Beyond the Tourist Trail: Naxos, Greece

This June I was lucky enough to take a two week trip to Greece with family and friends. Along with hitting the major tourist trail spots of Santorini and Athens, we decided to spend five days in Naxos, the largest island of the Cyclades. Though Naxos garners some attention from Europeans, it is not as popular with American tourists as the glitzy Mykonos, the revered Crete, or the uber famous Santorini. Because of this fact, Naxos remains a somewhat undiscovered location and is ripe for the picking. So, why should you add Naxos to your must-see list?

Naxos is gorgeous and fertile

Aside from being the largest island in the Cyclades, Naxos is also the most fertile. The island produces many types of fruits and vegetables, along with its famous wine and citrus spirit. Unlike many of the arid, barren islands in Greece, Naxos boasts rolling mountains and sweeping valley vistas along with its hidden beaches and swimming coves. The food is fresh and the scenery stunning.

 

A charming old town

The capital of Naxos is Hora (or Chora, or Naxos Town), an ancient town rising above the main port. The serpentine cobblestoned streets, whitewashed buildings, and quirky layout lend charm and character to the old town. An array of restaurants, small bars, and boutiques crowd the small town, some of them with gorgeous sea views. You’ll also find an old castle and a handful of pretty Venetian mansions.

Local character and history

As Naxos is a less-frequented island with a sizeable population, you feel like you’ve stepped into an “authentic” slice of Greek life. The locals are friendly and helpful and the restaurants serve up large portions of deliciously fresh food at low prices. If you’re looking for a break from the crowds of Santorini or Mykonos, you can quickly find yourself settling into the slow pace of life on Naxos. As an island that has been inhabited for thousands of years by various groups, history and ruins abound on Naxos. In fact, the first thing you’ll see as you pull into the harbor is the Portara, a door-shaped monument that is an unfinished temple to the god Apollo.

Beautiful blue-green sea

Okay, I know that all Greek islands have gorgeous beaches and seascapes. But there is something about the colors of water, the secluded beaches, and the remote feel of Naxos that is special. To fully appreciate the landscape of the island, book a boat trip or sailing tour around the island. There is really nothing like seeing the Naxos from the sea; each hidden cove feels more surreal than the last and the ever-changing color of the water is beyond words.

Naxos is an island begging for exploration while also inviting relaxation. You’ll be rewarded at every turn with amazing food, gorgeous natural scenery, and an unparalleled experience when you step off the tourist trail to visit this Cycladic gem. Happy traveling!