Thanks to a 2014 New York Times article declaring Naxos, Greece, not to be missed, travel heavyweights have been including it year after year on their roundups of must-see destinations within the Cyclades.
Unlike its neighbors Santorini and Mykonos, Naxos remains relatively unfazed by the North American hype – even though the picturesque island continues to surface on Greek island roundups. Its low-key ambiance and quiet pace provide visitors with an authentic Greek island experience, only three and a half hours from bustling Athens, it's well worth your time to stay a few days to soak it all in.
When to Go
The weather in Greece is warm from March/April onwards, with peak crowds in July and August. Early September is an ideal time to experience the island. By September fewer tourists are packing the ferries and beaches, as children across Europe are back in school.
The easiest way to arrive to Naxos is by ferry from Athens. From the port of Piraeus (just outside of Athens) a highspeed ferry will deliver you to Naxos in roughly 3.5 hours, while other ferries offer a more scenic 5.5-hour journey. Purchase your tickets in advance to alleviate any headaches at the port and guarantee your arrival time.
Ferries are the way to travel when island hopping. Though most islands have a small airport, there are no flights that hop from island to island. SO if you're thinking of a day trip to Santorini or Mykonos, you would need to take a flight back to Athens and then another flight to the island you choose.
Take the morning ferry or the last ferry of the day. You’ll thank me later. Afternoon ferries are packed, and you’ll feel much like a cow herded onto a truck, wranglers prompting you forward (chastising the lollygagging cows disembarking), whilst cars are also rushing on right behind you.
What to Do
Eat. Simply arrive hungry, and don’t leave until you’ve eaten just about everything. Local Naxian cheese and olive oil are not to be missed, as is imbibing on a glass of island made Kitron (a spirit made from citron trees, a relative of the lemon). There are plenty of restaurants directly across the street from the port, however going inland (even if it’s a block or two) will often reveal restaurants aimed at locals instead of tourists, complete with more reasonable prices and authentic cuisine.
While it’s a drive nearly 45 minutes inland, a visit to Rotonda (located in the Apeiranthos region of Naxos) will deliver gourmet food with jaw-dropping views of the island and sea.
Tip: Reserve a table for sunset, the views are some of the best on the island.
Naxos has no shortage of stunning beaches and beach bars. From the Chora (town center) the first beach is Agios Georgios, an easy 15-minute walk from the center of town. While there are ample oceanfront restaurants and beach bars, Agios Georgios is often the most crowded due to its proximity to the town center.
Outside of the town center, three well-known beaches dot the coast – Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, and Plaka. Each boasts crystal clear turquoise water, not unlike the Caribbean, and Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna are within walking distance of each other. All three beaches are easily accessible by public transit that runs every half hour from the town center.
If you want to rent a sunbed for the day (highly recommended to find reprieve from the scorching Mediterranean sun), visit any number of the beach bars along the beach. Some will rent two beds and an umbrella for a flat fee; others will include them for “free” with the purchase of food or drinks.
Unique to Naxos is the Eggares Olive Press Museum, one of Naxos’s oldest remaining olive mills. A brief complimentary tour showcases the history of the mill, including original production materials once used at the site. Don’t miss a tasting, I dare you to leave without buying some of their oil. You’ll be hooked.
Where to Stay
There’s no shortage of accommodation options on Naxos, ranging from luxurious private villas to basic room rentals. I’ve stayed in a couple that are simply divine.
Hotel Grotta is rated #1 on TripAdvisor for good reason. The Greek hospitality is evident from the moment you arrive, welcomed with a snack and glass of white wine from the family’s vineyard. Don’t miss the legendary breakfast spread, it’s something dreams are made of.
Kavos Boutique Hotel is located a ten-minute walk from Agios Prokopios beach and offers guests their choice of villas, apartments, or suites overlooking the Aegean Sea and nestled among the bougainvillea. With an outdoor pool, restaurant, and pool bar, guests will want for nothing.
Interested in visiting Greece for a few days, perhaps more, or maybe island hopping for your next vacation? Contact me here, I’d love to curate your perfect Mediterranean escape!
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W. Anne Jones
A curious explorer, learning and growing. Join me as I travel the world one day at a time.