Naxos: THE Travel Guide

Arriving from the ferry to the port in Naxos

Introduction

Naxos was the first of the Greek islands that I visited. It is not a common destination, however it has been getting more popular in recent years. I was actually debating between Paros and Naxos. They were both one of the bigger islands in the Cyclades. The main reasons why I chose Naxos was because it had fewer visitors, yet still had what I wanted to explore: its mountain villages. Naxos is a beautiful island, with many quaint villages and pristine beaches.

Getting to Naxos

Blue Star ferry right there 

Ferry

Most people get to Naxos via ferries (which include several different types). I will elaborate more about that in my upcoming article on how to book Greek Ferries (as I myself had many questions and misconceptions while figuring out the booking process). However, there are 3 main companies that operate the ferries around the Cyclades Islands – Blue Star, Hellenic Seaways and SeaJets.

I got to Naxos via Blue Star Ferries from Pireaus port at Athens. The journey took a total of  5.5 hours and the vessel was the Blue Star Delos.

Departure: 0725
Arrival: 1300
Price€36 (economy), €41 (economy air seat), €50 (business)

Whats the difference between economy and air seat?
The main difference is that with the air seat you get better leg space and a more comfortable seat (possibly one where you can get a good view of the ocean as the ferry cruises). Don’t worry, I was pretty confused by this too at the start when booking the seat.

Tip
: However, I would recommend just getting the economy seat because firstly, its cheaper. Secondly, I somehow got to sit on an air seat halfway because not all of them were reserved :p (even at peak season in summer). It depends on your luck but if you can save a little , why not?

Getting around Naxos

To get around Naxos, you have a few options.

How roads are like in Naxos

Bus

Prices in summer (one-way)€2 (Chalki / Halki) , €2.30 (Filoti), €3.10 ( Apiranthos) , €4 to (Koronos)

The cheapest way to travel around Naxos would be using the public bus. You can buy tickets at the bus station near the port. It is located in this little booth. You can pick up a small paper copy of the bus schedule for the weekdays/weekends too. It is highly recommend to get the physical bus schedule at the bus station itself as it changes every 2 weeks. 

Tip: If you would like to save more money, purchase a return ticket. However, this only works if you are sure that you are going to return that particular destination. For me, I was not sure whether I would like to return from the same mountain village, thus I decided to purchase a one-way ticket.

Tip: For the bus stops at the respective villages, do take note that they might just in the shape of a food kiosk/booth. Purchase your tickets from the vendors manning the booths.

Scooter/Motorbike

Example of an ATV / Scooter rental shop in Naxos

Price: €13-15 / day

Another popular way to traverse the island would be by scooter/motorbike. Most legitimate companies would require you to have the scooter licence and convert to to an International Driving Licence (Scooter Class). For Europeans,  it would be a Class A licence.

Tip: Always remember to check the insurance documents before getting your scooter. Ensure that you are getting proper insurance that covers for damages. Another thing to check for would be possible damages existing on the scooter. This usually applies to scooter rental in South East Asia but it pays to be safe.

Tip: In the case that the rental company agrees to rent the scooter out to you without the need of a licence, always make sure that you have had some experience before renting a scooter. Riding scooters with minimal experience is dangerous and you do not want to ruin your holiday with a broken leg/arm.

ATV/Quad

A really random but cute menu of a restaurant in Naxos

Price: €25 / 50cc/ day (July), might have a 10-20% discount if renting for more than 5/6 days

In my opinion, this option would be the one that gives the most thrill. The Quad/ATV accommodates 2 people and it is more stable than the scooter. Especially on the more secluded islands, being the only ATV zooming down the highway was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to the Greek islands.  I actually rented an ATV throughout my days in Ios and Milos. It would definitely be more worth it if you share the cost with another person. However, since I did not have my scooter licence, I could not rent it and thus the next option would be to rent a quad.

Private Car

This is a good option for families who need a bigger transport vehicle to get around. The price for the car ranges, depending on the model and the timeframe you are renting it for.

Accommodation

Hotel Soula from the outside!

