Naxos is the largest and most diverse island in the Cyclades, a group of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. With a rich history, a unique culture, and stunning natural beauty, Naxos offers endless opportunities for exploration and relaxation. From ancient monuments and medieval castles to sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, this island has it all. Whether you are a history buff, a beach lover, a foodie, or an adventurer, Naxos will captivate your senses and leave you with unforgettable memories.
In this article, we will guide you through the top tourist sites, best beaches, best restaurants, and best places to stay on the island. We will also provide information on ferry services to other islands, so you can extend your island-hopping adventure.
History of Naxos
Naxos is a beautiful island located in the Cyclades, a group of islands in the Aegean Sea. The island has a rich and fascinating history, which spans thousands of years. From the ancient times to the modern era, Naxos has played an important role in the cultural, political, and economic life of Greece. In this article, we will explore the history of Naxos in the Greek islands, with a timeline of the most significant events.
Prehistoric Times (5000 BC – 1100 BC)
Archaeological findings suggest that Naxos has been inhabited since the Neolithic era, around 5000 BC. The island was one of the main centers of the Cycladic civilization, which flourished in the Aegean during the Bronze Age (3000 BC – 1100 BC). The Cycladic people were known for their artistic skills, as evidenced by the famous Cycladic figurines, which depict human figures with geometric shapes and clean lines.
Classical Antiquity (1100 BC – 323 BC)
In the 8th century BC, Naxos became a part of the ancient Greek world. The island was colonized by Ionians, a group of Greeks from the eastern coast of the Aegean. According to legend, Naxos was the birthplace of the god Dionysus, the patron of wine and theater. In the 6th century BC, the island became a prosperous center of trade, thanks to its fertile land and strategic location.
In 490 BC, Naxos participated in the Battle of Marathon against the Persians, along with other Greek city-states. In 480 BC, the island was occupied by the Persians, but it was liberated by the Athenians a year later. In the 5th century BC, Naxos became a member of the Delian League, a military alliance led by Athens, which aimed to protect Greece from Persian invasion.
Hellenistic Period (323 BC – 31 BC)
In the aftermath of the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, Naxos became a part of the Hellenistic world. The island was successively ruled by the Macedonian dynasty of the Antigonids, the Ptolemies of Egypt, and the Seleucids of Syria. In the 3rd century BC, Naxos experienced a cultural and artistic revival, as evidenced by the construction of temples, public buildings, and theaters.
Roman and Byzantine Era (31 BC – 1204 AD)
In 31 BC, Naxos became a part of the Roman Empire, after the conquest of Greece by Julius Caesar. The island flourished under Roman rule, as it was an important producer of wheat, wine, and marble. In the 4th century AD, Naxos became a part of the Byzantine Empire, which lasted until the 13th century AD. During this period, Naxos became a center of Orthodox Christianity, as evidenced by the numerous churches and monasteries on the island.
Venetian Rule (1204 AD – 1566 AD)
In 1204 AD, after the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders, Naxos became a part of the Latin Empire of Constantinople. In 1207 AD, the island was conquered by the Venetians, who ruled it for almost 400 years. During this period, Naxos became a major center of commerce and culture, as the Venetians encouraged the development of agriculture, trade, and art. The island was also a major producer of emery, a rare mineral used for polishing metals.
Ottoman Occupation (1566 AD – 1821 AD)
In 1566 AD, Naxos was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, who ruled the island for almost 250 years. During this period, Naxos was a part of the Ottoman province of the Aegean, which included several other Greek islands. The Ottoman rule had a significant impact on the island’s culture, as the Turks brought their language, religion, and customs. However, Naxos remained a predominantly Greek Orthodox island, and the Ottomans did not interfere with the island’s religious practices.
Greek War of Independence (1821 AD – 1832 AD)
In 1821 AD, the Greeks revolted against the Ottoman Empire, in a war that lasted for 11 years. Naxos played an important role in the war, as the islanders supported the Greek cause and provided shelter to Greek rebels. In 1822 AD, a major battle was fought on the island between the Greeks and the Ottomans, which resulted in the liberation of Naxos. The island became a part of the newly formed Greek state in 1832 AD.
Modern Era (1832 AD – Present)
After the Greek War of Independence, Naxos experienced a period of economic and cultural growth. The island became a major center of agriculture, as it produced high-quality crops such as olives, citrus fruits, and potatoes. Naxos also developed its tourism industry, thanks to its beautiful beaches, picturesque villages, and historical sites. Today, Naxos is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece, attracting visitors from all over the world.
