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Naxos City Guide

 


 
 
General

Located in the heart of the Aegean, Naxos is an island with a long history and important contribution to the creation of the Greek civilization. Naxos has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Zeus, the father of the Greek gods, was born on Crete but raised on Naxos; the island's highest peak, Zas, with an altitude of 1004 meters, takes its name from him. Dionysos, the god of wine, laid on Naxos with Ariadne, goddess of fertility. The fertility of the island is credited to their union.

Naxos, thanks to its tourist infrastructure is thought to be one of the most important islands/highlights for visitors of the Cyclades. Many locals do not engage in tourism, as they are engaged in other industries including agriculture, stockbreeding, marble quarrying, and trade. Naxos has the cosmopolitan air of a modern tourist resort but also retains its traditional colour and its folk culture. The seemingly endless shoreline lapped by clear waters and shaded by cedars that extend along the southern coasts, as well as on the island's northern side, harbour spots of incredible natural beauty and interesting landscapes. Devotees of windsurfing will love the island for the unique conditions it offers for their favourite sport. The meltemi, or summer winds that blow during the daytime, will be their best ally.

For cycling aficionados, Naxos offers unique routes. Hikers and nature-lovers and those who love exploring will have the opportunity to get to know a veritable paradise with scores of paths crossing it. Visitors interested in learning about the way of life of the inhabitants of the island and its folk culture should explore its interior part, the villages, where visitors are always welcomed. The island is also a trove of culture and history, with a number of noteworthy monuments, remnants of different historical periods. It's also an excellent summer holiday destination for those for whom vacations are synonymous with night-life as Hora in summer doesn't sleep.

History

Stone Age. Archaeological findings attest to the existence of a developed society as early as the fourth millennium B.C.; Naxos has been inhabited continuously since.

Bronze Age (3200-1100 B.C.). Naxos has a strong presence in the Aegean during the third millennium B.C. as it emerges as an important centre of the so-called Cycladic culture. Excavation findings from this period are exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Naxos in Hora and the archaeological museum of Apeiranthos.

At the dawn of the second millennium B.C., the Minoans are the dominant maritime power in the Aegean, while, later the control of the seas passes to the Mycenaeans. The centres of power shift to the Mycenaean centres on the Greek mainlands which use the Cyclades as bridges in their expansion to the east. One section of the Mycenaean city of Naxos (1300 B.C.) was uncovered beneath the square of the cathedral in Hora at the Museum at the Cathedral Square.

Geometric era (1100-700 B.C.). Naxos is colonized by the Ionians, and their arrival marks the start of a period of impressive growth.

Archaic era (700-480 B.C.). The growth of the island reaches its peak in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., a period during which the arts-especially sculpture and architecture-flourish. This was, in part, thanks to the abundance of marble on the island, but also thanks to local emery production (emery was used to scrape the marble surfaces) . Typical of the island's sculptures are the two larger-than-life, half-completed kouroi founded at Melanes and Apollonas. Excavations have also unearthed important works from this period, like the temple of Yria, south of Hora at Livadi, and the sanctuary of Yiroula near Sagri. The temple of Apollo, or Portara on Palataki islet at the port's edge, also dates from this period. In 490 B.C., Naxos was destroyed by the Persians.

Classical era (480-323 B.C.). Following the Persians' defeat, Naxos becomes a member of the Athenian League.

Hellenistic era (323-41 B.C.). One of the island's most important monuments, the Himarros tower, dates from this period. The tower is located near the village of Filoti; another ancient tower is «Palaiopyrgos of Plaka», located between Tripodes and Plaka beach.

Roman era (41 B.C.-A.D. 330). In 41 B.C. Naxos became a Roman province and was used as a place of exile.

Byzantine era (330-1207). The advent of Christianity in the fourth century leads to the construction of many churches over ancient temples. Today, there are more than 500 churches on the island. Panayia Drosiani near Moni and Panayia Protothroni near Halki are two important monuments of the Early Christian period. The fortified monastery of Fotodotis Christos on the outskirts of Danakos also dates from this period. The Byzantines also built castles or fortifications on the island. One example is the Kalogeros Kastro which is built atop a low but inaccessible hill on the island's northern end. Apano Kastro is located west of the Tragea plateau. The Apalirou Castle in central Naxos, is built atop a sheer slope; the island's Byzantine capital was located at its foothills.

