top of page

Visiting Naxos, Greece: Exploring the Island of Hidden Treasures

Updated: 2 days ago


Visiting Naxos, Greece was a happy travel accident.


When planning out trip of a lifetime to Greece, we originally planned on only visiting Athens, Mykonos, Delos and Santorini, but we had such difficulty finding a suitable (for us) hotel in Mykonos, that we had all but given up on the idea of visiting the island. The main caveat stopping us from giving up altogether was our desire to visit the fascinating nearby island of Delos.



The Temple of Apollo, Naxos, Greece
The Temple of Apollo, Naxos, Greece


Late one night, we began researching nearby islands to Mykonos, hoping one would have a connection to Delos and offer us a second option. The first island that appeared in our research was Naxos, and the very first attribute that peaked our interest were the large number of ancient ruins located on the island.


We immediately fell in love with Naxos and decided we had to find a way to squeeze a visit into our itinerary.


We did eventually stumble upon and book the beautiful Rocabella Mykonos Hotel, but decided to reduce our planned time on the island of Mykonos, so that we could spend more time exploring the fascinating island of Naxos. And we are so grateful we did.


Once our time in Mykonos came to an end, we arranged for a driver from Rocabella Mykonos Hotel to drop us off at the nearby Mykonos port. We had purchased ferry tickets in advance, but before we were able to join the huge groups of people waiting to board the ferry at the Mykonos port, we needed to pick up our physical tickets at the port office.



Small coffee shop near Naxos Port, Greece
Small coffee shop near Naxos Port, Greece


Though it was very easy to navigate, with so many people loitering in the Mykonos port area, it was inevitable that confusion would set in for some tourists. Many people arrived very close to the time when the ferry boat should be have docked (most ferries in Greece are notoriously late) and were not only shocked by the amount of people, but frustrated that they needed to wait in long lines to get their tickets.
















 

TIP: Most ferries in Greece, no matter the island, are notoriously late. It is still recommended that you arrive at the ferry port early (at least an hour) so that you have time to pick up or purchase tickets and find a convenient place to stand and wait. Once the ferry arrives, there is a mad but efficient rush of people, so best to be near the front and be among the first to board.

 


Club Class Room, Ferry to Naxos, Greece
Club Class Room, Ferry to Naxos, Greece

We opted to pay a few extra dollars and book Club Class ferry tickets. This provided us a separate, enclosed sitting area with a little more quiet and comfort. The Club Class room provided bucket leather seats with tables and charging stations. The standard ticket qualifies for any open area seating available on the vessel.


With a Club Class ticket, you also get a separate area to store your carry on luggage that is located closer to the dock entrance/exit, and a separate staircase into the boat. When leaving however, everyone departs from the same place.



 

TIP: Not only are there different class seats and pricing on each ferry, but there are multiple ferry options for the same Greek island locations, some being faster than others. If you are flexible with your departure times and dates, you can research the available options and select the speed and class that works best for your itinerary and budget.

 

The ferry operators on all boats are very efficient at moving everyone along and off the boat. Once we landed at the Naxos port, we quickly maneuvered our way away from the crowd of people exiting the ferry. We then searched among the vehicles parked nearby and found the pre-arranged pick-up from our booked hotel, Cyano Suites, waiting for us.





There is no shortage of beautiful accommodations available on the island of Naxos, but we, in our humble opinions, found the absolute best.  Cyano Suites offers four luxurious rooms located directly on the beach, in the heart of the downtown core, but on a quiet street. We opted for the Premium Suite, which is essentially a grand apartment on the upper level of a small apartment complex, with an unobstructed view of the water and the magnificent Temple of Apollo.


Stylistically decorated in white stone with bamboo accents, the Premium Suite included three separate balconies, two bathrooms, two showers, two separate sitting rooms, and a huge indoor jacuzzi bath, plus a mini-fridge with beverages and coffee maker. Even with all the included amenities, the booking included daily breakfast, served at the sister location, Hotel Adriani, just a few minutes walk down the street.



View of the Temple of Apollo from Cyano Suites, Naxos, Greece
View of the Temple of Apollo from Cyano Suites, Naxos, Greece


The breakfasts were simple, but rich and decadent, all lovingly homemade and presented in a small buffet room at Hotel Adriani. As soon as the breakfast dish was ready, the quiche or tart or (God help us) the fresh Tiropita, would be walked across the street from (we assume) their family home and placed in the breakfast buffet. Cyano Suites offered us the perfect balance of luxury and small town hospitality, we would highly recommend them to anyone visiting Naxos.


There are many interesting and important sites to see on the Greek island of Naxos. Most tourists visiting Naxos, with an interest in seeing more than the main city (Chora), either rent a car and drive themselves around the island or book a guide. The Naxos countryside is beautiful and seemed, for the most part, with its wide roads and open spaces, very drivable. This may be an option for us on our next visit to the island of Naxos, but for this visit, we preferred to book a guide.



