Naxos

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Naxos is one of the major islands in Greece's Cyclades group.

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Points of Interest in Naxos

The most recognizable landmark of Naxos is the Portara, an iconic 6th century BC marble gate on the islet of Palatia in Naxos harbor. It is the only remnant of a temple dedicated to Apollo.

Naxos is well known for its wonderful beaches, some with advantageous winds for prime windsurfing and kitesurfing. Most of the Island's West coast is one long sandy beach with crystal clear azure water, the most popular areas of which are Prokopios, Agia Anna, Plaka and Mikri Vigla.

It also has a mountainous interior with a great variety of valleys and villages, easily reachable by a well-maintained road system. Archaeological highlights include the Kouros of Melanes and Apollonas, Dimitra's Temple at Sangri and the Cheimarros Tower.

Naxos Kastro

Temple of Apollo

Archaeological Museum

Agios Georgios Beach

Plaka Beach

Agia Anna Beach

Iraklia Beach

Koufonissia Beach

Agios Prokopios Beach

Pori Beach

Tsigouri Beach

Livadi Beach

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About Naxos

Background

The largest and most fertile of the Cyclades Islands, Naxos in fact gains much of its income from agriculture rather than solely from tourism. The main town, referred to as 'Hora' on maps, but also as simply 'Naxos' or 'Naxos Town', contains most of the shops and restaurants frequented by visitors. A number of beach communities extend south along the coast from Hora.

The port at Hora is too small for cruise ships, and too close to the more famous Santorini, saving the island from hordes of tourists. The majority of non-Greek tourists stay in the few beach towns close to Hora, so it is very easy to lose them in the rural centre, or further along the coast. Many wealthy Athenians own houses in the old villages of Halki and Filoti, and use the island as escape from the heat of Athenian summers.

The islands has stunning Mediterranean beaches, with white granite sands, and mountains and lush green valleys, making it more varied than many of the other islands.

Activities

Castro

The Castro (old walled city) section, on its elevated ground overlooking the harbor, provides some of the quietest and most photogenic alleyways to be found in the town. It survives from the days when Naxos was an outpost of the Venetian empire. The area was fortified against attack by locals and pirates. The archaeology museum is well worth a visit, with a good collection of the Bronze Age Cycladean artifacts. A good place to get out of the sun.

Beaches

For tourists, daytime activities centre on the beaches, especially those to the south of town, Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna and Plaka being the most famous ones. These have beach cafes, wind surfing etc. Naxos beaches, like those on many Greek islands, offer clothing options. Generally, nude sunbathing is more frequently encountered in southern beach communities that have sand dunes blocking the view from the access road - such as in Plaka. At the end of Plaka beach nearest to Ag. Anna there is a group of rocks and small coves, and this area is excellent for naturists. It is hidden from the road by trees, yet is an easy (300m) walk along a flat beach from the bus stop at Paradiso taverna. To avoid the crowds, head further south to the crystal clear waters of Mikri Vigla. The locals swim on either side of the causeway to the Portara. The west side is a sheltered shallow bay, with steps and seating built into the causeway. The east side is much deeper, and if the sea is calm you can hold your breath and dive down to ancient columns that have fallen in from the temple. Beware of sea urchins!

The tiny harbours of Lionas and Moutsouna on the East coast are very picturesque and quiet even in the summer months. Both have tavernas and a beach. A newly asphalted road from Moutsouna down to Panermos is also well worth exploring, as it passes by several secluded bays.

For those who love adventure, the island offers many opportunities for active sports. Bluefindivers Naxos Diving Center, located at Agios Prokopios beach, offers beautiful and safe diving/snorkelling trips around the island. Excellent conditions are formed among meadows of sea weed (Posidonia Oceanica), sand banks, reefs and vertical cuts along with shipwrecks, not only for marine life but also for the divers/snorkellers who explore them. Naxos Surf Club do great value taster sessions for sailing-cats, wind surf and kite surfing, in English, Greek and German.

