Naxos is one of the most diverse Greek islands you can visit. Definitely within the Cyclades island group. It has a great infrastructure and facilities for tourist, but still remains authenthic. Below you will find a complete travel guide Naxos, an amazing Cycladic island.
Naxos is the largest of the Cycladic islands with nearly 20.000 inhabitants. The size, history and variety of Naxos make it unique within the island group. Apart from a lively town and villages with whitewashed houses and streets, Naxos has some spectacular long beaches. The waters are incredibly blue and crystal clear. It also has lots of historical sites and possibilities for activities in nature. Although Cycladic islands can mostly be described as dry, Naxos is relatively green. With a large mountain (Zas, named after the supreme god Zeus who supposedly brought up in Naxos) and fertile grounds.
Naxos plays an important role in Greek mythology. It says that Naxos is so green because the god of wine and pleasure, Dionysos, lived there. It was also there that he fell in love with Ariadne, after she fled Crete with Theseus. And it was also the center of Cycladic civilizaton in ancient Greek times.
No wonder there are many ancient Greek remains to be found. The most famous one being the Portara, an unfinished temple in honor of Apollo. Later on the Venetians also left their mark, for instance with the distinctive tower houses that you can still admire. Naxos also has a tradition of marble production.
All of the above has led to Naxos still being an island with a strong and authentic culture of e.g. music and food. A good part of it definitely is the locally produced food (specialities), such as potatoes, cheese and citron. If you have the chance to visit a traditional Greek village festival, a ‘panigiri’, make sure to go. Naxos is one of the islands where tourism and authenticity still go hand in hand. The inhabitants will be happy to invite you to join these celebrations.
The currency used in Naxos is Euro (€).
The best time to visit Naxos is in late spring, summer or early fall. Meaning: from the second half of May to the end of September or beginning if October.
If you can, visit at the end of May or beginning of June. The weather will already be warm and everything will have opened up, but the island will not be too crowded yet.
The second half of July and first half of September are relatively busy, whereas August is an extremely busy month in Naxos. Accommodations will be full and everything will be more expensive. It is also the hottest period of the year, which can limit the physical activities such as hiking that you might want to do. Don’t let it put you off if August is the only month you can go, the island is large. But if you can, try to avoid going to Naxos mid-July till mid-September.
The season in Naxos ends mid to end of October, although some places will already close down at the end of September. In winter it is windy and chilly on Naxos and except for Naxos Chora (the capital) and the tavernas in the traditional villages, little will be open.
Although the Cycladic islands are dry, the islands are not the hottest place in Greece. The weather during the tourist season is as follows. The average temperature in Naxos in the second half of May is around 22°C (72°F). In early June, the average temperature in Naxos is around 24°C (75°F), with highs of up to 28°C (82°F) and lows of down to 19°C (66°F). In July and August, the average temperature in Naxos is 28°C (82°F). The temperature in Naxos in late September is usually in the mid-20s Celsius (mid-70s Fahrenheit).
Naxos can be very windy. The Cyclades is the most windy island group of Greece. During the summer months (May till October, but mostly June till September) the island often falls prey to the northern Meltemi winds. We’re speaking 4 to 7 Beaufort, and in rare cases 8 to 10. During the hot summer months the wind might be a welcome cooling down measure during the day. However, it can make evenings chilly. So take a vest with you. And take into account that when the wind reaches 8 to 10 Beaufort, ferries might be cancelled.
If you have a vehicle to your disposal, you can see Naxos Chora as well as some of the major highlights of Naxos within 3 days. Spend one day discovering the Chora and its surroundings, and do 2 days of road tripping to either the North and South-West of the islands.
However I would advise to spend at least 5 full days at Naxos so you are able to soak in the authentic feeling of the island: take part in a local experience, do a boat tour and visit some more remote places that are the hidden gems of the island.
How to get to Naxos? As Naxos is an island, you can reach it by boat plane and boat.