Hotel Soula

Website: here 
Booking.com link
here
Hostelworld linkhere
TripAdvisor linkhere

Price/night : €15 (June), €18 (July)

I really loved this hostel (though it really feels like a hotel). The dorm room is actually in the basement (I had my doubts about it at first), which maintains the room at a really cool temperature.  It was a 6 bed dorm which made it not too noisy, yet still at a comfortable number for socialising. I was also quite lucky as I was the only occupant in the room for the first 2 nights, which meant that I essentially paid a dorm price for a “private room”! The showers were decent, though you needed to wait a little for the hot water.

my really-messy bed

They have a gorgeous hang-out area near the reception. Unfortunately, it was searing hot in July, thus no one really stayed around that area though it was shaded. The entire building was rather huge though and I also had a peek into their private rooms. I had to say, the quality of their private rooms were great.

They had this little basement “balcony” outside the windows, you could practically walk out into the streets and back in through this hole

Reminder that Hotel Soula as advertised on HostelWorld (at least when I booked it) said that the dorm rooms were non-airconditioned. This has changed and the air-conditioning in the dorm room is perfect. I was actually quite worried at the start as it was summer in Greece and I did not know whether I would be able to sleep in a sweltering hot room. However, due to the good basement location of the room, the temperature was always cool (with or without the air-conditioning). I also made pretty great friends in my dorm on my last few days here.

Besides this, Hotel Soula is right in town and thus just a quick 10 minutes walk down to the jetty and the bus station. It is located right beside a beach (St George’s) and thus a great spot if you want proximity to the water.

the streets right outside, blue and pretty

I really enjoyed myself here. You probably would too 🙂

Activities

Mountain Villages

Village of Filoti!

This was the main reason why I came to Naxos. I wanted to explore the mountain villages in Naxos. I was not disappointed at all. Walking along the old, cobble-stone streets, while surrounded by the white-washed walls of typical Cyclades islands was an amazing experience. There are 3 main villages that tourists visit. These are Halki, Filoti and Apiranthos. You can do a combined tour of the mountain villages but I would highly recommend doing it yourself if possible, because of the flexibility and ease of doing so. 

wandering around…

My tips for the mountain villages would be to explore and wander around. Having a plan would be optimal for some, I would just recommend a rough guide of which village you would plan to visit. The tranquility that you experience as you venture further into the villages would be astounding, as it was for me. Walking along the quiet streets gave me the realisation that I was indeed alone, travelling in the Greek islands, an amazing experience that I did not think would come so soon.

Halki

loved the blues in the villages

Halki is the most commonly visited mountain village in Naxos. It features a really quaint village that used to be the old capital of Naxos. Being its main administrative and trade centre in the past, you can view its rich culture via the numerous Neoclassical houses and villas in the village. The architecture and streets in this village really captivated my attention. Do look out for the Church of Panagia, a Byzantine church from the 9th century. Halki also has numerous old shops selling a variety of objects, ranging from art to liqueur. There is also a motel (Motel Halki) if you would like to stay overnight in this quaint little village.

Halki has really pretty doors to pose with


Motel Halki Booking.com linkhere 

Filoti

found some bottles while exploring Filoti :p

Filoti has many picturesque taverns and cafes situated on near the bus stop. It also has this amazing bakery that I will write about below. Known for its numerous Byzantine churches as well, Filoti is situated on a steep hill. Exploring the white-washed houses and flowered pavements makes for a good experience, partly because there are not many people who actually come here. Most take the tour to Halki.

Filoti!

Apparently, if you are here in August, the village also hosts the island’s biggest traditional feast starting August 15, which lasts for 3 days. It would be a major festival for the people of Naxos, with locals dancing to the sounds of violins at the Church of Panagia Filotitissa honoring the Assumption of the Virgin.

Tip: In the case that some tour groups make their way to Filoti as well, it would be best if you visit Filoti first before Halki. This is because most tour groups visit Halki first, then move on to their next village destination.

Apiranthos

The many cafes and tavernas around the bus stop at Apiranthos

Apiranthos seemed to be like the oldest village of the three, or rather the most traditional of them. Many houses here are made of fine marble and I experienced great hospitality here! One of the shop-owners kindly allowed me to use her toilet without purchasing anything 🙂 The is also the village that provides the best view of the surrounding landscapes. You can have lunch here at one of its numerous tavernas overlooking the valley. If you are interested, there is also a beautiful church called Panagia Aperathitissa, which is right in the middle of the village.

somehow stumbled upon this photo spot while wandering around, loving the mountainous backdrop!

