If you are looking for a Greek island escape that offers tradition, beauty, value for money and amazing food then island of Naxos in the Cyclades should be on your list.
On our recent 6-week trip to Greece was decided to focus on just one island group, the Cyclades, and choose 3 islands to explore over 2 weeks. Naxos was a great fit for this itinerary because it had a good measure of things to see, a diverse landscape and plenty of local Greek life to keep us well amused for our 6-day visit.
We came away having totally fallen for this island that is a perfect mix of
old and new Greece.
Naxos lies almost in the centre of the Cyclades and is the biggest island in the group making it a good base to use while you explore some of the nearby islands.
The island is located:
There are daily services to these island during peak season and very regular services out of season too. Along with these main places there are also lots of day trips to the small islands surrounding Naxos.
You can fly to Naxos from Athens if time is short, we used fast ferries to island hop and then booked a berth so we could have a snooze on the five hour ride back to Athens.
It’s worth checking prices for twin cabins as we only paid $20 extra to have a private space to rest, our own bathroom and somewhere to leave our stuff while we explored the boat.
The weather never gets too extreme here with winter temps rarely dropping below the mid-teens and summer sitting in the high 20’s (60-80F). Ideally, I would avoid winter when rainfalls are highest and the island is very quiet.
There is enough activity on the island
Naxos has a good bus network so we decided against renting a car. Buses leave from the main street opposite the ferry port and cover key villages and beaches on the island.
Tickets, which cost just a couple of euro at most, must be purchased from the office or a machine outside. You can’t buy them on board the bus. During summer buses to the southern beaches run twice an hour for most of the day with the last buses leaving in the early hours of the morning.
One of the things we really liked about the island is that while there is plenty to do if you want to be busy there are also plenty of beautiful beaches for you to spend the day relaxing and doing very little. You could visit a different beach every day for a week quite easily.
“We left Naxos wishing we had a few more days which we believe is always the sign of a good holiday “
We only made a small dent in the beaches on Naxos. We visited just half a dozen of those on the south coast but we hope to return to explore the other side of the island one day.
On our first day in town, we took a bus to Plaka of town. We rode the bus to the last stop and walked back about 6km past several beaches until it got too hot to walk any further and we rode the last couple of
Also known as St Georges Beach in English, this is the closest beach to the port, under 2km on foot and the place we chose as our base. The water is calm and shallow for about the first 200m out. It’s a lovely beach to cool off on and there are bars and restaurants lining the waterfront for at least 600m. From mid-morning till sunset the beach is quite busy but very quiet in the evenings.
A Blue Flag beach, which means it is rated among the best in Europe we did not spend much time here but it was the busiest beach we came across and we prefer something quieter. It’s well set up with beach bars and taverns and plenty of umbrellas.
This beach is a sun worshipper’s dream of with a long stretch of white sand and crystal clear water as far as the eye can see and cafes that deliver directly to your sunchairs. Buses run every 30 mins from the port.
There is also
Plaka Beach is probably what comes to mind when you picture a Greek beach. It’s just 9km from town and the last stop on the bus we took from the port.
With 4km of flat sandy beach and turquoise water, it is easy to see why the hotels that line to the road opposite the beach are so popular. We visited at 10 am in early June before the season had really kicked it so it was fairly quiet and due to
This temple is one of the most significant historical sites on the island, made of Naxian marble the temple, built in 530 was one of the earliest examples of Ionian columns and was built to worship Dimitar the goddess of agriculture.
We visited as part of a day tour but if you wanted to visit alone there is good signage that explains the site and its significance.
It’s the first thing most people come across when they start considering a trip to Naxos, the most photographed spot on the island. The Portera is a 6th century BC marble gate that was to be the entry to the Temple of Apollo that was never completed. Today it is the main landmark of Naxos and most visitors head up there for the fantastic view over the city.
At over 10 metres long and weighing about 80
You can also visit the Kouri and Apollonas by bus from Naxos town.
There are more than 35 villages on Naxos and we managed to visit only 4 of them during our time here, which leaves us plenty of reasons to return. Buses service the larger villages several times a day (less in winter) and there are some good walking trails if you like to hike.
Halki was once the capital of Naxos which explains the gorgeous neoclassical mansions you will come across here. This was one of the prettiest towns we visited in the islands. The colourful bougainvillea dressed the town beautifully and made me glad we had not visited in winter.