Nicolas and Mocte at The Temple of Demeter
Nicolas and Mocte at The Temple of Demeter


We wanted a private tour of the island with someone who would be able to provide us with the history and interesting tidbits of information that we wouldn't know otherwise. After some research, we found a “local” who was actually an expat from France living in Naxos, Nicolas Lagiere. A lover of art, history and nature he speaks fluent Greek and offers customizable private tours of Naxos. Though we normally opt for tours with locals who can offer insight into their homeland, it was wonderful to get a different perspective on a location from someone who wasn’t born there, but lives there and loves it just as much.


Shortly after arriving, our pre-arranged pick-up from Cyano Suites escorted us to the apartment complex, where we were given a tour of the Premium Suite and dropped off our bags. Nicolas met us shortly thereafter at Hotel Adriani. Soon after hopping in his little car, we inquired about his dog, the beautiful husky we saw in photos on his website.



UNIQUE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE: Looking for something unique to explore while in Naxos? Why not follow a bike trail into the picturesque hills to a hidden ghost town! This west coast mountain bike tour includes pick-up and allows stops for swimming and exploring.


Realizing that we were animal lovers too, we swung by his apartment and picked up the young and excitable Moctezuma (Mocte for short) so he too could come along for the journey. There is something to be said for sharing experiences with an animal by your side. We are so happy that we were able to share our explorations with the excitable and adorable Mocte.



Click below to scroll through photos of the Temple of Demeter:




The first stop on our private tour was the ruins of the Temple of Demeter. Located high upon a hilltop, the white marble ruins are a stark contrast to the green backdrop of the Naxos countryside. In the late 7th or early 8th century, a small orthodox church was built inside the Temple of Demeter. That small Byzantine church has now been removed and placed beside the ruins of the temple. Both structures are beautiful in their own right, as is the spectacular view around them.


 

TIP: The Temple of Demeter is free to visit to all guests, but it is located in the middle of the countryside. Visitors will need to self-drive, book a private guide or a bus tour that will include this location.

 

After leaving the Temple of Demeter, we headed to a very secret location. After having booked the private tour, we contacted Nicolas and inquired whether it would be possible to plant a tree during our time in Naxos, in honour of my father who had passed a couple of years prior. We had been successful at planting trees in each new country we visited since his passing, and wanted to continue that tradition while in Greece. Nicolas inquired with a few locals and happily, one was willing to plant a Cyprus tree on their land.


When we arrived, the tree had been planted, along with a sophisticated irrigation system that would (hopefully) help the tree survive. In addition, we were allowed special (and secret) access to visit the Byzantine Church located on the property. Dating back to the 11th century, the small stone church is unlocked with a large skeleton key, and adored inside with beautiful golden frescos and framed paintings.



Byzantine Church from the road, Naxos, Greece
Byzantine Church from the road, Naxos, Greece


The land owner happily unlocked the church and let us inside, pointing out the many historical artifacts that had been secretly and anonymously left on the church doorstep. As it was explained, if a land owner discovers buried ruins, artifacts or anything of historic significance on their property, Greek law states it immediately becomes property of the state. If it is determined that excavations are required on the land, the owner is responsible for the costs.


Unfortunately, the result is that when a discovery is made, land owners (more often than not) go to significant length to distance themselves from the find, by either leaving the artifact on a public road, near another area of historical significance (like the Byzantine church) or terribly, destroying it. This means than any discovery that remains untouched, will likely never be linked to the actual site it was discovered. During our time on the island of Naxos, we passed many artifacts simply abandoned on stone fences along the main roads.



Broken artifacts found along the road in Naxos, Greece
Broken artifacts found along the road in Naxos, Greece


We thanked the owner for their hospitality and promised not to publish any photos of the church or its beautiful interior, lest the government discover their identity and they be reprimanded for allowing us inside. Though the Byzantine church is located on their property, it technically belongs to the state. Land owners maintain the keys and are allowed to enter only for personal use.



LUXURY TRAVEL TIP: Looking for a private, luxurious visit to Naxos? Book this full-day private historical tour, which include food and wine tastings in local Naxos villages.


From there, we headed towards the picturesque village of Chalki, the once main center of Naxos. (Also known as Halki or Chalkio). Walking through the narrow cobbled streets, we admired the architecture and small town feel. Similar to Mykonos, the streets were narrow and winding, but Naxos is much less frequented by tourists, so it is calmer and quieter. While in town, we stopped in on a few local shops and businesses.



The picturesque village of Chalki, Naxos, Greece
The picturesque village of Chalki, Naxos, Greece


We visited the ancient Vallindras Distillery, now run by three sisters, and sampled the traditional Kitron Liqueur that they have been distilling in the same fashion since 1896. The liqueur is both bitter and sweet and unique to the island of Naxos. Their liqueur makes a great gift or unique souvenir.