Tip: As always, I suggest to keep walking further into the village, where you would see a more realistic lifestyle of the villagers there. The souvenir shops and numerous tavernas are definitely not reflective of the entire village. As you explore more of Apiranthos’s traditional side, you would see farmers with their sons doing harvesting or ploughing the fertile soils along the valley.

Of course, I am sure that there are many other interesting villages to visit in Naxos. These are just 3 main ones that you can consider visiting.

 

only in traditional villages 🙂
ancient streets

Beaches

Naxos also boasts a long list of beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, I did not have time to visit most of them. However, you can see many tourists and locals alike enjoying the Mediterranean sun at Naxos’s plentiful beaches.

St Georges Beach

Saint George’s beach – the rocky outcrop is on the right

TripAdvisor linkhere 

I stayed practically a 1 minute walk away from St George’s beach and as such this was the only beach I visited while I was in Naxos. I left the beautiful beaches to Milos. It was a pretty nice beach that was not too overpopulated. Everyone had their decent patch of sand to themselves. There was also this little rocky outcrop out at sea that some adventurous souls climbed, which was interesting to watch.

Agios Prokopios

I have since read up on this beach, and it seems gorgeous. It has a wonderful stretch of shallow water with minimal to no waves or seaweed. It also has a high local:tourist ratio, which is quintessential for a good beach, in my opinion. Now I feel like returning to Naxos just to visit this beach 🙁

There are also many other beaches in Naxos that will offer the much-needed peace, tranquility and relaxation. Some good websites that describe them more in detail would be, . I would write a more comprehensive list if I ever visit beautiful Naxos again.

Portara

The Portara in the distance!

The Portara would the first thing you notice as you arrive into Naxos on your ferry. Known for its amazing backdrop during sunsets, the Portara is a marble doorway that apparently faces Delos, the island where Apollo, Greek god of the Sun, was born.

Naxos Old Town

Naxos’s beautiful church!

You can also conveniently visit both the Portara as well as Naxos’s Old Town within the same half-day. After walking through Naxos’s main shopping belt, head right where you would reach this huge church, with a courtyard that has a playground. This is the start of Naxos’s Old Town. Wander through the old narrow streets and as I always tell myself, get lost in the wonders of a new destination!

Watch the Sunset with the Portara

all those tourists look like ants!

Naxos has amazing sunsets, literally. It can even rival those of Meteora. Everyone heads to the Portara (Temple of Apollo) to capture those picture-perfect moments. I have a few other suggestions/locations that you can take, to escape those tourist crowds and take even better photos than them hehe.

Kozi : As elaborated below, this cool restaurant gives you awesome views of the sunset from where you are sitted. You can enjoy your food in the shade while viewing the sunset! How awesome is that! And the major plus point is the fact that not many tourists actually visit Kozi during sunset time as the location is a little out of the way. Walk out to the pebbly beach after you’ve eaten and relax with your friends! You can also try to stack the pebbles to make a good photo 🙂

pebbly fun

The pebble beach was a good place to practise your jump shots without getting judged much by the public as it was so quiet and devoid of tourists. The only people I saw here were a local family of 4, with the dad snorkelling to catch clams.

View while eating at Kozi

Little Platform: When you walk out from Kozi onto the pebbly beach, walk towards the strip of road leading to the Portara (which should be swarmed with tourists at sunset). Eventually you will reach a little platform, which looks like it was part of someone’s house. When I was there, the house looked a little desolate and old. Thus, I climbed onto the balcony and got some good jump shots. You have to be a little thick-skinned to do this as many tourists would gawk at you from the road, wondering why are you jumping a million times.

At the little platform

At the rocks: This would not be as unique a photo spot as the first two. However, it is pretty special because the white rocks would cast a winter feel in the photo. Walk towards the Portara from Naxos Town, and instead of turning right at the fork (towards the Portara), turn left where you would reach piles of rocks. Enjoy the splendid sight of the sun setting over the ocean!

At the rocks 🙂 looks like a winter country

Along the Jetty: Remember where you alighted from the ferry on your first day? Walk back to the same area, where you can catch a great photo of the sun setting, together with numerous yachts docked together. When framing the photo, try to align the sun in the middle of the boats to catch a good photo.

jetty views

Chill out at the Main Square/Jetty

Naxos’s port, full of seafood restaurants and tour operators

Naxos’s port boasts a whole row of shops and al fresco restaurants that would leave you spoilt for choice. Most of them specialise in seafood, however the local Greek fare would probably be of a reasonable standard too. Do be warned that the prices there are definitely going to be higher than usual. After all, you do get an awesome view of the port and sea.