Venetian rule (1207-1537). In 1207, Marco Sanudo lands with his men at Ayiassos, and after a siege, he conquers the island. He subsequently conquers 18 more islands in the Aegean, then founds the Duchy of Naxos, with the island as its seat, and creates a small feud. The capital is moved from Apaliros to Hora, whose hill forms a natural acropolis. On this site, Sanudo built Hora's fortified castle using materials from the ancient city. The island's rulers built their towers around and outside it for protection or for summer housing. There are also a number of more recent towers on the island's northern coast, such as the Ayia Tower, which dates from the 17th century but was half-destroyed by fire, and the fortified monastery of Panayia Ypsilotera on the outskirts of the village of Galini.

Turkish rule (1537-1829). Naxos remained under the Turkish rule until 1829 when it became part of the modern Greek state. Modern times. The emery mines on the island's eastern part, on the road to Liona, are one of the island's modern monuments. Today, the island's farm products provide it with economic self-sufficiency. Tourist facilities have been planned on the island since the 1980s.

 

Sight-seeing

Hora is the island's capital, its administrative centre, and its harbour. It offers all modern facilities year-round. A number of monuments in Hora, such as Portara, the archaeological site of Grotta, and the Venetian castle, attest to its past. The archaeological museum and Vassilis and Kathy Koutelieris folk museum collection are also located in Hora. During the summer, holidaymakers flock to Ai Yioryis beach, at Hora's south, while some swimmers prefer the waters at Grotta beach, at Hora's north, just beyond the port. Local products are sold in the market, alongside folk art, artefacts, clothing, and jewellery. There are dozens of restaurants and taverns where visitors can taste local dishes, as well as a range of cafés, bars and clubs suitable for all types of night-life. There is regular public transportation from Hora to all villages and beaches. 
Halki. Located in the middle of the Tragea plateau, Halki is the old commercial centre of the island, but also, until recently, the administrative centre of the Municipality of Drymalia. This region is fertile and densely cultivated with olives and other fruit trees; since antiquity, it has been the most fertile and productive part of the island. The plateau is surrounded by a number of villages-Kaloxylos, Akadimoi, Himarros, Tsikaliaro, Damarionas, and Damalas. The area is often called the "Mystras of the Cyclades" because of the large number of churches located there, most of them dating from the sixth through the 14th century. 
Damarionas. Many of the old mansions in this village are nowadays being renovated. Locals are occupied with olive cultivation, agriculture, and stockbreeding. The old church of the Transfiguration, in the centre of the village features a wood carved iconostasis and old icons. 
Damalas A small picturesque village with a few permanent residents. The newly renovated traditional olive press at Damalas and the traditional ceramics workshop are really worth visiting.
Moni. The village is built on a slope with a view of the Tragea plateau. It is named after the paleochristian church of Panayia Drosiani, which was founded as a monastery. The village is famous for its tapestries.
Kinidaros. A pretty village that produces a range of products from its stock farming activities. It also attracts large crowds during its paniyiri (local celebration). The spring that supplies Hora with water is located near Kinidaros, while there are also marble quarries in the area. During the summer nights, there is considerable revelry in the open-air tavernas. 
Melanes. The village is built in a fertile valley with running water that once powered watermills. The hamlets of Kouroynohori and Myloi are located there. The Fragkopoulos Tower attests to its importance as a fief during Venetian rule. One of the two ancient, half-finished kouroi lies outside Flerio near Melanes. 
Potamia. Comprised of three hamlets-Ano Potamia, Mesi Potamia, and Kato Potamia-built along a verdant valley among orchards with old watermills, the area is ideal for walking or hiking. 
Sangri. Built on a fertile plateau planted with olives and located eleven kilometres southeast of Hora, Sagri has a number of sights such as the fortified monastery of Holy Cross- now Bazeos Tower, founded in the 17th century, which has been restored recently and where the Naxos Festival takes place every summer; the monastery of Agios Eleftherios; the Byzantine churches of Agios Nikolaos and Agios Artemios, dating from the eighth century and built during the iconomachy; and, the Somaripa tower at Kato Sangri. South of the village, at Gyroula, is an archaic temple dedicated to Demeter.
