Is Naxos Worth Visiting? 9 Reasons We Think It Really Is

is naxos worth visiting?

Is Naxos worth visiting on your Greek island adventure this year? Read on! This guide will pinpoint a few of the top reasons it most certainly deserves to be part of an isle-to-isle adventure in the home of feta cheese and smashing plates.

The largest of the uber-popular Cyclades islands, it is filled with things to do and things to see. It’s beset by craggy mountains of limestone that lurch above the Aegean Sea like petrified giants and comes writhed in fig orchards and olive farms. Where it hits the coast, you get all sorts of postcard-worthy beaches and coves, stretching out in long runs of gold-flecked powder before sparking shore waters.

We’ll also touch on the charming villages of old Naxos, where looming temples and crooked farmsteads meet tavernas serving the island’s famous mezze platters, all with the effort of answering is Naxos worth visiting for you this coming season. Let’s go…

For the beaches

Naxos beaches
Photo by David Kaloczi/Unsplash

Is Naxos worth visiting for the beaches alone? The answer is probably yes. This is the largest of the Cyclades chain, remember? That means extra kilometer counts on the coastline and loads of beaches and hidden coves and sailing bays to go around. 

On top of that, the fact that Naxos isn’t anywhere near as popular as, say, Mykonos or Santorini, means that you often find that there will be fewer people crowding up each individual spot.

But what are the beaches like? They differ from coast to coast. The western side of the island is the best looking of the lot. It’s also the most popular, but still not as packed in the midsummer as other Cyclades isles. The best beach-hunting area there stretches south from the main town into a string of gorgeous bays with soft sand and clear water. They include:

  • Agios Prokopios Beach – One of the best family beaches on the island, protected from summer winds and home to lots of tavernas.
  • Plaka Beach – Naxos’s most famous beach, filled with sunbeds, topped with gold-shimmering sand, and with lovely clear waters that lend themselves to swimmers.
  • Aliko Beach – Further south from the Hora town is this deserted cove by an ancient forest; very remote, very romantic.

We also love venturing out to see the western side of the island. There, the roads turn to narrow country lanes and the beaches become small scythes of pebbles with a lining of reefs. They tend to be wavier in the winter, a touch better for snorkeling in summer, but also usually completely deserted.

For the history and the myth

Naxos temple
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Naxos has a very prestigious place in the annals of ancient Greek history. Legend has it that this was where the great god Zeus was raised, in a cave somewhere on the highest peak inland (now called, appropriately, Mount Zeus). You can even visit the cleft in the mountain where the deity was brought up – it’s a big opening just south of the village of Filoti.

When myth ends and history begins on Naxos is a bit of a blurred boundary. That’s because the temples and the castles that also await look like something plucked from a fantasy novel. The most iconic is probably the Temple of Apollo in Hora. It’s actually on a tiny separate island but is connected to Naxos’s main town by a walking causeway. It dates from the 5th century BC and is thought to have been raised to honor the god of archery. Today, it’s a favorite place to go to watch the sunset.

Around the main peaks at the heart of the island is a ring of pretty impressive historic landmarks that can be visited if you have your own rental car (or even by foot). They include the muscular Apano Kastro, a hulking great big castle constructed by the Venetians in the 13th century, and the Faragi Kouros, a haunting ancient statue that now lies in ruins in the shade of a chestnut tree.

Visit Naxos for the food

Naxos taverna
Photo by Terry Vlisidis/Unsplash

Naxos is known as one of the most fertile of the Aegean islands. The soaring highlands at its center act like something of a cloud magnet, which bring rainfall to the most altitudinous parts of the rock even in the summer months. Don’t worry – that shouldn’t affect your beach lazing down at sea level, but it does help feed a varied range of farms and growing areas further up the ridges.

In fact, Naxos is famous around the region for its juicy figs and zingy citrus fruits. Olive trees also grow in abundance on the lower slopes, while the cooler parts of the inland are filled with corn and wheat fields, along with loads of potato and legume plantations. You could probably make a whole smorgasbord of Greek mezze from things grown in the earth here!

