Naxos is the largest of Greece’s Cyclades Islands. It’s an extremely fertile place, which is rare in a Greek island. Rugged mountains give way to green valleys in the interior. You can visit a different heavenly sandy beach every day for weeks! Restaurants serve the abundant locally sourced food – fresh produce, wine and cheese and olive oil and the famous Naxos potatoes.
The main town is Chora, commonly called Naxos town, on the west coast. A string of sandy, white beaches stretches south from Chora.
The most iconic site in Chora is the Portara, an ancient portal that stands alone on the tiny island of Palatia like a doorway to an invisible realm. It’s a remnant of an unfinished temple of Apollo. A pedestrian causeway connects Naxos to Palatia and it’s a lovely spot from which to take in views of the whitewashed town across the water.
The Kastro is the Venetian castle that overlooks the town. Spend an afternoon lost in the narrow cobbled streets of the Medieval old town that wraps around the Kastro, full of charming old houses, shops and restaurants.
Halki lies in the midst of ancient, but still very productive, olive groves in the center of the island. It was once the capital of Naxos and the main market town. An air of prestige still hangs over the place, with a wealth of lovely Neoclassical houses, Venetian towers and Byzantine churches. Don’t miss the impressive Panagia Church, the island’s oldest church and home to some nice frescos.
If you like old churches and frescos, you hit the jackpot on Naxos. Near the village of Moni, about 2.5km from Halki, you’ll find one of the oldest churches in Greece, Panagia Drosiani, with good frescos, some dating to the 7th century.
Sangri is about 12km southeast of Chora. This is another charming interior village but especially notable for windmills, an abundance of Byzantine churches and its close proximity to the Temple of Demeter, about 1.5km south of town. Also nearby is the 17th-century Monastery known as Bazeos Tower, about 2km to the east, which has been beautifully restored by the Bazeos family and now hosts cultural events throughout the summer.
Apeiranthos is about a 30 minute drive from Chora in the foothills of Mt. Zas (Zeus). It’s a sweet traditional village, known as the Marble Village because of the abundant use of marble in the streets and buildings. The lovely Panagia Apeiranthos, is one of the oldest churches on Naxos and houses some fine frescos. Wander aimlessly and enjoy the beautiful views, laid-back atmosphere and quirky local, Venetian-influenced architecture. Get a dose of culture at one (or all!) of the four small museums in Apeiranthos.
At 1004m high, Mt. Zas is the highest peak in the Cyclades. According to legend, the god Zeus spent his childhood in a cave on this mountain hiding from his father Cronus, who intended to swallow him. Zas Cave can be reached by a 10 minute drive or a 30-40 minute hike from the village of Filoti. A roundtrip hike to the summit takes 3-5 hours. It’s not an easy hike and best tackled early in the day, before it’s too hot.