While snooping around the Cyclades, we wondered what the best things to do in Naxos, Greece was.
The island of Naxos has many beaches, but were there any other exciting locations we had to see? Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades. Therefore they had to be.
We asked the locals, and they suggested a lot of things.
We had to pay a visit to Chora (the capital and harbor or Naxos), to go and see Kouros statue near Apollonas village and the ancient temple of Demeter.
Here is the scoop about the best things to do in Naxos Greece.
About the Island of Naxos Greece
The island of Naxos, unlike most in the Cycladic archipelago, has a source of freshwater and fertile soil, so everything is organically grown and served on your plate.
Naxians believe that life is meant to be lived to the fullest in the simplest of ways – peacefully and respectfully with a profound love for family, nature, and friends, both old and new.
Having such a vibrant culture and wild nature that offers such a great diversity around every turn, this lively island is the ideal destination to discover your very own piece of “Pura Vida.”
And indeed you will not miss the “kerasma of raki,” which is the raki drink on the house.
A passing by a local tavern- kafeneio (traditional village hang out place) always hides secret surprises and lots of laughter.
Locals are very hospitable and friendly and love to open conversations with the tourists where the jokes play a significant role in having fun and be happy.
Happiness is not a private affair: it can be more readily achieved in a society where like-minded people band together to help inspire one another’s the pursuit of happiness. Naxians are just like that; this runs on their DNA.
Local life is diverse, and people are remarkable in every way so that you will enjoy your journey in the mountainous villages.
Portara in Naxos Town Greece
The most famous iconic theme in Chora of Naxos is Portara.
It means a massive door. When you see it, though, you can’t afford to think of it as a stargate out of this world.
It is massive (around 6 meters high and more than 3.5 meters wide) and imposing.
Portara consists of four significant pieces of local marble. Each piece weighs several tons.
Perhaps due to the weight of these pieces, Venetians could not use it as a building material for the castle at Chora. They used several pieces from the rest of the temple, though.
According to mythology, it was here where Dionysus saw Ariadne.
He fell in love with her and kidnapped her to be his wife.
This is one of the essential art themes worldwide; the kidnapping of Ariadne.
The location of Portara is on a small piece of land called Palatia, which was once a hill but is now a separate little island connected to Naxos by a causeway.
The area of the castle is a typical island build with houses right next to each other, arches and narrow corridors, while suddenly secret squares and small gardens make their appearance.
Temple of Demetra in Naxos, Greece
This is located near Sangri. It is an organized archaeological place, and it is easy to get there either by car or a scooter.
The temple dates from the Naxos high point of 6th century B.C. (between 530 and 520 B.C). It is entirely made of white marble.
During the 6th century, the ancient sanctuary was turned into a Christian basilica church.
There is also a two-room museum where you can see exhibits of the ancient temple and the Christian one.
Kouros of Naxos, near Apollonas
As you approach the village of Apollonas in Naxos, Greece, there is an ancient quarry.
There, a 10m long unfinished statue is resting on the ground, maybe waiting for the sculpture to come and finish it.
It is rather impressive to acknowledge the size and proportions of it.
The village of Apollonas is a small picturesque quiet village where you can have coffee, lunch, or -why not- a swim to cool down.
These locations were no more than 30-40 minutes distance from our accommodation at Elaiolithos Luxury Retreat, so we organized the day around them, including swimming at sea near Chora.
Chalki (Chalkio or Halkio), Naxos Greece
One of the must-visit villages of Naxos is Chalki (otherwise known as Chalkio or Halkio). The town is situated in the center of Naxos.
It has some pretty beautiful sites inside the village, yet the secrets are around the town. If you are a hiking aficionado, then you will love this place and the hiking routes around.
There are some places inside Chalki that you will find since they are located in the main village square. We also discovered them, and we share them here.
You need to know that Chalki is situated in the broader area of the Tragea valley. This valley has been described as the “Mystras of the Aegean.”
Once you arrive at the Drimalia/Traghea area, you will see over four hundred thousand olive trees over a millennium old.
