Naxos Island

The Byzantine Churches of Naxos Island, Greece

Church of Ayios Georgios Diasoritis_Naxos (6)

Church of Ayios Georgios Diasoritis, Naxos.

Small historical sights dot Naxos. Some of the best historical features are the little churches which were built during the Byzantine era (the Eastern Greek-Speaking Roman Empire) from the 6th to 15thcentury A.D.  Most of these little churches will not be mentioned in U.S. guide books, pick up (usually free) a local guidebook upon arrival from your host (see reference below).

Church of Ayios Nikolas_Naxos (4)

Church of Ayios Nikolas, Naxos, now in a cow pasture!

Church of Ayios Nikolas_Naxos (5)

Another view of Ayios Nikolas Church, Naxos.

Naxos Island Map

Naxos Island Locations.

Some of the churches are a little walk from the main road or parking, a few are right off the main roads between Naxos Town, Chalki, Moni and Apeiranthos. Many contain wall paintings. Some of the churches are open only a few hours a day, so plan your visit accordingly. We just missed getting in the Church of Panagia Damiotissa which closes at noon, but we were able to go into the Church of Panagia Dosiani (on the same road as Panagia Damiotissa and near the town of Moni), which dates to the 7thcentury A.D., and is one of the oldest Christian churches in existence. It is open mornings and afternoons. There are somewhat faint (7th & 8th century) frescoes on the walls and ceilings of the little apse (we could not take pictures inside). I loved seeing these paintings which have survived pretty well for over 1,300 years!  A small donation is requested at the door.

Church of Drosiani_Naxos (3)

The ancient stone work of Panagia Drosiani, Naxos.

Church of Drosiani_Naxos (2)

The cemetery of the Church of Drosiani, Naxos.

Church of Panagia Damiotissa_Naxos (1)

Church of Panagia Damiotissa, Naxos Island.

There are also small Venetian towers (forts) all over the island. The Venetians ruled Naxos from the 13th to the 16thcenturies. The forts could send signals to each other in times of danger.  Most are now private residences, but a few can be visited. These buildings form the centers of Naxos town and Aperienthos.  It’s fun to just drive around the island and let the little brown historical signs guide your stops along the way.

Reference:   Naxos Guidebook, 2009;

The Beaches of Naxos Island, Greece

Alyko Beach_Naxos

Beautiful Alyko Beach, Naxos.

Ok, I’m going to share a secret: Naxos has some of the most stunning beaches in the Greek isles and the best part about them is that they are nearly deserted. It was amazing to us that most of these beaches are so undeveloped. (Since they are so quiet, there are some that are “clothing optional” so beware if that’s a concern).

Alyko Beach_Naxos (3)

Another view of Alyko Beach, Naxos.

Naxos Island Map

Naxos Island Locations.

We rented a car for €33 per day, and it’s the best way to see the island and get to the beaches. Most of the best beaches are along the west coast, and there are many that begin just south of Naxos town. It’s almost a continuous string of beaches all the way to the southern tip of the island. Don’t worry about road signs; just follow the coast as closely as possible. Little paved roads may turn into narrow dirt paths between tall reeds, but trust your instincts and shortly you will find yourself at one beach after another.

Plaka Beach_Naxos (1)

Plaka Beach, Naxos.

Plaka Beach_Naxos (2)

Plaka Beach parking at the end of a dirt road.

The challenge is choosing just one beach–we spent over an hour just stopping at each one we saw, and wondering if the next one could possibly be any better. We finally settled on (and loved) Alyko beach (pictures above) which is a little farther south and very scenic with crystal clear water. We also stopped at Plaka Beach, which happens to be the main nudist beach (unbeknownst to us!), but with lots of room to find your own space. Also to the north of Naxos town is Abram Beach – down a bumpy road (about 1/8 mile). Watch closely, there is a sign on the road. Keep going north along the coast and eventually you will reach the little town of Apollon, at the northern tip of the island—it has a sandy beach, and some of the best snorkeling on the island.

Abram Beach_Naxos

Abram Beach, Naxos.

Naxos Town (2)

Even the Town of Naxos (Chora) has beautiful beaches just north town center.

Naxos Island – A Change of Pace

Naxos Island Map

Naxos Island Locations.

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.

Naxos Ferry (24)

Blue Star Ferry at Naxos Harbor.

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 Cathedral

Naxos Cathedral.

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 town of Chora and the Portara.

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.

Naxos harbor at sunset (3)

Naxos Town harbor at dusk.

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.

Monastery of Timios Stavros_Sangri_Naxos

Monastery of Timios Stavros (Bazeos Castle) – Naxos.

Dimitra's Temple_Naxos (2)

Dimitra’s Temple, Naxos.

Zas Cave_Naxos (2)

Hiking up to Zas Cave, Naxos.

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.

Naxos Airport

Naxos Island Airport.

Reference:   Naxos Guidebook, 2009;