Driving around in the middle of Naxos you will finish up in Filoti en Apeiranthos two isolated suggestive villages you have to "climb"!!! After something like 60-70 steps you will reach the narrow nice streets. Just one negative thing: we arrived there between 14:00 and 15:00 and found only one cafè open, all the restaurants were already closed!!! So watch out and bring some sandwiches with you!
We stayed a couple of hours in Agios Prokopios on our way back from Mikri Vigla to Naxos Town. We preferred this beach for the temperature of the water (definitely higher). It is very similar to other beaches we saw in the island but it is the only one where we saw 2 naked ladies lying on the beach. We were used to this in Mykonos but surprised us a bit in Naxos because we thought Mykonos was a "special island" where almost all is allowed, and Naxos, being an island for families, didn't allow this. We were wrong: nudism is accepted also in Naxos beaches.
On the west coast you'll find the best and most famous beaches of Naxos island. Beaches in Naxos are very nice, long and with a wonderful water but they are.... how could I say.... a little boring!!! They all look the same (differently from Milos for example), just thin white sand and blue crystal water, no rocks, nothing particular.... Enyway they are great for families with babies and afor a day in solitude under the sun! Mikri Vigla is one of the longest beach in the island but we found its waters a little too cold for uor tastes.....
Driving south from Naxos town we found the little village of Sangri. We parked the car in a narrow street nearby the country and went on on foot until we reached a little ancient church: Agios Nikolaos. It is now closed but very suggestive.
Everywhere you lie your eyes on in Naxos Town you will see the Portara, and like little ants you will see a lot of people going to visit it at sunset. We did it too! And I must admit that sunset light creates a paly of shadow that make the monument more fascinating and impressive! You have to go to the port then climb the long stone stair that leads you to the temple.
Apollonas is in the north of Naxos. The trip towars the little town in very pleasant because lookiung outside the windows you will see a lot of little secret colored coves you can reach only by boat. Before entering apolonas there is a little sign on the road which shows a little stone stair leading to the biggest Kouro in Naxos. It is over 10 meters long and lies on a heap of rocks as he were taking a nap! If you climb the stones at the head of the statue you have a wonderfu look over Apollonas and its beach.
After leaving the maintown you will find a litlle village famouse for one of the Kouros disseminated in the island. Kouros are giant statues made of stone produced in Naxos, famous for its marble mines. Every ancient greek statue is made with Naxos marble! The ones you can find in Naxos are not finished. This one is inside the backyard of a taverna but you don't have to pay anything to see it.
Going east from Naxos town and reaching the center of the island you'll find Halki, a little nice village where typical liqueur Kitron is produced. In the little factory (Vallindras distillery) you can observe all the devices they use to make the alcoholic drink and learn a little piece of history about Naxos. You can also taste different kind of liqueurs and of course.... buy them!!!
Naxos was one of the few catholic islands in Cyclades. So it is very interesting to go there at about 17 and ask for the guided visit. A little old lady who just speaks Freanch and Greek, grown up in the orphanage by the nuns will explain everything about this italian governor from a noble family of Venice who built his house and the castle. She doesn't speak english, so.... take a little dictionary with you! She will also show you the orphanage and the friars' monastery and you can clearly see in which terrible conditions people and chilfdren had to live at those poor times!!!
If you like us arrive in Naxos in the early afternoon, throw your package in the bedroom and go explore the beautiful Kastro! I thought no cycladic island could be better than Mykonos... I was wrong! Naxos Town is definitely better! It is very difficult to describe it appropriately but just fancy a labirinth of tidy, narrow streets, in the shadow of coloured flowers or warm colour-painted walls.... Only a few tourists walking and mu ch, much silence.....
When you look at Naxos Town from far you can see the grey walls of what seems a little castle: the real name of the family was "De la roche" made "Della Rocca" from Italians. They were a noble and important family who joined the Crusades too. Inside you can find a typical XV century house with old scenes of life, old toys and objects as somebody had taken a photograph at least one century ago. Everything is frozen in time and it is funny to imagine what looked like the breathtaking view on the Portara 100 years ago!
Perched in mountain Fanari at around 650m high, Apiranthos is one of the most typical villages of Naxos. It has strong connections with Crete. It is believed, back in the X century, that its first settlers were from Crete. Later in the XVIII and XIX century a new wave of people from this island came to flea from Turkish forces. Their links can even today be seen in a local dialect, folklore, handicraft and traditions (such as kotsakia, a local poetry).
The wealth of this town came from the marble extraction from the nearby quarry. This stone was used in pavement and in buildings across town. There are also beautiful squares and arches in the narrow paths that cross town. The white houses that covered this village are in the origin of another of its names: White Town.
Another influence was Venice. An italian family lived here in the XV century and built the tower that can be seen. In the XX century many people from this village emigrated and settled in America.
Other places of interest are the Church of Panagia Apeirathitissa which is one of the oldest churches of the island and houses some fine and valuable icons. Apiranthos has three small museum which are the Archaeological Museum of Apiranthos, a Museum of Folk Art and a Geological Museum.
There are many nice restaurants, taverns and coffees in this small town, some are said to be the best in the island. With their wodden tables and chairs set in secluded squares give to the village a special taste.
All the centre of Naxos has some of the most fertile lands in the Cyclades. For that motive human settlement is previous here than in other nearby islands. Apiranthos literally means “plenty of flowers”. When I went there in August I could only see the endless yellow plains but I imagined how it is in Spring when the flowers blossom.
The agricultural background can also be seen in the windmills scattered around. Cyclades can be quite windy so a windmill was a good addition. Most of them are today in ruins remembering of an old past that won’t return.
Apiranthos is a small town with a population of about 1.000 people so it can be seen relatively fast but is a must for everyone visiting the heart of Naxos. It is a breath of fresh air visiting this town. Of course there are tourists but not that many and the town still feels authentic and safe from mass tourism and crapy souvenirs.
Kouros, an archaic Greek statue representing a young standing male, traditionally
served two purposes - ritual statues presented to temples by prominent Greeks (Delos Kouros), or grave stone, placed in cemeteries to mark the graves of prominent citizens.
There are three unfinished Kouros statues in Naxos - in Apollonas, Melanes and Flerio, all abandoned because of marble deficiency. We visited one in Flerio.
this 6.4 m tall male statue, which dates back to the 7th century, is more sophisticated than two others. it has face and long hair, and is believed to be depicting Apollo (During that period no man was allowed to grow long hair, except Apollo).
The statue was discovered by a local farmer, who now keeps it at its orchard. Abandoned centuries ago, missing his left foot and a part of his right leg, it is finally enjoying all the glory it had been deprived of due to a marble flaw.
The visit to the site is free of charge, and the owner is known to lead the tourists around his gardens (we unfortunately missed that as we came at siesta time).
Naxos has a charming Old Market Town (Palaia Agora). it reminded me a maze and ant-house at the same time - narrow winding streets that pass under archways, saturated with tavernas and shops, and people roaming idly around or in search for souvenirs. and though there is what seems to be a pretty straightforward map at the entrance to the city (at the picture), finding a way out could be a challenging task unless one has a photographic memory. Overall, fun night pass time, if you don’t mind to be occasionally bugged by vendors trying to drag you into their shops, after all - it is the Market Street :)
the Cyclades Islands are known for beautiful and mesmerizing sunsets, with Thira and Oia being the top destinations. I was fortunate to see sunsets in all the islands I have visited and have to admit - they are equally beautiful.
the best place to watch a sunset in Naxos is definitely the ancient Portara. (Try to catch the sun in the gate before it's gone :)