Naxos, Greece: The Ultimate Guide

Naxos has to be one of the coolest places we’ve been to, especially with the kids. Originally, when planning our Greece holiday, it was really hard to choose which Greek island to stay on! Especially as we just wanted to stay in one place for a while so the children didn’t get overwhelmed. Sandwiched between a three-night stay in Dubai and a Northern UK road trip, we had a finite amount of time to dedicate to Greece, so we wanted to make the most of it.

The research I read said Naxos was the best Greek island for kids, but I was worried that we might be underwhelmed compared to the “big guys” (Santorini and Mykonos). I need not have worried at all! Naxos was the perfect place for us – pristine beaches, limited crowds, easy to get around, great accommodation, and affordable. And the cherry on top – there are so many fascinating things to do in Naxos! From historical monuments and museums to delicious restaurants to water sports, it really has everything.

So below is a wrap up of everything I think you need to know to plan a fabulous Naxos holiday.

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How to get to Naxos

The most popular way to reach Naxos is by ferry. There are regular ferry services from Athens’ ports, such as Piraeus and Rafina, as well as from other Greek islands. The ferry ride offers spectacular views of the Aegean Sea and the Cyclades islands. Be sure to check the ferry schedule and book your tickets in advance, especially during the high season.

From Athens, the ferry takes between three and four hours, and the ferries are super comfortable with spacious seating, plenty of room to move around, cafeterias, and outdoor observation decks. On the way over we took a Hellenic Seaways ferry; this trip was a bit rocky so bring seasickness meds if you need them. We took a Seajets ferry on the way back and this ride was smoother (not sure if it’s where we were sitting, the ferry itself, the weather, or a combination of everything).

Naxos also has an airport, Naxos Island National Airport (JNX), located near the town of Agios Prokopios. During the peak tourist season, there are direct flights from Athens International Airport (ATH) and some other European cities. The airport is well-connected to the island’s main destinations, and taxis and rental cars are readily available upon arrival.

How to get around Naxos

There are plenty of ways to get around Naxos but hiring a car will give you the most flexibility. There are some excellent rentals to choose from on this island including Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, and Alamo. Booking your car hire in advance will ensure you don’t miss out, as rental companies get busy in the Summer months.

If you don’t want to drive, then you can make use of the public transport system here, also known as KTEL. The central bus station is located in Chora and connects the island’s capital to other villages such as Agios Prokopios, Apollonas, and Halki (Chalki). However, there are some areas the bus can’t doesn’t access, so do consider a car if you can.

We did a mixture of both – we stayed in Chora, very close to Agios Georgios beach. This meant everything we needed day-to-day was within easy walking distance. Then, we hired a super cute convertible Fiat 500 for a couple of days to explore the island further.

Alternatively, you can hop on a bus tour which will show you the highlights. This full-day bus tour lasts for 8 hours and includes a visit to Demeter’s Temple and Apollonas Bay among other destinations.

Where to stay in Naxos

There are several places you can base yourself while on the island. Popular towns and villages include Chora, Agios Prokopios, Plaka, and Agia Anna. Each one offers a variety of accommodation options for every budget so there’s something for everyone.

Here are some great places to stay on Naxos Island:

  • Ormos Studios, Naxos Chora – We stayed in these great apartments as they’re well set up for families. The bakery was around the corner and it was a two minute walk to Agios Georgios Beach. The host is also lovely and so helpful.
  • Galini Hotel, Naxos Chora – This hotel is just a short walk from Agios Georgios Beach and offers gorgeous rooms, as well as a traditional Greek breakfast. 
  • Dimitra Hotel, Agios Prokopios – Boasting an outdoor pool, bar/snack bar, outdoor dining area, and a sun deck, this property has excellent facilities.
  • Aggeliki’s Diamond, Agia Anna – This gorgeous property is decorated beautifully and offers a variety of suites, one of which even has a hot tub! 
  • Nikos & Maria Apts – Suites, Plaka – This hotel is located right near Plaka Beach and offers fantastic facilities, sea view rooms, and charming suites. 

Or find other amazing Naxos accommodation options here:

 

Towns and villages on Naxos Island

Chora (Naxos Town)

Chora is the main town of Naxos and is the island’s capital. Known for its traditional architecture, rich history, and tourist infrastructure, it’s a great base for your visit to the island, especially if you don’t have a car as there’s a bus station located here.