We also visited the beautiful Elaiolithos Art Shoppe and the small shop next door selling hand-sewn fabrics and textiles. There we sampled dried and candied kitron peel; the same fruit that produced the liqueur in the Vallindras Distillery. Though the fruit itself is inedible, the candied peel is absolutely delicious. We promptly purchased two packages (one yellow, one green) but later wish we had purchased more.


The last shop, Naxia GI, specializes in edible products, specifically honey and olive oil, but offered a variety of specialized local products. Along with a canister of Greek olive oil, we purchased dried Greek oregano, lemon salt the uniquely rich Heather Honey. Dark in colour, Heather Honey is heavy and thick with distinct caramel flavour notes. Absolutely delicious.





Saying goodbye to Chalki, we headed up the mountain to Rotonda Restaurant, a phenomenal restaurant with a spectacular view. Words cannot properly describe the unbelievable beauty of the location of the Rotonda Restaurant. High up on a hill, the outdoor space is scatter across an open balcony, with gorgeous views of the surrounding hills and valleys below. To learn more about Rotonda, read: Solitary Perfection: An Honest Review of Rotonda, one of the Best Restaurants in Naxos, Greece.



The gorgeous view of the from the Rotonda Restaurant, Naxos, Greece
The gorgeous view of the from the Rotonda Restaurant, Naxos, Greece

It was late October and nearing the end of the season when we visited, and we were the only guests on the panoramic balcony of Rotonda Restaurant. While we waited for our food to arrive, we stood near the edge and marveled at what lay beyond. Like a painting, the blue sky faded into the shadowed layers of the mountains in the distance, It is one of those place that even standing there, it doesn’t look real.


We ordered a cheese plate to start, not knowing it would be a huge selection of local cheeses with fruit and nuts and bread. Every bite was delicious, so much so we nearly finished the entire platter, not wanted a morsel to go to waste. Next, we both ordered a wild mushroom risotto. The sun was just beginning to set and warm comforting risotto complimented the atmosphere. It was decadent, rich and so flavourful. It was easily the best risotto we’ve ever had in a restaurant, hands down.



Click below to scroll through photos from Rotonda Restaurant:





Had we been smart, we would have only ordered one to share, but luckily we were able to take what we couldn’t finish to go. We sipped our Greek coffee (there is always room for coffee) and watched the birds dance within the breathtaking panorama until it was time to go.


Stuffed and relaxed, Nicolas zipped us off further up the mountain to Apeiranthos, also known as the marble village. It was located high up in the mountains, (higher than Rotonda Restaurant, and true to its name, everything was made of marble. We arrived just as the sun was setting and were able to witness the beauty of the sun bouncing off the stark white marble walls, streets and alleyways.


Located so high up in the mountains, as it was explained, the village of Apeiranthos does see snow in wintertime and the town must lay down carpet along the marble pathways and steps to help avoid slippery accidents. After a stroll down the main road, we said our goodbyes to the marble village of Naxos and headed back to Chora and to our beautiful suite.



Click below to scroll through photos from Apeiranthos:





Nicolas was a wonderful host, with plenty of inside information, historical facts and knowledge of the many hidden treasures Naxos hides within her hills. That night, after we watched the sun finally set behind the Temple of Apollo, we soaked in our jacuzzi tub and reminisced on the days activities.


After Nicolas had dropped us off at Cyano Suites, he asked what our plans were for the next day and recommended that we climb up to the small church that was built into the nearby mountain face. The church, he explained, was unique and the view spectacular. Why not?


After breakfast the next day we decided to take his advice. There were few signs to direct you to the Theologaki Chapel, but one main road to climb and follow. Alone on the climb, we took our time but found the incline of the road deceivingly steep at points. As we climbed higher, we could feel it become challenging to breathe.



Theologaki Chapel, Naxos, Greece
Theologaki Chapel, Naxos, Greece


Near the top, the paved roadway seemed to come to an abrupt end and the only way to the steps of the church appeared to be over a steep rocky hill. That climb over the grass and rocks would not have been too difficult, had it not been for the intense wind. Stepping off of the road and onto the grass, we stepped directly into a wind tunnel. We braced ourselves onto the low rocks for fear of losing our balance.


As my husband steamed ahead over the hill, pushing through the wind as quickly as possible, I stepped more slowly and carefully. Upon reaching the church steps, I decided to sit for a moment to allow some relief from the wind behind the partial wall attached to those steps. That's when the vertigo set in. I called out to my husband who had gone inside the church, but could not be heard over the sound of the roaring wind.


