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Naxos holidays are so much fun because there’s a lot on offer.
My list of the best things to do in Naxos includes seeing the sights, tasty experiences and active things you can try during your holiday. There’s something to keep everyone happy on this beautiful island and enough to keep you busy for weeks.
I often hear people recommending others to go to Paros instead of Naxos because there’s more to do. But that’s not been my experience at all (and I’ve lived on both islands.)
Things to do in Chora (Naxos Town)
Get Lost in Kastro and the old town
Kastro, the medieval castle/old town area of Chora Naxos is lovely to walk around.
There are lots of little shops in the narrow, pretty streets. It’s the kind of place that’s fun to get lost in. You’ll always stumble across a new street, shop or taverna.
Step behind the buildings of the main port road to find this maze of streets in the traditional old town where plenty of locals still live. It’s a pleasant stroll in both the morning and around sunset (although note there are lots of steps, some steep hills and uneven footing).
wonder at Portara
As your wander around the Kastro keep going until you get to the Portara. The Portara (the door to Apollo’s abandoned temple) is the symbol of Naxos and stands at the end of the port.
People say the best sunsets in Greece are seen from Santorini but those in Naxos are pretty outstanding. I highly recommend you walk up to this imposing marble entrance just before sundown and watch the sunset from here. It’s magical.
Visit the Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum is nestled within the Kastro area in a five-storey mansion. When I went it was free to enter and had one room of archaeological finds from the Naxos and neighbouring islands.
It’s a really interesting collection of items and I always find it fascinating to see what’s been found locally. Many of the pieces were found around the Grotta beach area of Chora.
There are other parts of the museum, including a large mosaic floor, that were temporarily closed off.
Opening times: 9am – 2pm everyday except Tuesday
Telephone: +30 22850 22725 / Email: [email protected]
Laze on Agios Georgios Beach
Right in Chora, you’re lucky enough to have a gorgeous sandy beach. If you’re staying in town you have everything right on your doorstep. This beach has shallow, clear water, beach bars and umbrellas as well as stretches of just sand.
It’s a really lovely beach to swim in as the waves don’t get too big. Stay for the sunset.
Get Some Personalised Greek Sandals
There’s a sandal shop in Naxos called Pagonis where you can have Greek sandals custom made to your design spec. You choose everything from the colour of the sole and the straps to the style of straps.
You can have any combination of what they offer. They have loads of choices and you might find a pair on the rack that takes your fancy.
I got some made and what I liked was that I could get a woman’s style of shoe for my size UK 10 / Euro 44 feet! How it works is that you go in and choose your style. They measure your feet and then they make the straps and the top part of the sole.
You go back in a day or two later and they check the straps are the right length for you. Once they’ve checked how everything fits they finish the sandals for you. When you go back to collect they check everything over again and make any final adjustments.
The cost of custom sandals is around 10 euros more than the off-the-shelf equivalent.
See a Film at the Outdoor cinema
Cinema might be an odd thing to go on this list since you can go to the cinema anywhere. But do you? Maybe you just never get time at home so it would actually be a treat. If you fancy it, then there’s a cute little open-air cinema in Naxos.
The films are shown in English with Greek subtitles and usually have two showings. Double-check before you go but they normally run at 9pm and 11pm. If the film’s a long one, there will only be a showing at 9pm.
The cinema is on the edge of Chora opposite the Spar Koutelieris supermarket on the road towards the airport.
Historical Sites to See
Temple of Demeter
This temple was built for Demeter (sometimes Dimitris), goddess of Agriculture. It was created on a hilltop in an agricultural valley with the intention to bless the land with fertility.
It’s well worth a visit while you’re on the island. It’s set on a small hill in a beautiful valley and there’s a nice walk up from the road. As well as seeing the remains of the marble temple itself your ticket also gives you access to the little onsite museum.
In Greece, this structure is considered highly significant from an architectural point of view. The sanctuary is built entirely from marble and the remains are well enough maintained to understand the architecture of the time. It’s thought to have been a precursor for other major structures in the country.
Ticket prices vary depending on the time of year and there are concessions available. Opening times are 8:30am – 3:30pm every day except Tuesday.
The road to reach the temple is good if you go via Sagri village. If you go straight from the main road on what is a more direct route you’ll take a dirt road that has some large stones. Go the other way if you can.
