The largest in the Cyclades archipelago of Greek islands, Naxos is an untouched and understated gem, and relatively quiet in comparison to its neighbour Mykonos.
Sheep, goats and cattle roam the lush green fields while life quietly rolls by in the adjacent small towns and market gardens. Its most prominent natural attraction is perhaps Mount Zeus, which is the highest peak in the entire archipelago at 1004m high, and acts as the island’s centrepiece, with enchanting villages such as Halki and Apiranthos situated at its base.
The island is also blessed with some truly tremendous beaches, especially on the southwest-facing coast, where kiteboarding is a popular activity. Several small beaches stretching from Agios Prokopios to Agiassos connect to form one great long beach with gorgeous blue waters and jutting headlands. There are plenty of walks to be enjoyed here on the many traditional footpaths, passing landmarks such as villages and churches and criss-crossing the entire island.
Naxos also enjoys an abundance of wonderful crops and fruits, and is rich in olives, figs, citrus fruit, grapes and corn, which make up much of the local diet. Potatoes are also a specialty, with the local variety commanding premium prices, as well as the number of locally-produced cheeses. All of these delicacies, however, can easily be enjoyed at one of the island’s restaurants.
Once a cultural centre of Ancient Greece and Byzantium, historic influences from the Venetians and the Franks can also be seen across the island. Much of the historic architecture can be seen in the largest city, Chora, and especially its hilly, labyrinthine old quarter, known as the Kastro. Here you’ll discover Venetian mansions, a Catholic cathedral and a museum filled with locally-made figurines, demonstrating the many cultural and political influences that have affected the country over the years, as well as a number of small yet bustling shops. For more interesting monuments, there’s plenty of choice; try the frescoed Panagia Drosiani church, the ancient Demeter temple in Gyroula and the fascinating recling kouroi (ancient Greek sculptures of boys) located in Melanes and Apollonas.
The best time of year to visit is possibly in the late spring and early autumn, when the sea waters are warm and the landscapes colourful but the tourists have not flocked to the major resorts. Care should be taken if you do decide to visit in the autumn, however, as many facilities close for the low season, and the islands begin to face some strong storms.
One of the best places to stay at on the island is the Nastasia Village Boutique Hotel, which is new to Chic Retreats and one of our favourite luxury hotels in Greece. Located in Chora, this 18-room boutique hotel is just a stone’s throw from the stunning St George Beach on the western coast. Offering minimalist yet stylish surroundings, the hotel is perfect for those seeking a relaxing break, and pilates, manicures, pedicures and massages can also be arranged.