I agree… Naxos is too big to be seen in just one day. So many villages, beaches, and landmarks that not even all locals can say they know their island. However, we live in fast times, sometimes we are forced to shorten our holiday even if we want to see it all. This itinerary won’t definitely show you all of Naxos, but it will give you a good insight on some of its most characteristic places. Wake up very early, put some good will on your attitude and take this one-day itinerary on the island of Naxos.
What to do in Naxos on a one-day itinerary
Our first day on the island was hot but cloudy and windy. It was not good enough to spend it on the beach, so we took our car and explored the island. Why do I tell you this? Because it is real proof that this, even if tight, is a possible itinerary that can be done with kids. And it will also leave some space for later beach indulgence if the weather has more mercy on you that it did on us.
Naxos Old Town, the tiny alleys of the Chora
The old town of Naxos is probably one of the most beautiful ones on the islands of the Aegean. It might not be as elegant as Patmos’ Chora, nor as refined as Santorini’s Oia. Still, in my tiny, modest opinion, I find it gorgeous.
Narrow alleys, some of them covered, others with a dead-end; patios, balconies, stairs, and passages make the intricate maze of the Naxian Chora. This gives a clear idea that its inhabitants were determined to protect themselves. Inside the old town, facades decorated with fantasy and all streets leading to the sea. You can easily recognize its subtle salty fragrance. It is also true, though, that all the streets also lead to the doors of the Kastro of Sanoudo, a castle built around 1207.
Inside this Venetian world (accessible either through the southern door or Paraporti; or the northern door, Trani Porta) it is possible to admire the distinctive traits of the Venetian architecture in the different domes and palazzi. Some of them have been turned into art galleries, exhibition rooms, and museums. A four-level tower known as Glezos or Krispi is the only one remaining of the twelve towers the fortress had in the past.
Inside the old town, pay a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Naxos for an insight into the past of the island, several archaeological findings and a collection of Cycladic art. Vases, figures, and jewelry with an abundant use of marble and clay. All objects found in unearthed necropolis, which used to be placed inside the tombs to accompany the dead on their final journey (8.00-15.00, Mondays closed).
Up in the mountains, local food, and enchanting villages
Take the road that from the Chora of Naxos takes you up to the mountain villages, follow the sign that reads “Xorio”. Drive for about twenty minutes to reach the first of the villages we are seeing today. Probably one of the most beautiful traditional towns in the Aegean: Halki.
One of the closest villages to the Chora, easy to walk and visit is Halki. This picturesque mountain town is also home to one of the main traditions of Naxos, kitron. The kitron of Naxos is a spirit made from the leaves of the citron tree. It used to be exported to several countries around the world but now it is mostly consumed locally. A visit to the traditional distillery Vallindras is a great opportunity to taste the different varieties.
Wander through the Neoclassical houses adorned with colorful bougainvillea and stop for a visit to the local jam workshop, Era. Here, Mr. Giannis Mandenakis has been producing home-made spoon sweets and jams since 2003.
End your visit to Halki with a lunch stop. There is a little corner that will introduce you to the good old times of Naxos. It is called To Spitiko Galaktoboureko and the food has gained a well-deserved reputation not only for the sweets but for the simplicity of their home-made dishes. Cooked in an open kitchen right in front of you. Do Not Miss This Kafenio.
Going up the mountain, on the same road that took you to Halki, another place worth the stop is Filoti. Most guide books describe it as a must-see when on Naxos. It is indeed a picturesque place. Traditional houses are built on the slopes of the mountain, fruit trees and flowers add a touch of color to alleys and passages. There are bars and tavernas on the main road where locals engage in long conversations and board games.
In Filoti starts one of the paths to the Cave of Zas, about 600 meters above sea level. According to mythology, God Zeus found shelter in the cave while he was being chased by his father. The cave boasts an impressive interior while on the outside a spectacular green landscape softly descends to meet the blue shades of the sea.
Enjoy a pleasant walk around Filoti, but if very short of time skip it and head right to Apeiranthos, the city of marble. This mountain village, laid-back and collected, impresses with its medieval architecture and proud character. A landscape made of stone and marble prevails in houses, towers, and flocks of stairs. Alleys and tight mule tracks are all paved in white blocks.
There are four museums worth a visit in the village too: the Archaeological Museum of Apeiranthos, the Museum of Folk Art, the Geological Museum, and the Museum of Natural History. Apeiranthos also has a long time textile tradition of hand-woven fabric and embroidery, crafted with local looms known as krevataria.
Back to the coast, indulge in some of the most amazing beaches
I already wrote a post about some of the most beautiful beaches in Naxos. Or at least the best beaches close enough to the main places on the island. Considering this is a one-day itinerary and that you might be short of time choosing a beach too far away from the center is not be the best idea.
If you need to choose, go for Maragas, or even Plaka. Several kilometers of white sand and turquoise water will allow you to find a quiet spot to spend the last of your afternoon.
Enjoy a swim or even a cold coffee in one of the many bars in front of the beach. But don’t overdo relaxing, you still have the best to come.
Sunset hour, the magnificent Portara
It’s time to change your clothes and go back to town. There’s an appointment that won’t wait. Sunsets in Greece are a landmark tradition. No matter where: Make it the old castle of Oia, the windmills of Mykonos or the beach of Falassarna. Sunsets are always special and have a place of their own. When in Naxos, that place is the Portara.
We deliberately skipped this visit in the morning, knowing the area wears the best colors when the sun goes down. Investigate what time the sun sets, and walk to the area at least 15 minutes ahead of time. As with every sunset hotspot, be patient. Chances are the place is already full.
Two are the options for the best sunset view. Either you wait in front of the monument for the sun to be right inside its frame. Or you go a little bit further, pass the Portara, and sit on the rocks facing the sea. The sun won’t be going through the big door, but the landscape will be equally fantastic.
When the last rays of the sun are still visible, for God’s sake, turn your head back to the Chora. All those whitewashed houses bathed in a warm shade of orange are a memory worth taking with you.
Late dinner options and a kitron cocktail in town
While on Naxos I enjoyed dinner/lunch in two different places, both of them on the main promenade facing the sea. Why just two? Because they were so good I never bothered looking for a different place. Besides, one of them soon became the kid’s favorite.
Children’s food paradise is called Yasouvlaki, and it is located almost at the end of the road, coming from the Portara. They offer very creativee choices of souvlaki, the local fast food, which kids adore. There is also a nice selection of dishes for those who prefer “more serious food”. Prices are extremely convenient; the atmosphere is pleasant and the food… oh, so good!
For a different option, made of assorted appetizers, succulent and fresh salads, or delicious fish courses, try Meze Meze, also in front of the marina. They specialize in seafood. Their octopus salad was mouth-watering.
To end the night with a local drink, visit the Citron Cafè Cocktail Bar, enjoy some creative variation of your favorite drink, only prepared with kitron, rigorously served with fresh fruit and nice music. Sit under the stairs, looking at the white yachts been lulled by the soft waves and breath the salty air coming from the sea. It will be the perfect way to end your one-day itinerary on the island of Naxos.
Do you want to read this in Greek? Thanks to Naxos Post!
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One-day Itinerary on the Island of Naxos
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