What to see in Naxos: the castle, the sea, the villages of the largest island of the Cyclades
Elegant and with a Venetian heritage in some glimpses, traditional and attached to its slow pace when it changes mood, full of summer passion along its long beaches full of tourists, romantic and pleasing when getting ready for sunset. L’Naxos islandin Cycladesit is all this and it could be said, perhaps, that in its own way it summarizes many of the aspects of this group of Greek islands thanks to its size (it is the largest) and the ability to maintain the bond with its most traditional and true soul. The result is that among the things to see in Naxos there are archaeological finds, sleepy villages lost in the valleys and a pleasant coast rich in beaches.
Towers and monuments in the green island
The first impression comes from the encounter with the imposing Portara temple onislet of Palatia which is in front of one of the medieval villages more historical than the Greecewitnessing the glorious history of the duchy once hegemon of the archipelago as evidenced by the long list of things to see in Naxos. Which you don’t often expect on an island of Cyclades how Byzantine monuments And Venetian towerstraditional settlements e waterfallsmossy green areas and even cedar forests. With all due respect to those looking for just a place to spread out the towel and sunbathe.
But before reviewing the things to see in Naxos or, even more, getting ready to swim in the most beautiful beaches a step back is necessary. And the time comes talk about the myth. Here, in fact, according to legend, Zeus grew up who did several prodigies: when one of his mistresses died before being able to give birth to their child, Zeus picked up the embryo and implanted it in a thigh where it developed. When he was born he was entrusted to nymphs and immediately became fond of the island. The baby’s name? Dionysus, the god of wine. And that’s why the island of Naxos was always blessed with the presence of luxuriant vegetation And beautiful vineyards.
Isn’t this story enough for you? Then one last story before going back to the guide of things to see in Naxos. The story is about Arianna which helped Theseus to kill the Minotaur to Crete and run away with him. When she arrived in Naxos, however, she fell asleep and Theseus abandoned her. And from here comes the saying: ditched. Which would then be Naxos.
Things to see in Naxos: the arch dedicated to Apollo
A trip to the island necessarily starts from the temple that stands out in front of the port of Chora: the locals call it Portara and it is the plus point photographed of the island. It is an arch built in the sixth century BC by order of tyrant Legdames and it must have belonged to a temple erected in honor of Apollobut the construction was abandoned when a war broke out between Naxos And Samos. Later, the Christians erected a church on the foundations of the abandoned temple. The best time to go to the door is at sunset: everyone makes an appointment with a beer or a bottle of wine. And Dionysus, of course, thanks.
In front of the arch is the city of Chora, capital and port of the island. In the village there is a warm and pleasant atmosphere and it is nice to walk between the whitewashed houses and the old stone houses dominated by the medieval castle, a fortified settlement which, according to tradition, was built by the Venetian crusader Marco Sanudo in the 13th century. There is no evidence, however, that this was the Sanudo palace, who ruled over many islands, from Paros to Milos to Folegandros. Of the twelve towers of yesteryear only the Crispi Tower survives and hosts the Byzantine Museum. The narrow uphill alleys lead to the highest point of the castle and the visit, especially in the hottest hours, when there are no tourists, will take you back in time.
White houses and a view from the castle
Also worth seeing archaeological Museum which is located in the building that was the seat of the Jesuit school and which was part of the castle. Then it became a commercial school and here he studied, among others, the writer Nicos Kazantzakis, the author of Zorba the Greek. The most important church is the Cathedral of San Nicodemo and San Nettario built in the late 1700s with ancient stones and which contains a Gospel that is said to have been donated directly by Tsarina Catherine of Russia.
Things to see in Naxos: the other villages
Continuing the tour on the island you must certainly go and discover Koronoswhich is located 34 kilometers from the port and is one of the most beautiful and less known villages on the island. It is a stepped village, leaning against the mountain and is renowned for its emery mines. Its beautiful houses keep intact traditional architecture and are divided into seven neighborhoods. The central square is called “Platsa”And is the meeting point of the locals. On the day of Agia Marinaon July 17, the icons of the main church are brought in procession around the village after the mass and a big party follows, which lasts until the early hours of the next day.
Traveling inland you must therefore point towards Apeiranthosa pretty village at an altitude of 650 meters that was one Cretan colony. The village is very special: many of the houses are made of marble and here is one of the most beautiful churches on the island, Panagia Apeirathitissa, famous for ancient icons. In the surroundings you can also visit some caves.
We then mention among the things to see in Naxos the village of Sagri which, with its ancient Byzantine and Venetian monuments, is one of the most interesting places on the island. But besides the churches and the ancient remains is the village itself, with the beautiful houses in classic cycladic style ei cobbled alleys which fascinates those who arrive here. In the Sagri area on the road to Agiassosthe Virgin of Kaloritsa or Virgin of Spiliotissa with two sets of 17th century frescoes, it is a cave converted into a church.
Things to see Naxos and those to do: waves and wind
After visiting the island it is a must choose a beach and enjoy the sea and the sun. But not just suntan: the island of Naxos is a paradise for fans of both surfing and windsurfing. Saint George Bay it is ideal for those who love ride the waves and it’s a good place for beginners too.
Mikri Vigla instead it is the suitable destination for windsurfing and the excellent place for the wind and the kitesurfing. Another beach frequented by sportsmen is that of Plaka as well as those of Kalstraki and Alyko. Remember instead that kitesurfing is prohibited in Saint George bay due to the nearby airport.
If you love the sea as well as the nature and walks in Naxos you will find what is right for you. The island has a magical landscape, with beautiful valleys, fertile fields and even the highest mountain of the Cyclades. The paths that were the main ones until the 1960s access routes and transport from village to village and to agricultural areas are still viable and measure hundreds of kilometers in total length.
The walks will take you to magical parts of the long island marble paved mule tracks and hidden paths that emerge, suddenly in front of the remains of what they once were monasteries or remote chapels from the Byzantine era. And there are few Greek islands that in addition to the sea and the sun can offer all this.
How to get to Naxos: the ferries and the plane
Naxos is easily accessible by plane as there are several flights a day from Athens. The flight lasts 45 minutes and Naxos airport it is located 3 km south of Chora. Obviously then you can also arrive with the ferry: departures are from the port of Piraeus or from the port of Rafinathe two ports of Athens. Naxos is well served and there are several connections every day that also stop in the others Cyclades how Paros (25 minutes), Mykonos (40 minutes), Santorini (an hour and a half).