Whilst Paros and Mykonos seemed very similar, Naxos seemed completely different. In fact if I was to compare it to any other island I visited while in Greece I probably would have said it reminded me of the island of Chios.
Instead of the wandering pretty old towns and beach pattern we had followed in Paros and Mykonos, there seemed to be a lot more to do in Naxos. We easily filled our days on the island but also could have done a lot more.
Day 1- Arriving on Naxos
Delayed ferries became a bit of a pattern of our trip through the Greek islands. I think the shortest delay we ever had was an hour long. We arrived in Naxos about 1.5 hours later than expected which unfortunately ate into our exploring time.
After realising how comfy our guesthouse looked, and how amazing their pool was we decided to spend our first day in Naxos relaxing. Our guesthouse was about 10-15 minutes walk out of town but luckily for us it was close to a number of important things; an awesome restaurant, a huge supermarket and most importantly; an open air cinema.
We decided to first grab some lunch from the only nearby restaurant that as I’ve said, turned out to be amazing. It was a simple grill restaurant, with gyros and lots of types of spit roast and grilled meat. I ordered a gyros and a Greek salad, while Kristine ordered what were undoubtedly the best lamb chops of our trip. We even ended up returning there that night for some more gyros and fries.
We then grabbed some beers and snacks from the supermarket and headed out to lounge by the beautiful pool at our guesthouse. I can’t believe how amazing the place was considering how much we were paying. You get such good value accommodation in Greece!
We ended our first day with a visit to the open air cinema which was super cool. We watched the new version of Tarzan, swooned over Alexander Skarsgarad and his amazing abs and then headed in for a early night.
Day 2- Naxos Town and Agios Georgios
Our real exploration of Naxos began the next day when we headed out to explore Naxos Town.
The most famous part of Naxos town was where we headed first. The Portara or the Temple of Apollo is an icon of Naxos. You’ll see it in most of the photos of the island and on the majority of passports. It is all that remains of an incomplete temple that was started 2,500 years ago in 530 BCE.
The arch/door itself is very impressive, but the top of the hill that it stands on also provides a great view over Naxos town. I’m just disappointed that we never got up there for a sunset during our stay.
Naxos town itself was also worth exploring, especially the old Kastro part. The Kastro, or castle district of Naxos is a fortified area of the town that was once a castle. It’s one of the oldest parts of the town itself, and it’s very different to the architecture you’ll find towards the bottom.
Around the castle district you’ll find the typical whitewashed buildings and streets, very similar to Paros and Mykonos albeit not as bright or finished. The castle district is rougher around the edges. You’ll find white but you can tell it is older- I wouldn’t be surprised if the island authorities refrain from repainting or refurbishing it because it adds to the whole atmosphere and charm of this district.
After wandering around the castle district we decided to grab some lunch. I still maintain that we had some of the best food of our whole trip in Naxos. We did not have a bad meal the whole time we were on the island. We stopped off at Scirocco, a popular place in the centre of town. I ordered the best yemista (stuffed tomatoes) I had in Greece, while Kristine had some delicious squid. We also couldn’t resist the dolmades, especially when they came coated with lemony sauce. This was a great place and we ended up returning to it on our last night on the island.
Scirocco left us in a food coma, and there is really only one thing to do on the Greek islands when you are exhausted from exploring and full from good Greek food- head to the beach. Luckily our guesthouse was located right next to one of the best beaches on the island; Agios Georgios.
One of the greatest thing about Naxos is that there is such an great beach located right next to the old town. On all of the other islands we visited, we needed to head out of the old town on a bus to get to a great beach because either there wasn’t a beach near the old town, or it wasn’t very great.
Agios Georgios or St George’s beach was super busy but also super beautiful. It’s also patrolled which makes it a very family friendly stop. We spent the afternoon sleeping on the beach, reading and taking dips in the water.
Day 3- Exploring the Island
We decided to hire a car for our third day in Naxos so that we could see as much of the island as possible. Naxos is really large- it’s definitely bigger than both Mykonos and Paros. There is also heaps of spots to visit on a day trip of the island. Hiring a car was cheap and easy, although I hate that most rental companies on the Greek island hand the car to you with an empty tank so you always accidentally spend more on fuel than you have to.
