Naxos is an island in Greece that has something to offer to everyone
.Whether you are looking for a place to relax, enjoy the sea and the sun,
or somebody who wants to see and do as much as possible, or just party:
Naxos is the greenest and largest of the Cycladic islands and very
different from its neighbouring islands. The uniqueness of Naxos is due
to its varied landscape. It is an island with imposing mountains,
verdant plateaux and valleys, rivers and springs, caves and large sandy
beaches backed by sand dunes and cedar trees. It is one of the most
visited islands by tourists and island hoppers and consequently has a
good infrastructure to support these visitors. It is not however spoilt
by tourism as much of the main tourist market is focused only on Naxos
Town (Chora) and its surrounding area. Agriculture and husbandry are
still an important aspect of the local economy. According to mythology, the wine god Dionysus
came from Naxos, and the ancient Greeks saw proof of this in the fact that
it is a lush and fertile island. Because of the rich soil, most people
from Naxos are involved with agriculture. There are fishermen, but not as
many as on other islands.
Tourism is also a major source of income and especially Scandinavians visit this island. The women of Naxos are famed for their weaving, even though this practice is not so common any more.
Naxos also has a special kind of sand that is used in making sand paper, and it is exported to many countries around the world.
Depending on where you stay, you can either end up in a place with all the facilities you need, or in a village where the pace is slow.
Many myths in Greece involve Naxos as some point. Zeus,
the highest god, was born on Crete, but grew up on Naxos. The people of
Naxos used to worship him, and a temple was made to his honour at the
mountain Za (Zeus).
When Zeus' mistress Semele died before giving birth to their child, Zeus took the embryo and put it in his thigh. When the baby, Dionysus, was born out of Zeus thigh on Naxos, the nymphs Philia, Coronida and Clidi brought him up on the island, which was to be Dionysus favourite island. The god made the island fertile and full of grapevines, forever blessing it.
Another myth is about Ariadne, the daughter of king Minos of Crete. She had helped Theseus kill the Minotaur, and out of fear for her father, she fled with the hero. On Naxos she fell asleep, Theseus left her and when Dionysus saw her, he made her his wife. According to another version she committed suicide by jumping off a cliff in Chora.
Naxos was a centre for the Cyclades islands from 4000 to 1100 BC. The capital has always been Naxos (Chora), but it used to be called Calliopolis ('the best city") in ancient years. The island supposedly got its current name after the first ruler: king Naxos, but it has had different names through history: Dia ("Zeus"), Stroggyli ("round") and Dionysias. It held tights bonds with Santorini and Halkida, and together they founded the colony Naxos on Sicily in 734 BC.
The island was well known for the sculptures that were made here. One of the best known works are the lions on Delos.
In 501 BC Naxos was threatened by the Persians but managed to keep them away. Eleven years later the Persians succeeded in invading the island. In 479 BC Naxos became a member of the Delian League but left it in 466BC. The island became a vassal state to Athens until the city was defeated by the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War.
Naxos was to fall under many great states; once again under the Athenians, then the Macedonians, after that the Egyptians and finally it fell under Rhodes' power. In 41 BC the island was conquered by the Romans.
When the Venetians invaded the Cyclades islands in Greece ,Naxos fought for forty days at the Byzantine castro Apalyrou, but the islanders were finally defeated and was made center for the The Aegean Duchy under the Venetian Marcus Sanudos in 1207. The duke himself made a strong fortress and the Venetian rule lasted for 300 years. In 1564 the island was invaded by the Turks, but they basically just collected taxes from then on. The Venetian Rule was to be the main rule, which can be seen in the fact that there still are quite a few Catholics on the island. In May 1821 Naxos was liberated.
What to see
characteristic image of Naxos is the great gate just outside Chora. The
locals call it the Portara - the great door, and it is the most
photographed spot on the island (see logo above). The gate was built in
the 6th century BC by order of the tyrant Legdames. It was to be a temple
to the god Apollo, but the building was abandoned when war broke out
between Naxos and Samos. Later, Christians built a church on top of the
unfinished temple.A very good time to go to the gate is in the evening
when you will get to see a fantastic sunset. You can also see Paros from
Parts of the temple was also used to build the Castro in Chora. The Castro is dominating the Old town, all its little streets lead to it. The archaeological museum of Naxos here is well worth a visit. It is located at the commercial school and used to be a place where catholic monks had a school. The famous Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis (Zorba the Greek , The last Temptation of Christ ) stayed here for a while.
