Naxos is the largest and most fertile island in the Cyclades group, robed with pristine beaches on its coastline, and surrounded by blue Mediterranean beauty. Inland there are ancient ruins, and traditional villages amphitheatrically cascading down the slopes of the mountains they nestle against. According to Greek Mythology, the young Zeus was raised in a cave on Mt Zas ( ‘Zas’ meaning ‘Zeus’) in the centre of Naxos island, on the tallest peak in the Cyclades.
The island of Naxos has been quarrying marble since ancient times. The ancient Naxians presented a solid marble sphinx, over 2 meters tall, in dedication to the Oracle of Delphi. While the remains of the original sphinx are in the museum at the archaeological site of Delphi, a smaller replica of the sphinx sits in front of the council buildings looking out over the harbour of Naxos.
One of the first things you see as you arrive into Naxos Port on the ferry is the massive marble Portara – a doorway to an unfinished, ancient temple. Located on a small island at the entrance to Naxos harbour, you can reach the site by crossing over a long connecting causeway. Standing next to the Portara and looking back at the old town of Naxos provides a stunning view of the terraced whitewashed buildings that make up the chaotic labyrinth of streets known as the chora.
Life on this island flows by at a relaxed pace, which is wonderfully restorative. Meander down to the Agios Georgios beach and occupy some deck chairs under a beach umbrella in front of a beachside café. Order drinks and snacks to consume at your leisure, while alternating between swimming in the sea with the inquisitive fish, and just lying in the sun relaxing to the sound of the waves washing up against the sand.
Heading out in the evening you can wander along the edge of the port down towards the Portara, and watch the sun set over the harbour. You will be spoilt for choice when it comes time for eating dinner! Later, take a walk back through the labyrinth of small alleys and twisting stone pathways skirting the base of the castle. Up and down past restaurants, cafés, bakeries, hundreds of cats, jewellery stores, and all manner of shops. Navigating the streets may require the skills of an orienteer, but getting lost can be just as much fun.
Hire a car at the port and take a drive up in to the mountains in the direction of the Temple of Demeter, Chalki and Filoti. Try stopping for lunch at Apeiranthos, with afternoon coffee in Apollonas, and be sure to find the Apollonas Kouros – an unfinished piece which rests in an ancient marble quarry. Winding your way back along the coast road returns you to beautiful Naxos.
Amazing food, beautiful beaches, scenic mountains, traditional villages, ancient ruins, and at a relaxed pace to enjoy it all in. An experience not to be missed.
Article by Fiona Whiley
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