Naxos is very well connected by boat to Athens, the other Cycladic islands, Crete and Astypalea in the Dodecanese island group. The boat ride from Athens takes 3 to 6 hours, depending on the vessel you choose (high-speed catamaran or slower ro/pax ferry).
You can browse, compare and find the ferry time and price that suits you best easily Ferryhopper. Not only do they have and interactive map on which you can build a route between different destinations, they also have an app that shows the location of the ferry you booked in realtime. This is called live tracking of your ferry. They have even implemented the bonus / loyalty programmes of the ferry companies into their platform. So you can save your points and miles even when booking through Ferryhopper.
I have written an extensive blog on how travelling by ferry in Greece works, answering all the frequently asked questions. You can find it here.
For more in-depth info on the ferry companies that are operating the routes to and from Naxos, and info on the port etc., check out my complete Naxos Travel Guide (e-book).
The best, easiest and fastest way to get around on Naxos is to rent a vehicle. Preferably a car, or otherwise a scooter. If you are able to do that, I would even say it is a necessity to make the most out of your stay and to get to some of the real spectacular places you don’t want to miss out on. It is not necessary to rent a 4×4. Although the roads in Naxos can be windy, they are either asphalt roads or dirt roads in very good condition. I recommend MotoNaxos and Escape Car Rental.
In my complete Naxos Travel Guide (e-book), you can find a discount code for all vehicle rentals, as well as information about legal requirements to be able to rent a vehicle, and information on parking on the island.
I would never recommended renting a scooter and certainly not an ATV if you have no experience driving them.
The public bus is the cheapest way to move around in Naxos. It will take you to the main tourist resorts, beaches and villages. The bus company on Naxos is called KTEL NAXOU . You can find all destinations here. From Naxos Chora (town) to the beaches and tourist resorts of Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, Maragas an Plaka, a bus runs every 30 minutes from 7.30 AM till 2 AM! The central bus station is located just outside the port in Naxos town (Chora). The price of a ticket depends on the destination and its distance from where you get on the bus, but is between € 1 and € 7. You can see the ticket price per route online.
Which area(s) should you stay in when visiting Naxos?
90% of the tourists visiting Naxos will stay in one of the following settlements, because they are well-connected to Naxos Chora, and have all the necessary facilities. Please take into account that when you are staying close to a beach in Naxos, 90% of the beach bars ask between 9 and 30 euros for a set of loungers and an umbrella. There are only a few bars that offer free loungers for customers. Also, there unfortunately aren’t many hotels that have their own free loungers on the beach for guests.
This is the capital of the island and one of the best places to stay at for those who are making a short stop while island hopping, or those who are visiting in very low season, when the rest of the island is closed. In Naxos Chora, there is always life. It is also the place where all the buses to other parts of the island and lots of excursions leave, making it easy to explore quickly.
This beach is attached to Naxos Chora. It is just a couple of minutes walking distance from the center of the town. For this reason it is one of the busiest tourist resorts of the island. Obviously because you can have a beach and town holiday all in one. The beach is filled with beach bars and sunbeds. It is however, not the most spectacular beach of the island.
These are two neighboring settlements on about 5km from Naxos Chora. They are kind of glued together, where one stops, the other starts. Both are very lively in summer and have all the facilities you might need: bakery, super market, beach bars (with and without nightlife), et cetera. The difference with Agios Georgios is that Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna both have a way nicer beach. Agios Prokopios has an 1.5km long, golden sandy beach with heavenly blue waters. One part is heavily developed and full of sunbeds, whereas the other side is a bit more chill.
Agia Anna is a smaller bay with smaller beach. This beach is filled with sunbeds as well, and it has a small boat dock from which day trips to nearby islands leave. One of these is the place to go if you prefer a gorgeous beach over being able to walk into town, but still want all the facilities and liveliness. The bus from these settlements to Naxos town goes every 30 minutes till after midnight.