One of the many restaurants by the sea!

Not to mention, Naxos has a main shopping belt that closes at 11pm. It is very distinct and you would be able to see it when you enter Naxos town. They sell a variety of clothing, however most of them were tailored towards beach wear. So do not fret if you have forgotten your favourite beach shorts or bikini! Billabong, Ripcurl, Quiksilver, whatever beach brand you name, they’re there!

In the evening, it is commonplace to see families just chilling at the beachside restaurants or the numerous cafes along the jetty. Head out with your friends and hostel mates and have a nice dinner!

Unfortunately, Naxos is more family-oriented and thus does not have optimum nightlife. However, you can head to other islands (Mykonos, Ios) for the parties, and treat Naxos as a place to unwind and relax for a few days.

Day trips

Price (day trip to Mykonos & Delos): €50/person (which mainly includes transport from Naxos to Delos, then from Delos to Mykonos, and from Mykonos back to Naxos port)

Pantheleos Cruises
Contact
: +30 22850 25573, ,  +30 69371 45140
Email: naxostar@otenet.gr
Facebookhere

Cycladic Cruises
Contact
: +30 22850 24131, +30 69805 89070
Email: cycladic_cruises@live.com.au
Websitehere

Naxos Town/Port has several tour shops that offer day trips to surrounding islands. There are many shops around so be sure to go around the various tour groups to check the prices before you decide on one! I took the tour from Pantheleos Cruises. One of the most popular ones that they offer is the day trip to Delos & Mykonos on board their vessel “Naxos Star“. This is also one of the reasons why I was picking Paros/Naxos for one of my island destinations. I really wanted to see ancient Delos as I had read raving reviews about this attraction online. The other reason was the I did not want to stay in Mykonos as I had read that it was overtouristy and expensive. The island that were in closest proximity to Delos besides Mykonos were Paros and Naxos.

The day trip destinations include Delos-Mykonos, Iraklia-Koufonissi, Amorgos and Santorini. Prices will differ according to your destinations.

I will be writing a separate post about my day trip to Delos and Mykonos. Keep a look out for it! 

Tours in Naxos

There are a range of different tours that you can take in Naxos. These tours cater to all kinds of travellers, from families, to couples to solo travellers. Here are some of them.

Budget: Captain Giannis

Price: €8 (adults) ,€5 (children up to 7 years)
Contact: +30 2285 771024 (Captain Giannis)

Captain Giannis offers a tour that sails from Panermos beach, which has crystal clear calm blue waters.  The vessel’s name is Gialitissa and will take you around the beautiful Southeastern coves of Naxos island. The tour offers a view of 7 bays, accessible only by sea. At Rhina Bay, they enter a sea-cave which is an amazing experience by itself. It is a naturally protected environment where many local birds nest, thus giving you a chance to experience the serenity of the natural landscape.

The routes run daily from June to September at 3 timings: 1300, 1500 and 1700 respectively. Do contact them when you are there in case the timings have changed.

Mid-Range: Land Tours

Price: €18-€25 for bus tours, €10-€12 for walking tours

Naxos Tours
Contact
: +30 22850 24000, +30 22850 22095
Email: info@naxostours.net]
Websitehere 

ZAS Travel
Contact
: +30 22850 23330-1
Email: info@zastravel.com
Websitehere 

Many tour operators in Naxos offer these excursions to view more of Naxos. There are apparently bus tours, and walking tours. However, these tours do not occur on the same day. Do check with them to ask when these tours are operating! With a tour, the main perks are getting a guide and the fact that you do not need to plan your day.

Attached below are the sample bus tours and walking tours’ itineraries.

High End: Sailing Tour

Anna-Maria Sailing Yacht
Contact
: +30 6982073374, +30 6980677500
Email: info@naxosyacht.com
Websitehere 

ActionSeaze Yacht
Contact
: +30 2285400007
Email: info@actionseaze.com
Websitehere 

Sailing tours are an experience in themselves. I did 2 sailing tours in Milos, my last island, and was greatly satisfied. The tours bring you around. The prices include coffee, snacks, refreshments, lunch as well as all the necessary snorkelling equipment such as masks, snorkels, and flippers. They cater to different groups and provide cruises for different events (fishing cruises, sunset cruises, weddings etc.)

