Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Naxos August 6-10 2023

Well, I hope by now you have had a chance to read my blog post on "Some Hard and Fast Truths about Greece."  That post was very general, so I am now going to delve into some more specific areas.  I have lots to write about, and the fact of the matter is I may run out of time before heading to Scotland in a few weeks, so I want to start with the area likely least known to my readers, the island of Naxos.

Naxos, with an area of 170 square miles (about one third the size of Kauai), is the largest island in the group of islands called the Cyclades.  Naxos has a population of 19000, which shrinks to a mere 7000 in the off season winter months.  Most (8000) of the people live in the town of Naxos Chora, home to both the port and the airport. Others populate the outlying villages of Filoti, Chalki, Apiranthos, Koronos, etc.  Naxos is a 30 min plane ride from Athens or a 3.5 to 5.5 hour ferry ride from Piraeus.  Naxos is also accessible by ferry to all other Cycladic islands and Crete, with day trip accessibility to Mykonos, Santorini, and twin island Paros.

A small plane can get you from Athens to Naxos

A ferry is an option too

Prior to the beginning of researching this trip I had never heard of Naxos.  So what happened?

I had only heard of Mykonos and Santorini, really, but I knew this was not the vibe I was looking for.  (See my last blogpost).  I chose Naxos because it repeatedly came up as one of the most family friendly islands with great beaches and high marks for outdoor activities.  It had both a port and an airport and it was not too far from Athens.  You gotta pick somewhere; Naxos was it.

Getting there:  Once again, you can get to Naxos by propeller plane from Athens or by ferry.  The plane is more expensive (about 100E per person on Sky Express) but easier and far faster, and this is how we arrived.  As far as I can ascertain, planes into Naxos land about 6 times per day and only come from Athens.  The Naxos airport has one gate.  The ferry port has two berths.  At either place on arrival, there are plenty of drivers holding signs waiting to meet guests.  Our driver came from our hotel, the Naxos Colosseo Apartments.  The public bus is available, at some distance from the airport.  Given the amount of luggage we had, I am glad we did not go this route and I do not recommend it.

Getting around: We only rented a car for two days.  We came in on Sunday at noon and we were not going to have a car until Tuesday morning.  This might be a good opportunity to talk about the lay of the land.  The main town is Naxos Chora, where the harbor is.  There are not really any worthwhile beaches in town.  Beach cities, such as Agios Prokopios (where we stayed), Agia Anna, Plaka, and Mikra Vigla, are at least a 10-12 minute drive south.  Naxos has multiple inland villages up narrow and winding roads.  We needed to be back in Naxos Chora that night for a dinner reservation and again early in the morning for a catamaran cruise.  We also needed a taxi to get to dinner after the cruise at the best restaurant on the island.  Naxos has a bus route from Agios Prokopios to Naxos Town which takes about 17 minutes and costs about 2 euros and comes every 15 minutes from 730 in the morning until 2 in the morning.  Our driver told us however that the buses fill, so just because you are in line does not mean you are going to be able to get on the bus.  We were also informed that a taxi to town was about 35 euros and that we were going to need two.   Though we planned to visit the less connected areas on the days we had a car, it was pretty clear we were going to need a car the whole time we were there.  Thank God, our driver got us connected lickety split with someone who had a vehicle that could fit us (small as it was) and in just an hour, we had our own set of wheels and we were ready to roll!  Ok, so on Naxos, you really need a car.

Where to stay:  Well, we stayed in a place called the Naxos Colosseo Apartments which was a beachfront property in Agios Prokopios and the first property that pops up in Naxos on, the sight I used to book all our accommodations in Greece.  Well, this is kind of a long story but I booked a one bedroom apartment for 5 with a hot tub (which I knew was in the room).  Later I was offered a discount by a representative if a paid 30% up front, which I accepted.  Anyway, this was all fine.  The only problem is that it left me unable to write a review through  The property is badly misrepresented.  Our room did not look anything like anything in the pictures.  Our room was like a bunker with one window and all three kids sleeping in the living room. The beachfront picture is ridiculous.  It doesn't look anything like this. I asked for another room, they didn't have one, so we made do. Now, knowing what to expect-I might even stay here again.  There is a wonderful breakfast every day, it's rolling distance to the beach, it's right smack in the middle of Agios Prokopios, and the airport/port transfer was a lifesaver.  Anyway, poke around, but I wouldn't rule it out.  You can stay in Chora but some of those guest houses are hard to find and tough to manage with your luggage.  Just a thought.  I recommend a stay in the beach towns.  

What's there to do?  Well, the beach is always a great option!  Naxos is home to some of most beautiful beaches in Greece.  We did not need to venture far from the gentle refreshing waters of Agios Prokopios, but also highly recommended are the beaches of Agia Anna, Plaka, Mikra Vigla, and Alyko (also referred to as Hawaii).  There seems to be plenty of public parking wherever you go so a car is ideal, but many of these beaches are connected on the bus line.  While many Greek beaches are pebbly, Naxos' beaches are sandy and at least Agios Prokopios have a sandy bottom.  On a windy day you can get some crud akin to sea grass in the water, but we really only saw this one day.  Remember from my last post that beaching is done a bit differently, be aware!

A gorgeous sunset on Agios Prokopios Beach

But it's pretty fun during the day too!!

If water is your thing, just about the best thing you can do is hop on a day long catamaran cruise and simply enjoy the opportunity to be on the sea and swim in the offshore crystal blue water.  There are many outfits that run such voyages, but we chose, and I highly recommend, the all day tour by Actionseaze (which I actually booked through Get Your Guide through this link)  Captain Nikolas and his first mate Bregil took us on a lovely journey north of Naxos Chora to three lovely swimming areas.  Beer and wine flowed freely throughout the day and we met darling people in our company of about 20 plus crew.  At lunch we all squished around the galley table and had the freshest moussaka and greek salad off real plates with real utensils, in a real family atmosphere.  This really ranked as just about or best day on our entire vacation.