Archaeology

Ancient ruins include the Portara gateway, visible from the harbour, and two rather modest half-finished Kouros statues uncovered in a quarry near Melanes (Kouronohori) as well as a larger version near Apollonas on the northern coast. Special attention has been given in recent years to the sites of Dimitra's temple at Sangri, and Dionysus' temple below Glinado village, where the Ministry of Culture organizes full moon concerts in July and August.

The villages in the centre of the island are older than those round the coast, with Bronze Age origins. They are perched high in the mountainous regions with steep narrow streets to make them defensible against pirates. Halki village is a good example of Greek neo-classical architecture, with its cluster of red roofs. The ancient fishing village of Moutsana was the port from which emery and marble were shipped from the islands.

Landscape

Head 10 km inland and the island changes from the flat brown swampy landscape of Hora to lush green mountain valleys. Ancient olive and lemon groves surround the small villages, with narrow gorges with terrapin-inhabited streams. The area is still agricultural, with this being the main source of income to the island. Above the groves rise two chains of mountains. The central chain is a moonscape of exposed and weather gneiss, with the village Ano Potamia perched in the middle. Descending from these hills brings you into the secluded valley of Halki, Damarionas and Filoti. Above Filoti rises Mt. Zas (or Mountain of Zeus), at 1004m the highest mountain in the Cyclades. Its marble slopes rise steeply to an impressive point. The ascent from the north, via Aghios Marina (a rest point with a beautiful view) is easier, with frequent fountains. The ascent from the north is much steeper and more rocky. From the top, it is possible to see Turkey on a very clear day.

Food

Due to its fertile valleys, Naxos has the richest variety of produce of the Cyclades islands (Naxos is famous in Greece for its potatoes), as well as cattle and poultry. Most restaurants serve fresh and wholesome food, but only a few stand out for excellent dishes, especially in local cuisine.

Greek specialties like moussaka, souvlaki and a wonderfully mild feta are available in restaurants. The olive oils one encounters are superior to the 'light virgin' oil commonly available, in that the local process apparently leaves in much more olive flavor.

Many meals start with meze in the early evening, with main courses not arriving until much later. Meze is similar to Spanish tapas, with lots of small dishes including houmous, tzatiki, olives and small fish.

There are also supermarkets on the outskirts of Hora which offer food and drink at everyday prices. As many rooms come complete with cooking facilities, this offers an excellent way to keep expenses down.

Hora

  • Η ΑΞΙΩΤΙΣΣΑ (Axiotissa), popularly known as The Yellow House, on the road from Hora to Pyrgaki at the height of Kastraki. Its menu blends Naxian specialties with the kitchen of Asia Minor. Reservations recommended.
  • Meze2 on the waterfront serves particularly good fish dishes. Their meze is great too.
  • ΤΑΒΕΡΝΑ Ο ΤΖΩΝΝΗΣ (Johnny’s Taverna-Restaurant). Located in Sagri, a traditional village with hospitable residents in country of Naxos island. It use local pure fresh materials for the creation of dishes.
  • Στης Ειρινι (Ιrini's), Naxian home cooking such as Dakos, wheat rusk topped with tomato and fresh Myzithra cheese or the spicy Shrimp Saganaki. One of the best restaurants on the water front, with excellent views. The slow cooked beef is delicious.
  • ΦΑΡΟΣ Αλυκού (FAROS Aliko beach), famous restaurant with authentic Greek mama's recipes on the road from Hora to Pyrgaki at the height of Aliko beach next to the unique Cedar forest.

Melanes

  • O ΓΙΩΡΓΗΣ (George's Restaurant),  +30 22850-62180. In Melanes Village just 7 km outside Hora is a family restaurant with a magnificent view of a green valley. Open all-year round, it makes for an excellent stop-over after visiting the Kouros and has very reasonable prices and huge portions. You should definitely try the rooster in tomato sauce, stuffed pork, lamb in a clay pot with fried potatoes and cheese, rabbit in onion sauce, aubergine with pork and cheese in the oven and one of the many different traditional sweets that the owner's wife makes all year round, served with yoghurt or ice cream.

