Naxos is the biggest and the greenest island in the Cyclades. It has high mountains, fertile valleys, lush green gorges, stunning seascapes and traditional villages perched high on mountain tops, where the inhabitants still wear their traditional dress and live off the fruits of the land. Naxos is also home to beautiful old churches, monasteries and Venetian castles coexisting harmoniously with the Cycladic architecture.
Upon entering the port of the whitewashed Chora of Naxos you’ll encounter the islet of Palatia at its entrance. On Palatia islet the impressive marble gate, temple of Apollo, “Portara” stands still since the 6th century BC. According to mythology, the god Dionysus met Ariadni there, who had been abandoned by Thesseus.
Chora, the capital of Naxos, whose landmark is an imposing Venetian castle, is an old castle town with stone paved alleys (known as kalderimia in Greek) where you can admire a unique blend of Cycladic and Medieval architecture: mansions with Venetian blazons still decorating their entrances, narrow arched alleys (known as stegadia in Greek), catholic churches and fortifications.
Visit the Archaeological Museum, housed in a historic building of the Venetian Period, that showcases artifacts from the Early Neolithic Age up to the Early Christian (Paleochristian) Period and an interesting collection of Cycladic figurines.
Discover the varied landscape of the island by following numerous breathtaking routes (Chora–Melane-Halki, Halki–Danakos-Apeiranthos, Skado-Apollonas, etc.); follow the hiking trail from Apiranthos (or Aperathos), along the emery mines (12 km), where you’ll have a breathtaking view to the Archipelago up to Moutsouna Beach! Climb to the top of Zas Mountain, Cyclades’ highest mountain (1,004 m) and Fanari Mountain (908 m) or follow beautiful biking routes around the mountains! On your way to Zas’ top, don’t forget to visit the beautiful cave of Zas and observe its impressive stalactite formations. Note that the cave used to be dedicated to Zeus in ancient times.
Explore traditional villages around the island: Aperathos is a colourful mountainous village home to five museums, stone-built houses, beautiful squares and narrow alleys paved with marble, and Panagia Drosiani, a beautiful church of the Early Christian Period. Filoti is a picturesque mountainous village, built on the top of a rock, surrounded by lush vegetation with cube-shaped houses and narrow stone-paved alleys. At a short distance you can visit the biggest Byzantine church of Naxos with murals of great value, Panagia Protothroni (9th-10th c.). Sagri consists of five small neighbourhoods (Ano Sagri, Kato Sagri, Kanakari, Kastraki and Mikri Vigla). You will stand in awe before the Venetian towers, the traditional windmills and a number of major Byzantine churches, like Agios Mamas, all of which make Sagri the most significant destination of Naxos! Close to Sagri lies the 6th century BC Demeter and Apollo sanctuary, made exclusively with white marble.
Naxos used to be the seat of the Ducat of the Aegean; a great number of well preserved towers can be seen on the island, bearing eloquent witness to the island’s glorious past. Explore among others the Bazeos Tower in Sagri, the Crispi-Glezos Tower (Chora), the Belonia Tower at Galanado and Della Rocca- Barozzi Tower (Chora).
Being the most fertile island of the Cyclades, Naxos has a major agricultural production. Taste quality local products, like olive oil, potatoes, spoon sweets, the island’s famous liqueur (called Kitron), mouth watering wine and above all the renowned cheeses of Naxos: graviera (hard cheese), xinomyzithra (sour myzithra, made of goat or sheep milk, yeast, and salt), xinotyro (sour cheese), arseniko (a tasty hard cheese made of goat and sheep milk); these culinary treats will tickle your palate!
Naxos is also famous for its wide variety of cultural events and traditional fairs that you can enjoy watching during your stay! Don’t miss the Naxos Festival, organised by the Municipality of Naxos at Bazeos Tower and Dionissia. It includes various fascinating events taking place all summer long. The celebrations culminate with the famous Wine Festival and the Fisherman’s Feast held in September.
“Big Sweet has this island, virtuous are the faces of people, piles are shaped by melons, peaches, figs and the sea is calm. I looked at the people – never this people have been frightened by earthquakes or by Turks, and their eyes did not burn out.
Here freedom had extinguished the need for freedom, and life spread out as happy sleeping water. And if sometimes was discomposed, never rose tempest. Safety was the first gift of island that I felt as walking around Nàxos.” (N. Kazantzakis, “Report to El.Greko”).