Although less popular compared to its neighboring islands of Mykonos and Santorini, Naxos is perhaps the most diverse and fascinating island in the Cyclades! This travel guide to Naxos will touch on the best beaches to visit, where to stay in Naxos, places to visit and more! Apart from its rich history that goes back to Ancient Greece and the influence of the Venetians, Naxos is home to the greenest landscape in the Cyclades, and sandy beaches that go on for miles. From Venetian towers, to the tallest mountain in the Cyclades, to picturesque mountainous villages, Naxos has something for everyone to explore.
How to get to Naxos, Greece
Naxos can be reached either by ferry or by plane. If you are flying to Athens International Airport, you can take a direct flight to Naxos with Aegean Airlines, Olympic Airlines or Sky Express. These airplanes are very small so booking a spot in advance is recommended. The flight time to Naxos by airplane is about an hour from Athens. Ferries to Naxos run daily from Piraeus and Rafina Port in Athens. Depending on the size of the ferryboat and the route, the trip lasts anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. Lastly, you can get to Naxos by flying to any of its neighboring islands such as Paros, Santorini or Mykonos and then taking a ferry to Naxos.
Getting around Naxos
Since Naxos is the biggest island in the Cyclades, a car is the best solution to explore around. There are several car rental companies in Naxos but due to limited cars it is best to book one in advance. There are also public buses that can take you to the main beaches and villages of Naxos, but if you want to explore the island off the beaten path, then a car, motorcycle or ATV is your safest bet.
Where to stay in Naxos
Chora, also known as the capital of the island, is the best place to stay in Naxos. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants to try, connecting roads to mountainous villages, beautiful beaches just walking distance and more. Keep in mind that this is the most popular area of the island so if you prefer something a bit further away from the crowds, then booking a hotel near Agios Prokopios Beach, Agia Anna Beach, Plaka Beach or Aliko Beach are also great spots.
Things to do in Naxos, Greece
Visit the mountainous villages of Naxos
Melanes is one of the oldest settlements in Naxos, with houses built on mountain slopes and endless stairs weaving throughout the village. The tavern, O Vasilis is a must when visiting Melanes. Apart from their delicious and unique menu (rooster and rabbit are just some of the options), all of their ingredients are locally grown. The colossal statues of Kouros are also just a short drive from Melanes.
Chalki was once the capital of Naxos and perhaps the most picturesque village on the island. Decked in renovated, neoclassical buildings, narrow stone paths, and traditional cafes and restaurants, Chalki was a personal favorite. Be sure to check out Vallindras Distillery, where the local liqueur, Kitron, was once produced. Today the Distillery operates as a visiting hall, free of charge, where visitors can learn all the secrets of liqueur distillation as well as try the famous Naxos Kitron liqueur. After your liqueur tasting, wander through the quaint streets of Chalki and follow the signs to Agios Georgios Diasoritis a Byzantine Church nested amongst local farms before making your way back to the village to have a well deserved meal at Giannis Tavern.
Apeiranthos is the largest mountain village of Naxos found in the center of the island. Also known as the marble village, Apeiranthos is full of marble houses, squares, and charming taverns and cafes. If you like visiting museums, Apeiranthos has five to choose from: the geological museum, the archaeological museum, the folklore museum, the natural history museum and the museum of visual arts.
Filoti is another stunning village of Naxos that was built amphitheatrically on the mountain slopes of Zas. Explore this traditional settlement, enjoy a traditional lunch on the main road overlooking the island, or embark on a hike to the Mountain of Zas from here.
Hike to Mount Zas
Naxos is home to the tallest mountain found on the Cyclades, Mount Zas. Dedicate a day to waking up early to climb to the summit for an unforgettable panoramic view of the Cyclades like no other! Observe neighboring islands like Paros and Koufonisia from Mount Zas for a true alternative Naxos experience. Be sure to stop by the cave of Zas along the way where according to legend, God Zeus grew up in. The mountains of Naxos are full of trekking trails, and for those nature lovers out there, you’ll be pleased to find out that you can even hike from village to village. Follow the signs to the trails and explore Naxos by foot!
Visit historical monuments
Portara, was once the entrance to temple of Apollo of 530 BC. This tall marble gate is the island’s emblem and main landmark. To reach Portara follow the path to the islet of Palatia. To witness a breathtaking sunset from Portara make sure to get there at least half an hour before the sun sets in order to secure a spot as it tends to get quite crowded. Come back again the next day during the sunrise hours to witness a stunning sunrise at Portara with no tourists in sight!
The Castle of Naxos sits on top of Chora, forming a wall along the old part of the city. Enter the castle from one of the three main gates, to explore the narrow alleyways that all lead to the top. This Venetian castle is perhaps one of the best-preserved fortified medieval settlements of Greece and is a must when visiting Naxos. Find your way to the top of the castle to secure a spot during the sunset for a beautiful view of the sun setting behind Portara.
The Temple of Demeter is an ancient temple dating back to the 6th century BC made out of Naxos’ finest marbles. Located near the village of Sangri, the Temple of Demeter is a nice stop to make before hitting the beach. Learn about the ancient goddess of grain whilst enjoying the panoramic views of Naxos’ endless fields and valleys.
