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Naxos:
The Largest of the Cycladic Islands

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Discover Naxos

Naxos is the largest of the Cycladic Islands and the only one that has been inhabited since prehistoric times. In antiquity, it was renowned for its white marble, and architecture and sculpture flourished on the island, while during the period of Latin rule it was the seat of the Venetian Duchy of the Aegean.

It is the greenest of the Cyclades, its fertile land full of vineyards, olive groves and orchards that are in perfect harmony with its endless beaches of pale golden sand and turquoise waters.

The charm of Naxos derives from its particular combination of Cycladic aesthetics and a cosmopolitan atmosphere with the authentic folk culture and strong sense of tradition of its beautiful villages. The island’s mountain region is a fascinating mosaic of ancient temples, Byzantine churches and impressive Venetian towers.

Stately and self-reliant Naxos offers a warm welcome and unique opportunities for enjoyment. It is an ideal destination for anyone who loves exploring the natural world, wandering around historic sites, trying new culinary delights, and enjoying the vibrant experiences available in a modern tourist resort.

5 memorable experiences on Naxos
  1. If you choose to book ferry tickets to Naxos, make sure you take in the view of the Aegean from the top of the legendary Mount Zas, the highest peak in the Cyclades at 1004 metres, and a place of worship of the god Zeus. Follow the path from the village of Filoti and at 600 metres make a stop at the impressive Zas Cave.
  2. A visit to the Vallindras Distillery & Museum (situated since 1896 in the village of Halki) to find out how Naxos’ famous citron liqueur is made.
  3. The unmissable Naxos Festival, held in the atmospheric Bazeos Tower on the plain of Agiassos.
  4. A refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters of the lake formed by the Routsouna waterfall, on the hiking trail that starts in the village of Keramoti.
  5. Creating your own ceramics in the traditional pottery workshop in the village of Damalas.
Beaches of Naxos

Naxos is blessed with some of the most spectacular beaches in the Aegean, irresistibly combining soft white sand and turquoise waters in an environment reminiscent of a tropical island. Don’t miss:

  • The cosmopolitan Saint Prokopios, with its Caribbean scenery, often acclaimed as one of the best beaches in Europe.
  • The attractive Saint George, which features in the Guardian’s top 10 of the best family beaches in Europe.
  • The fairy-tale Plaka, in its enchanting setting of endless white sand with views of Paros and some lovely beach bars.
  • Sandy Mikri Vigla, a windsurfers’ and kite-surfers’ paradise.
  • The exotic Alyko (or Hawaii) with its white sand dunes and beautiful cedar forest, for meditation and gorgeous sunsets.
  • The idyllic Kastraki, the largest stretch of sand on the island and a popular spot on a moonlit night.
  • Kalantos Bay, an unusual landscape with the sea on one side and a lake on the other.
  • The rocky beauty of Lionas Bay (the old emery port), with its coloured pebbles.
  • The picturesque Moutsouna on the east coast, with good beachside tavernas serving fresh fish mezes.
Postcards from Naxos: 10 things not to miss

 

The Portara
The first image to greet visitors approaching the port of Naxos is the monumental marble gateway of the unfinished Temple of Apollo, which dates from the 6th-7th century BC. Standing on the tiny island of Palatia, which is connected to the mainland by a footpath, it is made of fine local marble. The Portara is a classic spot from which to enjoy the sunset.

The Venetian Castle
The commanding fortress town of Naxos, built in the 13th century by the Venetian Marco Sanudo, dominates a hill overlooking the port. The circular layout of the medieval settlement and its narrow labyrinthine streets are perfect for exploring on a romantic walk. Stroll among its 14th-15th-century mansions bearing the marble coats of arms of the Latin aristocracy, as well as its tower museums, picturesque squares, and atmospheric boutiques.

The churches of the Tragea Valley
The Tragea plain is home to 30 of the most important Byzantine churches in the Aegean, whose rare frescoes date from between the 6th and the 15th century. These extraordinary Byzantine monuments have led the region to be known as “The Little Mystras” of Naxos, after the well-known fortified town in the Peloponnese. They include the iconic Church of the Virgin Mary Drosiani, an architectural gem boasting the oldest early Christian frescoes in the Balkans.

Apiranthos
One of the most authentic mountain villages in the Cyclades, with wonderful marble and stone architecture and rich folk traditions, especially in songs and painting.

Naxos Archaeological Museum
Housed in a 17th-century Venetian villa, this museum contains outstanding exhibits from the Archaic period to the early-Christian era.

The Venetian Towers
The thirty or more stone towers scattered around the Naxos countryside were built in the 17th century by the island’s Venetian feudal lords and Latin aristocrats to protect it against pirate raids. They include the beautifully restored Bazeos Tower (outside the village of Sangri) and the Barozzi-Gratsia Tower in the village of Halki.

The Kouroi of Naxos
Lying in various locations near ancient marble quarries are giant unfinished statues of young men, the Kouroi of Naxos, dating from the 11th to the 6th century BC), which never fail to astound. The largest can be found at Apollonas and Flerio (in the village of Melanes).

Gyroulas Archaeological Site
In the middle of a plain outside the village of Sangri are the splendid ruins of an ancient temple made of local marble and dedicated to the goddess Demeter. The imposing sanctuary (530 BC) and the small archaeological museum with finds from the temple testify to the area’s importance as a centre of worship.

The Emery Mines
The emery mines outside the villages of Apiranthos and Koronos are among the most important industrial monuments of modern Greece. The extraction of the precious mineral from antiquity to modern times has created a remarkable network of facilities that has been declared a protected cultural monument, and comprises tunnels, warehouses, and a cable railway.

The Monastery of Christ the Light-giver
Built in magnificent surroundings at an altitude of 500 metres among vineyards and fig trees, the island’s oldest monastery is a medieval tower decorated with stunning Byzantine frescoes and sculptures. There are breathtaking views of the Aegean from its ramparts.

Tastes of Naxos

Naxos has a long cheese-making tradition, with favourites such as its excellent graviera, spicy kopanisti and distinctive arseniko, while it is also famous for its potatoes. The island is also well-known for its cultivation – since the 17th century – of the citron tree. The award-winning and well-travelled citron liqueur of Naxos has been produced from its leaves since the 19th century, while the sweet preserves made from its fruit are exceptional. 

In terms of the local gastronomy, there are some wonderful surprises to discover. Standouts include the prosciutto-like aperathitiko zamboni, kolokythopastitsa (fried pumpkin), sefoukloti pie, pork with amaranth leaves, pork rosto, and lamb patoudo.

If you choose one of the itineraries to Naxos, don’t miss the opportunity to try melachrino (walnut cake with citron liqueur), a favourite local dessert served with ice cream. You should also sample the papilona citrus fruit preserve. 

MAP OF NAXOS
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