The small town features several galleries and lovely shops. It is also home to the Vallindra Kitron Distillery where you can take a tour to learn how the local liquor is produced and taste the three
We came here on a tour, but you can easily reach the town, which is 16km from the port by bus. If you are coming by bus, I would arrive close to lunchtime so you can visit one of the many restaurants in town. We were here quite early but could already smell the lamb roasting over coals. Charles was less than impressed lunch was not yet on offer. Instead, we stopped at for my favourite Greek dessert, gelakto boureko, a custard pastry at Galani Cafe. I highly recommend you do this too!
There are several good trails nearby and you can hike to Fioti by following the trail by the river bed. This is definitely on our list for next time. If you want to try it you can find instructions here.
The next village on our list was Apíranthos (or Apeiranthos ), known as the “marble village” Sitting high on the slopes of Mount Fanari. The village has 5 museums, countless restaurants and the Church of Panagia Apeirathitissa which give you more than enough reason to make the time to visit.
I really wished we had more time here as there was so much to see. If you rent a car allow yourself plenty of time here.
Apollonas is a small village 35 kms north of Naxos town.
We visited for lunch and had a delicious meal a bbq restaurant just as you arrive in the main street. Our time in the village was limited but there
If you do get a bit stir crazy staying in one spot then there are lots of day tours leaving Naxos town each morning.
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If you don’t want to rent a car or would like to learn more about the island then these bus tours are great. We did one of these and really enjoyed the time we spent with our guide and the day covered lots of ground.
You can find out more about the island tour here.
If like us you decided not to visit stay in Mykonos then Naxos is well placed for a day tour. You can choose to include Delos on a tour or just book a ferry and spend the day there.
This excursion was quite popular, our friends did this tour one while we jumped off for the day in Paros instead.
A trip to Paros can be arranged without booking a tour. Just pop into one of the ticketsellers at the port and buy a return ticket to the island. It’s a very short trip and I think we paid 25 euro return. You can rent a car on arrival if you remember to take your driver’s licence. We left ours in the hotel so were limited to bus travel which was not ideal.
If you are not staying in Santorini and don’t expect to return to Greece then a day in Santorini is probably something you should consider. We had spent 3 nights there and I think it is something you should see if you are this close.
The best you can do if you don’t want to stay overnight is a 12-hour day tour. It’s a 3-hour ride each way, so you only end up for 6 hours in Santorini. I personally would prefer at least an overnight visit but if this is your only chance this tour is a reasonable option.
There is no better way to spend a day in Greece than sailing around the islands. When you walk around the harbour in the late afternoon boats line the dock, their tour itineraries displayed and the staff ready to answer any questions you may have. In the high season it is better to book at least a few days in advance.
We really liked this tour that explored Paros, Antiparos and Rina Cave.
We decided we wanted to be car-free for our visit so decided on Agios Georgios which is the closest beach to the port. This allowed us to be within walking distance to dozens of restaurants and bars and have a lovely spot to swim or relax at the start and end of each day.
The beach is a bay really with a very long walk out to waist high water making it very popular with families and local elderly people. There seemed to be a good mix of locals and visitors here during our early June visit.
St George Hotel
After a splurge of epic proportions on Santorini, we needed to cut back our spending a little here and choose the budget-friendly St George Hotel for its location and value for money. It is a small family run hotel with a very helpful and friendly team. The rooms were small but really clean and comfortable.
Hotel Spiros – St Georges Beach
This 40 room family owned hotel is right on the beach and offers recently renovated rooms, a deep swimming pool and a small gym. Both rooms and suites with a small kitchen area are available. We walked past every day and I would certainly consider this property next time.
Nissaki Beach Hotel – St Georges Beach
If you are looking for something a little more glamorous than Nissaki Beach is the best option in St Georges Beach. This 4-star hotel has a lovely pool, an onsite restaurant, room service and Nespresso machines. This is where I would stay if I was looking for luxury.
Naxian on the Beach
If you dream of drinking cocktails on long white stretches of sand then this is probably going to make your dreams come true. The deluxe rooms have a view of the beach and a hot tub. This is
We did not have a bad meal while on Naxos. Agriculture is the islands biggest industry and most of the food you eat is grown locally. We read before we arrived about the local potatoes being
Potatoes and tomatoes are stand out sensational here.
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