AND GREEK ISLANDS
General Information Naxos is an island in Greece
that has something to offer to everyone .Whether
you are looking for a place to relax, enjoy the
sea and the sun, or somebody who wants to see
and do as much as possible, or just party: Naxos
is the greenest and largest of the
islands and very different from its neighboring
islands. The uniqueness of Naxos is due to its
varied landscape. It is an island with imposing
mountains, verdant plateaux and valleys, rivers
and springs, caves and large sandy beaches
backed by sand dunes and cedar trees. It is one
of the most visited islands by tourists and
island hoppers and consequently has a good
infrastructure to support these visitors. It is
not however spoilt by tourism as much of the
main tourist market is focused only on Naxos
Town (Chora) and its surrounding area.
Agriculture and husbandry are still an important
aspect of the local economy. According to
mythology, the wine god Dionysus came from
Naxos, and the ancient Greeks saw proof of this
in the fact that it is a lush and fertile
island. Because of the rich soil, most people
from Naxos are involved with agriculture. There
are fishermen, but not as many as on other
Tourism is also a major source of income and
especially Scandinavians visit this island. The
women of Naxos are famed for their weaving, even
though this practice is not so common any more.
Naxos also has a special kind of sand that is
used in making sand paper, and it is exported to
many countries around the world.
Depending on where you stay, you can either end
up in a place with all the facilities you need,
or in a village where the pace is slow.
Naxos History: Many myths in Greece
involve Naxos as some point. Zeus, the highest
god, was born on Crete, but grew up on Naxos.
The people of Naxos used to worship him, and a
temple was made to his honor at the mountain Za
When Zeus' mistress Semele died before giving
birth to their child, Zeus took the embryo and
put it in his thigh. When the baby, Dionysus,
was born out of Zeus thigh on Naxos, the nymphs Philia, Coronida and Clidi brought him up on the
island, which was to be Dionysus favourite
island. The god made the island fertile and full
of grapevines, forever blessing it.
Another myth is about Ariadne, the daughter of
king Minos of Crete. She had helped Theseus kill
the Minotaur, and out of fear for her father,
she fled with the hero. On Naxos she fell
asleep, Theseus left her and when Dionysus saw
her, he made her his wife. According to another
version she committed suicide by jumping off a
cliff in Chora.
Naxos was a centre for the Cyclades islands from
4000 to 1100 BC. The capital has always been
Naxos (Chora), but it used to be called Calliopolis ('the best city") in ancient years.
The island supposedly got its current name after
the first ruler: king Naxos, but it has had
different names through history: Dia ("Zeus"),
Stroggyli ("round") and Dionysias. It held
tights bonds with Santorini and Halkida, and
together they founded the colony Naxos on Sicily
in 734 BC.
The island was well known for the sculptures
that were made here. One of the best known works
are the lions on Delos.
In 501 BC Naxos was threatened by the Persians
but managed to keep them away. Eleven years
later the Persians succeeded in invading the
island. In 479 BC Naxos became a member of the
Delian League but left it in 466BC. The island
became a vassal state to Athens until the city
was defeated by the Spartans during the
Naxos was to fall under many great states; once
again under the Athenians, then the Macedonians,
after that the Egyptians and finally it fell
under Rhodes' power. In 41 BC the island was
conquered by the Romans.
When the Venetians invaded the Cyclades islands
in Greece ,Naxos fought for forty days at the
Byzantine castro Apalyrou, but the islanders
were finally defeated and was made center for
the The Aegean Duchy under the Venetian Marcus
Sanudos in 1207. The duke himself made a strong
fortress and the Venetian rule lasted for 300
years. In 1564 the island was invaded by the
Turks, but they basically just collected taxes
from then on. The Venetian Rule was to be the
main rule, which can be seen in the fact that
there still are quite a few Catholics on the
island. In May 1821 Naxos was liberated.
What to See-The most characteristic image of
Naxos is the great gate just outside Chora. The
locals call it the Portara - the great door, and
it is the most photographed spot on the island.
The gate was built in the 6th century BC by
order of the tyrant Legdames. It was to be a
to the god Apollo, but the building was
abandoned when war broke out between Naxos and Samos. Later, Christians built a church on top
of the unfinished temple.A very good time to go
to the gate is in the evening when you will get
to see a fantastic sunset. You can also see
Paros from here.