Filoti. From Tragea, the road climbs to Za, the highest peak in the Cyclades (alt. 1,004 meters). Filoti is built amphitheatrically at its foothills and is the largest village on the island, boasting restaurants, coffee houses, bars, shops, and banks. The church of the village, Panagia Filotitissa, is one of the prettiest on Naxos with rare icons, a marble iconostasis, and a sculpted bell tower. Local sights include the Barozzi tower. The road from Filoti leads to the Himarros tower, but also to Kalantos, the southern and most lee bay of the island, with port facilities. 
Danakos. A small village built at the base of a ravine with lots of running water that once powered watermills. The Fotodotis Monastery is located near the village amid a gorgeous setting; it's the island's oldest monastery. From the church of Agia Marina, at the turn off to Danakos, a path sets off for the Peak of Zas Mountain (1004 m). 
Apeiranthos. Apeiranthos is built on an altitude of 600 meters, at the foot of Mount Fanari. It's also known as the ‘marble village’ and preserves the characteristics of the architecture of the Venetian era. Apeiranthos is distinguished from other villages by dialect and customs. Locals trace their roots to the mountain villages of Crete, from where their ancestors migrated in the 17th century; they are said to have a bent for poetry and the arts, while the women are especially skilled weavers. The 17th-century Zevgoli Tower built atop a rock at the village's entrance is quite impressive. Coffee houses and tavernas serve local wine from mountain-grown vines. There are a number of noteworthy Byzantine churches in the area. Worth visiting are the 4 museums located in the village:
•    The Archaeological Museum,
•    the Geological Museum of Apeiranthos,
•    the Folklore Museum of Apeiranthos, and
•    the Natural Science Museum.
Keramoti. Famous for its wine and honey, the village is marked by the church of Stavros and offers a vantage point for surveying the island's eastern and western shores.  The stone bridge of the village is shaded by a beautiful pergola.
Koronos. The village is built in a valley by the eastern foothills of Mount Koronos at an altitude of 540 meters. Quaint and colourful, it was once the heart of the local emery industry but since the mines closed, activity has dwindled as many locals migrated to Athens. Coffee houses and taverns serve wine from mountain-grown vines. The church of Panagia Argokoiliotissa just outside the village attracts thousands of pilgrims with its paniyiri (first Friday after Easter). 
Skado. A pretty mountain village built on a vine-covered slope. It is just a few kilometres away from Koronos, its amphitheatre-like built houses remind the prosper times of the emery mining. The village is surrounded by mountainous vegetation (mainly holly). On the exit of the village you can see a memorial tablet dedicated to the victims of the starvation of the Second World War. 
Galanado. A picturesque village set along the Tragea road, about eight kilometers from Hora. Locals are occupied mainly in agriculture and stockbreeding. The Venetian-era Belonia tower rises just outside the village by the church of Ayios Ioannis.
Glinado. A lively market village with a number of tavernas and developed stock keeping marked by the church of Ayios Nikodimos, the island's patron saint. At Kampos, between Glinado and the coast, an ancient temple dedicated to Dionysus was found at the place called Yria (7th century B.C). 
Agersani A village marked by pretty houses with well-kept gardens. It's worth visiting the church of Ayios Spyridon, while around the village are a number of pretty chapels and the monastery of Ayios Ioannis Prodromos. 
Tripodes. A pretty village with paved lanes and abandoned windmills. The church of Panagia features a fine wood-carved iconostasis and rare icons. The ruins of the Palaiopyrgos are visible on the road to Plaka beach. 
Eggares. A pretty, verdant village east of Eggares valley, about eight kilometres north-east of Hora. It's worth visiting the Eggares Olive Press, the Pradouna tower and Faneromeni Monastery; there are two dams in the area, one at Eggares and one at Faneromeni. The old stone double-arched bridge of Kserotagari river is also worth seeing.
Galini. A small village marked by pretty homes built in the Eggares valley, about seven kilometres north-east of Hora. The fortified monastery of Ypsilotera rises between the village of Galini and Amiti beach; during Venetian rule, local farmers sought shelter there.

