Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades and it hasn’t been discovered by the crowds yet. What to do in Naxos? Check out this article full of tips!
Naxos: an introduction
The Greek island of Naxos lies in the heart of the Cyclades and is also the largest island in the archipelago. The island has impressive mountain landscapes, a rugged coastline full of beautiful beaches, and a rich history dating back to ancient times. It is therefore a fascinating destination both for history buffs and adventure travelers.
During my week on Naxos, I discovered many charming places on this beautiful island. I saw villages full of whitewashed houses, valleys filled with olive trees, long sandy beaches, and an azure sea with crystal clear waters. I’ve also met many friendly locals.
Naxos is one of the Greek islands that has not yet been discovered by the crowds like Mykonos or Santorini. It’s an island where you can still find many authentic places and enjoy the Greek island life. Therefore, it is a wonderful island to visit. What are you waiting for?
What to do in Naxos?
Would you like to discover Naxos and are curious about the most beautiful places and the best things to do in Naxos? These are the most beautiful Naxos sights.
When you arrive by ferry in Naxos Chora, Portara is the first thing you’ll see. This is an imposing marble gate overlooking the Aegean Sea and also the icon of Naxos. It is the remains of an unfinished temple said to have been dedicated to the god Apollo. There is a kind of mystery surrounding this special place which makes it even more special. From Portara, you also have breathtaking views of Naxos Chora and the surrounding coastline.
Did you know that Portara is one of the best places to watch the sunset on Naxos? It can get a bit crowded when the sun goes down, but the moment when you can see the sun through the gate is magical.
Get lost in the streets of Naxos Chora
Naxos Chora, also known as Naxos Town, is the capital of the island. It’s not as big as it sounds, as only 7,000 people live there. Naxos Chora is located on the west coast of the island and this is also where the ferries arrive. The charming town has a pleasant promenade and beautiful cobbled alleys that you know from Greek travel guides.
Along the waterfront, you will find a series of cozy taverns, boutique shops, and cafes, where you can enjoy delicious local dishes and buy some handmade souvenirs. Within the city walls, you will find several historical sites, including the Venetian castle, old churches, and museums that will tell you more about the rich history of Naxos
Rent a car to explore the island
Most people while visiting Naxos stay in Naxos Chora or visit the beaches at Agios Prokopios. But the island has so much more to offer! Inland, there are several beautiful places to explore. Although there are buses, they do not visit every beautiful sight, so it is highly recommended to rent a car on Naxos. This way, you can visit many beautiful places on this list of what to do in Naxos that you would otherwise have to miss.
The main roads in Naxos are good, but some roads are narrow or not paved. Make sure to drive carefully! It’s best to add some extra insurance when you rent the car, it’s not uncommon to return the car with some scratches. Check Rental Cars to find a good deal.
Mount Zas, named after the Greek chief god Zeus, is the highest mountain in the Cyclades at 1,001 meters. This place is steeped in mythology and has spiritual significance, as it is the alleged birthplace of Zeus.
You can reach the summit by going on a hike. There’s a great, but challenging hiking trail that starts in the village of Filoti, but there’s also a shorter trail that starts at Saint Marina Holy Chapel. From the top of Mount Zas, you have a magnificent view of Naxos and the surrounding islands in the Aegean Sea.
I, unfortunately, did not get to do the hike to the top due to a minor accident with my rental car, but this hike is at the top of my list for my next visit to the island. In any case, Mount Zas is unmissable and visible from many places on the island.
Apeiranthos is a picturesque village located in the mountains of Naxos. It is known for its traditional atmosphere and authentic Greek charm. With its cobbled streets, whitewashed houses, and cozy squares, Apeiranthos is a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of coastal areas.
Here you can enjoy traditional Greek dishes in the village’s taverns and there is a friendly atmosphere. Don’t expect big souvenir shops, but more small stores where they sell handmade products. A great place to explore.
The beach of Plaka
With its vast stretch of fine white sand and crystal clear turquoise waters, Plaka Beach is a paradise for lovers of sun, sea, and sand. This was my favorite beach in Naxos. There are some beach bars where you can rent a beach chair, but if you walk a little further, you have the lovely beach all to yourself.
