Naxos Island, also the largest island in all of the Cyclades was the fourth island I visited after Mykonos, Milos, and Folegandros. Naxos was once the most prosperous island in Ancient Greece and is still one of the major players in today’s Cyclades.
Naxos, being a much larger sulf-sufficient island has maintained its culture throughout the ages. The villages in the island are traditional in every sense of the word. They are beautiful but rustic, and charming all around.
Whether you’re looking for beautiful beaches, which Naxos has in abundance, delicious food, or photographing endless white washed streets, Naxos has everything you’re looking for!
Santorini was one of the islands I visited on my month long trip island hopping through the Cyclades. If you’re also planning a multi-island trip through the Cyclades, make sure to read my itinerary and guide to planning your own Greek island hopping trip!
How to get to Naxos
Naxos is well connected by the Greek ferry system. There are numerous ferry companies in the Cyclades that service all the islands. Naxos, being the largest island in the Cyclades sees many daily ferries with many originating in Piraeus port.
Seajets and Blue Star ferries are the main ferries that service Naxos and you will see multiple ferries coming through the port on a daily basis since it’s such a central island.
For a comprehensive guided on Greek ferries and navigating your way around the Aegean, make sure to read my Greek ferry guide.
When to best visit Naxos?
In the summer months, temperatures are highest around 30 degrees or so during the day and dropping to 24 or so at night. The days are normally sunny for months on end. I spent all of July and August traveling around the Cyclades and it was only cloudy or rained one day. Every day is paradise in the summer months.
The shoulder seasons from Sep to Nov and Apr to June and also quite pleasant but you will see some days of cloud and rain, albeit still not that bad. However, I have heard that November can be particularly bad with the rain/clouds.
The winter months or off season is usually colder but temperatures never really drop below 10 degrees. These months between Nov to Mar are the slowest months and tourism usually grinds to a halt.
When is the best time to visit Naxos?
So what is the best time to Visit Naxos? It really depends on what you’re after. If you want non stop hot sun, then you will need to visit in the summer. These are the best months to swim in the ocean as the water temperatures will be a pleasant 24 to 25 degrees. However, this is also when all of Greece and the rest of Europe also choose to visit Greece so the crowds will be at their peak.
Prices will be the highest between June and Sep (particularly July and August). I visited the Cyclades during Coronavirus times so even during the peak months it was not overwhelming but there were still a good amount of people. I can only imagine what Naxos and other islands would be like during a typical summer.
If I were to return to the Cyclades, I would come during the shoulder months, particularly May or October. These months, while not as hot as summer months, will still be very pleasant in the 20-25c range. I’m not crazy about the beaches in the Cyclades as I don’t really find them to be that beautiful so I can deal with not swimming in the ocean. However, the prices for accommodation will be 30% lower, and the crowds will be at least 50% lower.
Getting around Naxos
Naxos, like pretty much every other island in the Cyclades is really meant for a DIY type of adventure. While there are cabs you can take, they are not cheap and not easy if you’re looking to explore multiple places. If you’re staying in the Chora and just want a cab ride to the nearest beach, then that will suffice but otherwise it’s best to have your own transportation.
In Naxos, the best way to get around is by scooter or ATV in my opinion. Cars are also an option but I always prefer a good scooter as it’s more interesting. Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades however and if you’re not really a fan of scootering, then I’d recommend renting a car since you’ll need to cover more distance.
Rent an ATV or Scooter
Renting an ATV can be done pretty much anywhere on the island. There are countless shops in the Chora that have scooter/ATV rentals so there’s no need to book before hand. Prices are mostly set but there is always some negotiation room but do not expect to get huge discounts because the shops work with each other to form a minimum price.
ATVs can be rented for around €30-40 depending on the motor size. Gas is not included in the price but they do not take much. Scooters can be had for around €20 for a 125cc engine.
You will need an EU Drivers license or international drivers license to rent a scooter or ATV
Greece is famously strict about adhering to the drivers license rule. If you have an American drivers license, they will not rent you anything unless you have an international license to go along with it. I did not find anyone that would skirt these rules, even with the shadiest looking of places. Thankfully, living in Europe and having the right US drivers license, I was able to convert mine into a EU license quite easily.
Where to stay in Naxos
I prefer to stay in the Chora of the islands when traveling solo since it’s proximity to all the restaurants, bars, and shops are perfect for me.
I stayed at the Ep’Avlis apartments right in the heart of the Chora. It was less than 5 minute walk to pretty much everywhere I wanted to go in the town. The room was small but had a terrace which had nice views of the ocean. In the summer months, I still paid less than €100 per night.
Visit the Naxos Chora
The Chora of Naxos is rustic and charming and will tick the boxes on any of your Greek Cyclades style streets. While not quite as picture perfect as the Chora in Mykonos, Naxos has its own style of charm. For starters, it’s much less busy than Mykonos so you can walk around the streets uninterrupted. It’s clear to me that Mykonos is for the tourists but it’s mostly Greek people that visit Naxos.