Talking of Greek mezze…Naxos offers plenty of that. Our favorite tavernas include Taverna H Mina on the hills just up from the western beaches, and Taverna Manolo in the heart of Naxos’s main Hora town. They’ve got menus of crispy dakos breads (a sort of feta-topped sandwich inspired by Crete), fried sprats fresh from the Med, and BBQ veg straight off the charcoal grill.

Because it’s not all that hard to get to

Naxos from a sailboat
Photo by Envato Elements

Naxos isn’t one of those rare Greek isles with an airport of its own. That means direct flights from UK or EU airports are a no-go. However, it does sit smack dab in the heart of the Cyclades island chain, and that inevitably means that Naxos is eminently accessible in a way that other islands in the Aegean simply aren’t.

You’ve got a couple of options open to you. Flights to Mykonos or Santorini will put you real close by. There are loads of those throughout the main travel season of the spring, summer, and fall. From each island, you’ll need to organize and onward transfer to the port and then a ferry link, which takes about 1-2 hours in all before pulling into the harbor in Naxos. Easy.

Once you’re on Naxos, we’d very much recommend renting a car. The reason? This is actually the largest of the Cyclades. That means oodles of beaches to hop, mountain villages to get to, and all sorts of hidden nooks and crannies. The public transport system isn’t up to getting you from A to B but car hires don’t tend to be uber-expensive.

For the nightlife

Naxos towns
Photo by Johnny Chen/Unsplash

Is Naxos worth visiting for the nightlife on its own? Probably not. There are better Greek islands for that, and some of them are only a few hours’ ride away on a ferry – think Ios and Mykonos. However, that’s not to say Naxos has zero nightlife. The truth is it’s got a pretty vibrant after-dark scene, especially if you stick to Hora and visit between May and August when most of the crowds are around.

Things tend to start early with a sunset beer around six or seven in the evening. The main street behind Naxos dock has a string of cocktail bars that spill out onto the sidewalks, and even some with rooftop terraces to maximize the west-facing view of the Aegean Sea. There are also some great beer spots at the north end of Plaka Beach, close to fantastic tavernas for when it’s time to turn that tipple into food.

If you’re keen to keep partying, delve into Hora’s heart. There’s a mix of buzzy venues there that includes the chic longball establishment of Sante Cocktail Bar and the trumpet-blowing Jazz & Blues – guaranteed to get your feet stomping. You’ve also got one or two more stylo, electro clubs that will draw a younger crowd, like Babylonia.

For the quaint towns and villages

Naxos town
Photo by Johnny Chen/Unsplash

Naxos isn’t only about casing out the west-coast beaches and dipping local breads in local olive oils. It’s got some pretty charming towns and villages to get through on top of that. In fact, it’s the authenticity and rawness of those that give this island its indelibly honest side, setting it apart from the more touristic haunts of the greater Cyclades – Mykonos, Ios, even Milos.

You’ll almost certainly start in Hora. Also known as Naxos Town, it’s the main settlement on the island and the place that most of the boats come in. But it’s not just a ferry terminal. It’s been settled since ancient times, as testified by the looming ruins of a great temple to Apollo over the far side of the harbor. From there, you can wander into the maze that is the old center and get lost (seriously, don’t bother with a map!). It’s a montage of cobbled lanes and squat white cottages strewn with bougainvillea. Lovely.

There are a few other charming stopovers, both along the coastline and up in the mountains, that we’d say you should add to the map if you’re keen to unravel the rich character of Naxos:

  • Apollonas – A sleepy fishing village with tavernas along its shoreline over on the east coast.
  • Apiranthos – Drive the wiggling roads up Mount Zeus to find this uber-charming village of old workshops and tree-shaded squares. It’s not for nothing that this one’s often considered to be the jewel in Naxos’s crown.
  • Halki – Charge the camera ready for that visit to Halki. Once the island’s capital long ago, it’s now a pint-sized settlement of crooked cottages and donkey-stalked alleys.

