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Naxos is the gem of Greece, a happy and delightful jewel shining on the waters of Aegean Sea. Being the biggest and greenest island in the Cyclades, Naxos is infused with lively villages, proud historical monuments and sandy beaches. Therefore, there are so many things to do in Naxos, from exploring the characteristic villages to trying out invigorating sports, Naxos has got you covered. Here are some great things to do in Naxos that you would not want to miss.
Where is Naxos
Naxos is the largest Cycladic island located in the heart of the Aegean right next to the slightly smaller island of Paros. Naxos can be reached by plane from Athens (40min flight time) or with regular ferry connections from Piraeus (4.5 hr journey time), Mykonos (50min), Paros (40min), Ios (2.20hr), and Santorini (up to 2.15hr journey time).
The Best Time to Visit Naxos
The best time to visit Naxos is during the tourist season which runs from May until the start of October. The best time to visit within these months depends entirely on your preference though… June-August are the hottest months with average highs of 26.6 in July and the island in full swing, good if you want the traditional summer vacation. May (21.9c) and mid-end September (24.6c) are good for sightseeing as it’s not overly hot nor too busy with crowds of tourists though if you want to swim in the sea, visit in September rather than May as the water temperature rises to 23.7c versus the rather chilly 18.6c.
21 Best Things to Do During Your Vacation in Naxos
1. Visit Portara
If you are visiting Naxos, a trip to Portara is necessary to soak in the gorgeous view and absorb the vibrant energy. Portara (the great door) is a name that the residents have allocated to a marvellous marble doorway. This monument is a short walk from the Naxos town harbour, standing proudly on a small island.
This ramrod landmark, which is 2,500 years old, marks a doorway that “leads nowhere” and was once a temple devoted to the god Apollo. The temple was constructed when Lygdamis was reigning, and Naxos was a prominent cultural centre.
The vivacity of this monument is mostly because of the palpable spiritual energy around it, often described as “magical”, especially at sunset.
2. Visit Chora and the Castle
The Chora Castle, a medieval monument, is another essential stop during your visit to Naxos. The two entrances of the castle are Trani Porta (Great Gate) and Paraporti (wicket), to the north and left respectively. The interiors of the castle house many astonishing historical monuments such as the Boarding School of Ursulines, School of Commerce founded by Jesuit monks, the KapelaKazatza, a chapel of the Duke, the Catholic Cathedral and the Tower of Krispi or Glezos.
You can also pay a visit to the surrounding cute shops, cafes, restaurants, art spaces and museums and walk the winding alleyways.
Find here more things to do in Naxos Old Town.
3. Explore the village of Halki
Deemed the most picturesque village of Naxos, Halki is a must-visit if you love getting lost in quaint backstreets filled with colourful neoclassical architecture.
Once the capital of Naxos, it is here that you’ll find the Byzantine Church of Panagia which dates back to the 9th century. Step inside to see the outstanding frescoes before making your way to the Venetian Barozzi Tower.
4. Visit the Ancient Temple of Dionysus at Iria
Established in the 14th century BC when the Myceneans were on Naxos, this temple sanctuary was the first in the Cycladic islands to use marble for architecture. In operation until Roman times, it was dedicated to the god Dionysus (the God of wine, Naxos being famous for its wine in Ancient Greek times) and an unknown female deity having 4 buildings erected on the site over the centuries. Today visitors can see the partially restored temple of 580BC.
5. Check out the Windmills at Vivlos Village
Known as both Vivlos and Tripodes, this large traditional village on the Southwest of the island, 8km from Chora, is known for its historic windmills. Wander the picturesque narrow streets lined with whitewashed houses, see the church of Panagia Tripodiotissa, the ruins of Plaka Tower, and admire the 3 crumbling windmills from the 19th century that overlook the village entrance.
6. See the Kouros at Melanes
Two mighty marble statues dating from 570BC are located at Flerio, the remains of a marble quarry. The kouros, male statue, is a 6.4 metres long statue of a naked young man laying down. The leg is broken, thought to have broken off when the statue was being transported which is why it was never finished.
Despite this, it is one of the most impressive examples of Naxian marble sculpture. Nearby, a second sculpture of a female (kori) can also be found.