Parts of the temple was also used to build the
castro in Chora. The castro is dominating the
Old town, all its little streets lead to it. The
archaeological museum of Naxos here is well
worth a visit. It is located at the commercial
school and used to be a place where catholic
monks had a school. The famous Greek writer
Nikos Kazantzakis (Zorba the Greek , The last
Temptation of Christ ) stayed here for a while.
The Metropolitan church of Ag Nicodemus and
Nectarius was built 1780-87 which was built
partly with ancient remains. It hold a priceless
New Testament which was given to the church by
Catherine of Russia according to tradition.
The church of Ag Kyriaki used to be where the
hidden school was held during the Turkish rule.
Just outside the village Galanado stands the
Tower of Belonia. Next to it is the church of St
John, which is half Catholic, half Orthodox. At
the village Vivlos or Tripodes stand windmills.
In Prompona a good local wine is worth a try.
At the village Ano Sagri is the monastery of Ag
Eletheriou, which used to be a hidden school
during the Turkish rule. Another monastery is
dedicated to St. John, and here excavations
indicate that there used to be a 6th century BC
temple to the goddess Demeter here. You can also
visit the Castro of Apalyrou.
The village Apiranthos is also called the marble
village, since many buildings and streets here
are made of marble. It has many beautiful
and you can go to the tower of Zevgoli from the 17th century and the tower of
Bardani. There is also a small museum here with
various findings from the east part of the
island. You should also try the local wine.
At the village Flerio there is a 7th century
statue lying on the ground. It is a kouros, or
boy, with a height of 6,40 meters. If you want
to climb the Za (Zeus) mountain this is the
place to start. You can also take a two hour
walk from here to the ruins of the monastery
Fotoides. The Byzantine capital of Naxos was
Halci, and there are still venetian castles
there as well as the oldest lemon distillery of
At the village Moni you can visit the monastery
of the Virgin Mary with its old wallpaintings.
The village Koronida or Komiaki is the highest
village on the island, built at 700 meters above
the sea level. The village Apollona has the
remains of an ancient temple to Apollo, with a
ten meter statue lying on the ground.
From Galini you can go to the monastery of the
ΥπσιVirgin Mary (Panagias tis Ypsiloteras) which
is also called Tower of Agelakopoulou, which was
the surname of the last owner. In the 17th
century this was a monastery. From here, the
people of Naxos fought both Venetians and
pirates. Close to Agios Arsenios is a 17th
century monastery to St John as well as the
oldest church on the island: Ag Mamas from the
The first thing any visitor sees when arriving
by sea to Naxos Town is the magnificent marble
gate, a megalithic 6th century BC portal of
Apollo's Temple, known as Portara. It stands on
a narrow strip of land on the islet of Paltia,
also called the Baths of Ariadne. In Naxos Town
there is an extremely interesting archaeological
museum at Cathedral Square which displays ruins
and artefacts excavated from the ancient Agora
of Naxos. The impressive 13th century Venetian
castle that dominates the town was built on the
site of the ancient acropolis. The castle
contains the Catholic Cathedral with a double
faced 12th century icon and a museum that has a
significant collection of early Cycladic
idols. There is also a Byzantine museum and a
Venetian House museum as well as many mansions
with beautiful marble coats of arms where some
of the ancestors of the original Venetians still
live. In the area of Grotta in Naxos Town is the
ancient Mycenaean city.
Part of this city is now under water but you can
still see some of the ruins of it.
Inside Naxos Town there are interesting
monuments and archaeological sites to visit. The
most important of these are ancient marble
quarries at Melanes and Apollon. Here the
visitor can see the partially carved remains of
statues of young men, The Kouroi. The largest of
these is Apollon Kouros which is four times life
size. It is thought that these statues which
were begun in the 7th century BC were not
finished due to flaws in the stone. In the
Eggares region it is possible to visit the
remains of Mycenaean tombs.
On the east of the island is a fertile valley.
Here you will find the remains of the 6th
century BC Temple of Demeter, close to the
pretty little cobbled village of Ano Sangri.
Also here is the refurbished Bazeos Tower which
was built in the early 17th century AD.