Outside there’s a small amount of parking on the road and in terms of facilities, there’s also a free toilet just outside the museum.
Yria Archaeological Site
Although this is considered architecturally as important there’s not as much to see at the Temple of Dionysos as at the Temple of Demeter. But if you’re in Chora I think it’s worth a short visit and the 3 euro entry.
When I visited the site was really peaceful and the energy felt good. If I didn’t have to be somewhere I would have stayed longer and just enjoyed the atmosphere. I thought the gardens the remains are set in was lovely. Beyond the temple ruin is a wooded area with benches.
There’s also a small museum displaying items recovered from the site.
This site is only about 5km from Chora in the countryside close to Glynado. The Google Maps location is accurate. The opening times are 8:30am – 3:30pm every day except Tuesday. Entry price varies by season.
A kouros is an archaic sculpture that often represents Apollo but these were also created for local heroes like sportsmen. You’ll usually see the statues posing with the left foot slightly forward and their arms down by the sides. In Naxos, there are three kouroi in two different sites.
Just outside Apollonas in the north of the island, there’s an ancient marble quarry. Here you’ll find Kouros of Apollo, a huge statue of Dionysus. He was probably on his way to the temple at Yria when he was abandoned.
No one’s quite sure why. Either it was decided he was flawed and thus ditched. Or, the work wasn’t paid for and so the statue was not delivered.
The location of this old quarry is interesting. Statues were apparently slid down the hillside to the port at Apollonas. From here they were taken to places like Delos where many items are from Naxos.
Although it’s fascinating to think about how long ago this work was created and how it would have been transported, there’s not actually much to see. Apollonas is quite a way from Chora so if you’re coming for this also go to Apollonas village.
The bay is lovely for a swim and there are some restaurants to have lunch in. The drive up there is also very beautiful with amazing views.
Flerio Melanes Kouros
There are two abandoned statues at the Flerio site. One is relatively easy to find and the other is a bit further up from the road. I managed to find both quite easily with Google Maps. The site is next to the Flerio spring and there are ruins of a sanctuary there too.
You can park close to the spring and then follow the road round to the left on foot to find the first kouros. Next to the path for it, there’s a gated field that has a cafe. When I went it was closed because of COVID. You might have more luck another year.
After you’ve seen the first kouros go back to the main path and continue. The way to Faragi Kouros is a bit sparsely signposted and is a bit of an uphill trek. But the walking directions on Google Maps kept me right.
Just when I thought I might have gone the wrong way I realised I was nearly there. You have to go through a gate or two on the way up.
If it’s not too hot while you’re there you can also walk to Potamia in around 30 minutes. Follow trail 6 from the spring.
Mount/Cave of Zas
Mount Zas is the highest peak in the Cyclades. It’s the place where Zeus is said to have grown up and been given his thunder from an eagle. The Cave of Zas is on the mountain too, well before the summit.
There are various versions, but some people say the cave is where Zeus lived as a child. The trek to the top of Zas is somewhat challenging and there are two options. Various artefacts have been recovered from the cave and are now displayed at the Archaeological Museum.
Climbing Zas option 1: Beyond Filoti on the road to Apirenthos, you’ll see the turning on the right signed for Mount Zas and Aria Spring. If you follow this road you can walk up to the spring.
The Cave of Zas is about 20 minutes beyond and you can continue walking from the cave up to the summit. However, this is the most difficult route and the path is pretty vertical.
(Note there also isn’t much parking this way. There is a parking place on the way and then you have to walk up the tarmac road for quite a bit to get to the spring. Don’t park in the space at the very top of the road, it’s needed for turning.)
Option 2 is to start from Agia Marina and is a more steady incline. To find the starting point on Google Maps look for either Saint Marina Holy Chapel (don’t put in Agia Marina because it’ll take you somewhere else) or head for Danakos and Monastery Fotodoti and then look for the church and signs.
Whichever way you go the views from the top are worth the effort. Make sure to take plenty of water, a hat and wear decent trainers or walking shoes. It’s not something I’d recommend in the height of summer but if you’re walking in any sort of heat then go early in the morning.
More of Naxos
Drive the island
I think just getting in the car and exploring is a great way to happen upon interesting things. It’s something I recommend you do in Naxos because the drive alone will treat you to beautiful sights and smells.