 

 
Beaches
Ayios Georgios: The most popular and most visited beach near Hora. it is sandy, with shallow waters and protected from winds, thus ideal for families with young children. Facilities include organized water sports, tavernas, and bars.
Ayios Prokopis: Well-known organized beach framed by all types of shops. The beach features coarse sand and clear waters. There are water sports facilities. Bus links to Hora every 20 minutes in summer, from early in the morning until late at night.
Ayia Anna: A seemingly endless sand beach, Ayia Anna extends from Ayios Prokopis. It is highly developed with water sports. It's distinguished by a cedar wood along the shore. 
Plaka: A four-kilometre stretch of sand that extends from Ayia Anna. A dirt track separates the beach from the plain. Facilities include tavernas and bars.
Mikri Vigla: Essentially two fine sand beaches, Mikri Vigla and Parthenos, separated by the Mikri Vigla outcrop. Parthenos is a meeting point for surfers from around the world. There are some tavernas, mini-markets and a tourist office.
Kastraki: A three-kilometres stretch of fine pale sand; the adjacent hamlet offers some tavernas.
Alyko: Dunes and a cedar wood create an exotic landscape. The beach is not generally uncrowded and there are tavernas in the area. 
Pyrgaki: The last stop on the beach road leading south from Hora. The beach is tranquil, with soft dunes and a cedar grove; there are some tavernas. 
Ayiassos: A sandy cove with shallow, clear waters. Access is comfortable today, thanks to the new road. There is a small settlement with tavernas.
Apollonas: A pretty fishing village built in a small bay on the northeastern coast. The village offers touristic facilities, and is linked to Hora by a new coastal road. There is a broad sand and pebble beach with seaside tavernas. The Apollonas kouros is located just outside the village.
Lionas: Access is by a winding road from Koronos that leads past the emery mine entrances. The beach is shingle with deep, clear waters. There is a small settlement with waterside tavernas. 
Moutsouna: Picturesque coastal settlement with pretty sand shores and quaint tavernas located by the water on the eastern coast of Naxos. It's the island's main natural harbour and is located 38 kilometers from Hora. Access is via a winding road that sets off from Apeiranthos. 
Psili Ammos: Dunes and cedar groves create the idyllic setting of this beach, reached via coastal asphalt road leading south from Moutsouna. 
Kalanto: A wonderful sheltered sand beach at the island's southernmost tip, reached either by boat or by road from Filoti. Bathers should take along basic provisions such as water. There is a canteen.
Abram: A cosy sand beach with clear, warm waters-possibly the result of a warm current-on the north-western coast, with a northern exposure. There is a small hamlet and taverna. 
Amiti: Reached at the end of the road from Galini, this uncrowded beach features pale white sand. Bathers should beware of strong currents and undertow, especially if swimming with children.
 
 
EVENTS

The islands' hospitality is one of its greatest assets, especially when combined with local traditions.

Elements of Dionysian worship still survive in local customs, and are especially evident during Apokries or carnival. On "Meat Sunday" or Kreatini, the "koudounatoi" make their appearance-masked youths with belts made of bells strapped to their waists and chests who dance about creating a tremendous din while custom dictates that they are given eggs as a treat.

On Kathara Deftera, the first day of Lent, violin-playing youths known as "foustanellatoi" are part of local observance customs.

A number of customs and traditions are linked to rural practices such as the seasonal pig-slaying and curing.

On June 23, locals burn thorns. Other customs dictate walking down three lanes and passing by three churches or dictates how bread is kneaded or what dreams signify who a young man or a young woman will marry. There are also a number of local traditions linked to the grape harvest and making raki; these are known as "hatzanemata" (eau-de-vie).

The Easter meal traditionally comprises lamb stuffed with herbs, innards, and cheese. Local songs and dances are performed throughout Greece and lyrics are similar to the rhyming verses of the Cretan mantinades. The people of Naxos have an love of poetry and often improvise when singing, using verses to relate local events.

On the island are held religious feasts like the paniyiria, a combination of religious observance and folk feast, most notable on the feast of Zoodohos Piyi at Agrokoiliotiissa, Ayia Triada at Galanado, Ayios Yeoryios at Kinidaros, and Ayios Nikodimos.

Every summer high-season (July-August), music nights, theatre plays and art exhibitions take place at Bazeos Tower, in collaboration with several organisations (Benaki Museum, French Institute, Norwegian Institute etc.). You can find the program of the events of the Naxos Festival at  www.naxosfestival.com.


Autotour is a family owned business operating since 1990 in the magnificent Naxos island. Within our twenty and more years of experience, we are dedicated to providing quality and affordable car rental services for our Naxos guests. The main office of Autotour Naxos is located right in front of the vessel arrivals, making it easier to pick up you car as soon as you arrive. For our guests arriving by airplane we offer free airport delivery. Simply give us your flight number and we will be there to meet you. Besides the option of making an online reservation free without credit card, our web site hosts a wealth of information relating to Naxos Island, how to book a car, where to stay, places to visit and much more.