Visitors head to Naxos for its buzzy capital – Chora – as well as challenging treks and serene hilltop villages. Most of all though, they come for the stunning, gold-sand beaches, which shimmer right the way around the island’s coastline.
The largest and lushest of the Cyclades island, Naxos is blessed with a fringe of sandy coves and turquoise shallows to explore, whether you’re bringing the whole family to one of the popular big hitters, or looking for a serene, empty stretch to call your own for an afternoon.
For some of Naxos’s wildest, prettiest stretches of sand, head for the cedar-scented Aliko Nature Reserve, which protrudes from the island’s west coast, a 25-minute drive south of the main port, Chora. This particular sweep of vanilla-coloured sand is so serene and far-flung that it’s been named after the Pacific Ocean archipelago. There are no facilities, so bring a parasol if you can. You may get an eyeful as the odd nudist wanders by.
This unspoiled strand, one of the longest beaches on the island, is a ruffle of silvery-white sand and grassy dunes, with luminous shallows perfect to bob in. It’s a 15-minute bus ride south of Naxos Town – great if you’re here for a flying visit – and has a sprinkling of hotels, apartment complexes and restaurants that make it a lovely base. Elegant, palm-thatched beach umbrellas and loungers are set up for hire by day and you can order drinks from the bars as dusk falls.
This long, sun-bleached crescent is one of the most popular beaches on Naxos. With coarse, pale-gold sand, it is partly set up with beach-club umbrellas and loungers. Chatty waiters bring out sugary iced coffees and mid-afternoon mojitos. But you may prefer to fling your towel on the quieter, umbrella-free half of the beach, away from the buzz – after all, the beachfront restaurants and local boutiques mean there are places to retreat to when the sun is at its fiercest.
Backed by juniper and cedar trees, this southwestern bay of sheltered, cream-coloured sand is a hit with retiring types wanting peace and natural beauty. Away from any main road, it’s down a sandy track, hence the lack of visitors. But families who know the area well rent one of the handful of apartments nearby, then come for its kid-friendly shallows and tree shade. There are two tavernas within walking distance, too, so if simplicity’s you, you could make this your base.
One of the easiest-to-reach beaches from the main port of Chora is the quaint fishing bay of Agia Anna. It’s a busy, dazzling beach. At one end is a huddle of white, ice-gem buildings, including a photogenic chapel, with painted fishing boats moored in front. Along the rest of the golden sands you’ll find thatched umbrellas and cushioned loungers, shady tavernas and beach bars, so come with a bit of cash and make a day of it – sticking around for the sunset view.
Kitesurfers and windsurfers escape the pack on this undeveloped golden beach, a 20-minute drive north of Chora. With a chapel on the hillside and wildflowers growing in the grass behind it, it’s a scenic little spot. The breeze can be fierce, but when it drops it’s a tranquil and swimmable bay for nature lovers and families. Facilities are sparse: during the summer, you can stock up on water and snacks at the one Amitis Bay Cafe, but you’ll have to sort your own shade
Some of the most incredible coves you’ll see on a visit to Naxos are just south of it, on the tiny twin islands Ano Koufounissi and Kato Koufonissi. They’re reached in 40 minutes on a ferry from Naxos Town. This day trip is a must for the ravishingly photogenic Gala Beach, a curve of amber cliff that shelters a pebble beach lapped by milky-blue waters. To make the most of your trip, seek out sandy Pori and Finikias beaches as well as the baby-blue shallows of Platia Pounda.
If you wanted to venture outside the Cyclades you could choose between a boutique hotel or another hotel type in Athens, bookable through Culture Trip. There’s plenty of things to see and do in the capital, and once you’ve eaten at an authentic Greek restaurant you can visit one of the many beaches near Athens.
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.
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