After a fabulous five days in Santorini, it was time for us to proceed to our next Greek island, Naxos. Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades, and I chose it because of its unique history, picturesque beaches, and withstanding tradition and culture.
After a two hour ferry ride from Santorini, we arrived in Naxos at a not-to-be-named hotel, where our one and only trip failure took place. We realized that due to a variety of reasons, we could not stay there and thankfully quickly found different accommodations at the Nissaki Beach Hotel, a beautiful boutique and family run place located on St. George Beach, an inlet about a five minute walk from Hora (downtown Naxos). Nissaki Beach Hotel was easily one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed at; the decor, location, service, AMAZING breakfast buffet, and even their hydro-massage shower made our stay absolutely fabulous.
Hora, the main town in Naxos, was indeed one of the highlights of our trip. It was an interesting combination of traditional businesses and trendy, slick establishments. We spent every evening at at least one establishment in Hora, which offered a large variety of traditional Greek tavernas, as well as higher-end Greek restaurants as well. One of my favorite meals in Naxos was at Taverna To Kastro, an outdoor upscale taverna located at the base of the Kastro (Venetian castle) offering a spectacular view of downtown, port, and the Porata while eating scrumptious traditional foods! Other places worth mentioning include Typographico (Greek-ish, beautiful view, located in an old newspaper factory!), A Good Heart (waterfront, inexpensive traditional taverna with many vegetarian options), Milkato (waterfront, gelato and loukomades, a Greek specialty), and Aktaion Chocolaterie (gorgeous waterfront Parisian-style chocolaterie and patisserie).
While every evening we would head to the harbor side to explore Hora’s newer and busier waterfront area, we also spent an entire day wandering through the Old Hora (Kastro), a maze of stairways, walkways, and alleyways which weave through an area once occupied by the Venetians during the Byzantine period. We took our time and explored the Antico Veneziano, Archeological Museum, Catholic Cathedral, and Venetian Museum. It was interesting how Venetian and Greek architecture were integrated with one another, and it’s even said that decedents of the Venetian rule dating back to 1207 still occupy the houses in Old Hora.
Once again, my mom and I dedicated a day to exploring the island via SmartCar. We picked up a comprehensive book specifically about Naxos, which was an amazing help at plotting our course of action. Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades, so we knew we were in for lots of driving! Our stops including the Temple of Demeter, Halki (famous for their Kitron distillery, a Naxian liquor), Filotio (the second largest village in Naxos), and Anpeiranthos (very traditional village with marble streets, known for their song and dance). It was a beautiful drive and we loved exploring areas of the island where few tourists venture to go.
Naxos is said to have some of the nicest beaches in the Cyclades, so we made sure to reserve a day for relaxation, swimming and sunning. The west coast of the island is home to three well-known beaches: Ag. Prokopios, Ag. Anna, and Plaka Beach. After driving up and down the dirt/sandy road, we decided on Plaka Beach, as it was less crowded but still offered “organized” areas with beach chairs, umbrellas, and even windsurfing. The beaches in Naxos reminded me of the Caribbean, with crystal clear blue water and white, powdery sand beaches. What’s even better about Naxian beaches, though, is that they stretch for miles and miles, so your walks are seemingly endless!
There was a lot of shopping to do in Naxos, mainly because Naxos is well-known for a few specialty items that you can only buy on the island. We were sure to buy kitron (a liquor similar to Italian limoncello), honey with thyme, fruit preserves, loom-woven textiles, and jewelry with the Eye of Naxos, a cockle shell said ot bring good luck! I also found a well-priced gold box chain to go along with the donkey charm I bought in Santorini.
We were sad to leave Naxos not only because it was our favorite island, but because our departure signaling the end of our trip was near. However, our final two days in Greece were to be spent in Athens, and we had no idea what fun was in store for us!