Chora is also home to the island’s main port, so you can easily get here from neighbouring islands, and Naxos Airport is just a 10-minute drive away.

Attractions in Chora include the Temple of Apollo, the Archaeological Museum of Naxos, and the Venetian Castle of Naxos.

Agios Prokopios

The coastal village of Agios Prokopios is just a 10-minute drive from Chora. This is where you’ll find Agios Prokopios Beach, one of the island’s most popular beaches. 

It has an organised area with sunbeds and umbrellas, making it a great place to sunbathe. Agios Prokopios Beach also boasts crystal-clear waters, so it’s a fantastic spot for swimming and snorkelling. 

If you’d prefer something a bit more adventurous, you’ll find the Nima Diving Center nearby, where you can learn how to dive. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the surrounding bars and restaurants. 

Agia Anna

Agia Anna is located along from Agios Prokopios and you can easily walk between the two. Although only a few people live here all year round, there are ample tourist amenities in this village including hotels, restaurants, and shops.

As with many of the popular tourist villages, Agia Anna is located along a beach. It’s well-organised and attracts swimmers and sunbathers. Not to mention, several accommodation options overlook the beach. 

You’ll also find some fantastic restaurants in Agia Anna, including Gorgona Greek Tavern, Avli, and Ostria, all of which offer sea views.

Plaka

Plaka is just under a 20-minute drive from Chora and is located near Mikri Vigla. The highlight of this area is Plaka Beach, which is known for its golden sands, crystal-clear waters, and amenities, including sunbeds and umbrellas.

There are various accommodation options to choose from in Plaka, many of which offer sea views. You’ll also find some fantastic bars in this area overlooking the coast including Rooftop Bar Naxos and Earth Bar.

There’s not much to do in Plaka, but it’s a great base for beachgoers, as there are several beaches nearby. Several bars also offer beach service!

Mikri Vigla

Mikri Vigla is around a 25-minute drive from Chora and is located right by Plaka. Compared to other villages in Greece, this place doesn’t suffer from mass tourism, making it the perfect destination for a relaxing getaway.

Boasting traditional Cycladic architecture, beautiful coastal landscapes, and various tourist amenities, Mikri Vigla has something for everyone. There are also ample day trip opportunities from here. 

It’s a fantastic destination for beachgoers too, especially those who are interested in windsurfing and kitesurfing. This is thanks to the area being blessed by the Meltemi (north winds). 

Appolonas

The best things to do in Naxos

1. Visit The Best Beaches on Naxos

The island of Naxos is known for its beautiful beaches and there are plenty to visit. Here are the best beaches on Naxos:

Agios Prokopios Beach

Agios Prokopios is just a short drive from Naxos Town (Chora) and is one of the island’s most popular beaches. It’s been awarded blue flag status multiple times, thanks to its high-quality waters making it a popular spot. 

Agios Prokopios Beach is well organised, with plenty of umbrellas and sun beds for those who are looking to catch some rays. There are also some sporting opportunities on offer, such as beach volleyball, banana tubing, and windsurfing. During the summer, this beach can get really busy so I’d suggest getting here early! 

Mikri Vigla Beach

Mikri Vigla Beach is around a 20-minute drive from Chora (Naxos Town) and boasts one of the island’s most popular beaches. There are two beach areas; the northern side and the southern side, and both have something to offer.

The northern area of Mikri Vigla Beach is known for its windsurfing and kitesurfing opportunities, as the Meltemi (north winds) frequent here. Alternatively, there’s the southern area which is much more sheltered and is perfect for families. Both beaches offer soft sandy shores and turquoise waters, and you’ll find various amenities nearby including local tavernas.

Agios Georgios Beach

Agios Georgios is another great spot for beachgoers and it’s located within the main town of Chora. While it isn’t as beautiful as some other beaches, its proximity to Chora means an abundance of amenities and we loved trying the various beachfront restaurants here.

2. The Cedar Forest of Alyko

In the southern part of Naxos, lies the Cedar Forest of Alyko, one of the few cedar forests in Greece. It’s also one of the country’s largest cedar forests, stretching for around 800 sq metres (8,611 sq feet). 

As well as different species of cedar, heathers, mastic trees, and wildflowers are also found in this area. These are all able to survive here despite the unfavourable conditions, due to the wind and sand dunes.

Hawaii Beach and Alyko Beach are also found along the forest edge, and both beaches are remote and unorganised. 

