NaxosCopyright: Mila Atkovska/Shutterstock.com
NaxosThe largest of the Cyclades islands, Naxos stands out thanks to its unusually crisp white beaches and an exceptionally lush, fertile terrain. With none of the pretence of Mykonos or the ferocious partying of Kos, the island is a destination for those who enjoy a good hike and low-key evening entertainment. Naxos is also home to a fair share of ancient sites, off-lying mountain villages, and excellent family-run taverns.
The IslandLife on Naxos centres around Hora, also known as Chora or Naxos Town, where most the its taverns, restaurants and shopping spots are concentrated. Travellers will need to venture out south of town to find some the finest Naxian beaches, Settlements most revered by tourists include waterside Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna, as well as the long stretch of sandy Plaka Beach. The windy beaches of the northwest are reserved for water sports enthusiasts, while the inland mount Zas and tucked away village of Halki attracts adventure-seeking hikers. Naxos isn't one to rely solely on tourism, however. Its fertile soil produces ample olives, citrus, potatoes, and a variety of other fruits and vegetables, which allows for the existence of so many organic-only eateries. Most local businesses are family-run, passing on knowledge and experience to the younger generations — it is not unusual to see a cafe or small store managed by father and son only. The island is also home to its very own "Kitron" citrus liquor distillery and an old olive press manufactory — both open to visitors and offering guided tours.
BeachesNaxos is especially well-known for its uncharacteristically beautiful beaches, the most attractive of which are concentrated along the island's southwestern coast. During the summer months, the larger beaches truly come alive. Holidaymakers rush to the seaside and seasonal taverns and beach bars come back into operation.
Do & See
Whether it is beach relaxation, active pursuits, ancient ruins, or even museums that you're looking for — Naxos has it all. Sites of particular interest include the gate-shaped Portara, Venetian Kastro, the beautiful hiking trails inland (towards the village of Halki, containing the historic Vallindras citrus distillery), and the island's sparse (yet present) archaeological sites.
Perhaps surprisingly for an island, Naxian cuisine is known more for its meat than seafood: grass-fed beef, lamb, goat meat and poultry often feature as primary dish ingredients on the island restaurants' menus. Try the Naxian specialty Easter dish called "patoudo" — stuffed lamb meat with herbs, often served with the celebrated regional potatoes. Meals often start with a round of small plates called "meze". These are made with seafood, meat, and vegetables. The island is also known for locally-produced wines and cheeses like gruyer, arseniko, xynomizithra, xynotyro and mizithra.
Cafes are omnipresent in Naxos, many doubling as bars in the after-hours. Quite a few beach bars offer complimentary use of sunbeds and umbrellas to customers. In the way of traditional desserts, Naxos is an island known for its walnut pie made with locally-produced citrus liquor. Do try the so-called "spoon sweets" as well — nuts, fruit pieces, and even some vegetables boiled in sugary syrup and served throughout the year.
Bars & Nightlife
Nightlife in Naxos is relatively low-key, with only a handful of dance venues in operation. Most establishments are concentrated in and around the island's Hora and along the "Paralia" (waterfront), with a couple bars present in the majority of larger Naxian coastal settlements. The most popular format for whiling away an evening is savouring a drink at one of the many bars with a view — whether up on the Kastro or down by the water. The island also hosts two cultural festivals: the Naxos Festival (runs from the middle of July till September) and Domus Cultural Festival (from June to October), both featuring concerts, film screenings, and various art projects.
The place to go for some of the best shopping on Naxos is, of course, the island's Hora. Items typical of Naxos are olive-derived products, local sweets and candy, organic foods such as cheeses and herbs, wines, and "kitron" (citrus liquor). When it comes to souvenirs, explore the variety of Naxian handicrafts: from hand-woven fabrics to ceramic pieces to hand-made artisan jewellery. The larger villages of Halki, Apiranthos, and Filoti offer further shopping opportunities. For everyday needs, several vendors' stalls and mini-markets are usually in operation on and around the large beaches.