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Since it’s not one of the most well-known islands, people ask whether Naxos is worth visiting. Having lived here for seven months I can say it definitely is, hence this Naxos Travel Guide.
I’ve written this comprehensive travel guide to introduce you to Naxos. The island has a special place in my heart and I think you’ll feel the same after you visit. I’ve included practical travel tips and answers to some common travel questions about Naxos.
Why Visit Naxos?
Naxos, in the popular Cycladic group of islands, really is an all-around solid choice for a holiday in Greece. It’s the largest of the Cyclades. As such it not only has a good variety of things to see and do but it’s also pretty easy to get to.
Even in the winter ferries run regularly between Athens and Naxos (although there are many more in the summer). Naxos is well connected to other Cycladic islands and Crete plus the Dodecanese.
Again the routes are more extensive and frequent in the summer months. The island also has an airport with domestic flights to Athens.
What is Naxos Like For a holiday?
This South Aegean island has beautiful beaches to laze on, mountains to hike, historical sites to visit, traditional villages to discover, amazing food and enough of a nightlife for you to enjoy your evenings.
In my experience, the people are friendly, and the island has a laid-back feel. It’s not pretentious, no-one’s there to see or be seen.
And there’s plenty going on whether you’re looking for things to do in Naxos for two days or two weeks. You can choose to do as much or as little as you like. If you want to feel like you’re amongst other tourists with somewhere to go out for a drink, you can. And if you’d prefer to stay in a more traditional place, then you can choose that too. Oh, and Naxos has some of the best sunsets you’ll see.
What is Naxos Known For?
Naxos is particularly well known for its beautiful long beaches of golden sand. Almost the whole southwest coast of the island is beach.
Naxos is also famous for its food. There’s the renowned Naxian potato and many local cheeses plus olives and grapes for oil and wine.
It took a while for tourism to become something that Naxos embraced because the island historically made money from agriculture. You’ll find a wonderful array of produce growing on Naxos and I urge you to sample as much as you can.
The well-marked hiking routes through beautiful environments mean that walking in Naxos is also something the island is known for. Naxos is very green.
Unlike some of its neighbours, Naxos has a number of natural water sources. These springs ensure that the island is much more verdant than is typical for the Cyclades.
Historically Naxos has been famous for its marble and pumice stone. You can see how abundant marble is whether you’re walking through the villages or walking on a path in the countryside.
If you visit Melanes and the surrounding area you can see the marble quarries where the stone is being taken from the mountains. Up past Apirenthos in Koronas you can see the old pumice quarries.
Something else unique to Naxos is the Naxos Eye. It’s a shell that’s been worn away over time to a particular shape and pattern. Although you can find similar “eyes” elsewhere the pattern that the Naxos shells have is quite distinct.
Keep your eyes peeled on the beach and see if you can find one.
When to Visit Naxos
The best time to visit Naxos is mid-April – July and then September – mid-November, in my opinion.
The summer season in Naxos normally starts around the end of April/beginning of May. (Basically whenever Orthodox Easter falls, which is a busy time and travel can be hectic). The summer season ends around the middle of October in Naxos.
Avoid August if Possible
In July, and particularly in August, the island is much busier. Greek people take their holidays in August and flock to their summer homes. On the 15th of August, there is a big religious celebration which is one of the busiest times of the year.
It is also much hotter although the Meltemi winds stop the temperatures from rising to the same level as the mainland.
If you come in the shoulder season, eg April, end-October, November it’s likely that the weather will be changeable. Bring layers and be prepared for some rain and cloudy days.
The sea is warmer at the end of the season than at the start since it’s still holding temperature from the summer. In April the sea is still quite cold but the weather can be hot.
I’ve swum in the sea at the end of April although the water was only about 17 degrees. It took a few attempts to get in! But because the sun was so hot and the air temperature was about 28 degrees it was doable.
Earlier in April we still had quite cloudy, damp days but temperatures were very mild, in the early twenties.
