We spent four days on the lovely island of Naxos, the largest amongst the Cyclades islands (and shockingly, about half the size of Singapore).
The island is very green. Literally. You see fields and mountains of green everywhere. It is little wonder that it is a fertile island with lots of agriculture produce. The air is incredibly fresh.
It is hard to feel bored on this island because there is so many things to do. We spent the first afternoon walking around the Naxos Chora (main town centre of Naxos).
The quaint town sits on a steep and narrow cobbled-stone lanes leading up to the Venetian castle (Kastro) and its fortress. The town is built around it, keeping the integrity of the medieval castle while still remaining as the hub of Naxos activity. Many small stores litter the winding, narrow lanes selling interesting knick knacks and cafes sit along the steps to the Kastro.
At one end of the port, sits Naxos’ most recognisable landmark, the Temple of Apollo (or Portara) that is connected to the port by a man-made causeway. It is a temple built in the 500 BC that is believed to be dedicated to the God of Apollo. The only thing that remains standing is the Portara (or rectangular door) that faces the ocean along with a few foundation rock pieces. Though there is little of it left, Portara feels a little magical especially against the setting sun, a door opening up to the deep, blue ocean, into the world of vastness and infinity.
We took a walk to Portara one late evening and lingered to watch the sunset to see the golden hues light up the marble door, the boats at the harbour and the restaurant-lined street by the port. If it weren’t so cold, I would have stayed a bit longer to watch dusk take over.
We rented a car the next day and took our first stop at Halki. Halki is a small village in central Naxos that is definitely worth the visit. The central town is tiny and you can actually walk from one end to another in 15 minutes. Though small, it is very striking with its vivid coloured walls, Neoclassical style buildings.
We visited a Citron distillery in the village center. Kitron is produced only in the island of Naxos and the Vallindra Kitron distillery in the heart of Halki is the island’s first. Kitron is unique because it is made from the citron leaves (not fruit!). We took a tour of the small distillery where Kitron has been made for three generations, where they dry the leaves and distill the alcohol in the traditional way. Next, you can try the different types of Kitron – green (sweet), colourless (middle ground) and yellow (strong).
We drove towards Filoti which is the largest village in Naxos and also the highest as it sits at the foot of Mount Zas – You can imagine a village with the backdrop of a mountain right at its back.
Passing by Filoti enroute to Apiranthos, we chanced upon a few working windmills with the old contrasting with the new. It was all bright and sunny when we first spotted the windmills from a distance. Strangely, by the time we reached the windmills, a huge cloud shrouded over them making them look mysterious and imposing at the same time.
Before we rounded off our day, we stopped at the Olive Press Museum in Enggares. We drove past many olive trees around Naxos island that it only seems befitting to find out about how olive oil is made here.
Most olive trees in Naxos are cultivated by the families for their personal consumption rather than for commercial sale. We were given a short but insightful tour by the warm, lovely ladies at the museum – learning about how olives were harvested and pressed with traditional tools in the past vs what they do now.
After the little tour, we were treated to some lovely citrus olive oil cake as well as some olives as we chatted about Greek islands and their produce. I wouldn’t want to end the afternoon in any other way.
One of my favourite sites in Naxos is the Temple of Demeter in the middle of a valley in the Sangri village. The marble temple is built in 6th century BC as a dedication to the Demeter (Goddess of grain).
That is probably the reason why the temple finds itself in the middle of such lush landscape. The temple is recently restored by German archaeologists and there is a small museum that gives a better idea of the how the temple is like in its glory days. Its surrounding landscape is really beautiful – lush greenery, mountains and spring flowers. We spent about two hours loitering around the temple grounds. It didn’t feel too long at all.
We drove to Agiassos beach, a beach on the South-eastern side of the island. It is quiet and secluded. We spent a little time walking on the beach, then we followed a dirt path off the beach and found a small piece of paradise just meters away – a small cove with the shallowest and the clearest of waters. What beauty!
Our few days in Naxos flew by too quickly. We enjoyed every moment we had there. There was just something about its rolling greens, mountain-scapes, unique villages and warm people.
The Saint Vlassis
Naxos Town, 84300 Naxos Island
Cyclades Islands, Greece
Tel: +30 22850 23536, 29073
Konstantinos was the perfect host along with his family who run this small place. It is a quiet place to stay but still close enough to Naxos Chora. The breakfast spread that is made by his mother is really good. I would happily stay at The Saint Vlassis the next time I am in Naxos.
It is best to rent a car or ATV when you are on Naxos island. It is easy to drive around as there are very cars and it would be pretty tough to get any form of public transport.
Vallindra Kitron distillery
Halki village, near the main square
Opening hours 10am-11pm Jul-Aug, 10am-6pm May-Jun & Sep-Oct
Olive Press Museum
Eggares Village, 84300 Naxos Island, Cyclades Islands, Greece
Tel: (+30) 22850 62021 –
Opens from April to September from 9am to 7pm
Temple of Demeter
Best to drive there by following directions from Sangri village.
There is a small museum on the grounds of Temple of Demeter but it closes early at about 3pm.
Follow the signs from Sangri to Agiassos. The last part of the road is a dirt path to the beach.
This is not an organised beach so it is best to pack a mat and towels for your own use. There is a small tarvern nearby but no other food options.