Hire a car and just head off up the island. Choose the roads that take your fancy and see where you end up. Take your swimming cossie in case you come across a deserted alcove. And be ready to stop to explore a pretty village, there are plenty in Naxos.
See also Should I Rent a Car in Naxos?
Discover the Traditional Villages
Naxos has lots of lovely traditional villages and it would be a good idea to see some of the mountain villages Naxos has to offer during your stay. Here’s a short summary of some of them.
For more details, you can see this post about nine traditional Naxos villages you have to see.
Filoti is the biggest village in Naxos and used to be the administrative capital of the island. Now it’s a popular place for tourists to visit. Its whitewashed cube houses are built into the hillside by Mount Zas. The main street is the hub of activity with shops and cafes under the big plane tree.
Chalki is on the road towards Filoti. It looks very different to other villages on the island as the buildings have a strong Venetian influence. Park on the road and have a wander through the narrow streets off the main road.
Damalas is just off the road to Chalki. It’s a very small village with a nice little olive press museum, a folklore museum and a pottery shop.
Apirenthos is the marble village and has been voted one of the prettiest villages in Europe. It has a number of small museums, winding marble streets to discover and street cafes to enjoy.
Potamia is actually 3 villages, Ano Potamia, Mesi Potami, and Kato Potamia. There’s a nice walk that connects the three of them. You’ll find nice tavernas and Saint Anna’s Winery is at Kato Potamia.
Eggares has the Olive Museum and is close to Galini where you can get tasty food and take part in a cooking class.
Apollonas is a little fishing village with a lovely big bay and is close to the Kouros.
Melanes is close to the Kouroi and old watermills. You can also see the modern-day marble quarry where the marble on the hillside has been cut like slices of butter!
Moutsouna is a small seaside village right over on the east coast about an hour’s drive from Chora. It’s a beautiful drive out to the harbour that was important when the island’s emery was in high demand. You can visit the mines and still see the rail tracks in the port today.
See the Murals at Alyko
Alyko beach is beautiful. It’s all white sands and turquoise waters against a protected cedar forest backdrop. It’s a lovely place for a walk as well as to relax and have a swim.
Someone else thought the same and decided to build a hotel in this protected area. It didn’t come to fruition due to a lack of planning permission so now the abandoned hotel sits in ruins along the coastline.
A famous street artist has brightened it up and it’s worth a visit. Very Instagrammable. Just watch your footing as you wander around, it’s basically an abandoned building site. Make sure to look at the murals from the artist’s designated viewpoints for maximum effect.
Sun Yourself on the Beautiful Beaches
There are many beautiful, sandy beaches in Naxos, especially along the south west coast. I highly recommend sending a portion of your holiday enjoying them.
I’ve written more in this post about the best beaches in Naxos. But here’s a quick recap of some you’ll find:
Agios Georgios – already mentioned above, this is really convenient if you’re staying in town. A lively beach with bars and music plus organised umbrellas and beds.
Agios Prokopios – near the most touristy part of the island close to shops and tavernas
Plaka Beach – huge stretch of white sand. You might find nudists at the northern end.
Mikri Vigla – a windy beach with deep water, great for wind and kite surfing.
Kastraki – shallower waters and a good family beach and better if you prefer quieter and secluded beaches (although it’s not a hidden beach)
Enjoy Some Live Music
Check out Cycladia cultural space and see what’s on their calendar. If you’re lucky you can enjoy some live music or even a workshop or class on something completely different.
Foodie Things to Do
What food is Naxos famous for?
After living there all winter I realised when I moved how spoilt I’d been in Naxos with fresh fruit. The valleys are lined with fruit trees: lemons, oranges, pomegranates, figs, apricots and tens of thousands of olive trees. Much of the fruit is exported to other islands and to Athens.
Potatoes are a standout star (yes, the humble tattie!) The Cycladic soil makes perfect growing conditions and you’ll taste the best potatoes you’ve ever had in your life.
You don’t need to go far on Naxos to see goats, goats and more goats. Thanks to them, Naxos makes several of its own cheeses. You can sample the cheeses at various places on the island.
Many restaurants also use the local sheep and goats in their dishes. I found that really hard given that I walked past the livestock every day. But if you like eating meat, then you know exactly where it’s coming from.