This is a beach that is a whopping 4-5km long. It has the same golden sand and blue waters as Agios Prokopios. But it is more quiet and relaxed than both Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna. There are many (beach) bars and amazing restaurants, but there is no real nightlife. Apart from one mini market on the Maragas side, and a bakery a couple of hundred meters behind the beach on the Plaka side, there are no selfcatering facilities.
The Maragas side of this beach starts right where Agia Anna ends, so if you decide to stay on this side you are still in walking distance of the facilities in Agia Anna and even Agios Prokopios. It is an ideal place for families and couples that do not like the hustle and bustle. You can still be in Naxos town within 20 minutes with the bus that leaves every 30 minutes till after midnight.
If you are coming to Naxos for (kite)surfing, this is the place to be. Mikri Vigla starts where Plaka ends. It consists of 2 gorgeous bays that are separated by a big rock formation. The ‘Orkos’ beach is mostly very windy. Therefore most wind- and kitesurfing schools of Naxos are located here. The southern bay, also called ‘Kastraki’, sees lots of the wind actually blocked by the rock formation and is an ideal place for a swim, snorkel and low key rock climing expedition. There are several restaurants to choose from, as well as a bakery and some mini markets. The bus to Naxos Chora goes about 10 times per day, which means Mikri Vigla is still well connected to the capital of the island.
If you are looking for an accommodation in Naxos, you can of course looking on the islands pages on Booking.com and Airbnb. Some accommodations are not visible on those platforms or appear to be sold out, while they are not. I therefore advise you to always check the websites of the accommodations as well. Consequently, you can zoom in on the area you want to stay in on Google Maps. In my experience, you’ll find hotels on the map that do not appear in your Booking.com or Airbnb search.
Ampelos Inn in Agios Prokopios is a renovated and reasonably priced accommodation on 200 meters from the beach, with a pool and both hotel rooms and apartments. Great for couples as well as families.
This is probably the best value for money accommodation on Maragas / Plaka beach. Almost beachfront, with a newly built pool in a nice garden. The studios, rooms and apartments are basic but very clean and comfortable. I enjoyed staying here for a week! Wouldn’t have paid more since you spend so much time outside in summer. It is on walking distance from Agia Anna.
A luxurious newly built complex at Maragas / Plaka beach, right behind Maria’s Rooms and Studios. Thus it is situated convienently close to Agia Anna and Agios Prokopios, but with a more relaxed beach in front of it. It has suites, studios and even villas for up to 10 people. It has a nice share pool and is only a 3 minute walk to the beach and many great restaurants.
Unique accommodation on Plaka beach. It is newly built, very modern and beach front. But it is merely unique because they have their own sunbeds which can be used by their guests. They offer free bycicles to cycle the 4-5km long beach of Plaka with as well.
One of the best beachfront accommodations in Plaka. The rooms and apartments look modern and great and have (the most comfortable) Coco-Mat beds. There is a big pool in the garden which is filled with green. Therefore this is one of the only beachfront pools that is nicely secluded from the very nearby road and beach. So you can choose to step onto the beach or stay at the pool without peopling passing by seeing you.
This is a small and very reasonably priced apartment complex in Mikri Vigla, on walking distance of both of Mikri Vigla’s beaches. But it also has a pool. This accommodation has a lot of kitesurfers as customers.
Annio boutique studios in Plaka offers brand new beach front studios with private (!) plunge pool or jacuzzi. The accommodations can house up to 6 people.
The best partof this complete travel guide to Naxos is most definitely the following part about the best activities on the island. As we have already discussed, Naxos offers so much variety to its visitors. When staying on this island, these are the top activities and things to do:
A full list with almost 50 (!) pages of activities, beaches, etc. on Naxos can be found in my complete Naxos Travel Guide (e-book) Including discount codes for selected tours.
Naxos Chora offers a mix of Cycladic architecture (the typical whitewashed houses and streets) and Venetian elements. There are enough activities to do to keep you busy for one or more days.