- 5000 BC – Neolithic settlements on Naxos
- 3000 BC – Cycladic civilization
- 8th century BC – Ionian colonization
- 490 BC – Battle of Marathon
- 480 BC – Persian occupation of Naxos
- 5th century BC – Naxos joins the Delian League
- 323 BC – Naxos becomes a part of the Hellenistic world
- 31 BC – Naxos becomes a part of the Roman Empire
- 4th century AD – Naxos becomes a part of the Byzantine Empire
- 1204 AD – Naxos becomes a part of the Latin Empire of Constantinople
- 1207 AD – Venetian conquest of Naxos
- 1566 AD – Ottoman occupation of Naxos
- 1821 AD – Greek War of Independence
- 1832 AD – Naxos becomes a part of the Greek state
In conclusion, the history of Naxos in the Greek islands is a long and fascinating one, spanning thousands of years. From the prehistoric times to the modern era, Naxos has been an important center of culture, commerce, and politics. Today, the island is a living testament to its rich past, with numerous historical sites, museums, and monuments.
Top Tourist Sites in Naxos
Portara Portara is the iconic temple of Apollo and the symbol of Naxos. It is a massive marble gate that stands on a rocky islet at the entrance of Naxos harbor. Portara dates back to the 6th century BC and was part of a larger temple complex dedicated to Apollo, the god of light, music, and prophecy. Today, Portara is a popular spot for sunset watching and photography, as it offers panoramic views of the Aegean Sea and the surrounding islands. You can reach Portara by walking across a narrow causeway that connects it to the mainland.
Old Town of Naxos The Old Town of Naxos is a labyrinth of narrow alleys, charming houses, and medieval architecture. It is located in the heart of Naxos Town, the capital and main port of the island. The Old Town dates back to the Venetian era, when Naxos was a prosperous trading center. You can wander around the maze-like streets and admire the colorful doors, the bougainvillea-filled courtyards, and the stone arches. Some of the must-see sights in the Old Town are the Catholic Cathedral, the Ursuline Convent, the Archaeological Museum, and the Folklore Museum.
Kastro Kastro is the Venetian Castle and the panoramic view from the top. It is located in the Old Town of Naxos and dates back to the 13th century. Kastro was built to protect the island from pirates and invaders and served as the administrative and social center of Naxos for centuries. Today, Kastro is a popular spot for history and architecture enthusiasts, as it features impressive fortifications, a marble gate, a medieval tower, and several mansions. From the top of Kastro, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Naxos Town, the port, and the mountains.
Kouros statues The Kouros statues are the ancient marble sculptures in Melanes and Apollonas. They are two of the most significant archaeological sites on Naxos and showcase the artistic and religious achievements of the island’s ancient inhabitants. The Kouros statues are life-sized male figures that date back to the 6th century BC and were probably used as grave markers or votive offerings. The Kouros statue in Melanes is incomplete and lies in a lush green valley, while the Kouros statue in Apollonas is well-preserved and overlooks the sea. Both sites are accessible by road and offer a glimpse into Naxos’ ancient past.
Best Beaches in Naxos
Agios Prokopios Agios Prokopios is one of the most famous and longest beaches in Naxos. It is located on the west coast of the island and offers golden sand, crystal-clear waters, and a lively atmosphere. Agios Prokopios is ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports, such as windsurfing and kiteboarding. The beach is organized, with plenty of sunbeds, umbrellas, and beach bars. However, if you prefer a quieter spot, you can walk further down the beach, where the crowds thin out.
Plaka Plaka is a long and wide sandy beach that stretches along the west coast of Naxos, just south of Agios Prokopios. It is a more peaceful and secluded alternative to Agios Prokopios, with crystal-clear waters and a pristine natural setting. Plaka is ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and long walks on the beach. You can find some beach bars and taverns, but they are not as numerous as in Agios Prokopios.
Mikri Vigla Mikri Vigla is a small and picturesque beach on the west coast of Naxos, between Agios Prokopios and Plaka. It is famous for its strong winds and ideal conditions for windsurfing and kiteboarding. However, even if you are not into water sports, Mikri Vigla is worth a visit, as it offers stunning views of the sea and the surrounding hills. The beach is not as crowded as Agios Prokopios or Plaka, and you can find some cozy taverns nearby.
Alyko Alyko is a hidden gem on the southwest coast of Naxos, close to Pyrgaki and Kastraki. It is a secluded and unspoiled beach, surrounded by dunes, cedar trees, and turquoise waters. Alyko is ideal for nature lovers, as it offers a peaceful and untouched setting. You can find some small beach bars and taverns, but they are not intrusive.
Best Restaurants in Naxos
Taverna Axiotissa Taverna Axiotissa is a cozy and welcoming restaurant in the Old Town of Naxos, close to the Catholic Cathedral. It offers a wide variety of Greek and Mediterranean dishes, made with fresh and local ingredients. Some of the must-try dishes are the grilled octopus, the seafood risotto, and the moussaka. The restaurant has a charming courtyard and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of Naxos Town.