Our first stop was one of the oldest things on the whole island; the Kouros of Apollonas. It’s a statute of a man that dates back to the 6th or 7th century BCE. It was a bit of a hike to reach it but worth it. I can’t believe how old it is yet it is still relatively intact. It’s crazy to think of them carving such a thing almost 3000 years ago.
After visiting the Kouros we stopped over at Panagia Drossiani, an amazing Byzantine church that you’d miss if you weren’t looking for it. There was no proper parking- we kind of just had to park on the highway and hop no one hit us and then walk up some steps to spot the church behind the trees. It was a hidden treasure!
After that it was a relatively short drive to Chalkio, the first town of the day we were to visit. It’s home to another amazing church called Agios Georgios (Saint George- like the beach) which was also pretty incredible. The town was super tiny, with just one main pedestrian street and a few little streets off it, but I thought it was really charming. We also had a delicious spit roast lunch there.
The next village we visited was Filoti. Naxos is a very mountainous island and Filoti begans at the bottom of a mountain and extends upwards. Exploring this village means climbing a lot of stairs. It’s also the starting point for many hikes, especially up to the highest point on the island and to the Church of St Marina. We weren’t too keen to keep climbing up too far but nonetheless it was pretty spectacular.
I think that of the three villages that we visited this was my favourite. The only thing is we made the mistake of finding a parking spot as soon as we entered the city limits. As we climbed further up and up stairs we were wandering where all the people were; locals and tourists. It was only after we finally entered the centre of the town that we realised there was an entrance point at the top that we could have driven to. Oh well I can’t say the exercise was a bad thing for us, especially after our huge lunch.
We stopped at a café to have a drink with a spectacular view of the mountains surrounding us. It was a pretty cool village! There are also some cool museums here like the folk museum but at the point in the day we were more keen to get going so we would eventually make it to the beach.
Temple of Demeter
The Temple of Demeter was only recently properly excavated. After Delos, I’d started to become a little jaded about Ancient Greek ruins. Delos and the Acropolis are the pinnacle but I’d say the Temple of Demeter is worth a visit, it just pales in comparison. I’m glad we made the trip there
The Beach! Finally!
Our final stop of the day was Kastraki. We got completely lost getting here as our GPS sent us down pretty much unnavigable back roads. But after many failures we finally found the sealed road that would get us there. It’s a very quiet and deserted beach- there are only a handful of businesses and accommodations and there was hardly anyone else on the beach.
Whilst it was perhaps too late in the day for sun baking we had a great swim to help us cool down from climbing all of those stairs in Aperianthos!
When we finally arrived back at our guesthouse we were pretty exhausted- it was a huge day! But I’m super glad we did it because we got to see some amazing things!
Day 4- Rest and The Worst Ferry Ride Of My Life
As our ferry was meant to leave that afternoon, we decided to spend the morning relaxing by the pool. We were wrecked from our big day of driving the day before and it was the perfect way to rejevenuate.
Although all of that relaxation was ruined when we found ourselves on a very delayed and particularly tiny ferry boat that took us through 5 hours of very rough waters to get to Milos. I’m not particularly prone to seasickness and I managed to get through the ride without vomiting, but I sure wasn’t eating dinner in Milos that night!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION- Where To Stay in Naxos and How to Get There
We stayed at Ikaros Studios and I couldn’t recommend them more. The pool area is amazing, the staff are super friendly, we got a free pickup from the port and it’s an easy walk into town and to the beach. It’s also so close to the outdoor cinema that you need to go to at least one night of your stay!
AirBnB is also a great option if you are on a budget or looking for a bit of space.
For all of your bookings, whether hostel or hotel I always recommend Booking.com, specifically because most of the time you can make a reservation without a deposit and many bookings are fully cancellable and refundable. I love being able to lock in my accomodation early, but then shift things around if my plans change!
We arrived on the ferry from Paros which was an easy and uncomplicated journey. I wouldn’t recommend taking any connection with Seajets because our ferry to Milos was seriously horrible. If I organised a trip again I would have gone to Santorini or another nearby island first.
There is also a very tiny airport where you can arrive in an equally tiny plane from Athens.