The church entrance was only a few steps away but I couldn’t bring myself to stand up, so I sat there waiting for him to emerge. A few moments later, he did appear and confirmed it was small and beautiful inside. The vertigo prevented me from standing up and ascending those last few steps, terrified the wind would blow me off the side of the mountain.



View from Theologaki Chapel, Naxos, Greece
View from Theologaki Chapel, Naxos, Greece


Sitting together on the steps, we caught our breath and enjoyed the spectacular view of the town of Chora below. Once we were ready, we carefully made our way back down the hill, thankful for the adventure and vowing to return one day to do it all over again.


 

Note: We only link to products and services that we have either used or would use, all opinions expressed are our own. Some may be affiliate links, with which we may receive a small commission for purchases made.

 

Back on the main street, we headed past Hotel Adriani and towards the Temple of Apollo, enjoying the views from the waterfront. Along the way, on the islet of Palatia, we ran into a local merchant selling his wares. He carvel images into the beautiful marble found only in Naxos, so we purchased a little souvenir of the carved Temple of Apollo. We are always happy to support local artists.



Local selling marble carvings near the Temple of Apollo, Naxos, Greece
Local selling marble carvings near the Temple of Apollo, Naxos, Greece


The ruins of the Temple of Apollo are impressive to say the least, The doorway (Portara) is enormous and virtually all that remains of the unfinished temple. Each slab of the doorway is comprised of twenty tons of marble. Resembling an ancient picture frame, the doorway stands alone perched on a hill, framing the city and has become a symbol for Naxos. Visiting the Temple of Apollo is free and accessible to anyone staying within the center of town on Naxos.





From the Temple of Apollo, we walked to what is considered Naxos Old Town and into the Kastro. Naxos old town is clustered with multi-level homes and shops with tight turns and cobbled streets. Very similar to the old town of Mykonos, Naxos takes full advantage of the little space available, but the feel is much calmer and less touristy. It is very walkable but can get confusing.


The Kastro (castle) are the ruins of the old Venetian town that is Naxos old town. The tower and walls served as a shield. Inside, we easily got turned around and almost lost within the walls of the castle fortress, admiring the gorgeous ancients doors of the entrance gates. There are only two main entrances to the castle fortress, but the streets within are narrow and winding.



Click below to scroll through photos from the Kastro:





We made our way out of the Kastro and continue to wander the narrow and winding streets of downtown Naxos. After exploring the nearby shops and walking along the waterfront, we headed back towards Cyano Suites for a late lunch.


In our pre-trip research we had discovered a small family run taverna just a stones throw away from Cyano Suites named Plinthos Restaurant. We stuffed ourselves with Greek Salad and feta cheese, tzatziki, pita and spanakopita before heading back to the Temple of Apollo in time to watch the sun set within the doorway.


 

TIP: It is a popular activity to visit the Temple of Apollo at sunset, mainly to attempt to capture the setting sun within the frame of the doorway. We arrived early and positioned ourselves where we wanted to be for the event, but many people soon joined us and crowded around. At the moment, there was some shoving, but most were respectful. Arrive early to find your position, capture the photo and then step aside so others can do the same.

 


Sunset at the Temple of Apollo, Naxos, Greece
Sunset at the Temple of Apollo, Naxos, Greece


The next morning, after another delicious breakfast, we headed to the port of Naxos to catch the ferry to our next destination, Santorini. As expected, there was a bit of a wait for the ferry to arrive, but we passed the time in the nearby café. Our time on Naxos may have been short, but it was full and rich.


The island of Naxos is a true treasure, one that is untarnished by cruise ships and hoards of tourists. The massive structures and impressive ruins are cloaked in its welcoming small town feel. There are riches to be experienced in Naxos, in the history, in the hills, under the earth, in the food and in its people. Like a good meal, it should be savoured slowly, with of course, a strong cup of Greek coffee to finish.

426 views7 comments

7 comentarios


Michele Kinnon
Michele Kinnon
7 days ago

Your photography is beyond stunning. You've completely captured the simple beauty of Naxos. I'll bet you want to go back!!

Me gusta
D Marino
D Marino
7 days ago
Contestando a

Aww thank you. We can't take credit when its such a stunning place, but yes, we only want to go back everyday!

Me gusta

Gabi Zec
Gabi Zec
11 may

Such a pretty white town, great sunsets and cobblestone alleys...

Me gusta
D Marino
D Marino
7 days ago
Contestando a

It really is, so simple and beautiful.

Me gusta

D Marino
D Marino
09 sept 2019

Thanks so much for you comments!

Me gusta

Your story is inspiring me 👍

Me gusta

Meaghan Hunt
Meaghan Hunt
09 sept 2019

Your photos are incredible and this post is so well written. Loved your recommendations. Naxos looks amazing.


MB

meaghan-bethany.blogspot.com

Me gusta
bottom of page