Updated: Oct 28
Naxos, Greece is the largest of the Cycladic Islands that combines gorgeous beaches, beautiful mountains, and important archeological sites, not to mention welcoming people and incredible food. We were island-hopping and had left Paros to travel by ferry to Naxos. I have travelled on many ferries but I never fail to be amazed at the piloting skills of the Greek ferry captains. The ferries speed towards the dock, do a quick reversal, and coast to their perfectly synchronized landing. Ferries are unloaded, reloaded, and back to sea within minutes. There are often choices between high speed ferries and island-hoppers. Advance tickets are often less expensive.
We had booked a lovely hostel, called Studios Margo in Naxos Hora (main town). The room was pleasant but the rooftop deck was absolutely spectacular. The deck included several shaded seating areas, hammocks, a putting area, and tremendous views.
Once we settled into our room, we walked down along the cliffs towards the main town. The view from the top of the hill was stunning. It is a bit of a trek down to the main town (and back up!) but we were happy with our location.
It is one of the windy islands with incredible surf. It was cooler and often overcast. We kept seeing rain clouds but no rain fell. This was fairly common throughout our trip. We often had threats but rarely experienced poor weather. On the contrary, it was often sweltering hot, so the winds on Naxos were greatly appreciated.
Like in most of Greece, there were many feral cats. Mady sat down to pull some papers out of her bag and the kitties came running. They obviously thought she was going to feed them.
All over Greece, we see creative lights hanging in the tavernas and hostels. I always promise myself I will recreate them at home for my rooftop deck ... someday.
The streets are narrow and winding, with no discernible order or plan. It was fun wandering around. Meandering aimlessly in a new location is one of my most treasured activities. Not only do I get a feel for the layout and organization in the community but I get a feel for local life.
Our goal was to get to the Venetian Castle on the top of town. We didn't know a lot about it but since it obviously dominated the area, it seemed like the thing to do. It's very easy to get to it, even considering all the winding roads. All roads that go up lead to the Castle; all roads leading down go to the water.
The Old Town was very quiet as we walked along. The Greeks take their afternoon rest time very seriously. After a couple of weeks of island-hopping, the empty streets no longer surprised us. At each intersection, there is something beautiful to see.
We were nearly to the top of the island when we passed this church. Can you spot the kitty enjoying his afternoon rest?
It seemed like a lot of effort to find this tiny bit of shade but he looks quite content.
At last we made it (without a map!) Of course, the exhibition part was closed... that whole afternoon nap thing. That plan scrapped, we wandered through the various alleys and roads within the castle walls. Parts of the castle have been converted into shops and residences -- most shops were closed but there were some that remained open.
In the basement of the Castle, we discovered an amazing art/jewellery store, Katerina Vasilaki Handmade Jewellery, When the Venetians under Marco Sanudo made Naxos the capital of his duchy, they destroyed the temples. These columns were rescued and hidden and now are part of the shop.
After we had seen as much as we could, we headed down the hill and stopped in many of the tiny stores. Our credit cards got quite a workout.
Back at our hostel, we spent some time on the roof, swinging in hammocks next to the mini golf course, which we dubbed Mar-a-Naxos. We were treated to some of the local wine, made by the hostel manager, which is said to be especially effective in mending broken hearts.
Overlooking Naxos Harbour is the Temple of Apollo. We decided that we really needed to explore this at sunset so first we would explore a couple of mountain villages and take a hike to see The Temple of Dimitra.
Exploring the Ancient Sites of Naxos
We started down the path, trying to follow the rare trail signs. We back-tracked many times. With the benefit of hind-sight, I would suggest other travellers get a taxi directly to the site, especially on a hot day. We were well-supplied with water but we both ran out before we returned to the village.
Along the route, we saw this fossil on the pathway, which quite thrilled both of us.
Along the pathway is St. Nicholai Christian church. It was closed to visitors so we couldn't enter but we had a good look around.
Back on the path: It was hot, windy, and difficult to navigate.