7. The Jesuit Monastery in Kalamitsia
Wander the ruins of the Jesuit Monk’s Summer Palace, the monastery at Kalamitsia. Built between 1673-1683 on the ruins of a Venetian mansion the monastery, it was so elegant and luxurious that the monks were opposed to the residence since they were supposed to lead austere lives. Today visitors can see what remains of the laundry rooms, kitchen, cellars, sleeping quarters, and stables inside the crumbling yet atmospheric stone walls of the monastery.
8. Visit Dimitra Temple
Admire the restored marble temple that dates back to 530BC and which has more than 50% of its original ancient building material preserved.
Built to worship the goddess Dimitra (the goddess of grain), the temple was in use until the 3rd century BC at which point it was turned into a Christian site with a small chapel built in front of the marble temple.
9. Check out the Street Art in Alyko
Wander the abandoned hotel complex from the 1960’s admiring the large street art murals of Balinese street artist Wild Drawing aka WD and other artists that now form an outdoor art exhibition.
10. Check out Cheimarros Tower
This is one of many towers thought to have formed a defense system not only on Naxos but across the Cyclades islands as a whole during the 4th century BC. Cheimarros Tower is special because it’s a rare example of a near complete tower (now in the process of being restored), measuring 15 metres tall, many others only having their foundations left.
11. Check out Bazeos Tower
Originally part of the Monastery of Timios Stavros, the castle tower, built in the 17th century, was built to protect residents from the frequent pirate attacks. Later, in the 19th century it became part of the Summer residence of the Venetian Bazeos (Bassegio) family who still own it. Today the restored tower with its Medieval rooms together with the grounds host cultural events as part of the Summer Naxos Festival.
12. Visit the Paleochristian Church of Panagia Drosiani
This small Byzantine church is the oldest Christian church on the island. Consisting of 3 single-room chapels, the church contains a wealth of historic artefacts including carvings and paintings which date back to the 6th -14th century BC, the most famous and exquisite being on the dome of the church and showing Christ as a young man.
13. Check out the Tower of Ayia
Guarding the North of the island, this ruined tower facing the sea was built in the 17th century by the noble family Kokkos. Largely destroyed by fire in 1992, the tower walls and battlements still remain.
14. Explore the village of Apiranthos
Located 28km from Chora, Apiranthos is another picturesque mountain village which will have you climbing up, down, and around its enchanting traditional backstreets filled with Venetian-influenced architecture.
Located at an altitude of 650 metres you’ll be able to visit the Church of Panagia Apeirathitissa, the Archaeological Museum of Apiranthos, the Museum of Folk Art, and the Geological Museum too.
15. Check out the Kouros at Apollonas
Another unfinished male Kouros statue can be found at the ancient quarry near to the village of Apollonas, this statue larger than those at Melanes, measuring 10.7 metres long and weighing approximately 80 tonnes.
16. Hike to Mount Zas and its Cave
The tallest mountain in the Cyclades and the childhood home of Zeus, as legend would have it, hike the ancient trails up to the 1,003-metre summit and marvel at the views.
From the cave located at an altitude of 630 metres on the Western side of the mountain, you can also feel on top of the world, admiring the views before seeking respite in the cool chambers filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and rare stone formations that run for 11metres.
17. Surf the Wind
If after the cultural and spiritual exploration of the historical monuments a strong craving for adrenaline kicks in, windsurfing is the ultimate solution.
Naxos is ideal for windsurfing because of the shallow lagoons, gentle blue waves and great wind conditions that will move you towards excitement. In fact, Naxos is among the most popular windsurfing spots in Greece, especially during the summer when the northern winds hit the blue waves that engulf the island. To be specific, the best places to windsurf in Naxos are Laguna, Agios Georgios, AgiosProkopios and Plaka.
For the strongest winds, hit the waters in the early afternoon.
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18. Explore the Beaches
Naxos has an abundance of scenic beaches, perfect for unwinding under the warm rays of sunshine. There are various beaches outlining the alluring island of Naxos, so the diversity of choices always impress visitors. Here are three of the best beaches in Naxos for sandy toes and sun-kissed skins:
Agios Prokopios; located on the west of Naxos, AgiosProkopios is the most desired and beautiful beach on the island- and one of the best in Europe. The soft sand stretches for 1.2 km, with golden streams of sun and gentle winds.
