Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades group and also the greenest and most fertile of them. Due to its size and various landscape it has something to offer for everyone - lively and sleepy villages, superb sandy beaches, numerous restaurants and cafes, choice of accommodation and historical sights. Food is not to be missed as plenty of vegetables, fruit and olives are cultivated on the island and supplied fresh to tavernas and hotels. One of the island`s specialties is Kitron, a liqueur made of a local sort of lemon called kitron (citron).
Naxos is surrounded by Paros, Ios and a group of islands called the Small Cyclades or Lesser Cyclades - Koufonissia, Donoussa, Schinoussa and Iraklia. Ferry connections are quite regular, with the ports of Piraeus, Rafina and the other islands of the Cyclades group, and the airport serves flights from Athens. There are also ferries to Astypalea from the Dodecanese group and to Heraklion city, Crete. The capital of Naxos, Naxos town or Chora, is on the west coast. It is a the largest settlement and also the port where ferries arrive. Arriving at Naxos port, the first thing you will see is Portara, an huge marble doorway which was part of a massive ancient temple dedicated to Apollo and dating back to 530 B.C. Portara is on a tiny islet which is connected via causeway to Chora and its port, and it has become symbol of the island.
At first sight Chora is a typical Cyclades capital, with cubical whitewashed houses and a Venetian castle which is very well preserved, but looking closely you can see elements of the Neoclassical style in the older houses. In the middle of the port, among the fishing boats section, stands the church of Panagia Myrtidiotissa. The promenade is very busy and lively, with a line of seafront cafes and tavernas, and all public facilities and services can be found here. The area within the castle walls is known as the old town or old quarter, with small and narrow streets full of souvenir shops and cafes. All famous resorts of the are concentrated on the west coast, south of Chora, and there is merely no border between them. The coast line is almost uninterrupted in this part of Naxos, with sandy beaches and shallow crystal water. The first beach south of Chora is Agios Georgios, followed by Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, Plaka, Orkos, Mikri Vigla, Kastraki, Aliko and Agiassos. The first three are the most developed as resorts, organized with sunbeds, umbrellas and beach bars. Plaka, Mikri Vigla and Kastraki are partly organized but they are so long and wide that you can always find privacy. Mikri Vigla is also popular among surfer and has a kite center on the beach. Going from Plaka to Agiassos, the buildings and people decrease in number. After Agiassos, the coastal road curves a few kilometers more and reaches Kalandos, a small beach with fishing port. The beaches and villages on the north and east coast are smaller and not much touristy.
The inner part of Naxos hides the mountainous villages among which the most vivid are Apeiranthos, Filoti, Koronos, Sangri and Chalki. Chalki used to be the old capital of the island and it is totally different from the other villages of Naxos because the architecture is Neoclassical. Except for the old houses, there is a Venetian tower and the kitron distillery on the small square is open to visitors free of charge. Apeiranthos on its side is known as the "marble village" of Naxos as marble is used for decoration of streets and buildings. If you want to eat in traditional tavernas away from the crowd, you can visit the villages of Koronida, Kinidaros and Ano Potamia, or the small fishing port of Moutsouna on the east coast.
Hints on interesting places and sights on Naxos:
- Chora with its castle and Portara (Apollon`s Gate)
- Any of the inner mountainous villages, and mostly Apeiranthos, Chalki and Koronos
- The monastery of Fotodotis which looks like a fortress, it dates back to 6 century and can be seen near Danakos village
- One of the many historical towers built by local families, especially the towers of Zevgolis, Belonias, Agia and Crispi-Glezos
- The giant male statues near the villages of Apollonas and Melanes. The statue in Apollonas is 10,5 meters long
- The Temple of Demeter near Sangri
- The ancient church of Agios Mammas and the abandoned monastery of Kalamitsia
- Apano Kastro (Upper Castle) above the village of Ano Potamia, accessible only on foot via small path
- A day-trip by boat to the Small Cyclades (especially Koufonissia) and Paros island