There are a ton of restaurants, bars, and shops to keep you busy in the Chora and it’s a great jumping off point to the nearby attractions and beaches.
My favorite part of the Naxos Chora is actually viewing it from outside of the town. The views from the decks of the ferries that come into the town, or from the Temple of Apollo are my favorite. It’s a town built near the ocean and converges to its hilltop peak. Make sure to get some good photos of this!
Visit the Castle of Naxos
The Castle, or Kastro area of Naxos Chora is not to be missed. The castle district in these Cycladic islands are usually some of the oldest areas. The Naxos Kastro neighborhood dates back to the 13th century.
You can find the Archaeological Museum of Naxos at the top of the Castle. It is located in the former Palazzo Sanudo, which was built in 1627 and includes two of the palace towers. The five-storey structure presents archaeological finds from the Neolithic era. The collection of ancient marble figures, Mycenaean vessels and Roman glass is particularly impressive.
Visit the Apollo temple
If you’re staying in Naxos Chora (or anywhere else for that matter), a visit to the Apollo Temple right outside of town is a must. It’s the island’s emblem and certainly the main landmark. It’s like a stone window frame that looks directly into the Naxos Chora, but really it was built to face the island of Delos, the birthplace of Apollo. It was constructed in the 6th century BC in accordance to the specifications of the temples of Olympic Zeus in Athens.
It’s located just a hundred meters outside of the Chora and is connected by a beautiful footpath where you can sometimes see the waves crashing in. The Temple of Apollo is an incredibly popular place for the sunset. The sun sets directly in front of the Temple and lights up the structure as well as the town in the background during golden hour. It gets really packed here so don’t expect to take many good photos at this time. Instead, come back during sunrise where it is empty!
You can also get a beautiful view of the city of Naxos from here. The Chora is built around the Naxos Castle on the hilltop and has a perfect pyramid-like shape that looks oh so perfect.
Visit the Temples of Naxos
Naxos is littered with so much Greek ruins, as you’d expect from an island with as much history as Naxos.
Temple of Demeter
This Iconic 6th-century BCE temple, atop a hill surrounded by farmland six miles southeast of Chora, was dedicated to Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and fertility. The ruin you see today is a partial reconstruction (done in 1977) of the original, which was destroyed by Christians in the 6th century CE. It’s best seen viewed at sunset.
Visit the beaches of the island
The island has a large number of beaches, such as those at Agia Anna, Agios Georgios, Agios Prokopios, Alyko, Kastraki, Mikri Vigla, Plaka, most of which are relatively near the capital named Naxos Town or Chora (a name often used to designate the capitals on the Aegean islands). A few of these are organized but due to the island’s size most are not, providing many places of seclusion. The Cycladic islands are generally windy places perfect for windsurfing and kite-surfing, Naxos is having considerable land mass, offers waters of all varieties for sea and beach activities.
This is the closest beach to the Naxos Town. Located only about a 20 minute walk from the main town, it’s a perfect beach to start your trip. It gets pretty busy in the summer months. If you have transportation, then it’s much better to visit the other beaches south of the island in my opinion.
Two miles west of Chora, Agios Prokopios is among the most beautiful beaches on Naxos. Soft, cream-colored sands unfurl along half a mile of shoreline backed by sand dunes and pink lagoons. It’s sheltered from the breezes and has plenty of facilities near the south end.
Agia Anna is one of the busiest beaches of Naxos and is actually a continuation of the beach of Agios Prokopios. The long secluded sandy beach with the small picturesque port that now only hosts fishing boats and provides the wonderful view which has been a centre of attraction for tourists for decades.
I came here around sunset after everyone left to enjoy a swim at dusk to watch the sun set.
This was probably one of my favorite beaches in Naxos. It’s located further south almost to the bottom of Naxos and it is the kitesurfing and windsurfing mecca. The beach is a long stretch of soft sand in almost dune-like fashion. The water is a bit strong but it was perfect for what I wanted.
Explore the many different villages in Naxos
While Naxos Chora is beautiful and a great place to start your trip to Naxos, the best part of the island are the little villages outside of Naxos. Naxos is one of the oldest and most storied islands in the Cyclades so these villages are not only storied but home to traditional buildings unchanged by time.
I thought some of these towns were the most beautiful towns I saw in the Cyclades. Not so much for their perfect white and blue paint-jobs but for how authentic and naturally beautiful they looked. Definitely a scooter or car and make your way to explore the towns.
In addition, Naxos island has the highest elevation of any island in the Cyclades. As you drive inland from the Chora, you can see the beautiful rolling mountain landscape that really reminds me of the dramatic Cretian coastline. It’s hard to get a bad view when driving through Naxos as you pass through farms, wineries, and of course churches.