The most famous part of Naxos Chora is most definitely the ‘Portara’. This ‘gate’ was once part of the entrance that should have led to a massive (never finished) temple. Portara is probably the most famous place in Naxos to watch the (amazing) sunset.
Kastro is the upper part of the old town of Naxos. It is a fortified area built by the Venetians in the 13th The are is full of cafes, rooftop bars and restaurants, shops and of course interesting buildings such as the Barozzi tower and the Crispi tower that house a few interesting museums. Unfortunately, those are temporarily closed for renovation.
This museum is also situated in Kastro. Unfortunately also this museum is temporarily closed due to maintenance, but the most significant items (archeological finds from ca. 3200 BC and onwards) are on display in a temporary exhibition room which you can visit free of charge.
Naxos is famous for its gorgeous beaches. You have to visit at least some of them.
Don’t miss out on:
The most organized beach of Naxos island, 1.5 km long with golden sand and the bluest waters. Lots of bars and loungers available. Perfect for those who want to have the combination of a gorgeous beach and lots of amenities. It is also the beach closest to Naxos Chora (excluding Agios Georgios).
A 4-5km long beach with golden sand and the bluest waters. Organized with some fantastic beach bars spread out over the beach, but due to its length and nature way less busy and noisy than Agios Prokopios. Naxian on the beach offers the most luxurious loungers.
The Southern bay of Mikri Vigla (which is also called Limanaki and Kastraki) is 3km long. It is mostly protected from wind and therefore and excellent choice to go to for a day. It is easily one of my favorite beaches in Naxos, as the water seems extra blue here and climbing the rocks and swimming around them is an extra fun activity. It is great for snorkeling as well. There are comfortable sunbeds here with service on the beach.
Alyko is a very special place, actually more of an area than a beach alone. There are multiple beaches, with sandy dunes and rock formations behind them, that you can reach on foot after a couple of minutes of walking through the dunes and the cedar forest : for instance the incredibly stunning Hawaii beach. All of these beaches are unorganized with no facilities whatsoever. Which means: no toilets either. Last but not least, Alyko is home to the ruins of a never finished hotel complex. These ruins are the decor of many amazing graffiti paintings by WD (Wild Drawing) street art.
Panormos is a true, still quiet, gem. This sandy beach looks really exotic, cause it has a row of palmtrees right on the edge of the shore. This is where the road ends after a 1.5h drive from Naxos Although it is an unorganized beach without sunbeds, there is a small beach bar (Mitatos) that offers food and drinks. From here you can also take a boat trip with the locals of Gialitissa Boat Trips to the Rhina cave.
Naxos island has a rich (cultural) history, as you could read in the first paragraphs of this blog. This partly has to do with the origin of Naxos as a famous marble producing island. There are tons of (marble) historical sites to discover, such as the Portara (temple of Apollo) in Naxos Chora, the temple of Dimitra in Sangri, the giant unfinished ancient statues of naked young men, called the ‘Kouroi’ of Fleroi, Faraggi and Apollo, Venetian towers and castles and Byzantine churches. Check the pictures below to get an idea of what Naxos island has to offer in terms of historical sites!
Naxos is a very well connected island, right in the middle of the Cycladic island group. Its proximity to lots of nearby popular and less popular islands makes it the ideal island to use as a base for daytripping around! You can take a day trip to the following islands:
Koufonisia is the Maldives of the Cycladic island group! It is a tiny island with spectacular beaches. White sand and such blue waters that you will remember them for the rest of your life
This tour includes Koufonisia but also its neighbor Irakleia. 2 islands for the price of one! Book it here.
Visit one of the picturesque settlements (Piso Livadi or Naoussa) of the nearby and very popular island of Paros.
Instead of spending tons of money on accommodation on Mykonos, you can also just take a day trip to see the highlight of it – the Little Venice harbor. On this trip you will also visit Delos. Delos is an archaeological jewel, a little island that consists mostly of ancient remains and is therefore one of the most important historical sites of Greece. Book it here.