The water here is generally quite calm, this also makes it a good place for swimming. On the other side of the road you can find some bars and restaurants.
Check out more beautiful beaches in this post: The 12 best beaches in Naxos
Temple of Demeter
Another special place to visit in Naxos is the Temple of Demeter. It is somewhat hidden inland, among olive and fruit orchards. It is a well-preserved historic shrine dedicated to the ancient Greek goddess of agriculture and fertility. For a while, it was turned into a church but is now slowly being renovated back to the old temple.
There is a small museum where you can see the difference between the church and the old temple, which is very interesting. The entrance fee for this archaeological site is €4 (price in October 2023, payable in cash only) and a visit takes about an hour.
The beach of Agios Prokopios
With its soft sand, shimmering waters, and lively atmosphere, Agios Prokopios beach is one of the most popular destinations on Naxos. The beach is (almost) as beautiful as Plaka, but there is more to do here. Along the coast, you have many restaurants and stores.
From Naxos town, it’s very easy to reach Agios Prokopios. You can take a bus every 30 minutes. A ticket costs €2 and you can buy it at the bus station in Naxos Chora or in one of the many (small) supermarkets.
Go sailing on the Aegean Sea
One of the most fun things I did on Naxos was a sailing trip on a catamaran on the Aegean Sea. With a group of about 10 people, we sailed out of the harbor in the early morning for a day on the water.
Along the way, we had three stops, one in a bay near the island of Paros and two at Naxos. During these stops, you could take a dip in the crystal-clear water and watch the fish swim around you while snorkeling. Every time we got out of the water, a delicious snack or meal was waiting for us. I have rarely returned from a tour so relaxed. Such a day at sea is really enjoyable and also lets you see the natural surroundings of Naxos.
Have lunch at Rotonda for the best view of the island
As I explored the island with my rental car, I passed several beautiful vistas. One of the most beautiful spots I found was at Restaurant Rotonda, located between Filoti and Apeiranthos. The restaurant has a large terrace made up of several sections, because of this you have a magnificent view of the mountainous landscape from almost every table and you can even see the sea and other islands.
The menu is quite extensive with even a few tasty vegetarian options. I chose a mushroom risotto and it was delicious. Highly recommended!
Unfortunately, I did not visit Apollonas itself because I was short on time, but this village on the north coast is definitely on my list for another visit. Apollonas is a picturesque fishing village on the northern coast of Naxos. If you are looking for an authentic experience of traditional island life, this is a good place to visit. In addition, Apollonas is a popular destination because here lies a large kouros, I’ll tell you more about that in a moment.
In Apollonas you can take beautiful walks along the coastline, which is a lot rougher here than in the south of the island. There are also a few nice local taverns in the village where you can enjoy fresh seafood.
The Kouros statues
I just briefly mentioned the Kouros, these are impressive marble statues from ancient times. There are several scattered around the island, the largest being at Apollonas. This one measures a whopping 10.7 meters! Kouros originally served as tributes to the gods or tombs for important figures in ancient Greek society.
When they were making these statues, it sometimes happened that a piece of the sculpture broke off. In that case, they just left it there and started making a new one. Surprisingly, the broken Kouros are still in the same spot 2,600 years later! I saw the two Kouros statues located at Flerio and they were very impressive. Both statues have a length of about 5 meters! I find it so extraordinary that they could make these kinds of statues in the sixth century BC. You can admire the Kouros for free.
The village of Chalkio
Chalkio (also called Halki) is a village in the heart of Naxos. The village is known for its traditional charm and rustic beauty. You will find cozy cobbled streets and several historic churches in a green setting full of olive trees. Chalkio is a great place if you want to explore rural island life. It’s also home to several interesting hiking trails.
Church of Saint George Diasoritis
One of the little churches near Chalkio is the picturesque church of St. George Diasoritis. This is an ancient Byzantine church from the ninth century. To get here, you have to walk out of Chalkio, a 15-minute hike past hundreds of olive trees.