As you leave the Naxos Chora, you will have one main road that goes through all the famous towns so I will list them out in order that you will visit them.
Located about 20 minutes from the Chora, Chalki is the first historic town that you must visit. Chalki (pronounced Halki) was once the main administrative center of Naxos. Nowadays, the old town is bustling with beautiful old Venetian style buildings, Byzantine churches, and many charming restaurants.
Halki is one of the first places in the Cyclades where I did not see a town of all white. In fact, walking through the town would remind you of something you’d see in southern Italy like Sicily rather than the Cyclades. This of course makes sense as the Cyclades was once all under Venetian rule but it is surprising because the rest of the islands underwent a transition to all white facades but these older villages decided against it. One of these is amongst Naxos’ oldest churches, the Church of Panagia (the Virgin), dating from the 9th century with some beautiful Byzantine and post-Byzantine frescoes.
Filoti (My favorite)
Filoti is one of the oldest villages in Naxos. It’s located just a few km from Halki and is an absolute must visit. I think this was my favorite village of all because it just screamed everything you wanted about the Cyclades.
Filoti has outstanding old churches and they are all worth exploring for their frescoes. Other worthwhile village sights include the well organized Greek Numismatic Collection Museum of Nikolas Moustakis, housed in an older well maintained building.
There are so many little streets that meander into an even more picturesque street filled with whitewashed houses, cobblestone steps, and rustic doors. It’s a much larger village than Halki and there are tons of restaurants here to choose from. There are also hardly any other tourists that come here so I had the village to myself it felt like. The hardest part was finding people to take my picture!
Next up is the famous and picturesque town of Apeiranthos. It’s considered the crown jewel of the towns in Naxos and everyone raves about it. I was told by pretty much everyone in the Chora that this is the town to check out.
But its most impressive feature is its architecture. Stone built towers, old houses and churches, marble paved alleys, traditional small souvenir and local craftsmanship shops. There are very iconic steps at the entrance of the town that are a photographer’s paradise. Simply walk through the streets and admire all the intricate things that make Apeiranthos what it is today.
I will be honest. Even though this was the most hyped up town to visit, I actually didn’t find it as picturesque or amazing as the other towns. In fact, I’d have to say that Filoti is much more impressive. The view coming up to the village of Apeiranthos is very beautiful itself.
Last but not least, the town of Koronos is a must visit. It’s located north of Apeiranthos in the middle of the island. It’s one of the oldest towns in Naxos and has a very stunning dramatic mountainside view to it. Driving up to it and seeing the whitewashed houses dotted along the facade of the mountain is stunning.
The village itself is also very beautiful with its narrow streets and stairs that have views of the mountainside. You can take some fantastic photos here as you can see from the below!
Where to eat and drink in Naxos?
Naxos being a large island with tens of thousands of residents means you will have no shortage of food to eat. Like every island in the Cyclades, there are local dishes special to the island (although it’s really not that different). However, you can expect to always have the same delicious Greek salads with either feta or local cheeses, seafood, grilled meats, moussaka, saganaki, gyros, souvlaki etc.
Greek food is just amazing and one of my favorite cuisines in the world. The ingredients in Naxos are fresh and you will have no problem finding the most delicious food. Here are the places I went to during my trip and the ones I liked the most.
Sunset drinks at the 520 Bar
For the sunset, the Chora is located facing west so there are plenty of bars that offer great views. My favorite was probably the 520 Bar in the middle of Naxos Chora. It’s got great views of the ocean and harbourfront. The drinks are delicious and some of the better cocktails I’ve had in my time in Greece.
Gyros and Souvlaki along the waterfront
There are a collection of some amazing gyros restaurants along the waterfront. I had some of the better gyros and souvlaki during my visiting in Greece while staying in Naxos. One of my favorite gyros spot was at To Souvlaki right off the main street. The meat here was super tender and just flavored so beautifully. Of course, it still doesn’t compare to the most epic of gyros shops in the town of Naoussa in Paros.
Located in the Chora, Scirocco was very popular with locals and tourists alike. I had the Greek orzo pasta with prawns and absolutely loved it. It is the Greek version of pasta and I actually prefer it to many Italian pastas!
Highly recommended to also try the Naxos sour cheese. I really liked it although I still think the cheese in Milos was superior.
Petrino Beach Restaurant
Located south of the Naxos Chora, I had dinner at this restaurant right off the beach. Not only did it have amazing views of the ocean and the sunset, I had perhaps some of the best lamb of my life in this place. They had a ultra tender oven roasted lamb dish that was served with this truffle and fava based sauce that was absolutely heaven.
I would come back to the restaurant just for that lamb dish. Highly recommended.
Finally this taverna located just outside of the main part of the Chora is a very popular restaurant with locals and tourists alike. It’s an open air restaurant very a very inviting atmosphere serving some delicious seafood plates. I had the shrimps and calamari and it was an overall great vibe.
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