Apiranthos

  • ΛΕΥΤΕΡΗΣ (Lefteris) in the quaint, historic village of Apiranthos. Well known, especially for its home made Galaktoboureko and Pasta Flora sweets.
  • Apolafsi +30 2285075483. Beautiful Naxian cuisine made with fresh produce all homemade by Voula, Great views to enjoy a romantic evening.

Ano Potamia

  • The taverna in Ano Potamia has large terraces, good quality traditional taverna fare (souvlaki, rabbit, goat, meatballs), but the best bit is its stunning location, perched on high ground looking over valleys and mountains.

Drinks

Naxos is famous for producing its own liquor called kitron, made from an exotic fruit which can be compared perhaps to lemons, though kitron's taste is pleasantly sweet and citric. Its production process can be viewed at the old Valindras distillery in the village of Halki, where different varieties can also be tasted. Kitron is also produced by Promponas.

More common with the locals is a drink called Raki which in winter is served hot with honey (Rakomelo). Raki is a brandy made from pomace (the pieces of grapes (including the stems and seeds) that were pressed for wine making and is similar to Italian grappa. One of the places that continuously serves Rakomelo is Cafe Naxos, located in the narrow alleys in the port's old town. Enjoy it with your "parea" (company of friends) by the cosy fireplace or outside in summer.

On the Rocks Bar - ... is located in the heart of chora naxos downtown between the seafront, called "paralia", and the really old town. Have a seat in the early evening for an aperitif or a before-dinner-cocktail and see the people passing by while the sun is fading away ... enjoy the atmosphere and get yourself a perfect drink - maybe accompanied by a havana cigar or shisha (waterpipe)... [10]

  • Sottovento, st. george beach (Located on St. George Beach, just a few steps from the center),  +30 2285029222. Open from breakfast till night. Offers a range of dining options from classic pizza to chef's specials.

Shopping

Every village has at least a small supermarket, so self-catering is easy. Hora, Halki and Glinado have decent sized supermarkets. Only fish and chicken (both frozen) are easily available ready packaged. For red meat, a trip to a butchers is necessary, and an interesting experience for sheltered Northern Europeans. This can be quite entertaining - expect a baby goat tied up outside as advertisement, and to have to point out which bit of cow you'd like to be chopped off (unless you're lucky enough to know the Greek for 'half a kilo of sirloin please'!) Bakeries can be found in most villages, and always worth stopping for, although they often shut at lunch time. Savoury cheese and spinach, spanokopita, baklava, loukoumi (Greek Turkish delight) and amazing sticky syrupy chocolate cake all all worth trying. For really fresh eggs and chicken, try hailing the chicken truck. It drives around the island with the back full of crates of live chickens. It announces its presence with loud speakers on the top, and is quite a sight.

  • Anna's organic Shop and Garden Café The first shop on the island of Naxos to offer exclusively biological products. Anna John offers delicious, healthy food, detailed advice in matters of food and nutrition. Very nice place to take a breakfast or to have a snack in the organic Garden Café.
  • Fish and Olive. In Halki village. Husband and wife, Katarina Boelsch and Alexander Reichardt have their gallery in Halki. Katarina produces ceramics with distinctive moulded olive and frog designs (beware of fakes sold in cheap tourist shops), while Alex paints delicate patterns of fish and animals onto tiles and other ceramics, and designs jewelry. Follow a trip by a piece of chocolate brownie in the cafe opposite.
  • Vallindras Distillery Visit the distillery in Halki and buy their produce. The lemon liqueur might be more appreciated than ouzo or retsina, and is certainly more authentically Naxos.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Naxos on Wikivoyage.

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