Naxos is the gem of Greece, a happy and delightful jewel shining on the waters of the Aegean Sea. Being the biggest and greenest island in the Cyclades, Naxos is infused with lively villages, proud historical monuments, and sandy beaches. Therefore, there are so many things to do in Naxos, from exploring the characteristic villages to trying out invigorating sports, Naxos has got you covered. Here are some great things to do in Naxos that you would not want to miss.
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- Naxos Quick Guide
- Where is Naxos?
- How to get to Naxos
- Getting around Naxos
- A brief history of Naxos
- 21 Amazing Things to Do in Naxos
- Chora and the Castle
- Halki (Chalki)
- Visit the Ancient Temple of Dionysus at Iria
- Moutsouna and the Transportation Cable Railway
- Visit Dimitra Temple
- The Kouroi of Naxos
- The Windmills at Vivlos
- Visit the Paleochristian Church of Panagia Drosiani
- The Jesuit Monastery in Kalamitsia
- Check out Cheimarros Tower
- Check out Bazeos Tower
- Check out the Tower of Ayia
- Mount Zas and Zas Cave
- The street art at Alyko
- Explore the beaches of Naxos
- The windsurfing
- Do a day trip to the island of Mykonos and the archaeological site of Delos
- A day trip to Koufonissia
- A day trip to Santorini
Naxos Quick Guide
Planning a trip to Naxos? Find here everything you need:
Looking for ferry tickets? Click here for the ferry schedule and to book your tickets.
Renting a car in Naxos? Check out Discover Cars it has the best deals on car rentals.
Top-Rated Tours and Day Trips to Do in Naxos:
– Cruise to Koufonissia with BBQ Lunch (from 60 € p.p)
– Naxos Island: Full–Day Historical Bus Tour (from 30 € p.p)
– From Naxos: Delos and Mykonos Full-Day Boat Trip (from 60 € p.p)
– Half-Day Cooking Class at Basiliko Family Tavern (from 90 € p.p)
Where to stay in Naxos: Agios Prokopios Hotel (Agios Prokopios), Saint George Hotel (Ag. Georgios Beach Chora), Anemomilos (Agia Anna)
Where is Naxos?
Naxos sits in the middle of the Cyclades, in the Aegean Sea.
Like all of Greece, Naxos has a Mediterranean climate, which means it gets mild winters with a lot of rain and very hot, sunny summers.
During the summer, temperatures get around 30-35 degrees Celsius on average, but during heat waves, they can get as high as 40 degrees Celsius. During the winter, temperatures drop to around 10-12 degrees Celsius, with cold spells about to push them down to 0 – 5 degrees Celsius.
Heat during the summer is tempered by the wind, which is strong and frequent on the island. When the wind blows, it can get below 30 degrees Celsius.
During the winter, the wind is intense and frigid, making the cold bite more and temperatures drop to below 10 degrees Celsius.
The best time to visit Naxos is from June to mid-September when the sea gets to its warmest and the temperatures are high enough not to make you feel chilled by the wind. Keep in mind that while August is the hottest month, it’s also when the wind tends to be the fiercest.
You can reach Naxos by plane or ferry.
If you go by plane, there are flights to Naxos from Athens. The flight is about an hour-long on a small plane.
If you go by ferry, there are ferries from Rafina or Piraeus port that run every day.
If you already are in the Cyclades, you can get by ferry to Naxos from other islands such as Paros, Mykonos, or Santorini (Thera).
Click here for my detailed guide on island hopping in Greece.
Check the ferry timetable and book your tickets below.
Getting around Naxos
The best way to get around Naxos is by car. While there are buses and taxis that will take you to basic places but true freedom and versatility, as well as the capacity to get off the beaten path, is only granted with a car.
You can rent a car in Naxos, but make sure you book yours in advance as there is a finite number of cars on the island.
I recommend booking a car through Discover Cars where you can compare all rental car agencies’ prices, and you can cancel or modify your booking for free. They also guarantee the best price. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
A brief history of Naxos
According to the myths, Naxos is the island where the ancient Greek hero Theseus, the slayer of the Minotaur, took Ariadne, the Cretan princess that helped him with the Labyrinth, on his way back to Athens. There, he abandoned Ariadne (the why differs across versions). A little while later, the god Dionysus saw her and fell madly in love with her and took her with him.
Naxos was very important in ancient times as a center of civilization and commerce. It was part of the islands that revolted and contributed to the Persian war. Later in the Peloponnesian war, Naxos became controlled by the Athenians and the Spartans alike.
In medieval times, the island was occupied by the Venetians from the 1200s to the 1400s, where the Ottomans took over. The Ottomans allowed the Venetians their benefits in the island, until Naxos became part of the Greek War of Independence, supporting the cause of an independent Greek state, and became part of it in 1831.