The Metropolitan church of Ag Nicodemus and Nectarius was built 1780-87 which was built partly with ancient remains. It hold a priceless New Testament which was given to the church by Catherine of Russia according to tradition.
The church of Ag Kyriaki used to be where the hidden school was held during the Turkish rule. Just outside the village Galanado stands the Tower of Belonia. Next to it is the church of St John, which is half Catholic, half Orthodox. At the village Vivlos or Tripodes stand windmills. In Prompona a good local wine is worth a try.
At the village Ano Sagri is the monastery of Ag Eletheriou, which used to be a hidden school during the Turkish rule. Another monastery is dedicated to St. John, and here excavations indicate that there used to be a 6th century BC temple to the goddess Demeter here. You can also visit the Castro of Apalyrou.
The village Apiranthos is also called the marble village, since many buildings and streets here are made of marble. It has many beautiful buildings, and you can go to the tower of Zevgoli from the 17th century and the tower of Bardani. There is also a small museum here with various findings from the east part of the island. You should also try the local wine.
At the village Flerio there is a 7th century statue lying on the ground. It is a kouros, or boy, with a height of 6,40 meters. If you want to climb the Za (Zeus) mountain this is the place to start. You can also take a two hour walk from here to the ruins of the monastery Fotoides. The Byzantine capital of Naxos was Halci, and there are still venetian castles there as well as the oldest lemon distillery of the island.
At the village Moni you can visit the monastery of the Virgin Mary with its old wallpaintings. The village Koronida or Komiaki is the highest village on the island, built at 700 meters above the sea level. The village Apollona has the remains of an ancient temple to Apollo, with a ten meter statue lying on the ground.
From Galini you can go to the monastery of the Virgin Mary (Panagias tis Ypsiloteras) which is also called Tower of Agelakopoulou, which was the surname of the last owner. In the 17th century this was a monastery. From here, the people of Naxos fought both Venetians and pirates. Close to Agios Arsenios is a 17th century monastery to St John as well as the oldest church on the island: Ag Mamas from the 9th century.
The first thing
any visitor sees when arriving by sea to Naxos Town is the magnificent
marble gate, a megalithic 6th century BC portal of Apollo's Temple,
known as Portara. It stands on a narrow strip of land on the islet of
Paltia, also called the Baths of Ariadne. In Naxos Town there is an
extremely interesting archaeological museum at Cathedral Square which
displays ruins and artefacts excavated from the ancient Agora of Naxos.
The impressive 13th century Venetian castle that dominates the town was
built on the site of the ancient acropolis. The castle contains the
Catholic Cathedral with a double faced 12th century icon and a museum
that has a significant collection of early Cycladic marble idols. There
is also a Byzantine museum and a Venetian House museum as well as many
mansions with beautiful marble coats of arms where some of the ancestors
of the original Venetians still live. In the area of Grotta in Naxos
Town is the ancient Mycenaean city.
Part of this city is now under water but you can still see some of the ruins of it.
Inside Naxos Town there are interesting monuments and archaeological sites to visit. The most important of these are ancient marble quarries at Melanes and Apollon. Here the visitor can see the partially carved remains of statues of young men, The Kouroi. The largest of these is Apollon Kouros which is four times life size. It is thought that these statues which were begun in the 7th century BC were not finished due to flaws in the stone. In the Eggares region it is possible to visit the remains of Mycenaean tombs.
On the east of the island is a fertile valley. Here you will find the
remains of the 6th century BC Temple of Demeter, close to the pretty
little cobbled village of Ano Sangri. Also here is the refurbished
Bazeos Tower which was built in the early 17th century AD. Originally a
monastery it now hosts exhibitions and concerts during the summer
months. Also at the village of Sangri are some very well-preserved
windmills and several Venetian castles that are worthwhile to visit. In
the area of Livadi are the four temples of Dionysus which are thought to
have been constructed in 9th-8th centuries BC, This archaeological site,
known as the Iria Ancient Site, is one of the best archaeological sites
on the island. Visit, too, the beautiful 17th century Zevgoli castle
which perches on a rock at the entrance to the village of Apirathos.