For the day-trips and onward travel opportunities

Naxos boat
Photo by Romanos Senikidis/Unsplash

Naxos isn’t just one of the largest of the Cyclades islands. It also sits smack dab in the heart of the chain, and smack dab in the heart of the Aegean Sea to boot. That makes it a pretty obvious place to add to your island-hopping itinerary if you’re planning a bucket-list sailing or ferry adventure across this much-loved part of Greece.

There’s no shortage of places to consider going to next, and there are lots of ferry connections from Chora port to nearby islands to make it easy if you’re not lucky enough to have your own yacht. Our top choices would include:

  • Paros – A bustling hub of the Cyclades, this one is served by lots of ferries and gets super charming in the whitewashed port town of Naousa on its north coast.
  • Santorini – Do not miss Santorini if you haven’t yet been. It’s an island on the top of an old volcano that’s one of Europe’s bucket-list draws.
  • Iraklia – Escape the crowds by hopping a smaller ferry to Iraklia, an island of very chilled port towns with some truly empty coves.
  • Ios – Party all night on this hedonistic Greek island.

For the hotels

Hotel resort in Greece
Photo by Envato Elements

Naxos has a pretty decent array of accommodation choices. A quick search on Booking.com reveals just shy of 1,000 options across the island. That’s not up there with the multitudes that you get on Mykonos or Santorini, but is indicative of an island that’s quieter, more chilled, more local than those.

What’s more, there are some very characterful options in the mix here. We’re talking country cottages covered in blooming flowers, cozy Greek townhouses sandwiched between tavernas, and villas with pools that offer a taste of luxury and enough space for the whole family.

Our picks would be:

  • Naxos Earth Suites – This is a very stylish hotel with a gorgeous outdoor pool area that has sweeping views of the Naxian coast. It would probably be our pick for honeymooners and loved-up couples, since the rooms are highly curated affairs done out in traditional Greek styles.
  • Taki’s Guests – A cozy little bolthole in Naxos Town, Taki’s is a popular hideaway near the tavernas, bars, and main marina.
  • Naxian Air – Situated on the coastal plains of Naxos, close to the beaches but also near the mountains, Naxian Air is a bit of an agritourismo, offering tasty food platters alongside rooms that channel the rustic vibe of the island. It’s truly gorgeous.

For the chilled vibe

Naxos vibes
Photo by Tho-Ge/Pixabay

Capping off our list of reasons why Naxos most certainly is worth visiting is the basic fact that it’s not as busy or developed as many other members of the Cyclades islands. While Santorini and Mykonos can often seem like one long stream of hotels, bars, cafés, and spas, this one’s not like that at all. It retains its authentic Greek character and offers lots of places where you can go to get away from the buzz of life.

R&R happens easily in the east-coast villages, for example. There, you’ll watch as the fishing boats come in each morning, have long Greek lunches, and sunbathe the whole day away. In shoulder seasons like October and in May, you can often do all that without meeting another tourist once, too. Nice, eh?

Even the more built-up areas of Naxos – largely to the south of Hora and around the capital – aren’t that built-up. Most of the hotels are low-key Greek guesthouses or boutique hotels with just a handful of rooms. It’s not common to find massive, multi-story resorts looming over the sands, and there aren’t many colossal millionaire yachts clogging up the bays, either.

So, is Naxos worth visiting?

Is Naxos worth visiting? You bet it is! We’d list Naxos as one of the quintessential isles of the Cyclades. It’s very much at the heart of Greece, offering a great balance of pretty much everything you want from an R&R trip to these isles. It’s got the beaches – especially on the west coast. It’s got the rustic charm – in lovely highland hamlets like old Apiranthos. There’s also plenty of ancient history to go around, along with tavernas that serve food grown and cooked right there on Naxos itself.

Reece Toth

Reece is the creator and editor of Travel Snippet. He has visited more than 38 countries over a 10-year period. His travels have taken him through the majestic mountains of Italy, into the cities of central Europe, across the islands of Indonesia, and to the beaches of Thailand, where he is currently living. He is passionate about travel and shares his expertise by providing the best travel tips and tricks to help you plan your next adventure.

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