Time to set sail!!

And there is no substitute for swimming 
in that blue water!!

Naxos has great hiking as well, and many know the best hike on the island is to the peak of Mount Zas (or Mount Zeus), the highest point in the Cyclades at 3290 feet.  There are at least two starting points, one of which will pass you by Zeus Cave, though this route, which starts in the village of Filoti, tacks on about 700 vertical feet and 1.2 miles. I say no thank you.  Far easier (did I just say that??) to start considerably higher up at the Agia Marina Chapel, where parking is available.  From this trailhead you will still climb 1300 feet over the 5km out and back.  There is little shade, but its not that hot up here, so it is more tolerable.  You will not have it to yourself.  Start early.  Bring hiking boots and water.  The last part is the toughest, but when you reach the peak you can see forever.

It's not easy!!

But reaching the top is quite satisfying!

Naxos has a Kitron Distillery in the city of Chalki, Vallindras Distillery, which is open from 10am to 10 pm.  This place was a big let down and certainly not worth making a trip for (we did not, we were coming down from Mt Zas when we visited).  The 5 minute tour and tasting are free.  There are three liquers to taste and an ouzo.  Anyway, despite the fact there were five of us, the girl poured me one half shot of each and then suggested we share the tasting!  The fifth person was literally licking the inside.  Thank you, we will take our business elsewhere....LIKE...

The Eggares Olive Press!  Located in where else but the small northern village of Eggares, the Eggares Olive Press dates back to the 1800's and is one of the country's oldest olive presses.  The delightful Spiros (who was literally like 21) took us on a very short tour.   His English was impeccable and we enjoyed the way he made jokes and poked fun at Americans.  After the short and informative tour-samples!  Lovely olives, olive oil, olive oil infused with lemon, basil, orange, chili, chocolate, olive pastes, and jams, all served over hunks of soft homemade bread.  Don't forget the honey and the cake made from the chocolate infused olive oil.  Anyway, we left here with several bags full of merchandise and left Spiros with a nice tip.  Vallindras Distillery really needs to learn from Eggares Olive Press!

Lots of happy samplers!

Where do we eat??  You have to eat on Naxos and we ate at some great tavernas!!  Axiostissa is about a 20 minute drive along winding roads south to the town of Kastraki.  There is no bus service at night to or from the restaurant.  I read in one guide book that when on Naxos, the writer made sure she made a reservation at Axiotissa every night!  Every night!  Another writer said that Axiotissa had the best food on the island.  Well, I had to see what all the hype was about.  Reservations are a must on every night of the week (we went on a Monday).  I made mine via Facebook messenger.  This was the kind of place where you wish that you wrote down everything you ate.  The food was unique for a taverna and there was plenty of choice.  The service was great and the atmosphere relaxing, almost like eating at someone's farm house.  Dinner was capped off by complimentary Rakomelo and fruit.  The cost was about 90$.  We ate in nearly 30 establishments, and Axiotissa was in our top 3 or 4 for sure.  


Incredible food!!

Running in stiff competition, however, and also on the island of Naxos is the charming
Apostolis. (Somehow this seems to be the name of a great many things on the Greek islands)  Apostolis is completely different from Axiotissa.  Apostolis is right in the middle of Naxos Chora.  You cannot take a car to the front of the restaurant, so once you have parked, you just need to be lucky enough to find it.  Apostolis has great atmosphere, with whitewashed walls and colorful lanterns under the night sky.  The area is busy!  It almost seems that there is a constant parade of people by and even through the restaurant.  Hey, this is one place that if you don't have a reservation, (mine again was made via FB Messenger) you can forget it.  The hostess told me that they were full that night and the next and half full the day after!  Anyway, at Apostolis we were first served a complimentary split pea soup.  Food here was also delicious, including a Naxian salad served in a bread bowl.  The service was friendly.  Curiously, one of the waiters here turned up serving in another restaurant on the day shift.  These kids work their tails off and they are great at what they do.  

What a cute place!

And did we mention the food is amazing??!

Anyway, I highly recommend these two restaurants.  We also enjoyed very much Nikos Restaurant in Agios Prokopios, about 5 min walk from our hotel, where we ate twice.  The restaurant is literally on the beach.  We did not have a reservation the first night but they squeezed us in.  We enjoyed it so much I walked over and made a reservation for the next night. Our table the second night was front row to the beach.   The staff was so tickled by our return that they brought us extra free desserts and a free extra half liter of wine.  Good luck resisting the adorable cats here, some of which are bold enough to jump right onto the empty table and gobble the shrimps left behind by the last diners!

A nice table at Nikos Restaurant

The Domus Festival 

There are many festivals on Naxos such as the Domus Festival which takes place at the Kastro in Naxos Chora during the months of July and August.  There are also a lot of ancient sites on Naxos such as the Temple of Apollo in Naxos Chora, the Temple of Demeter, the Kouroi of Flerio, and the Ancient Naxos Aqueduct.  Hey, we had been to Athens already.  If this is your thing, go ahead. At this point, we were saying "Greece rocks," when it came to more hot dry archeological ruins.  We hit the beach.  Windsurfing is huge on windy Naxos.  A bay full of surfers is the first thing you'll see as your plane is about to touch down.

Naxos is known for honey and cheese. Mmmmmm.

You should go.  Please, skip Santorini and go to Naxos.  You will not regret it.

I hope you enjoyed this post!  I hope I have time for another chapter before taking off for my next vacation in a little less than a week.

Okay so we did go to the Temple of Apollo..

from which the views of Naxos Town are stunning.

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