Food

Scirocco

Websitehere 
TripAdvisor linkhere 

Price: €9 (Fish and Chips) [I really remember taking a photo of my food but it seems to have disappeared miraculously 🙁 ]

One of the best recommendations that my hostel gave, this chic cafe right in the middle of town provides really good Greek cuisine, as well as fresh seafood everyday. It is located at Naxos’s main square, which makes it a very popular dinner spot. Reservations should be made if you’re planning to visit the restaurant during the peak dinner times (6.30-8pm). I managed to get a table for myself at around 8.20 (however, I was travelling alone, it might be more difficult for groups…perks of travelling solo 😛 )

Tip: Scirocco has a 10% discount for returning customers. You just need to present the card that they give you during your first visit to the waiter!

Niko’s Taverna

Rabbit Stifado

TripAdvisor linkhere

Price: €7 (Rabbit Stifado)

I had dinner at this cute little restaurant that was known to have reasonable prices. Indeed, the dishes here were of big portions,  and were priced very reasonably. The Rabbit Stifado only cost me €7 for a gigantic portion, served generously with fries and rice. This was my first time tasting rabbit and I have to say it pretty much tasted like chicken. This place was unsurprisingly packed with people, including many backpackers like me (probably because the prices were ridiculously affordable for main courses).

Kozi

Pastitizio! It looks so good 🙂

Websitehere
TripAdvisor linkhere

Price: €7 (Pastitizio)

I first discovered this amazing place when I was waiting for the sunset on the first day. I realised that this was the perfect place to watch the sunset while eating your dinner in Naxos. I had the Pastitzio and it was really good! You can clearly see the Portara in the distance, coupled with the setting sun which made for perfect photos. It was also located near a little stretch of beach, which no one ever went to. I loved this little beach as I could sit alone, admiring the sunset while capturing amazing photos with my camera.

Not only are the sunsets viewed from Kozi amazing, the dishes here are well worth your buck as well.

Tip: Make it a must-do to come to Kozi for the sunset views. It will be worth it. And do walk down the little stretch of beach after your dinner to capture even prettier photos.

Chocolat Cafe Creperie

TripAdvisor link:  here 

Price: €8 (Crepe), €2 (Hot Latte)

This crepe stall was discovered on my last day in Naxos! Besides selling crepes, it has amazing coffee as well. I tried the cheese, ham & mushroom and crepe and it really blew my mind! It didn’t look very appetising but the flavouring and the way they made the crepe was very remarkable. Highly recommended to try at least once in Naxos! This cafe also boasts a nice ambience to just relax with a cuppa in hand.

Mitos ARTernative Bar

Facebook Pagehere 

Price: €2.50 (Small Cappuccino)

This was a really chic bar in the village of Halki. It was hidden far from the main road, but it was so well worth the time taken to walk in. The coffee that they brewed was downright fragrant, and I got a lesson in coffee drinking from the owner of the bar! He will provide some nuts together with pieces of sweets, and you are supposed to eat them together, then gulp the coffee down. We had a good chat about Naxos and he gave me tons of recommendations for my next few days in Naxos. It is a also a new start up, so the design is minimalistic and absolutely modern. Do support his small cafe/bar! The coffee will definitely be well worth the price.

Milkato Gelataria

Price: €2 / scoop

Milkato and Waffle House are both near the port ,and were both recommended to me by my accommodation’s reception when I asked for good ice-cream parlours. The gelato that I had here were absolutely fantastic. I loved the Pistachio flavoured Gelato and considered them one of the best. The service at Milkato was also great! One of the service staff actually offered to take picture of me with my yummy gelato! One thing to take note would be that Milkato does offer seats for its patrons, they are actually opposite the shop. At first glance, the seats do no seem obvious but they are there.

Prices 🙂

Waffle House

Price: €2 / scoop

Another top pick for Gelato in Naxos would be Waffle House. This place was great as it had a good shaded area inside to sit down. Its WiFi was also very strong, from what I remembered. There were so many flavours to choose from. I loved the decor and the theme it tried to evoke.

Overall

Naxos is a good destination not only for families, but solo (budget) travellers who want to get away from the over-touristy and expensive islands of Mykonos and Santorini. With such beautiful beaches, and enthralling mountain villages, you would definitely love your time here in Naxos!

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