Monastery Fotodotis is located just a short ride from the village of Filoti. Dating back to the 6th century AD, the Monastery of Fotodotis sits on top of a hill with a beautiful view of the sea and the island of Donoussa. You can either park your car and enjoy the half hour hike to the Monastery or follow the dirt road with your car all the way to the entrance. According to tradition, the Monastery of Fotodotis, which means “Christ who gives the light,” was constructed by a Byzantine princess who after being saved by the rough sea was told to build a monastery where she sees the brightest light. Today the Monastery is open to visitors all year round.
The Statues of Kouros are found in the village of Melanes. These ancient statues are 6 meters long and date back to the 7th century. Archaeologists believe that these statues used to hold a temple roof but where abandoned due to faults in the marble structure. The statues of Kouros still lay in the exact spot where they were initially discovered.
Day trip to islands near Naxos
Although there is so much to see and do in Naxos, a day boat trip to a neighboring island is a great opportunity to see another side of the Cyclades. You can choose from famous destinations such as Santorini, Ios or Paros or opt in for lesser-known, unspoiled islands such as Donousa, Koufonisia and Schinousa.
For those looking to indulge in some water sports while visiting Naxos, they can head to Mikri Vigla Beach where the waves are just right for windsurfing, kite surfing and other fun activities.
Explore Naxos Town
Wander through the charming streets of Chora, also known as Naxos Town to uncover hidden cafes and bars, to shop for Greek souvenirs or to just get those picture-perfect Instagram shots. Lose yourself exploring Chora, befriend the local cats along the way and discover how beautiful and unique the capital of Naxos truly is!
Best Beaches in Naxos
The best beaches in Naxos are all located along the west side of the island. Picture long sandy beaches, turquoise waters and relaxing beach bars along the coast. Just 2km south of Chora is the first beach called Agios Georgios. Continue down the road and you’ll encounter Agios Prokopios Beach followed by Agia Anna Beaches, perhaps the most popular beaches in Naxos, packed with restaurants and beach bars. Sun beds on these beaches range from 10 to 20 euros per set. These beaches also tend to get the most crowded during the summer season. Further down the coast is Plaka Beach, a long white sandy beach characterized by its sandy dunes found behind the beach. Upper scale beach bars like Tortuga Bear Bar & Restaurant are a favorite amongst visitors.
For the true adventurers, Mikri Vigla Beach, Hawaii Beach and Aliko Beach are the island’s most secluded, quietest and exotic beaches in Naxos. Mikri Vigla Beach is for the windsurfers and extreme sports enthusiasts out there while Hawaii Beach and Aliko Beach are perfect beaches for picnics, playing beach rackets or just enjoying a good book away from the touristy beaches. There are some sun beds found in these coves, but for the most part these beaches are still unspoiled. Whether you prefer secluded beaches away from the masses or upscale beach bars with refreshing drinks, Naxos has plenty of beaches to choose from!
Best Sunset Spots in Naxos
- Temple of Apollo – Portara, Chora
- Rotonda Restaurant, Apiranthos
- Windmills of Naxos, Vivlos
- Castle of Naxos, Chora
- Beach of Mikri Vigla
Other Useful Information
Rotonda (Apeiranthos) – Peaking at Naxos’ most exhilarating location for a perfect sunset view, you can enjoy your dinner while capturing what Cyclades’ majestic canvas has to offer.
Doukato (Chora) – Greek cuisine with refreshing contemporary touches in the Old Town of the island.
O Vasilis (Melanes) – A homely, family-owned restaurant, known for their strong yet seductive flavors of their Coq au Vin dish.
Taverna Giannis (Chalki) – A more traditional choice, Giannis’ tavern shares the villages’ picturesque scenario, suitable for wanderers whose hearts belong to meat.
Metaxi Mas (Chora) – An alluring dining experience, in a cosy and modest space, with plethoric seafood varieties.
Waffle House (Chora) – Carrying a wide range of desserts, from home-made ice cream to sweet crepes and as the name suggests, syrupy waffles.
Dolce Vita (Chalki) – An ideal spot after a nice meal to appease and please your most sweet desires with homemade Greek pastries.
520 Cocktail Bar (Chora) – Let the colors of the sky sink in as the sun sets, sipping a delicious cocktail at 520 Cocktail Bar.
Ocean Club (Chora) – Right next to 520’s Cocktail Bar, Ocean Club shares its neighbor’s taste in design. Dance here till the early hours of the morning.
Notos (Chora) – Mellow island vibes with great variations of famous cocktails with Naxos’ traditional Kitron liqueur.
Swing Cocktail Bar (Chora) – Upbeat music with an experimental oldies design, their “Summer Breezer” citron cocktail is an absolute necessity.
Jazz and Blues (Chora) – Last but not least, this place offers tasteful, relaxing tunes better enjoyed with a glass of wine – or two!
And there you have it! A complete travel guide to Naxos, Greece with all the insider’s tips on where to stay, which beaches to visit and where to eat and drink. If you enjoyed this travel guide be sure to check out the travel guide on Naxos’ neighboring island Paros, here and more travel guides for Greece here.
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