Naxos is the largest Cycladic island that boasts a vibrant history. It was once the largest trade hub in the Cyclades. The Greek king of God Zeus was said to be born in a cave that one could still visit on the island. Anyone arriving by sea is welcomed by the gate to the Apollo Temple, which is classic and ancient but also look like a stylish modern monument, standing tall and proud on the port.
The interesting observation about Naxos are, first, there is not many large hotels - most accommodations are family run middle size hotels or self-catering houses or apartments. There was one attempt to build a large all-inclusive hotel - and it failed. The location (in Alyko/Aliko in the west coast, where it is surrounded by beautiful shrub forest) is now an interesting spots where one could find excellent secluded beaches for a swim (we heard that one of them is a nudist beach) or picnic and appreciate beautiful graffitis.
Second, on the seaside, there are so many half finish houses - maybe the situations has changed now. According to our hotel owner, it was deal to the local laws - that one without all the funding to complete a building could claim a plot of land with just the foundation being laid.
However, these sites only make Naxos a more interesting islands, it does not affect the lovely water and the breathtaking nature of the island.
The kind owner also told us that Naxos does not depends so much on tourism as the other islands in the Cyclades. Naxos still has many active mines, especially emery. It also has a good agricultural sector - it has the most fertile soil in the Cyclades and their potatoes and cheese are one of the best in the region.
Naxos town is on the west coast of the island. It is more layback compared to the main town of its neighbouring island, Paros. However, the old town in Naxos is not less charming than that of Paros with its narrow alleys, independent shops
(especially ceramics and jewellery) and local restaurants.After many consideration - including the fact that we wanted to a room with sea view, we decided to base close to Naxos town and stayed in a family run hotel within walking distance in the north of the main town.
Besides on the coast, most other villages are quite isolated and a car is definitely needed for going around the island. There are also clusters of accommodation in the main town and also in the south of the main town. Those in the south of the main town are next to the coast or on the beach. However, we wanted to be more away from the “crowd” but still within the walking distance to restaurants and shops.
There are also many high quality retreats and resorts in the heart of the island. A popular settlement is Filoti - it has one of the entry points to the trail to Mount Zeus, the highest point of the island. Other larger settlements in the interior of Naxos are Koronos (in the north), Apeiranthos (to the north of Filoti) - they all have traditional settlement settings and very good restaurants and excellent panoramic view of the island.
The North coast
The largest coastal settlement on the north side is Apollonas - it has several restaurants and it is a great place to get away from the world for a little while.
The East coast
On the east side of the islands, Moutsouna is a bigger village with excellent restaurants. This side is much quieter than the west coast.
The South coast
On the south side of the coast, Kalantos is a small beachside settlement with two restaurants. From the south towards the west - there is no driving road directly to the other side along the coast. Only a hiking path along the coast - on foot is a 15km journey until Aliko - where the abandoned hotel ruin is, or a 44km drive through the center of the island. From Aliko along the coast to the main town, are clusters of holiday villages and beach accommodations. This side of the island is excellent for wind or kitesurfing.
We think having a car is the best way to explore Naxos. Besides the beach holidays and water sports, Naxos has many excellent hiking trails and ancient temples to visit - such as the Temple of Demeter (the Greek goddess of fertility and harvest) - it reflects the historical importance of agriculture on the island. Of course, the visits to the abandoned Kouros - ancient greek sculptures - the Flerio Melanes and the Faragi Kouros - are important to understand the past of the island.