What to Do in Naxos
With the diverse landscapes on Naxos, from granite and marble beaches with soft powdery sands edged by calm, crystal-clear turquoise water to soaring mountains with scenic trails, you’ll have a long list of recreational activities to take part in. There are plenty of opportunities to delve into culture too, exploring museums, ancient sites, and simply wandering historic narrow streets, sampling a wide range of mouthwatering foods.
This is one of the few Greek islands other than Crete that could feed itself, with all sorts of market gardens, a wide range of artisan made Naxian cheeses, flocks of cattle, goats, and sheep just about everywhere you look, not to mention fresh-caught fish and seafood, all of which make their way to restaurant menus.
This is a destination that’s hard to leave, but if you have to, be sure and put these things to do on your list while you’re lucky enough to be here.
Spend the Day at the Beach
As the island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, you’ll want to spend at least a day at one of them, or sampling many. Take your pick as there are many, from popular Plaka, a 2.5-mile-long stretch with everything from a secluded section for nude sunbathing to family-friendly areas, to Saint George with its shallow waters ideal for tiny tots who want to splash around.
Agios Prokopios is also popular among families as it’s naturally protected from the wind and includes plenty of eateries, markets, and beach clubs at the southeastern end while the northwestern point provides plenty of tranquility. For a remote stretch, Pyrgaki is ideal, with fine white sands and shallow cobalt waters spread across three small coves. There are no umbrellas, sunbeds, or beach clubs but you will find some traditional tavernas and plenty of peace and quiet.
Explore the Archaeological Museum of Naxos
The Archaeological Museum of Naxos sits within a 17th-century Venetian building displaying artifacts from the Neolithic to early Christian periods. You’ll find it at the central square at the top of the Kastro, spread over five floors with everything from objects used in daily life to stunning works of art.
Naxos was a central for Cycladic art when the Cycladic civilization was at the peak of its glory during the third millennium B.C., with the museum displaying a remarkable collection of items from the period as well as others, including gold jewelry marble statues, clay pots, vessels, wooden tools, and funeral gifts.
It also contains an impressive array of Mycenaean pottery that dates to the second millennium B.C. along with statues and terra cotta figurines from many different periods, including the Bronze Age, Classical and Hellenistic eras.
Hike to the Summit of Mount Zeus
There are a couple of different routes that will get you to the summit of soaring Mount Zeus, bringing a panoramic vista of the Aegean Sea and nearby islands. The ancient Greeks believed that this was the birthplace of Zeus, and you can even visit the cave of Zeus that the mythological legend refers to, complete with stalactites and stalagmites.
The easiest route is the trail that begins from Aghia Marina Church, winding about 2.5 miles to the top, but you might want to head back down along the track that passes the caves, ending in Filoti. It’s easier on the descent and the village offers a number of enticing eateries, perfect for enjoying a lunch of traditional moussaka after concluding your scenic trek.
Take a Cheesemaking/Wine Tour
Naxos is known for its long cheesemaking tradition as well as for its wine. A cheesemaking/wine tour brings the opportunity to meet the locals and immerse yourself in authentic island life. You’ll visit a cheese farm to discover how famous Naxian cheeses are made, meet the farmers, the farm animals and even pitch in to help the owners make their signature cheese before tasting the delicious results.
Afterward, you’ll head to a picturesque family-run vineyard where the owner will show off his vines while providing commentary on the indigenous varieties, terroir, and modern verses traditional methods. Of course, you’ll get to enjoy a tasting which includes five different wines produced on the island paired with local cheeses, including famous graviera, all of which will be guided by the passionate winemaker.
Wander Through Chora
Chora, or Naxos Town, is a maze of marble-paved streets and alleyways, with steep lanes that lead to the Kastro (castle). They rise from the waterfront, providing a fabulous place to stroll, where one could easily wander for hours enjoying the enchanting, traffic-free atmosphere, whitewashed homes splashed with blue doors, draped in bougainvillea and occasionally complete with a cat in the window.
There are surprises around nearly every corner, like rooftop patios that suddenly reveal the glistening blue expanse of the sea. You’ll find plenty of galleries to browse and shops selling souvenirs, handmade jewelry, and other artisan goods, along with plenty of cafes, tavernas, and bars. No matter where you stop for a bite to eat, you’re bound to be impressed, just plan to leave full as dessert is almost always included.
Catch a Sunset from the Portara
As your ferry makes its way into Naxos’ port, one of the first things you’ll notice is its iconic symbol, the Portara. A monumental marble frame that looks like a window or doorway, it’s the remains of a portal to the temple of Apollo, dating back to the 6th-century BC. While it was never finished it stands nearly 20-feet tall and presents quite the sight, located on the islet of Palatia which is linked to the port by a causeway.
It can easily be reached with a short walk from the waterfront with the best time to visit just before sunset. While you won’t be alone, after dining in one of the harborfront restaurants or the Old Town, stretch your legs as you join the other couples to watch a magical sunset with a brilliant orange glow splashed across the water.
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