Reasons Why You Should Visit Naxos, Greece

Catch the spectacular sunset views from the Temple of Apollo over the old town on Naxos island
Catch the spectacular sunset views from the Temple of Apollo over the old town on Naxos island | © Milan Gonda / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Anna Kambourakis
29 September 2021

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.

Wander the old town (Chora)

Historical Landmark
Map View
H3MM8H Shops in the old town of Naxos
© Milan Gonda / Alamy Stock Photo
The old town of Naxos has charming streets that you will inevitably get completely lost in – and that’s part of the charm. The narrow, labyrinthine ways are home to quaint restaurants, trendy cafes and small shops selling Greek produce. Not knowing what you’ll discover around the next corner is a key ingredient of the magic. The shop owners are very friendly and eager to show you their goods. Top tip: If you see a souvenir you like, buy it right away because you may never find that shop again.

Relax on Plaka Beach

Natural Feature
Map View
KGDWX3 Plaka beach at the west side of Naxos island, Cyclades, Aegean, Greece
© Helmut Corneli / Alamy Stock Photo
The golden-sand beach of Plaka spans 4km (2.5mi) of Naxos’s southwest coast. Parts of it have been tamed with umbrellas, sunbeds and food and drink service, but most of it is unspoiled – just you, the sand and the sea. There are taverns just on the other side of the dunes that offer great views of the sea and serve traditional Cycladic food. For the ultimate in relaxation, get there early to find a shady spot under the trees and nap to the sound of the sea.

Sample the Vallindras Distillery

Wine Seller, Wine
Map View

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.

Hike the Seven Villages Trail

Hiking Trail
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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.

Take a Marble Tour

Archaeological site, Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark
Map View

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.

Discover the Cedar Forest of Alyko

Building
Map View
CPK42K "Passage" to Alyko beach, at Kedrodasos ("Cedar forest"), Naxos island, Cyclades, Greece
© Hercules Milas / Alamy Stock Photo
Yes, the calm and secluded Cedar Forest of Alyko is a beautiful beach – but it’s so much more, too. The juniper trees line the strand, the cliffs create a barrier from the wind and the water is pristine and bright turquoise. But the real wonder is the abandoned hotel that’s covered with art by the Balinese street artist known as Wild Drawing. It is utterly unexpected – and the perfect place for a photoshoot. Bring your own picnic and spend the day at one with wild nature.

Visit the Temple of Apollo

Historical Landmark
Map View

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.

Admire the Temple of Demeter

Archaeological site, Ruins, Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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CPK423 The ancient temple of Demeter (Demetra), goddess of agriculture, close to Sangri village, Naxos island, Cyclades, Greece
© Hercules Milas / Alamy Stock Photo
Naxos is the most fertile of the Cycladic islands, which may explain why the ancient Greeks devoted a beautiful temple to Demeter, the goddess of grain and harvest. The temple is made from Naxian marble and predates the Parthenon by more than a century. It’s set in the hilltops of the island, and by far the best way to visit this serene and special place is along the hiking paths that take you to smaller historical sites in the area.

Take a boat trip around the island

Building, Sports Center
Map View

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.

Peruse the Archaeological Museum of Naxos

Museum
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EMTNCE Mosaic floor depicting a Nereid riding a bull in the Archaeological Museum of Naxos, Kastro, Naxos Island, Cyclades, Greece
© AegeanPhoto / Alamy Stock Photo
Naxos is littered with history dating back as far back as the Neolithic period. The artefacts, sculptures and marble figures are beautifully displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Naxos. The museum is fairly small and a bit tricky to find, on top of Kastelli hill, but gives visitors a wonderful glimpse of ancient life on Naxos. Don’t be shy to ask questions – the staff is well trained and eager to answer any questions you have about what you’re looking at. The collection of glass vessels from the Roman era (first century BCE to second century CE) is fascinating.

There’s plenty of exploring to do beyond Naxos, like a visit to a beach near Athens or some of the capital’s most historic sites. You can choose between various hotel and boutique options, bookable with Culture Trip. Mark your visit to the capital by eating at an authentic Greek restaurant.

These recommendations were updated on September 29, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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