One of the very few signs along the way, but we eventually found it ... in Greek time. Greek time, we discovered, is very flexible. If a Greek says 30 minutes, it is more like an hour.
Dimitra's Temple is literally in the middle of nowhere and is remarkably intact. The remains of this temple were first discovered in 1949 but excavation didn't start until the mid 1970s. Pieces of the temple were found scattered about the area, and most of the original marble had been looted. In the mid-1990s a German archaeologist finally restored the temple. There is also a small museum.
It was a gorgeous view and we luckily discovered a fellow photography enthusiast who took our "buddy shot" of the trip. On every trip we take together, we always choose one photo as our official shot. This was the shot for our Greece Adventure.
We decided to take the "easier" route back by the road. After several false starts, we found the right road and climbed for the next 2 km, by this time we had run out of water and were really looking forward to getting to Milo's Cafe for a fresh lemonade. It was absolutely delicious and very much needed.
We then caught the bus to the next village, Halki. Halki was once the capital of the island and is the biggest olive and citron-producing area. It retains a true old world charm.
In the old village of Halki, we found the Kitron Distillery and decided a visit was required. We were unfamiliar with the Citron fruit. We thought it meant lemon, but this is a very different fruit.
The distillery is very old and has followed the same recipe for centuries. It produces 3 different types of liquor made from the fruit and leaves of the citron tree. It comes in clear, yellow, and green colours. The green is sweeter and the least alcoholic of the options. The yellow is the least sweet but has the highest alcoholic content.
Back in Chora Naxos, we decided to stop for a Kitron before exploring the Old Market while waiting for sunset.
We wandered around the town and checked out the shops and streets. We were hanging around waiting for the sun to set.
With still more time, of course, we stopped for a prosecco and more people-watching.
Temple of Apollo
The sun was near to setting, so we headed to the Temple of Apollo by crossing the causeway out to the monument.
We weren't the only people with that idea. We clambered along all the pathways and searched for the perfect angle to take photos without tons of people. Then, we just sat and watched the sun go down.
We were getting hungry and needed to pack up our stuff for the move to Santorini. We enjoyed one last look at the temple as we walked back along the cliffs to our studio. We were quite tuckered out from our day in the sun and all the hiking, so we decided to order in some gyros. We asked for a recommendation and the young man at the reception insisted that we use his favourite place, Kozi's. It was the best gyro we had, and the total bill for both of us was the equivalent of just over $5 CAD.
The following day, we went to Eggares to see an authentic olive press at the Eggares Olive Press Museum. We hopped off the bus and wandered down the road in the direction the bus driver pointed. After 20 minutes of walking and not finding it, we doubled back only to discover the Olive Press was right next to the church. (Oops, we did it again)
The tiny museum was beautifully presented. The owner, Nicolette Landou, lovingly restored the building and collected the artifacts.
Everything was done manually. The olives were crushed with a mill stone that took 3 strong men to operate. The pulp that went into the press included pits and flesh.
This long crank was used to press the goat hair bags of pulp. Up to 50 bags could be placed in this press. The liquid would drain into the deep basin. The oil would float on top of the water. A drain in the bottom of the deep basin would be removed so the water would go into the shallow basin. Then the oil would be scooped up with hollowed gourds.
The oil would then be placed into ceramic containers and kept in the cool and dark to maintain its quality.
The museum includes a little gift shop where olive products and Greek drinks could be purchased. Yes, we bought goodies. The lovely, generous, and incredibly hospitable Angela and Adriana treated us to many samples.
We had a while to wait for the bus, so we ordered a Kitron. Angela couldn't bear to deliver only a drink, so she brought us olives and her homemade olive bread.
Our last view of Naxos before we caught the VERY late ferry to our next island, Santorini. One of the port police told us that Sea Jet ferry should be called Sea Late, although much of the delay couldn't be helped. due to a big storm moving through the islands (missed us) which caused strong winds and heavy swells. It was a bit of an adventurous ride to Santorini.
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