This area still holds many remnants of the indigenous culture, creating a unique personality that delightfully differs from the rest of the island.
Chalkio and the area around it, called the Byzantine Mystras because of its numerous amazing churches, is a world apart in distance and atmosphere – from the rest of the island.
Chalkio, Moni, Kinidaros, Filoti, Apeirathos, Koronos villages are ideal destinations for immersing yourself in nature. Here hiking, marble quarries, springs, emery mines, olive groves, and citrus fruits reign supreme.
Chalkio village is a treasure trove of history, culture, and art just waiting to be explored. It is a historic district that shines with its neoclassical architecture and grand Venetian towers with many galleries, taverns, cafes, boutiques, local groceries, and loom weaving shops-exhibitions.
Naxian hinterland offers visitors the rare opportunity to walk or drive among wild nature and have a long, fulfilling day.
Driving the road from Potamia to Chalkio, one can see the imposing Upper Castle, which is among the most photographed landscapes in the Aegean, similar to the Sarakiniko in Milos, where the landscape resembles a scene from the moon with the giant rocks and their unusual shapes.
Just off the road between Ano Potamia and Melanes villages, there is the “Kalamitsia” – The Jesuit imposing Palace worth a visit from all aspects.
A vibrant culture, eco-adventures, and local organic cuisine around every turn, Naxos is the ideal destination to discover your very own piece of “Pura Vida.”
Climbing Mount Zas, the highest in the Cyclades with a peak of 1004 meters, is a fascinating experience with all the Cycladic islands visible.
What is to see in Chalkio? Read along.
L-EcoArt Shop Gallery of Chalki
Visit the art shop (L-EcoArt Shop Gallery) of Helen Marakis.
That place is far from a souvenir shop.
It is more like an art shop, where it hosts the works of Helen Maraki (who worked as a decorator in New York for 30 years before coming to Naxos) along with the handpicked works of a variety of artists.
Here is a short-range of photos from the gallery. Helen was kind enough to allow us to take some.
Chalkio Handmade Marmalades and Herbs
Sitting at the stairs, creating embroidery art is Anastasia Maraki, sister of Helen (from the art shop).
Her unique shop is next to her sister’s gallery and is called “Nature and Art”.
Everything in there is homemade.
If you have a sweet tooth, then this is the place to buy “a few” things along with pretty good local wine.
The owner and her husband grow, collect, and make everything you see.
Vallindras Citrus Distillery in Chalki
This is one of the most popular things to see (and buy Citrus liqueur).
They produce their liqueur in the same way and with the same equipment since 1896.
Actually, in 1896, the liqueur became alcohol and citrus-based, while before that, the taste was a bit different.
The recipe is secret, and tourists flock there for a free sample taste of this liquid that is like silk on your tongue.
The Weaving Tradition of Chalki, Naxos Greece
As you exit the distillery, cross the “street” (walk 5 meters), and you will find the traditional hand-loom weaving workshop of Maria Maraki (named as “Maria Maraki Ifada”).
By the way, Maria is the mother of Helen and Anastasia, as seen above.
The creation of these handwoven loom textiles is a unique art that leaves most people amazed.
These were not just decorative creations but were weaved for daily usage. The women of Moni village keep the tradition through weaving and embroideries of spectacular beauty.
We caught one of them working on something new. This kind of work needs a significant amount of patience and skill.
Where to Eat in Chalkio
You have to eat the local “galaktoboureko” sweet and also eat at Kalliopi’s tavern.
Eat Breakfast & Snacks at “Kera”
With just a few tables to serve, this place has the most spectacular pies and “galaktoboureko” and “baklava” you will find in Chalki.
Their “galaktoboureko” is wildly famous.
Eat Local Naxos Food at Kalliopi’s Tavern
That is one great tavern inside the forest just outside of Chalki.
We had to mention it, though, since the place is amazingly beautiful, serene, and with delicious food. It is just 500meters after Panagia Drossiani, leaving Chalkio to Moni village.
