From Santorini, we took the Blue Star Ferry to Naxos, which is about a two-hour ride north. Compared with other popular islands Naxos is tranquil, with far fewer tourists. Naxos is in a great location, in the middle of the Cyclades and about halfway between Santorini and Mykonos, two of the busiest Greek isles.
If one is looking for a quiet, peaceful island experience, and yet desires to be not too far from the “action” then Naxos is the place. Also near Naxos are the islands of Paros and Antiparos, which are rising in popularity. We stayed at Pension Sofi, in Naxos Town and just a 10 minute walk from the harbor. The host family was wonderful and provided us with all kinds of treats and information about the island. There are grocery stores just a short walk away also.
Naxos’ economy in ancient times was based on emery mining and the marble quarries. The town of Naxos (also known as Chora) is built on layers of history, and there are some ruins just below street level near the Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
The harbor area is full of restaurants, but don’t bypass the older medieval town just up the hill. There are quaint alleyways, and the Castle of Chora (1207 A.D.) which holds concerts in the evenings and several restaurants with great views over the harbor in the old city. Just outside the city to the northwest on a small peninsula is the Portara (530 B.C.), a huge doorway to the never-finished Temple of Apollo. This location provides a lovely view of Naxos town and is a quiet place to spend a little time just soaking up the Aegean ambience.The harbor is a lovely place to watch the sunset.
We enjoyed a drive through the interior of Naxos. We stopped at the tiny town of Sangri, with the little monastery of Timios Stavros, and then drove on to the Temple of Dimitra (also called Demeter), Zas (Zeus) Cave, and the marble-paved town of Aperienthos. We loved the quiet roads, the lack of tour buses, and the rural feel of Naxos. It felt to us more like the “real” Greece where the pace of life is slow and enjoyed to the fullest.
We had scheduled a flight from Naxos to Athens at the end of our stay. There is a small, I repeat—small airport on Naxos. In fact, the tiny airport just south of Naxos town was so quiet I never heard a plane, and wondered if there really were flights! At the time of our trip (May/June 2011), Olympic Air operated two flights a day (prop planes) to Athens (early morning and in the evening). The flight only takes about 25 minutes.
Reference: Naxos Guidebook, 2009; www.redguidebooks.gr