Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades, with something for every type of traveller. Whether you’re a history buff, a beach bum or a full-on outdoorsy individual, there are plenty of reasons to spend a week or two here. The island has certainly grown in popularity of late, but it has managed to preserve a character all of its own – so you’ll discover authentic Greek experiences with a Naxian twist.
Step into the past with a visit to Vallindras Distillery, in the village of Halki. The distillery-turned-museum hasn’t changed much since it was established in 1896. It’s a great way to learn about the unique citron liqueur that is only made in Naxos – it comes as some surprise to learn that it is made from the leaves, not the fruit. Kitron was the trendiest liquor throughout Greece in the early 20th century. Sample the three different styles from the Vallindras family’s secret recipes and take home your favourite in a fun-shaped bottle.
Hiking through the lush countryside of Naxos is a beautiful, unmissable experience on this marble-stoned path, which takes you through seven picturesque villages. Along the way you’ll pass by waterfalls, ancient marble statues and adorable donkeys. Inhale the scents of the wildflowers and pluck fruit directly from the trees that line that path. The Seven Villages Trail is about 12km (7.5mi) long, but don’t rush to complete it. Stop and enjoy the sites along the way.
Most of what we know about the ancient Greeks is from the sculptural masterpieces they created. For millennia the mountains of Naxos have been quarried for the marble they contain, and artists and sculptors in Naxos still create modern artworks that pay tribute to the past. On a marble tour in Naxos you can visit a quarry to see how marble is extracted, and learn how to create your very own marble sculptural creation to take home. The village of Kinidaros is a good place to start for a unique, hands-on experience.
This giant marble gate of the unfinished temple dedicated to the Greek god of music, Apollo, is the emblem of Naxos. The Portara, as it’s called, is imposing and almost eerie – it stands alone facing the Aegean Sea. As with many ancient Greek sites, there’s an unusual energy on this tiny islet and it conjures up thoughts of all those who walked in these same steps. It’s a short walk from Naxos old town and a magnificent place to be at the end of the day, as it frames the sun sinking, flame-red, into the sea.
Some of the most amazing sites on Naxos and the surrounding tiny Cycladic islands – Koufonissia, Paros, Iraklia, Schinoussa, Donousa – can only be reached by boat. Hiring an experienced captain to take you around the island is worth every penny. While you’re sailing, keep your eyes peeled – sometimes dolphins join in the fun and games. You can stop at secluded beaches and seaside caves, making stops along the way for snorkeling. If you’re a more adventurous traveler you can try cliff-jumping into the sea at Rina Cave.