3. Mount Zas

Mount Zas is the island’s highest peak at an altitude of around 1,004 metres (3,294 feet). It’s located about 18 km (11 miles) from Chora and is a popular hiking destination. 

Mount Zas has an important place in Greek mythology, as it’s believed that Zeus (the Greek King of Gods) grew up on this mountain.

To reach the summit of Mount Zas, you can either hike from Aria Spring or Agia Marina. No matter which trail you choose, prepare yourself for a challenge, but the views from the summit are well worth the effort.

4. The Cave of Zas 

If you’re interested in Greek mythology, the Cave of Zas is another must-visit. Situated on the western side of Mount Zas, this cave is where Zeus found shelter from his father Cronus. According to mythology, it was here that an eagle offered him the thunderbolt.

The Cave of Zas is also known for its geology, as you’ll find various stalactites and stalagmites here, along with rare stone formations.

To reach this cave, you’ll typically hike from Aria Spring. Along the way, you’ll be treated to striking sea views and a variety of flora and fauna.

5. Go on a catamaran cruise 

If you’re looking for things to do in Naxos, then head out on a catamaran cruise. There are some fantastic tour operators to choose from, and these boat trips will allow you to appreciate the island’s beauty. 

This all-inclusive catamaran day cruise is a great option. You’ll cruise around the Aegean Sea for 7 hours, with all alcoholic beverages, snacks, and lunch included, as well as tea and coffee. 

You’ll also have use of snorkelling equipment throughout the cruise, and you’ll visit secluded coves that would be difficult to access independently. The catamaran also has WiFi.

6. Visit the island’s historical landmarks 

The island of Naxos has some truly breathtaking historical landmarks and monuments. Here are our favourites:

The Temple of Apollo (or Portara)

This is one of the most well-known sites on Naxos and is all that remains of an unfinished temple, which dates back to 530 BC. This iconic landmark is a massive marble gate that once served as the entrance to an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo. It’s a popular spot to watch the sunset and take in panoramic views of the sea and Naxos Town (Chora).

Temple of Demeter

Another must-visit is the sacred Temple of Demeter, which was built around 530-520 BC. Located in the picturesque village of Sangri, this ancient temple is dedicated to the goddess Demeter (the Goddess of harvest and fertility) and is made from Naxian marble. Just note entry closes at 3pm and it’s quite far away from Chora, so make sure you plan your schedule accordingly.

The Venetian Museum

Housed in a 13th-century tower in Naxos Town, this museum provides insight into the Venetian influence on the island with exhibits on art, history, and culture.

Kouros of Appolonas

Naxos is famous for its colossal marble statues known as kouros figures. These ancient sculptures can be found scattered across the island, with the most well-preserved ones on display close to the glorious village of Appolonas (which is probably my favourite spot in Naxos!)

Archaeological Museum of Naxos

The Archaeological Museum of Naxos in Naxos Town (Chora) showcases a collection of artifacts from the island’s ancient history, including sculptures, pottery, and jewellery.

The Kastro

Located in Naxos Town, the Kastro is a medieval Venetian castle with narrow winding streets, churches, and museums. It offers a glimpse into the island’s past.

7. Take a day trip to other Greek islands

Thanks to its location, Naxos is a great base for exploring nearby islands. First of all, there’s the Small Cyclades (or Lesser Cyclades), with ferries to some of the islands taking between 1-1.5 hours.  

Ferries to Paros and Antiparos tend to be quicker and take around 45 minutes. You’ve also got the option to visit Amrogos on a day trip, although the ferry journey takes around 2.5 hours (or longer).

Alternatively, you can head on this full-day boat trip, which will take you to the islands of Delos and Mykonos, where you’ll have three hours of free time on each. 

8. Indulge in the local cuisine 

Greek food is known across the world and Naxos is a fantastic place to try the local dishes. No matter whether you’re a vegetarian or meat-eater, there are tons of great options to choose from. And seafood lovers – Naxos is the perfect place for you too!

There’s Sefoukloti which is a traditional local pie, Rosto (a local pork dish), and various meat stews. Of course, you can also opt for the more well-known dishes, such as moussaka and souvlaki. And don’t forget Naxian potatoes! Hopefully, these will be served with many a meal during your time in Naxos.

In terms of dips, you need to try Tzatziki, Tyrokafteri, and Taramosalata, which are often served alongside bread and vegetables. When it comes to sweet treats, don’t miss out on melachrino (walnut cake).