Meltemi Meltemi is a seafood restaurant located on Agios Prokopios beach, with a stunning view of the sea. It offers a wide selection of fresh fish and seafood, prepared in various ways. Some of the must-try dishes are the grilled calamari, the seafood platter, and the lobster spaghetti. The restaurant has a cozy and elegant atmosphere, with friendly staff and excellent service.
To Elliniko To Elliniko is a traditional Greek tavern located in Kastraki, close to Alyko beach. It offers authentic Greek cuisine, with homemade dishes and local specialties. Some of the must-try dishes are the lamb chops, the stuffed tomatoes, and the fava. The tavern has a lovely garden and a relaxed atmosphere, perfect for a casual dinner with friends or family.
Scirocco Scirocco is a gourmet restaurant located in the heart of Naxos Town, close to the Archaeological Museum. It offers creative and modern cuisine, with a Mediterranean twist. Some of the must-try dishes are the lobster risotto, the beef fillet with truffle sauce, and the chocolate mousse. The restaurant has a chic and sophisticated ambiance, with a well-stocked wine cellar and an attentive staff.
Best Places to Stay in Naxos
Naxian Collection Naxian Collection is a luxurious hotel complex located on a hillside in Agios Prokopios, overlooking the sea. It offers elegant and spacious suites and villas with private pools, hot tubs, and balconies, as well as a spa, a restaurant, and a pool bar. The hotel is surrounded by a lush garden, with olive trees, bougainvillea, and lavender, creating a serene and romantic atmosphere.
Naxos Island Hotel Naxos Island Hotel is a stylish and modern hotel complex located in Agios Georgios, close to Naxos Town. It offers comfortable and well-equipped rooms and suites, with balconies or terraces overlooking the sea or the garden. The hotel has a swimming pool, a fitness center, a restaurant, and a bar, as well as a tennis court and a playground for children.
Iria Beach Art Hotel Iria Beach Art Hotel is a charming boutique hotel located on Agia Anna beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on Naxos. It offers tastefully decorated rooms and suites, with balconies or verandas facing the sea or the garden. The hotel has a swimming pool, a spa, a restaurant, and a beach bar, as well as a library and an art gallery, showcasing the work of local artists.
Nissaki Beach Hotel Nissaki Beach Hotel is a family-friendly hotel located on Saint George beach, in the heart of Naxos Town. It offers comfortable and spacious rooms and suites, with balconies or terraces facing the sea or the town. The hotel has a swimming pool, a restaurant, and a bar, as well as a playground and a kids’ club, making it an ideal choice for families with children.
Ferry Services to other Islands
Naxos is a convenient hub for exploring the nearby Cycladic islands, as it has frequent ferry connections to many destinations. Some of the most popular island-hopping routes from Naxos are:
- Naxos to Mykonos: The ferry trip takes about 45 minutes, and there are several daily departures in the high season. Mykonos is known for its cosmopolitan vibe, its picturesque town, and its lively nightlife.
- Naxos to Santorini: The ferry trip takes about 2-3 hours, and there are several daily departures in the high season. Santorini is famous for its breathtaking caldera, its colorful villages, and its romantic atmosphere.
- Naxos to Paros: The ferry trip takes about 30 minutes, and there are several daily departures in the high season. Paros is known for its traditional villages, its sandy beaches, and its relaxed ambiance.
- Naxos to Ios: The ferry trip takes about 1-1.5 hours, and there are several daily departures in the high season. Ios is famous for its golden beaches, its picturesque town, and its vibrant nightlife.
- Naxos to Koufonisia: The ferry trip takes about 1-1.5 hours, and there are several daily departures in the high season. Koufonisia is a hidden gem of the Cyclades, with crystal-clear waters, unspoiled nature, and a laid-back vibe.
10 interesting facts about Naxos
- Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades group, with a total area of 430 square kilometers.
- According to Greek mythology, Naxos was the childhood home of the god Dionysus, who later became the god of wine and fertility.
- Naxos is home to the famous Portara, a massive marble gate that was once part of a temple dedicated to the god Apollo.
- The island is known for its production of citron liqueur, which is made from the fragrant citron fruit that grows abundantly on the island.
- Naxos is famous for its cheese, particularly the hard, white cheese known as graviera, which is made from sheep’s milk and is often used in Greek cuisine.
- The island has a rich tradition of music and dance, and is home to many music festivals throughout the year.
- Naxos has a diverse landscape, with rugged mountains, lush valleys, and beautiful beaches.
- The island has a long history of agriculture, with many traditional farming practices still in use today.
- Naxos is home to several impressive archaeological sites, including the Temple of Demeter, the Temple of Apollo, and the Sanctuary of Dionysus.
- The island is known for its unique and delicious cuisine, which features many local specialties such as kitron liqueur, Naxian potatoes, and fresh seafood.
In conclusion, Naxos is a versatile and charming island, with something to offer for every type of traveler. Whether you are looking for stunning beaches, delicious food, luxurious accommodation, or island-hopping adventures, Naxos is the perfect destination for you.