After leaving the asphalt road, you may think you drive the wrong way (since the road becomes a dirt road) but keep ongoing.
The place will reward you! Everything you eat there is homemade or homegrown.
Hike Around Chalki Experience Byzantine Monuments
Kitesurfing and Windsurfing Naxos Greece
Go to Thalasea, Kitesurfing, and Windsurfing sports center based in Parthena bay, Mikri Vigla, Naxos, Greece. Our friends at Thalasea provide us with the following info.
The bay of Mikri Vigla Naxos has some of the strongest winds in the Cyclades, created by a venturi that is formed by the squeeze caused by Naxos and the neighboring island of Paros.
The island of Naxos, Greece, is a natural playground for kiteboarders and windsurfers thanks to its wide, shallow bay and the “meltemi”, a seasonal climatic system that creates great wind throughout the summer, from May-September, but often in October too.
Whether you are an experienced kiteboarder or windsurfer or just starting out, their surfing area is the perfect place to enjoy great wind conditions.
The kitesurfing courses are divided into 3 parts, according to the IKO instruction standards (International Kiteboarding Organization) and you will progress quickly and safely. In groups of 2-4.
Thalasea Beach Bar is in a beautiful setting with a bar, restaurant, comfy seats and sofas, a beautiful beach and loungers.
This multifunctional venue apart from being a sports center is a great, all-day place for lounging on the beach and enjoying your coffee, fresh juices, and amazing cocktails, before returning in the evening for Mediterranean cuisine and seaside drinks.
Where to Stay in Naxos Greece
We stayed at ELaiolithos Luxury Retreat. This eco-friendly place is located at the feet of Moni village, overseeing the Tragea valley.
It is hikers friendly, cycling-friendly and friendly in general. They also serve some great snacks in a separate area with panoramic views to the valley.
Far from the noise of Chora of Naxos but close if you want to visit.
It was our base for excursions all over Naxos and very relaxing to stay there.
We love hotels where we can relax far from the noise that comes with “hot seasons” and famous Greek islands like Naxos.
ELaiolithos opened for public in May 2017 when we were invited to go there and experience Naxos island.
It was the first time for us on the island. Helen, who runs this place, was both visible and invisible when needed, and we are sure she will be a massive success with this hotel.
Conclusion on the Best Things to Do in Naxos Greece
Naxos is an amalgam of myths and history, tradition, and spirituality. You can feel the vibrations of those energies by the minute you step your foot on the ground of the island.
If your idea of vacation heaven is to sip mojitos on a white sandy beach for two weeks or to stay within the confines of a five-star hotel or on the sun deck of a pool or a cruise ship that’s ok – it is lovely.
But for those whose luxury is only part of the holiday experience and also love to enjoy and to discover the delight of meeting new people and sharing their corner of the earth, then Naxos is a top destination because it combines everything.
Naxian people live the “now” in all means. Their general belief that life is too short for not having a good time every day, all the time, any season, and under any circumstances is met everywhere.
If you are fascinated by cultures, history, society, and you liberate yourself and step into the real life of the place you visit to have an authentic experience. Your visit to Naxos Greece will reimburse you in many different ways.
See your destination by driving in the mainland or by foot, enter the Naxian hinterland and discover its gems, by experiencing the local life, the spirit of the natural world and have access to the cultural and agricultural riches that this island has to offer.
Here you will come in contact with the authentic side of Naxos, the remarkable sights, the unusual smells, and its mesmerizing sounds.
This self-sufficient island produces everything and supplies also many adjacent Cycladic islands. Its people are very proud and hardworking.
Every house has its production of oil, meat, vegetables, fruits, poultry, cheese, raki, and wine.
Visitors can have this experience by going to the field with locals and pick with their own hands whatever each season produces. Therefore it is wise to visit the local villages and taste each one’s special delicacies and sweets.
Every village is a different experience in food and wine.
Everything on your dinner plate is grown and produced here, from root vegetables and greens to fruit, olive oil, herbs, preserves, traditionally made small-batch cheeses and certain meats.
Enjoy the summer in Greece!