21 Amazing Things to Do in Naxos
Chora and the Castle
Chora is the main town of Naxos, and it is a beautiful sprawling town that grows outwards from the Castle (“Kastro” in Greek). It has the characteristic Cycladic architecture with a bit of a Venetian blend here and there to remind of the island’s Venetian past.
You will see the beautiful sugar cube houses with colorful doors and shutters, stroll down whitewashed winding paths decorated with bougainvilleas and basil, and walk under arches.
As you explore, you will find the Castle, the most well-preserved Venetian castle of the Cyclades. It has two entrances, the Main Gate (“Trani Porta”) and the Wicket Gate (“Paraporti”). Inside you will find some of Naxos’ oldest buildings and several historical places such as the schools founded by the Jesuit monks, the Catholic Cathedral, The Kapela Kazaza, which was a chapel of the Duke of Naxos, and the Tower of Krispi or Glezos.
Throughout the Chora and the Castle you will find a wide array of cafes, restaurants, pubs, and clubs, as there is a thriving nightlife in Naxos as well as good dining. There are also noteworthy art galleries and museums to visit, so keep an eye out for them!
You might be interested in: Naxos Castle Walking Tour and Sunset at the Portara.
As soon as you enter Naxos’ harbor, you will see its Castle reigning on the right and the monument of Portara doing the same on the left.
Portara is a huge, ancient marble doorway that doesn’t lead anywhere except to making wonderful memories. It has a mystifying feel that makes you think of magic and romance.
It is located on an islet of the island and it is more than 2,000 years old. Originally it was part of a great temple dedicated to the god Apollo. It was built during the time that Naxos was a great ancient cultural center. Now, only the door remains standing, offering great views of the sea and the Chora, as well as a stunning sunset you shouldn’t miss.
Chalki was once Naxos’ capital town and is considered the most picturesque village on the island. While remaining within the general aesthetic of the Cycladic village, it is also full of renovated neoclassical buildings and narrow stone paths. Alive with flowers and crawling plants, it’s like a living, breathing romantic painting.
Chalki was the place where the local famous liquor, Kitron, was made and you can still visit the traditional Valindras distillery that made it to learn of the process and sample the drink.
Visit the byzantine church of Saint George Diasoritis, built in the 11th century, and walk to the Venetian Barozzi tower for a breathtaking view before resting at one of the quaint cafes or plentiful restaurants.
Check out: The best villages to visit in Naxos.
This village is 28 km from Chora and is yet another gorgeous, picturesque mountain village full of Venetian influences in its architecture. It is worth exploring it all through its various winding side streets and paths.
Apeiranthos also features the Museum of Folk Art and the Geological museum, as well as a beautiful church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Panagia Apeiranthitissa.
You might like: Village of Apeiranthos Food Tasting and Guided Tour.
Visit the Ancient Temple of Dionysus at Iria
Established in the 14th century BC when the Myceneans were on Naxos, this temple sanctuary was the first in the Cycladic islands to use marble for architecture. In operation until Roman times, it was dedicated to the god Dionysus (the God of wine, Naxos being famous for its wine in Ancient Greek times) and an unknown female deity having 4 buildings erected on the site over the centuries. Today visitors can see the partially restored temple of 580BC.
Moutsouna and the Transportation Cable Railway
Moutsouna village is a seaside settlement on the eastern side of the island. It is unique in that it not only has a port, but also a rare system of transport for emery, a dark granular rock that was one of Greece’s top exports up until WWII. Emery is a mixture of corundum and magnetite used for grinding and polishing.
There are several emery mines scattered around Naxos and it was transported by the overhead emery transportation cable railway. This was constructed in the 1920s and was a great improvement from the arduous transport with beasts of burden. It is 9 km long, stretching from Stavrolagada to Moutsouna, where the shipping station was.
It has now been designated as one of the most important industrial sites of Greece and you can follow its route and take it the artistry of the industrial designs.
Visit Dimitra Temple
Admire the restored marble temple that dates back to 530BC and which has more than 50% of its original ancient building material preserved.
Built to worship the goddess Dimitra (the goddess of grain), the temple was in use until the 3rd century BC at which point it was turned into a Christian site with a small chapel built in front of the marble temple.
The unfinished statues of a kouros and a kore at Melanes can be found at the ancient abandoned quarry of Florio. It is thought that the statues were abandoned there in 570 BC because accidents made them unsuitable for use: one of the kouros’ legs is broken off.
The kouros is 6.4 meters tall and an imposing example of Naxian marble sculpture.
A similarly impressive sample can be seen near the village of Apollonas which is even bigger, at around 10 meters tall, again left unfinished by the ancient sculptors.
The Windmills at Vivlos
Vivlos village is also known as Tripodes and is one of the biggest villages in Naxos. It’s known for its landmark windmills, built in the 19th century. They are mostly in disrepair right now but you can still enjoy their imposing forms and wonderful vista.
