Long beaches and medieval towers, lush valleys and high mountains… and delicious local produce
Welcome to the largest island in the Cyclades, Naxos. So fertile, it’s self-sufficient. Here you’ll find plenty of history, ruins from every era, a kaleidoscope of landscapes, friendly locals and wonderful food in the most beautiful part of the Aegean.Entering the harbor, you’re greeted by the ancient Portara – the massive marble gateway identical to the logo of the National Geographic – and the sight of the medieval castle above the town. Inland, you’ll find isolated medieval villages, untouched by time, like Tripodes, Filoti, Halki and Apeiranthos, that invite you to explore their beauty. You’ll find Mt. Zas (another name for Zeus), green valleys, abandoned monasteries, venerable churches, and lofty towers like Bazeos Tower. Built in the 17th century, the tower functioned as a monastery of the True Cross (Timios Stavros) for decades.Today it hosts a wide array of cultural activities, such as the Naxos Festival. If you’re a sun worshiper, Naxos’s endless stretch of gorgeous sandy beaches will keep you blissfully happy during your holiday. And if you’re even remotely interested in antiquities and culture, you’ll make sure to see the two giant kouroi – statues of young men – lying down in the open.
What to do on Naxos
The Hora of Naxos
Traces of many past civilizations enrich the island’s main town. The most obvious is the gigantic Portara, all that remains of a massive temple to Apollo that was never completed. The legacy of the Venetians and Franks, nobles who took over Greek islands and mainland as spoils from the Fourth Crusade, is more layered. Walk through the narrow alleys in the oldest part of town and up to the fortress and you’ll think you’re back in the Middle Ages. Back on the waterfront, instead of a coffee, you might want to sample some kitro, a Naxos liqueur made from citrus fruit.
The giant kouroi
Naxos’s most impressive sculptures are in the open air. They are one of the most popular attractions on the island. Colossal, half-finished statues of young men – Archaic kouroi – they have been resting for eons in the same spot, one in a garden at Melanes, the other overlooking the coast at Apollona. Lying, as if waiting, for their creators to come finish the job.
A culinary journey
Foodies will love Naxos. Its outstanding local products make it an unsung gastronome’s treasure trove. First, try the cheeses of Naxos, highly prized by Greeks, such as graviera (similar to gruyere), kefalotiri called arseniko (masculine). Second, order some potatoes, preferably fried. Their superlative taste and texture come from the island’s potassium-rich sandy shale. You may find you like them so much, you’ll order some more for dessert! Then, to end your meal, have a glass of kitro, a liqueur distilled from the leaves of the citron (citrus medica), which comes in three versions, green, yellow and clear.
A Cretan village in the mountains of Naxos
Apeiranthos, or T’Aperathou, is a jewel among the island’s mountain villages. More than ten centuries have rolled by without substantial changes to its houses, cobbled streets, accents, customs and daily habits. The locals still speak Greek in the lilting idiom of their Cretan forefathers, who settled in the village ages ago. No doubt they would have no trouble recognizing the marble-flagged alleys, the vaulted arches, the Venetian towers and two-store houses. Have a seat in one of the old kafeneions and drink in a bit of this unadulterated civilization.