Agia Anna; this beach joins AgiosProkopios on the south-west. On this velvety beach, you can lounge on provided sunbeds under the shadow of umbrellas and sip on refreshing cocktails at the nearby bars.
Palaka; this sandy paradise is in the south-west of the island, and a prime area for sea sports such as windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Tip: You can also do a full day catamaran cruise, where you can explore beautiful beaches in Naxos and a nearby island, snorkel and explore the famous Rina Cave. You will also get to enjoy lunch and drinks on board.
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Naxos is very close to the popular island of Mykonos and the island of Delos with the famous archaeological site. There are a couple of tours that start from Naxos, take you by boat to Delos island where you will have 3 hours to see the ancient sanctuary-island and birthplace of God Apollo. Then you will visit the island of Mykonos where you will have another 3 hours to explore Mykonos town with its beautiful windmills, cobbletone alleyways and the picture perfect Little Venice.
If you are interested in boat trips and exploring nearby islands for a day I suggest:
It takes 2 hours to get there by boat and you will have around 6 to 8 hours to explore the small island, visit the Sea Caves and the Pisina or go to Kato Koufonissi.
Always wanted to visit the famous island of Santorini but didn’t have enough time? There are a couple of tours from Naxos that take you by boat to Santorini. There you will get a guided tour of the island by bus, visit the beautiful Oia and also have free time to explore Fira too.
Where to stay in Naxos, Greece
Here are my picks for the best accommodations in Naxos for more information on where to stay in Naxos, check my post here.
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Alkyoni Beach Hotel: Perfectly located 1 minute away from sandy St George beach and within walking distance from Naxos town, Alkyoni Beach Hotel is a great accommodation option offering spacious rooms with sea or garden view, a swimming pool, a restaurant and free wi-fi. – Check out the latest prices and more details here.
Hotel Spiros: Another great option for your stay in Naxos is Hotel Spiros, a family-run hotel located 1 minute away from St George beach and within walking distance from Naxos town, offers studios equipped with a kitchenette, mini-fridge satellite TV, a swimming pool, free Wi-FI and free airport shuttle. – Check out the latest prices and more details here.
Nikoletta Studios: Located in Agios Prokopios beach is a budget-friendly option just 3 minutes away from the beach and with a bus connection to Naxos Town. It offers simple air-conditioned rooms with balcony, free wi-fi, a swimming pool and a sun terrace. – Check out the latest prices and more details here.
Agios Prokopios Hotel: Located 2 minutes away from the homonym sandy beach. It offers rooms, self-catering studios, apartments, an outdoor swimming pool, a playground for children and free wi-fi. Naxos town is easily accessible by bus. It is a great option for families. – Check out the latest prices and more details here.
How to get to Naxos, Greece
By Plane: Naxos has an international airport with direct flights from Athens (35 mins) and charter flights from many European cities.
By Ferry: Ferries to Naxos run daily both from Rafina port and Piraeus port in Athens. There are two option available the regular ferry that takes 5 hours and 30 minutes to get to Naxos (prices are around 20 € one way) and the speed boats that need 3 hours and 15 minutes to get to Naxos ( around 60 € one way). Prices and journey times depend on the ferry company.
Naxos is also connected with other islands like Paros, Santorini, Syros, Amorgos, Donousa, Shinoussa, Koufonisi, Iraklia, Astypalea etc.
If you are seeking a travel destination to experience fun, excitement, relaxation mingled with cultural activities and historical sites, then Naxos is the right choice. Here you will skip the crowds and high prices of nearby Mykonos and Santorini and you will have a more authentic Greek experience. There are various things to do in Naxos because this one-of-a-kind island embraces amazing ancient monuments, lively beaches, exciting sea sports and scenic views.
Another great option from Naxos is the small island of Donousa. Check my post: Things to do in Donousa for more inspiration.
Have you been to Naxos island? Do you have other things to do in Naxos to add on the list?