It was several years ago that I wanted to explore Greece in its true essence, going even beyond the more conventional summer destinations. I wanted to fully discover its smells, its flavors and its people, and this is why I organized my summer trip around the Cyclades Islands (and beyond), in the largest archipelago in Greece.
- Discover all the islands named "Cyclades" and united by a series of striking features is a journey that of course must take place in several tranches: there are 220 islands among which stand out the main 20 ones.-
The tour that Giacomo and I chose to do started from the island of Naxos, passed through Astypalea and Paros and ended in Mýkonos. Each of these destinations has left us a memory, a story, a river of sensations that I will tell you with a series of posts of which this (dedicated to the island of Naxos) is the first.
NAXOS – THE BIGGEST ISLAND OF THE CYCLADES
Naxos is the perfect island to discover the essence of the Cyclades, it is a varied island full of contrasts where the crystal sea meets a wild and uncontaminated nature dotted with many picturesque villages.
We chose Naxos because, although it may seem a touristic destination, it is an island preferred by the Greeks rather than foreigners and that still maintains the authentic appearance that some Greek places are gradually losing.
I want to anticipate that, because of the unpaved and no lighting roads, it will certainly be better to rent a car instead of a scooter. In my opinion this is a safer and more practical choice thanks to the several parking areas around the chora of Naxos and along the beaches.
How to reach Naxos Island
There are several ways to reach Naxos:
– you can choose to land in Mykonos, Santorini or Athens and then catch a ferry that will take a from a minimum of 40 minutes to a maximum of 5 hours for Naxos;
– You can opt for a direct flight from Athens to Naxos (the island is in fact equipped with a tiny airport where only flights from the Greek capital land);
– if you leave from Italy you can board a ship (perhaps carrying your car) from the port of Venice / Ancona / Bari / Brindisi, to arrive at the port of Patras and reach Athens by car / bus where you can take a ferry to Naxos.
The weather of Naxos
The climate of the island of Naxos is Mediterranean, the summer is definitely sunny but, thanks to the wind that blows from the north (Meltemi -ndr), the temperature rarely exceeds 30 degrees. For this reason I suggest you to bring a sweatshirt or a denim jacket and wear it at night to avoid the possibility of a boring cold that would ruin your holiday.
WHERE TO STAY IN NAXOS
To fully immerse ourselves in the life of Naxos we chose to stay in the center of the chora at the Anassa Suites: a complex mini-apartments with a great design and the advantage of being located in the heart of island life.
- the apartments are hidden in the maze of narrow streets that run through the town full of shops, bars and restaurants of Greek cuisine.-
The choice of staying in the heart of the island was ideal to be able to move in the evening without using the car !
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES OF NAXOS
During our week in Naxos we discovered several beaches that we literally fell in love with. Here I indicate the beaches that I mostly liked and that I recommend you:
–Plaka: the longest beach of the island, not too far from the center and with some seasides where to spend the day at a low price (about 15 € for a couple of sunbeds and umbrella). My favorite beach club is Petrino Beach which boasts the best dakos I have ever tasted during my entire trip to Greece!
–Mikri Vigla: the most evocative beach of Naxos that rises close to an immense white rock cliff where you can climb to discover surprising natural pools of clear and crystalline water. There are a couple of beach clubs where you can stop for lunch.
–Alyko Beach: a deserted beach hidden among a series of small bays immersed in nature by the blue and crystalline sea. The beach is not equipped, so I suggest you bring everything you need (umbrella and cooler bag) to spend a day of absolute relax surrounded by the wild nature.
One day on Koufonisia island
If you have already explored all the most beautiful beaches of Naxos island then you absolutely must spend a day in the beautiful island of Koufonisia which is about two hours by ferry from there. Before coming to Koufonisia the ship will stop (without having to get off the ferry) first to Iraklia and then to Skinoussa where you will be enchanted by the color of the water of the port which will make you foretaste of the immense beauty of your final destination.
The island of Koufonisia is really small and I suggest you to take walk to reach its wild beaches, look around and stop in the bays that most affect you. The one we preferred was Finikas beach with a transparent sea and close to a very cute chiringuito. In Koufunisia there is not much to do or see and for this reason I suggest you return to Naxos in the evening or in any case not to spend more than one night on the island.
NAXOS ISLAND – APEIRANTHOS AND THE TEMPLE OF APOLLO
The island of Naxos offers so much to do, from the wonderful beaches, to the windsurf and kytesurf lessons and then to the picturesque villages of the hinterland like Apeiranthos which, thanks to its tangle of stairways and alleyways scattered with traditional restaurants and craft shops, will really excite you. If you choose to visit this delightful place located in the hinterland of the island, you must enjoy the beautiful sunset having an aperitif at Rotonda, a restaurant with a breathtaking panorama over the whole island.
Another experience that you can not miss in Naxos is the visit to the magical Temple of Apollo (Portara) that will strike you at the moment of your arrival at the port of the island. The temple stands out with all its grandeur on a hill and, although at first sight it may seem a bit difficult to reach, the access to the archaeological site is really a breeze thanks to the easily passable trail. The moment of day that I suggest you to visit the symbolic monument of the island of Naxos is the sunset that will paint the sky of Naxos with pink and orange shades.
NAXOS ISLAND NIGHTLIFE
If in the morning the chora of Naxos appears calm but I assure you that the evening is full of people looking for a dinner in the most popular restaurants of the island or a drink to enjoy the night.
We had the opportunity to test different restaurants and those that most impressed me are the following ones:
–Doukato: my favorite restaurant where we decided to return twice to enjoy the cozy atmosphere and the fantastic Greek cuisine. Finding it through the maps won’t be easy because of the hidden position behind another restaurant, so ask the shopkeepers who will be happy to help you. The dishes that I mostly loved were the swordfish marinated on a spit with naxian potatoes and the big squid stuffed with feta .
–Apostolys: you will surely notice it by walking through the alleys of the chora because you will be struck by the colorful lanterns that dominate the whole restaurant like festoons. Do not miss the zucchini balls, the tasty moussaka and the galaktoboureko (a typical Greek milk dessert).
–Tortuga: it is located in Plaka and is certainly a restaurant with a more refined kitchen than the previous ones. Tortuga in the morning works as a beach club and in the evening turns into a restaurant with a bohemian allure where you can not miss the fried feta in kataifi dough and the sweet and sour salmon.
Strolling through the narrow streets of Naxos, you will find into some very nice places where you can have a drink. My favorite, the Ocean Club that is on the left side of the harbor and offers good music and tasty drinks – I loved the red cactus! -.
If nightlife is not right for you, however, you must opt for an aperitif at the bar 1739 which is located on the highest point of the Naxos Kastro (the Venetian castle in the heart of the chora – ed) where you can order a beer or a glass of white wine admiring the amazing lights of the sunset.
Here is the guide to spend a week on the island of Naxos without risking to miss anything of this wonderful island that has a lot to offer between history, sea, nightlife and so much tradition.
I remind you, then, that in the story highlights of my Instagram page @lapetiterobinoire you will find all the videos I posted during my vacation.