Santorini is a small island. So if you are trying to fit the poster-image island of Greece into your schedule but you don’t have time to stay there overnight, know that a day trip is enough to see the caldera side, blue domes and recreate every famous picture you’ve seen. Though it is not super close to Naxos, so prepare yourself for a long day trip. It’s about 3 hours on the boat one way. Book it here.
The center of Naxos island is very green and perfect to explore on a hike. You won’t easily find more green in the Cycladic island group. What are the best hiking trails on Naxos Island Greece? The most popular hiking trail on Naxos is the one to the top of Mount Zas (1000 meters altitude), the highest peak of the island. You can start this 3 to 4 hour hike (roundtrip) from the area of Filoti village. When in Naxos, you can also hike to the Routsouna Waterfall or to multiple ancient castle ruins, such as Apano Kastro.
When doing one of the top 5 activities, make a stop in one of Naxos’ traditional villages such as Apeiranthos, Filoti and Halki. Do schedule to have your breakfast, lunch or dinner there and stroll around a bit. You can not leave Naxos without having been to one of the villages!
What kind of shopping is available on Naxos Island Greece?
There is a big variety of shops in Naxos town for you to shop at. Traditional souvenir shops, everything from high-end to cheap clothing stores (I especially liked ‘Hora’ where I was helped brilliantly by the owner), cute jewelry stores (check out the store ‘Miniatoura’) offers, art galleries and traditional Greek shops selling items like pottery, clothes, leather goods, and food. Outside of Naxos Chora, you can find a few of these stores in the traditional villages of Halki and Apeiranthos.
What is the nightlife like in Naxos?
The nightlife in Naxos is generally quite relaxed and low-key. If you want a real party holiday in the Cyclades, you’d better go to another islands such as Mykonos, Ios or Paros. The nightlife on Naxos consists mainly of (cocktail) (beach) bars that are located in town and in the main tourists resorts of Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna and Plaka. As everywhere in Greece, some of them offer great live music.
A few hotspots that at some nights do have the club vibe are The Ocean Club, Dome Bar and the Like Home Bar. It is always best to inquire about the events of the day (and time of the year) you are intending to visit, because some nights it might be wild while other nights it might be empty.
Where to eat and drink in Naxos?
A complete travel guide to Naxos is not complete without suggestions for where to eat and drink, Naxos is definitely in the top list of Greek islands with the best gastronomy. It is quite a big island and relatively green considering it is situated within the Cyclades. Therefore, they produce lots of things on the fertile grounds.
A full list recommended restaurants and bakeries can be found in my complete Naxos Travel Guide (e-book)
A few spots you can’t miss on out for breakfast, dinner and drinks in Naxos are the following:
The perfect bakery for your take-away breakfast, lunch or snack! And let’s not forget the very tasty (Greek) coffee they serve. Prefer to sit down there and enjoy your meal? Also possible!
This is a favorite of many. Not only because it serves delicious traditional Greek food with a modern touch, but also because of its location on a gorgeous tiny whitewashed square in the old town of Naxos.
With your feet in the sand, you can enjoy the sun setting in the sea at Paradiso Taverna. Perfect for both a romantic and a family dinner. Paradiso offers all the traditional Greek food.
If you are looking for a not-so-Greek-dinner-night, you should go to Picasso. Picasso is a Mexican restaurant withIbiza vibes. They also serve very good cocktails! If you are with a group of friends, try the 1lt margaritas. But you can also order the more classic cocktails like a ‘Mojito’, ‘Daiquiri’ (recommended: peach) and different kinds of ‘Coladas’ (strawberry, pineapple or banana).
It is located on top of Naxos town, just below the highest part of the ‘Kastro’. It has a large rooftop with a fantastic view over the town below, the castle behind and of the sunset. As the name of the restaurant already suggests, they offer a selection of tasty (Greek) wines, some of which you will not easily find on another restaurant’s menu. The food definitely isn’t low-key either.
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