Is Naxos Open in The Off-Season?
Yes, Naxos is open in March and it’s absolutely possible to visit Naxos out of season between November/December and April. A lot of people live on Naxos year-round.
Having said that, if you’re travelling out of season it’s best if you come to enjoy strolling quiet beaches, see the ancient sanctuaries, hike the walking trails and visit museums.
The touristy parts of the island in Agia Anna, Prokopios and Plaka absolutely do wind down after the summer. All the bars and shops along the beach in these places close down. The odd restaurant in Agia Anna stays open but that whole stretch is like a ghost town in winter.
Where to stay in Naxos
There are lots of options for accommodation in Chora. Many near the port and around the Agios Georgios area by the beach which is a popular area to stay. You can find some accommodation here all year round (mainly apartments in the off-season).
Other popular tourist areas on the island are Prokopios, Agia Anna and Plaka. All of these basically run into the next along the west coast of the island.
During the winter, pretty much all facilities in these areas close down. You might still find an apartment to rent but the hotels and beach bars, car hire places etc are all closed.
How Big is Naxos?
It takes about 90 minutes to drive the length of the island and 60 minutes to drive the widest part.
Is Naxos windy?
Yes, Naxos is a windy island like neighbouring Mykonos. Most of the Cycladic islands experience the northern Meltemi winds that blow seasonally.
They’re usually strongest in July and August but you might experience them in some of June and September too. However, the cool wind is welcome in the hot summer months. It helps keep the temperatures from becoming unbearable.
Aside from the Meltemi, I found Naxos to be pretty windy in the winter too. Sometimes it was quite a biting, northerly wind. The southerly winds are milder and humid.
How Many Days Do I Need in Naxos?
Give Naxos more time than less, there’s a lot to do. I’d recommend at least five days but if you can only spare three then you can still get a good flavour of the island.
Should I rent a car in Naxos?
I think renting a car in Naxos is a good idea. However, you don’t have to. You can have a great holiday staying local to Chora or the touristy parts of the island and bus-ing between them and other parts of the island. There are a few things to consider when hiring a vehicle in Naxos.
How Do I Get Around Naxos?
You can travel around Naxos island by car, bus, taxi or private transfer. I wouldn’t recommend a scooter or quad/ATV.
Public buses run from Chora to the popular beaches and to the island’s villages. In the summer they are frequent and you’ll easily get to and from the beach or some of the villages you’d like to explore.
The KTEL (public buses) also runs Naxos Bus Transfers which offers tours of the island. They have two routes plus a beaches 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.
RadioTaxi Naxos is available on +30 22850 / 22444 or walk to the port to get a taxi. Alternatively, if you’re staying in a hotel they will be able to help you. Your Airbnb will probably have a taxi number on display for you too.
Naxos Luxury Tours offer chauffeur services and will arrange private, custom tours for you of any length.
But if you’re on the island and would like to go out in the evening there are definitely places you can get a sunset drink. Take a stroll along the port and then stop at one of these spots:
- Like Home Bar serves up cocktails with a great view of the port.
- Swing Cocktail Bar has good music, uniquely presented cocktails and another great view thanks to the rooftop bar.
- The Rum Bar is another bar on the seafront, this one with an impressive menu of rum varieties.
How Far From Athens is Naxos?
In the summer season, it’s possible to get to Naxos on the ferry in around 3 hours. In winter it’s more like 5.5 hours or even longer if your ferry stops at a lot of islands on the way.
Flight time from Athens is about 25 minutes.
How Do I Get to Naxos?
Throughout the year, ferries run daily to Naxos from Pireaus Port in Athens. In the summer there are several services per day with both fast and slow ferries. The journey can take around 3 hours.
In winter, Blue Star Ferries run a service that leaves Piraeus for Naxos around 7:30am and then a second one around 5:30pm. Both journeys are about five and a quarter hours.