Another famous sight of Naxos are its towers, known as Pyrgi. There are
around 30 of these structures and they are the
remains of fortified manor houses built between the 15th and 18th centuries AD. Particularly interesting ones can be seen near the villages of Filoti and Melanes and also at Chora Naxos, Halki, Galanado and Sangri. There are many very old churches dotted all over the island such as the spectacular 11th century Aghioi Apostoloi and Aghios Diassoritis which has one of the best preserved 12th century frescos. There are also many wonderful caves to see. Especially amazing is the Cave of Za which is dedicated to Zeus and contains some fantastic stalagmites. It is thought that the cave has been used since prehistoric times due to the fact that prehistoric remains have been found inside it.
What to do
:Apart from all the places to visit, there are various water sports offered at the beaches. If you like fishing, you will find you're not the only one here. It is also a good idea to try and get on a daytrip to one of the neighboring islands. A boat trip to Delos is definitely a must for people interested in history and archaeology since it is covered with ancient ruins.
Naxos is the perfect place for a beach holiday. Many believe it has the best beaches in Greece and there are both sand and pebble beaches.. Basically, there are so many places to go that you just should explore it yourself. Amongst the most popular places are Agia Anna and Ag Georgios. There is also a beach in Chora if you don't want to leave the town. Most nudists go to Plaka. The southern coast is the calmest, so if it is a windy day that's the best place to go. Most beaches are connected with good roads, except the ones in the north and south. Sufers prefer Mikris Viglas or Azala. Families with children are recommended to go to Sahara Beach, where there also is a variety of water sports offered. Kastraki is excellent for picnicking.
:Naxos nightlife is quite varied, with both bars and clubs playing Greek or foreign music. Most of the partying goes on in Chora, but during high season Ag Anna also gets quite busy. Beach parties are to be expected!!!.
There are many choices of restaurants on the island of Naxos, especially in Chora. Although the taverns in the harbour are very nice, you should also walk around and bit and discover the lovely little places in the side streets. Try the local wine and lemon liqueur!!!
Since ancient times Naxos has produced extremely fine wines, known as 'the Nectar of the Gods'. In Greek mythology it was the island of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. The local meat of beef and goat is delicious due to the animals being reared in their natural environment. The milk that comes from these animals is used to produce the famous Naxos cheeses, for example, Graviera, Sour cheese, sour Myzithra, Anthotyro and Kefalotiri which are all outstanding in quality and flavour. The island also produces top-quality citrus fruits, (from which the famous citron liqueur (kitro) is made), olive oil, potatoes and grapes. Unusually for a Greek island, Naxos Town hosts a morning market outside the Agricultural Bank where local fruit and vegetables can be bought. In Naxos you can buy cloths and broidery, copies of the Cycladic figures, olive oil, cheese, honey, wine and lemon liqueur. You can also get antiques and icons, but anything older than 1821 can not be exported without a special permit. You can also get leatherwear, rugs, clothes and jewellery.
In Naxos there is a quite good bus network as well as taxis, car and bike rentals. The roads of Naxos are surprisingly good for a Greek island. The buses can take you to most of the villages and beaches of the island.
There are frequent ferries leaving from Piraeus throughout the summer months. The time taken from Piraeus is around 6 hours or 3-4 hours on the high-speed ferry. The Flying Dolphins and the Catamarans also go to Naxos from Piraeus and take around 4 hours. There is also a small airport where there are daily flights from Athens and flights to and from Crete or Santorini. The flight normally takes around 30 minutes from Athens. There are boat connections from Naxos to Paros as well.
Facts about Naxos
Size: 448 sq km
International code: 0030
Population: about 18 000
Local code: 22850
Cash machine: Yes
Health center: 23333, 23550
Internet cafe: Yes
Police : 22100
Highest Mountain: Za (Zeus) 1004m
Port police: 22939
Local Buses (KTEL):22291
Tour Operators: Argo, Apollo, Ving
Taxi: Naxos 22444, Koronida 81231
Local Airport: 23292