larger towns on Naxos, Halki is the administrative center of the island. It is in the center of the region for olive cultivation and in previous times enjoyed considerable wealth which is reflected in many of its buildings.
It is the site of the traditional citron distillery and also had a number of local delicacies for which it is known.
If you want to go hiking many trails leave or pass through this village.
Is located high on a hill. It is 20 miles (32 kilometers) from Chora town. It is a charming village with winding streets. Many of the footpaths and houses are made from white marble. There are a number of shops, places to eat and some accommodation in this village. Well worth a look.
Other villages to explore include:
- Agia Anna
Some of these will be covered in future articles.
These are all white sand beaches with beautiful clear, blue water. Naxos beaches are considered by many to be the best beaches in the Greek Islands. They are located on the west of the island, just south of Naxos town (Chora).
All have chairs and umbrellas. Most have some restaurants and drink service. You can easily just spend the day relaxing at the beach.
- Agios Georgios is the closest beach to town and the most crowded. There is lots of activity, including kite surfing. Located 1.2 miles or 2 kilometers south of Chora.
- Agios Prokopis is also a busy beach, it has plenty of water sports available and plenty of facilities. (Located 4.2 miles or 6 kilometers south of Chora).
- Agia Anna- Located ½ mile or 1 kilometer south of Agios Prokopis. Agia Anna is a small fishing town. It has hotels and tavernas.
- Plaka is considered by many to be the best beach on Naxos. It is a long, white sandy beach and usually quiet. Unofficially it is a nudist beach. (Located 6 miles or 10 kilometers south of Chora).
Beaches continue along the coastline east of Plaka. The further you go the less busy they are.
So with great beaches, iconic mountain villages and great Greek food found in some of the friendliest tavernas you will find anywhere, Naxos will certainly tick a lot of boxes on any wishlist for the Greek Islands. And it is a lot more affordable than some of its better known neighbors. These are the reasons why Naxos is the best of the Greek Islands found all in one easy to reach destination.