Coffee drinkers, make sure you order Espresso Freddo, the Greek version of an iced coffee which is perfect on a hot Cycladic day. Pair this with some of the delightful breakfast pastries from the bakery down the street to start your day right.

The final thing that is an absolute must is Kitron, a sweet liqueur made from citron leaves and fruit, unique to Naxos. Some restaurants will serve this as a finisher after a meal. In Chalki, you’ll find some beautiful Kitron distilleries to do a tasting, too.

9. Take a cooking class 

If you love Greek cuisine, then I’d highly recommend taking a cooking class while in Naxos. There’s no better way to embrace the local foods and you’ll learn skills that you can use back at home!

This half-day cooking class takes place at Basiliko Family Tavern and lasts for around four hours. You’ll learn all about the island’s traditional cuisine and will have the chance to make local dishes, using fresh and organic ingredients.

At the end of the cooking class, you’ll get to enjoy the dishes you’ve prepared with traditional music and local wine.

10. Hit some of the local hiking trails 

There are plenty of things to do in Naxos, but hiking is certainly one of the best. One of the top trails is the route up Mount Zas (either from Aria Spring or Agia Marina) as you’ll get breathtaking vistas from the summit. 

Another great option is a circular trail starting from Halki, which will take you through the Byzantine park of Naxos. Along this route, you’ll see traditional Byzantine temples.

Alternatively, you’ll find various other trails, all starting from villages across the island, including Apiranthos and Danakos. Just make sure you pack plenty of water! 

11. Enjoy some water sports

The Greek islands are known for their water sports opportunities and the island of Naxos is no different. Here, you can take part in various activities such as kitesurfing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, and waterskiing. Banana boats are also popular.

If you’d prefer something more low-key, you can hire a canoe/kayak, relax on a standup paddleboard (SUP), or enjoy a sea-bike experience. 

There are some fantastic watersports clubs found throughout the island, with Flisvos Watersports Centre and Plaka Watersports being two of the best options! It’s also possible to just hire equipment rather than take lessons.

12. Go wine tasting 

While in Naxos, wine tasting is a fantastic activity. There are two excellent vineyards located on the island, and these are St. Anna Winery and Terra Grazia Estate.

St. Anna Winery tends to be the most popular option and is known for its stunning gardens and unparalleled service. However, Terra Grazia Estate also offers a fantastic experience.

This wine-tasting tour will see you visit St. Anna Winery, where you’ll tour the vineyards, and learn about wine-making traditions. You’ll also get to enjoy some local products while sampling several types of wine.

13. Explore local villages

Although the island’s beaches are often considered the highlight of visiting Naxos, this part of Greece is home to some truly authentic and beautiful villages. 

Chora is the island’s capital and you’ll find a wealth of attractions here. There’s also Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, Plaka, and Mikri Vigla, all of which boast fantastic beaches.

As well as these villages, you’ll want to visit some of the lesser-known settlements in Naxos, particularly in the centre of the island. Halki (or Chalki) is located in the centre of Naxos and used to be the island’s capital. We really loved Chalki, in particular it’s beautiful streets and art galleries. There’s also the picturesque villages of Apeiranthos, Sagri, and Filoti.

Where to eat in Naxos

There are some fantastic restaurants in Naxos, serving a variety of different cuisines. However, you can’t come to Greece and not try Greek cuisine. Luckily, there are plenty of authentic tavernas that may take your fancy.

Here are some great places to eat:

  • Maro’s Taverna, Chora – This popular Greek restaurant is known for its delicious food, great service, and huge portion sizes, and offers great value for money.
  • Meze *2, Chora – This charming restaurant offers outside dining with sea views, as well as mouthwatering seafood dishes, including calamari and risotto. 
  • Kozi, Chora – A popular eatery located along the seafront that offers fantastic views of Portara. It’s a great place to watch the sunset too. 
  • Gorgona Greek Tavern, Agia Anna – This taverna is found right along the beachfront so offers striking sea views and it’s a great place to try local dishes. 
  • Rotunda, Apeiranthos – This beautiful restaurant in the central district of Apeiranthos is worth the drive for the views alone, let alone the delicious food.

Final words

Naxos truly has my heart (and Mr. Winter’s heart, and the kids’ hearts!). Our week here was truly the Greek family vacation we needed, and we came away feeling happier, replenished, and like we’d had an adventure.

From excellent food to safe beaches to lovely people and great accommodation options, Naxos really is the most underrated Greek island I can think of.

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