Unfortunately, when I was there, the door of the little church was closed so I was not able to look inside. But from what I have read, the interior is also very special to see with hand-painted icons and detailed decorations. All in all, it is a beautiful place to visit, also because of the picturesque location of the little church among the olive trees.
Go hiking on Naxos
Naxos is a perfect island for hiking. There are about 15 trails plotted across the island, all of them numbered and marked with red and white signs. There are also some (not so well marked) trails in and around various villages. I walked bits of routes 3, 4, and 7 and I loved it. You will pass through all the small villages and see much of the beautiful countryside (and a crazy amount of very old olive trees).
The trails are generally well marked, but it is wise to bring a good hiking map or this guidebook.
The village of Filoti
I saved one of the most beautiful places on Naxos for last, which is the village of Filoti, located at the foot of the imposing Mount Zas. This is a fairly large village in a very hilly area. It is dotted with quaint cobbled streets and whitewashed houses, this makes it a wonderful place to wander around for a few hours.
Make sure to take a look at the beautiful church (Eglise de la Vierge de Filoti), it is quite large and nicely decorated. Next to the church is a small museum you can visit for free (they ask for a donation, but it is not required). The woman who let me in was incredibly friendly and told me more about the history of Filoti and Naxos as I strolled through the 300-year-old building. For me, this was one of the highlights of my visit to Naxos.
Where to stay on Naxos
As you can see, there’s plenty to see on Naxos. I stayed in Naxos for a week and I still didn’t get to see and do everything I wanted. So I hope to return someday, I loved the island! It is therefore highly recommended to spend a few days (or preferably a full week) on Naxos. These are some great places to stay:
- Naxian Icon Luxury Residence 2 – I stayed in this apartment in Naxos Chora for a full week. It is located in a residential area, close to several (large) supermarkets and you can walk to the beach or the city center in 10 minutes. It is fully equipped (even a washing machine). It is a perfect place to stay if you travel alone or as a couple.
- Anapollo Boutique Hotel (3⭐) – This adults only hotel with a pool is in a beautiful location in Naxos Chora, between the old town and the beach. It is a small hotel and the rooms are particularly stylishly decorated.
- Finikas Hotel (4⭐) – This is one of the finest and best rated hotels on the island. It is located on the coast near Akilpo Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Naxos. It has a huge garden with an outdoor pool and sea views.
For more options, availability, and prices, check Booking.com.
Best time to visit Naxos
The best time to visit Naxos is generally from April to October. Then the weather is pleasant and most facilities and attractions are open. In the summer months of July and August it can be very hot and this is also the busiest period, therefore prices are a lot higher than in spring or fall.
I myself visited Naxos in the first half of October and this was perfect for me. The island was not crowded at all (some hotels and restaurants were even already closed for the season) and the weather was beautiful, sunny every day with temperatures around 25 degrees.
Book a trip to Naxos
These were my tips for Naxos! Did you get excited after reading this article and would you like to visit Naxos? Book your trip now!
✈️ Plane tickets – Naxos has a small airport with multiple daily flights from and to Athens. Check WayAway for tickets.
⛴️ Ferries – I took the ferry from Athens to Naxos and it was a great experience. Naxos has good connections to the surrounding islands, including Paros, Mykonos, and Santorini. Check out Direct Ferries for tickets.
💊 Travel insurance – Don’t forget your travel insurance, as it will give you peace of mind during your trip. Check out Insubuy to find the travel insurance that fits your needs.
🤿 Tours and activities – Would you like to learn more about the history of Naxos or are you looking for a fun active activity? Check Get Your Guide for interesting tours and unforgettable experiences.
Read more about Greece
Would you like to read more about Naxos and other Greek Islands? Check out these amazing travel guides:
In addition, you can also read more about a trip to Greece on this website. You might like to read these articles as well:
- Taking the ferry from Athens to Naxos: my experience & tips
- Tzoumerka National Park: an undiscovered outdoor paradise in Greece
- The 12 best beaches in Naxos
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