Originally a monastery it
now hosts exhibitions
and concerts during the summer months. Also at
the village of Sangri are some very
well-preserved windmills and several Venetian
castles that are worthwhile to visit. In the
area of Livadi are the four temples of Dionysus
which are thought to have been constructed in
9th-8th centuries BC, This archaeological site,
known as the Iria Ancient Site, is one of the
best archaeological sites on the island. Visit,
too, the beautiful 17th century Zevgoli castle
which perches on a rock at the entrance to the
village of Apirathos. Another famous sight of
Naxos are its towers, known as Pyrgi. There are
around 30 of these structures and they are the
remains of fortified manor houses built between
the 15th and 18th centuries AD. Particularly
interesting ones can be seen near the villages
of Filoti and Melanes and also at Chora Naxos,
Halki, Galanado and Sangri. There are many very
old churches dotted all over the island such as
the spectacular 11th century Aghioi Apostoloi
and Aghios Diassoritis which has one of the best
preserved 12th century frescos. There are also
many wonderful caves to see. Especially amazing
is the Cave of Za which is dedicated to Zeus and
contains some fantastic stalagmites. It is
thought that the cave has been used since
prehistoric times due to the fact that
prehistoric remains have been found inside it.
What to Do : Apart from all the places to
visit, there are various water sports offered at
the beaches. If you like fishing, you will find
you're not the only one here. It is also a good
idea to try and get on a daytrip to one of the
neighboring islands. A boat trip to Delos is
definitely a must for people interested in
history and archaeology since it is covered with
Naxos Beaches Naxos is the perfect place
for a beach holiday. Many believe it has the
best beaches in Greece and there are both sand
and pebble beaches.. Basically, there are so
many places to go that you just should explore
it yourself. Amongst the most popular places are
Agia Anna and Ag Georgios. There is also a beach
in Chora if you don't want to leave the town.
Most nudists go to Plaka. The southern coast is
the calmest, so if it is a windy day that's the
best place to go. Most beaches are connected
with good roads, except the ones in the north
and south. Sufers prefer Mikris Viglas or Azala.
Families with children are recommended to go to
Sahara Beach, where there also is a variety of
water sports offered. Kastraki is excellent for
Nightlife: Naxos nightlife is quite
varied, with both bars and clubs playing Greek
or foreign music. Most of the partying goes on
in Chora, but during high season Ag Anna also
gets quite busy. Beach parties are to be
Food - There are many choices of restaurants on
the island of Naxos, especially in Chora.
Although the taverns in the harbour are very
nice, you should also walk around and bit and
discover the lovely little places in the side
streets. Try the local wine and lemon liqueur!!!
Shopping: Since ancient times Naxos has
produced extremely fine wines, known as 'the
Nectar of the Gods'. In Greek mythology it was
the island of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine.
The local meat of beef and goat is delicious due
to the animals being reared in their natural
environment. The milk that comes from these
animals is used to produce the famous Naxos
cheeses, for example, Graviera, Sour cheese,
sour Myzithra, Anthotyro and Kefalotiri which
are all outstanding in quality and flavour. The
island also produces top-quality citrus fruits,
(from which the famous citron liqueur (kitro) is
made), olive oil, potatoes and grapes. Unusually
for a Greek island, Naxos Town hosts a morning
market outside the Agricultural Bank where local
fruit and vegetables can be bought. In Naxos you
can buy cloths and broidery, copies of the
Cycladic figures, olive oil, cheese, honey, wine
and lemon liqueur. You can also get antiques and
icons, but anything older than 1821 can not be
exported without a special permit. You can also
get leatherwear, rugs, clothes and jewellery.
Getting Around In Naxos there is a quite good
bus network as well as taxis, car and bike
rentals. The roads of Naxos are surprisingly
good for a Greek island. The buses can take you
to most of the villages and beaches of the
Getting There: There are frequent ferries
leaving from Piraeus throughout the summer
months. The time taken from Piraeus is around 6
hours or 3-4 hours on the high-speed ferry. The
Flying Dolphins and the Catamarans also go to
Naxos from Piraeus and take around 4 hours.
There is also a small airport where there are
daily flights from Athens and flights to and
from Crete or Santorini. The flight normally
takes around 30 minutes from Athens. There are
boat connections from Naxos to Paros as well.