Vivlos also has several other picturesque places to see in it, from winding streets to great views. There are also the ruins of Plaka tower, and the beautiful church of Panagia Tripodiotissa to see.
Visit the Paleochristian Church of Panagia Drosiani
This small Byzantine church is the oldest Christian church on the island. Consisting of 3 single-room chapels, the church contains a wealth of historic artefacts including carvings and paintings which date back to the 6th -14th century BC, the most famous and exquisite being on the dome of the church and showing Christ as a young man.
The Jesuit Monastery in Kalamitsia
The Jesuit monastery at Kalamitsia was actually a Jesuit palace in the 15th century. It is in ruins now, but enough of it is still standing for you to take it the sheer splendor and opulence that characterized this complex. So much so, that the Jesuit monks were said to have refused to live in it since they had taken oaths of poverty.
Check out Cheimarros Tower
This is one of many towers thought to have formed a defense system not only on Naxos but across the Cyclades islands as a whole during the 4th century BC. Cheimarros Tower is special because it’s a rare example of a near-complete tower (now in the process of being restored), measuring 15 meters tall, many others only having their foundations left.
Check out Bazeos Tower
The Bazeos castle tower at the Monastery of Timios Stavros (the Holy Cross) was originally built as fortifications against pirates. Since the 19th century, it is owned by the Bazeos family and was used as summer quarters. Today it is restored and features several medieval rooms and courts where the Naxos Summer Festival takes place each year.
Check out the Tower of Ayia
The tower of Ayia is located at the north of the island, standing tall and facing the sea to ward off any aggressors. It was built in the 17th century by the noble Kokkos family but was destroyed in a fire in 1992. Its battlements and tower walls still remain.
Mount Zas and Zas Cave
Said to be where the child Zeus would live and grow, it is 1003 meters to the summit! It’s worth the hike to the top just for the eagle’s eye views of the entire island, and the sensation of walking on the same ancient trails as the Ancient Greeks of Naxos.
There is also Zas Cave, which offers the same gorgeous sweeping views as well as cool shelter from the unforgiving sun and impressive chambers with stalagmites and stalactites as well as other interesting formations that run for 11 meters.
The street art at Alyko
Near the lush sandy beach at Alyko, there is an abandoned 1960s hotel that has been repurposed as a street art museum. There you will see several works of the famous street artist WD (Wild Drawing) as well as those of other street artists in a colorful ode to open-air art.
Tip: If you don’t want to rent a car to explore Naxos I suggest this full-day historical bus tour of the island that includes a visit to the temple of Demeter, a visit to Halki and Apiranthos village, the big Kouros at Apollonas, and finally a visit to a traditional olive press. Click here for more information.
Explore the beaches of Naxos
Naxos has some of the most beautiful and renowned beaches of the Cyclades. Several have white sand that contrasts perfectly with the cerulean blue of the sea.
The best three are Agios Prokopios, considered one of the best beaches in Europe. It has the advantage of gentle winds and golden-white sand that stretches for more than 1 km.
Near Agios Prokopios, you will find the lush beach of Agia Anna. This one is organized, so you can enjoy it from your sunbed while you sip cocktails under the provided beach umbrellas.
Plaka is perfect for sea sports like windsurfing and kitesurfing. It also has beautiful sand and crystal clear waters for you to enjoy!
Check out: The best beaches in Naxos.
Naxos is lined with near-perfect beaches so don’t limit yourself to just these three. Discover your own, or even take the catamaran cruise to have a sweeping look at all of them. If you do take the catamaran cruise, you’ll have the chance to snorkel and visit the famous Rina Cave, which is a gorgeous sea cave with emerald waters for you to enjoy.
If you’re a lover of windsurfing, you’re in luck because Naxos is a windsurfing hub! The winds are perfect for the sport, though always inquire and be advised of which beaches are best for you, as the strength and capriciousness of the winds vary. Make sure you pick the place that best fits your skill!
That said, the peak time for surfers is the early afternoon and the most popular surfing spots are the beaches at Laguna, Agios Prokopios, Plaka, and Agios Georgios.
Naxos is very close to the popular island of Mykonos and the island of Delos with the famous archaeological site. There are a couple of tours that start from Naxos, take you by boat to Delos island where you will have 3 hours to see the ancient sanctuary island and birthplace of God Apollo.
Then you will visit the island of Mykonos where you will have another 3 hours to explore Mykonos town with its beautiful windmills, cobblestone alleyways, and the picture-perfect Little Venice.
Another day trip you shouldn’t miss is to Koufonisia, where you will have six to eight hours to explore the virgin little island, swim in its crystal clear waters, its sea caves, and the famous Piscina before you go to Kato Koufonissi.
Always wanted to visit the famous island of Santorini but didn’t have enough time? There are a couple of tours from Naxos that take you by boat to Santorini. There you will get a guided tour of the island by bus, visit the beautiful Oia and also have free time to explore Fira too.