Sparkling seas, sugar-cube villages, cliff-hanging hamlets, ancient temples, delicious Mediterranean food and mesmerising sunsets – the Greek Islands offer so much. Just ask Shirley Valentine.
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Destination guide for Naxos
Naxos, Greek Islands, Greece
Still a relatively unknown Greek Island, Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades with ample water and fertile soil and has therefore an all-year agricultural existence that transcends tourism.
Only in the last decade or so have tourists discovered its stunning sandy coastline, whose dunes remind one of Pacific atolls.
The interior is forested and mountainous offering dramatic vistas over canyons and valleys. Pretty villages are dotted around the imposing Mount Zas which, at 1001m, claims the highest peak in the Cyclades.
Naxos is also the hop-off point for its own archipelago, the Lesser Cyclades, a string of small islands between Naxos and Amorgos that are emerging as the latest ‘in’ tourist destination.
Beaches are clustered on the southwest of the island, forming a continuous sandy shoreline that runs for miles, only broken up by the odd promontory. The star is Agios Prokopios, a regular in any poll of the top ten beaches in Greece.
Nightlife is concentrated in the capital Naxos Town (Chora), and although lively, is rather tame compared to other islands, which, to many, is a blessing.
Food & Drink
Unlike other islands, that rely mostly on seafood, Naxos produces its own meat so you can be sure that any lamb or goat dishes are sourced locally.
It follows that there are some very good local cheeses with graviera (a type of gruyere) claiming its own DOP.
Of course, seafood is also ubiquitous, with octopus, baby calamari and, yes, sea urchin found frequently on the menu.
Kitron is the island’s super-alcoholic liqueur, made by a local lemon variant. It’s a must-taste and comes in green (less alcoholic), clear (medium) and yellow (highly alcoholic) varieties.
Also see John’s round-up of the best traditional Greek foods you must try in Greece.
When to go
Naxos is not touristic enough to have a long season; Easter to October are the usual busy months. Avoid August if you can when the island’s beaches are full, the restaurants can hardly cope and service slows down.
May and June are uncrowded, but the sea is still cold. If you want the sea warm and a good standard of service, go in September.
Not everything shuts down in winter – the island is too big for that – but avoid November when almost everyone goes on holiday after the season is over.
Getting there and away
Naxos is connected with Piraeus and almost every other island by ferry.
Ferries dock on the port of Naxos Town, and almost every hotel will pick you up and take you back upon arrangement.
There’s also a small airport by Agios Prokopios for domestic flights only.
You need your own wheels to get around, but there’s a frequent bus during the summer that runs along the southwestern beaches connecting them with Naxos Town.
Travel agents have their offices by the main bus station where you can rent cars and scooters. You can also find here the main taxi stand, although RadioTaxis Naxos are on call 24/7. Prices are reasonable and regulated.
Where to stay
For beaches, most stay around Naxos Town with its beaches of Grotta and Georgios.
The sandy shores southwest of Naxos Town in the resorts of Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna, or the 5km long stretch of Plaka, are another good choice.
For watersports, head to the hub of Orkos. To be remote and quiet, try Glyfada, Alyko or Pyrgaki.
The northern coast is windswept and rugged without any infrastructure, but there’s a small, laid-back settlement at Apollonas 36km northeast of Naxos Town worth a few nights.
Where to eat or drink
All good restaurants are concentrated in Naxos Town first and foremost, and to a secondary extent at Agios Prokopios.
There are also local tavernas along the southwestern strip, especially at Plaka and Orkos.
It’s also worth a drive for lunch into the interior for an inexpensive feast at Filoti, Apeiranthos, Halki or Moni.
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