Beekeeping is another income producer for Naxos. Driving around the island you might notice clusters of hives on the hill terraces. The bees are surrounded by many local herbs and so thyme honey is very popular.
Thanks to all of this Naxos has a range of activities that foodies will enjoy. Here are some to add to your list.
Olive tasting at Eggares Olive Press
When you visit Eggares Olive Press Museum, you get a nice little tour of the press. The team tell you about how olive oil was originally produced and the history behind all the equipment.
After the education, you get to do a tasting of loads of products. You get a little tray with croutons to taste the olive oils of your choice. There are all types of flavours including chocolate, saffron and, my favourite, truffle.
You also get to sample lots of different olives -who knew there were sweet olives?- as well as olive tapenade and olive marmalades.
I really enjoyed the experience and of course, you can buy any of the products as gifts or souvenirs to enjoy back home. The shop also has a line of body care products made with olive oil. My favourite bit was getting to try those samples too.
The tour is free and you can also stop for coffee and cake outside afterwards.
Naxos Cheese Tasting
There are a couple of cheese shops in Naxos including one on the main shopping street. If you go to Apirenthos you can also do cheese tasting up there
For the tasting at Naxos Cheese Shop, you get to try out a variety of different cheeses all made locally on Naxos. In this experience, you get 10 kinds of cheese to try out with chutneys, crackers, olives and a glass of wine.
You’ll also get a small tour of the old dairy and hear about the history of each cheese and how the different types are made.
If you’re a cheese lover this is definitely one to squeeze in. At the time of writing, the experience lasts about an hour and costs 15 euros. Book directly in the shop.
Naxos Cooking Class
When I stayed in Chillia Vrisi, my friend told me about Platia restaurant in Galini. The village is just off the main road from Chora to Eggares (on the way to the Olive Museum) which I drove many times a week. I never made it for a meal but I found out they do brilliant cooking classes too.
The experience sounds amazing. Not only do you get to cook and eat your meal, but you also do plenty of sampling. And a tour of the family farm while things are cooking. See the info for the Platia cooking classes here.
Saint Anna’s Winery
In bygone eras, Naxos was famed for its wine which was shipped out all over the country and beyond. While there are still a lot of vineyards on the island, Naxos only has one winery.
Go along and meet Manolis Petrakis the young man that’s running this venture. As a teenager, he started learning wine-making from his grandad, spending all his holidays on Naxos. Now he’s building a growing business and his passion for the art of wine-making is obvious.
The tour and tasting session lasts about two hours. Manolis will show you the church that gave its name to the winery. It’s one of the oldest in Naxos and you can see frescoes still on the wall.
Then he’ll show you around his land, telling you about the produce and what he creates with it. Learning about the different processes he uses to make 7 distinct kinds of wine is really interesting.
Obviously, the best bit is at the end when you get to try those wines and have a taste of some of the olives and vegetables he grows.
You can book your place online via the winery’s website.
If you like a drink, then try out Kitron. It’s a liqueur exclusive to Greece and made only in Naxos from the leaves of the Citron tree. The leaves are picked through the winter and then distilled to the desired level.
Water and sugar are added to get three levels of drink (amount of sugar and alcohol strength). Natural colourings are added to help distinguish them.
You can find bottles of Kitron in the local products section of the supermarkets and Promponas Distillery in Chora does distillery tours. You’ll get to try local citrus products and liqueurs, along with a selection of very tasty appetisers. M. G. Vallindras distillery in Halki also offer short tours and tastings.
Try a Pie
Try out Spanakopita or another traditional pastry at the local bakery. Spanakopita is a filo pie stuffed with spinach and feta and I love it! There are a couple of variations as well as other traditional sweet pastries and biscuits to try.
In my experience, the best spanakopita can be found at Sitári Bakery, Chora (near Admiral sports shop) and at ArtoViglismata, the bakery in Mikri Vigla.
Pop Into Little Farm
Stop off at Little Farm just outside of Vivlos and see produce growing on a natural farm. Kostadis will show you his field with lettuce, leeks, broccoli, sugar cane, various herbs, calendula, peppers, passion fruit and more! He sells eggs from his chickens and wonderful cheeses he makes himself.
Kostadis’ wife is vegan and keeps him right with the animals. They have a number of goats on the farm who aren’t forced to reproduce. Because of this and because they don’t take on more goats than they have space for, they work with other local farmers to get enough milk or the cheeses.