During the summer, Naxos is very well connected to a lot of the other Cycladic islands.
Flights to Naxos from Athens take about 25 minutes and run throughout the year. It’s also possible to arrive by helicopter. Ferry travel is part of the charm of island hopping so consider slow travel as a part of your holiday/vacation, rather than an inconvenience.
Arriving at Naxos Port (or Leaving)
Naxos port is right in Chora so it’s super convenient. You’ll walk off the boat and straight down the pier. As you come to the main road there is:
- a car rental area where your rep will meet you if you’ve arranged car hire at the port
- a taxi rank on the right just behind the car hire area
- the bus station in front of you to your left
If you’re leaving from Naxos port there are three covered waiting areas. Each will be signed with which waiting area is for which ferry. Next to the waiting areas is a small cafe with an outdoor toilet.
Is There Left Luggage at Naxos Port?
Yes, there are a couple of options for left luggage at Naxos Port. If you want to arrange it all online then you can do so through Stasher. In my experience, that’s usually more expensive than booking directly with places that already offer a luggage drop-off service.
Proto Tourism, for example, is right opposite the taxi rank. You can leave your bags in a locker there, but it’s not open all year round.
Speak with your hotel or Airbnb and see if they offer luggage storage, too.
Arriving at Naxos Airport
Naxos Airport is about 10 minutes from Chora. You can arrange to collect a rental car from there, or you can get a taxi when you arrive. No buses run to/from the airport.
Is Naxos near Mykonos or Santorini?
Naxos is part of the Cyclades which includes both of these famous islands. So yes, Naxos is near Mykonos and Santorini.
From Naxos to Mykonos takes about 40 minutes on the ferry. Santorini is a bit further from Naxos and takes about 2 hours on the ferry.
Which other islands are near Naxos?
Although this is a Naxos travel guide I am going to mention another few islands. However, bear in mind that while you might be able to do a day trip to some of these islands, less is probably more.
Include them in your island-hopping itinerary and by all means, visit if you have plenty of time in Naxos. But a last-minute decision to spend a day travelling and seeing another island might not be the best idea on a short trip to Naxos. Anyway, you get to decide!
Paros is very close to Naxos, about a 30-50 minute ferry journey away. Beyond Paros is Antiparos, only accessible via boat from Paros.
Iraklia and the other Small Cyclades lie just to the south. Behind Naxos is Donoussa.
Tinos, Syros, and Ios are within a couple of hours, and the rest of the Cyclades are also reachable.
In summer, many connections pass through Naxos. In the off-season, from around mid-October until mid-April there are fewer inter-island connections.
Sustainable Travel and Social Responsibility
In Naxos, it’s ok to drink water from the village taps. Fill up your water bottles or containers from there to save on plastic during your stay. On your travels, you might come across natural springs too. Some are safe to drink from but only do so if they are marked as potable.
Contributing to the Local Economy
In Naxos, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to contribute to the local economy. Many hotels, Airbnbs, restaurants and services are family-run by locals and you’re directly supporting those people.
There’s also an abundance of local produce you can buy directly from the producers, like Kitron from the Vallindras Distillery, wine from Saint Anna Winery and fruit, veg, cheese and more from Little Farm. You’ll find local cheeses, eggs and wine in the supermarkets.
If you’d like to support the animal welfare society to feed, rescue and rehome stray cats and dogs you can do so here. They don’t have opening hours for visitors, but they are grateful for any donations.
If you see a pet or farm animal being kept in cruel conditions you need to contact the police directly.
Your trip to Naxos
Well, that rounds up your Naxos Travel Guide. I think you’ll agree that it’s a beautiful island with lots to see and do. I really hope you get to experience the island.
Like I said at the beginning, it has a special place in my heart. It was the first island I came to as part of my bucket list island-hopping adventure and the one where I officially became a Greek resident. Although you might not decide to stay in Greece forever, I’m sure Naxos will touch your heart too.