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Island Hopping in Greece: Naxos

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

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.

whitewashed buildings covering an island with a walkway extending into the water

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.

Roof top patio with plastic grass and golf "holes' two hammocks are hanging in the foreground.

Naxos Town

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.

View looking from hill down to the main town.. a series of whtewashed buildings. Strong surf hits the beach. Large rocks are seen just off shore.

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.

rear view of woman seated on stairs next to a blue fence. 3 cats are approaching her.

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.

A lantern hanging from the wall of a building. The lantern is surrounded by dried and sunwashed twigs.

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.

entrance of a private home. The door is green with ivy climbing the walls. A bicycle is leaning against the wall next to the door.

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.

side view of square stone-brick building

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.

Narrow residential street with white washed buildings on either side. A blue winding staircase leads to the roof of one home on the right. No one is in the photo.

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.

An old blue Vespa converted into a display. The license plate reads "Surf Shop" and the seat is converted into a flower pot

We were nearly to the top of the island when we passed this church. Can you spot the kitty enjoying his afternoon rest?

traditional whitwashed Greek Orthodox church with dome. In one of the window openings, a cat can be seen sleeping.

It seemed like a lot of effort to find this tiny bit of shade but he looks quite content.

A close up of the cat's location

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.

An arched doorway of an obviously ancient building with a very old wooden door.

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.

The interior of a fine jewellery store with 3 ancient Greek columns

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.

A covered walkway with a sign "Vassilis Garden". the walkway is filled with potted plants.

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.

Naxos harbour walkway with a much weathered statue in the foreground and the tall Temple of Apollo on top of a hill in the background.

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

A rural area with the remains of windmills in the background. In th foreground is a sign pointing to Gyroulas, Ancient Sanctuary, and Eaarly Christiaan Basilika

We took a local bus to Ano Sangri, a teeny village close to Dimitra's Temple and St. Nicholai Church.

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.

An unused and crumbling windmill. The tin roof is caved and there are no blades on the wheel.

Along the route, we saw this fossil on the pathway, which quite thrilled both of us.

A snake/worm like fossil in the rocky ground

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.

A small stone brick church with a small crooss on top of the tower.

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.

A wooden sign in an open dry field area pointing the way to Dimitra's Temple

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.

the ruins of a square temple. Some columns and open gates can be seen.

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.

The author and friend pictured in front of the ruins of the Temple

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.

The old walls, door, and shuttered windows of a dirty white-washed residence. The blue paint on the doors and shutters are peeling. There are 2 flower pots with blooming flowers on the window ledge.

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.

A display of 4 botttles about 1/4 full of liquid showing the different colours of Kitron. The citron fruit is shown in front. The citron is a large green citrus fruit with a thick rind.

The exterior of a stoonee building with a large pizza oven in the center.

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.

A display showing rope and bamboo wrapped bottles on an old scale.

Back in Chora Naxos, we decided to stop for a Kitron before exploring the Old Market while waiting for sunset.

Author's friend enjoying a bright green Kitron drink with the words "Captain Cafe" on the wall behind.

We wandered around the town and checked out the shops and streets. We were hanging around waiting for the sun to set.

The wooden pallet wall display with dried flowers tucked behind the pallets. The words "we do not have wifi talk to each other" are painted on the pallet

With still more time, of course, we stopped for a prosecco and more people-watching.

The author sitting with a glass of sparkling red wine with a floating strawberry

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.

The Temple of Apollo. A large stone rectangle with large rectangle stones fallen around it.

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.

A twilight scene of the temple with the setting set captured in the upper right corner.

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.

Eggares, Naxos

A wooden sign with the words "Eggaares Olive Press" and a wooden olive leaf and fruit.

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)

A display showing the large mill stone with olives

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.

An old olive press on display in the corner of the room

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.

A display showing a clay urn on a iron stand

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.

Outdoor table/patio. On the table is a plate of olives and several slices of olive bread, plus a small potted olive tree.

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.

The owners of Eggares Olive Press pictured in front of their business sign written in Greek.

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.

A sunset silhouette of Naxos Island with the Temple of Apollo clearly seen in the center.


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