Kostadis confirmed that he works with farmers who allow the animals to roam freely. (Although illegal now, hobbling – where an animal’s legs are tied together – is still common in Greece.)
The couple also looks after a lot of stray cats. Buying from the farm means that as well as supporting the family, you’re helping contribute to the sterilisation of the cat population on Naxos.
Indulge at AKTAION Boutique
AKTAION is a VIBE and is the best pastry shop in Naxos. They always make the shop look lovely and I like to see what themes they do for different times of the year. As well as traditional Greek sweets, they do THE BEST ice cream, stunningly designed cakes and exquisitely themed biscuits.
They have an indoor and outdoor seating area or you can take away a delectable creation. There is a small outlet on the seafront at Chora that only opens in peak season.
The main shop is on the edge of town and it’s worth a walk up from the port for sure. If you really need to work up an appetite, walk beyond the shop to Theologaki. It’s a lovely little church built into the rock. It’s uphill all the way, so you will need to have an ice cream to cool down on the way back!
Active Things to Do
Naxos has many good hiking trails that are generally well organised. There’s a real contrast in the areas you’ll walk through and it’s a great way for discovering hidden gems.
Buy a walking map at one of the tourist shops around the island or just pick up a trail from a marker. Either way, have plenty of water with you, wear a hat and don’t go out in the midday heat.
Scuba Diving in Naxos
Nima Dive Centre, Naxos located in Agia Anna and comes highly recommended. As well as running various recreational and specialist scuba diving courses, they do organised dives to various wrecks and reefs off Naxos.
I was hoping to complete part two of my own Open Water qualification here but it didn’t happen due to lockdown.
Kitesurfing in Naxos
Naxos is a windy island (like Mykonos) throughout the year so it’s perfect for kitesurfing. There are numerous places offering sessions. You’ll find them mostly at Mikri Vigla and Kastraki beaches running along the west side of the island.
I walked past Naxos Kite Life many times through the winter and saw the surfers out on the waves. You’ll find the kite surfing school right by the beach at Mikri Vigla.
If you’re an absolute beginner wanting to give this a shot they have lessons for you. They also hire out kit only if you’re a pro who knows what they’re doing.
The centre runs a long season in normal times and opens by request through the winter. I haven’t made it there yet but I quite fancy giving this a go.
Cycling in Naxos
Personally, I find Naxos quite hilly and would not like to attempt cycling too far on a mountain bike. I have, however, seen many hardcore cyclists enjoying it. I’ve passed both road cyclists and mountain bikers so pick your passion. If you fancy something a little more leisurely you can hire electric bikes too.
Naxos Bikes offer a variety of different bikes for hire from 10 euros per day. They also organise group rides and private cycling tours of Naxos. Find them just up from the port at the bottom of the castle.
Day Trips from Naxos
Popular day trips from Naxos include:
- Boat trips for example to Rina Cave or the Small Cyclades.
- Bus tours of the island:
The KTEL (public buses) runs Naxos Bus Transfers which offers tours of the island. They have two routes plus a beach option.
The two main routes take in some of the prettiest villages, historic sites, and cultural places to visit. Route One runs Mon/Weds/Fri 9:30 – 5:30 and Route Two runs at the same time on Tues/Thurs/Sat/Sun.
These are run by a multi-lingual tour guides and both options include transfers to and from your hotel.
- Delos and Mykonos Tour
For some history and Greek mythology, you can visit the sacred island of Delos, next to Mykonos island. Although it’s not straightforward to visit from Naxos on public transport in one day you can take an organised boat trip.
It goes via Paros to collect passengers and then the day is split between Delos and Mykonos.
Visiting Neighboring islands from Naxos
There are more islands scattered around the Aegean Sea close to Naxos that are easy to visit.
Nearby islands include Paros, Antiparos (accessible via Paros) and the small Cyclades islands of Iraklia, Schinoussa and Koufounisia. These are all great for island hopping or as day trips with Naxos as a base.
Is Naxos on Your List?
I hope by now you’ve seen what a beautiful island Naxos is and how much it has to offer. It’s one of my top islands, and after spending seven months there during lockdown, it’ll always feel like home. Once you visit, I think you’ll fall in love with it too.