Difference between revisions of "Naxos"
Revision as of 16:24, 29 April 2013
Naxos is one of the major islands in Greece's Cyclades group.
The largest and most fertile of the Cyclades Islands, Naxos in fact gains much of its income from agriculture rather than solely from tourism. The main town, referred to as 'Hora' on maps, but also as simply 'Naxos' or 'Naxos Town', contains most of the shops and restaurants frequented by visitors. A number of beach communities extend south along the coast from Hora.
English and German are very common; French and Italian are also spoken by many.
Naxos is about 5 1/2 hours by the fastest regular ferry from Piraeus, faster by catamaran, and about 2 hours by regular ferry from Santorini.
Naxos is a central hub in the sea transport system, and enjoys multiple connections in all directions. Ferry boats and high speed catamaran services, respectively costing around € 29 and € 45 one-way in economy class, run daily from Piraeus during high season.
Various shipping companies sail for Naxos (via Paros) including:
NEL Lines also operates a highspeed link from Lavrio in Attica. This is a pleasant port to travel from if you have the option, as it is relatively near the airport and doesn't have the stress and chaos of Piraeus.
There is also the High Speed (Hellenic Seaways) which leaves from Rafina, closer to Athens airport than Piraeus and a pleasant place to have lunch if you have time before you board your ferry. The High Speed takes just under 4 hours and is around € 40 in high season.
In Naxos, ticket offices for ferries in all directions can be found along the quay in Hora. Ferries from Pireaus to Naxos are frequent, as many as half a dozen a day during the summer but generally two or more. The length of the trip does not require a cabin. Blue Star Lines is the most common carrier between Pireaus and Naxos. The ferry takes about 6 hours and the high-speed takes half that time and costs twice as much. Usually there are several departures at 7:30AM every day and then a high-speed and ferry at around 5PM and in the summer a ferry that leaves Pireaus at around 10PM. The Hellas Flying Dolphin High-speeds are catamarans and take about 4 hours to get to Naxos from Pireaus.
Within town walking is the best method of transport. Bus services do operate between the towns, and car and motorbike rentals are readily available; however, be very careful to fully document all dents and even scratches at the time of hire to avoid additional expense and unpleasantness later (You've been warned!) -- and even this may not save you from hassles later. Dependable rental agencies include RUN (Rental Union Naxos) and Rental Center.
The most recognizable landmark of Naxos is the Portara, an iconic 6th century BC marble gate on the islet of Palatia in Naxos harbor. It is the only remnant of a temple dedicated to Apollo. Naxos is well known for its wonderful beaches, some with advantageous winds for prime windsurfing and kitesurfing. Most of the Island's West coast is one long sandy beach with crystal clear azure water, the most popular areas of which are Prokopios, Agia Anna, Plaka and Mikri Vigla. It also has a mountainous interior with a great variety of valleys and villages, easily reachable by a well-maintained road system. Archaeological highlights include the Kouros of Melanes and Apollonas, Dimitra's Temple at Sangri and the Cheimarros Tower.
The Castro (old walled city) section, on its elevated ground overlooking the harbor, provides some of the quietest and most photogenic alleyways to be found in the town. It survives from the days when Naxos was an outpost of the Venetian empire.
Daytime activities center around the beaches, especially those to the south of town, Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna and Plaka being the most famous ones. Naxos beaches, like those on many Greek islands, offer clothing options. Generally, nude sunbathing is more frequently encountered in southern beach communities that have sand dunes blocking the view from the access road - such as in Plaka.
At the end of Plaka beach nearest to Ag. Anna there is a group of rocks and small coves, and this area is excellent for naturists. It is hidden from the road by trees, yet is an easy (300m) walk along a flat beach from the bus stop at Paradiso taverna.
For those who love adventure, the island offers many opportunities for active sports. Bluefindivers Naxos Diving Center , located at Agios Prokopios beach, offers beautiful and safe diving/snorkeling trips around the island. Excellent conditions are formed among meadows of sea weed (Posidonia Oceanica), sand banks, reefs and vertical cuts along with shipwrecks, not only for marine life but also for the divers/snorkelers who explore them.
Truly ancient ruins are limited to the Portara gateway, visible from the harbor, and a rather modest half-finished Kouros statue uncovered in a quarry near Melanes (Kouronohori) as well as a larger version near Apollonas on the northern coast. Special attention has been given in recent years to the sites of Dimitra's temple at Sangri, and Dionysus' temple below Glinado village, where the Ministry of Culture organizes full moon concerts in July and August.
The tiny harbors of Lionas and Moutsouna on the East coast are very picturesque and quiet even in the summer months. Both have tavernas and a beach. A newly asphalted road from Moutsouna down to Panermos is also very much worth exploring, as it passes by several secluded bays.
Annas organic Shop and Garden Café The first shop on the island of Naxos, to offer exclusively biological products. Anna John offers delicious, healthy food, detailed advice in matters of food and nutrition. Very nice place to take a breakfast or to have a snack in the organic Garden Café.
Due to its fertile valleys, Naxos has the richest variety of produce of the Cyclades islands (Naxos is famous in Greece for its potatoes), as well as cattle and poultry. Most restaurants serve fresh and wholesome food, but only a few stand out for excellent dishes, especially in local cuisine.
Greek specialties like moussaka, souvlaki and a wonderfully mild feta are available in restaurants. The olive oils one encounters are superior to the 'light virgin' oil commonly available, in that the local process apparently leaves in much more olive flavor.
There are also supermarkets on the outskirts of Hora which offer food and drink at everyday prices. As many rooms come complete with cooking facilities, this offers an excellent way to keep expenses down.
Naxos is famous for producing its own liquor called kitron, made from an exotic fruit which can be compared perhaps to lemons, though kitron's taste is pleasantly sweet and citric. Its production process can be viewed at the old Valindras distillery in the village of Halki, where different varieties can also be tasted. Kitron is also produced by Promponas.
More common with the locals is a drink called Raki which in winter is served hot with honey (Rakomelo). Raki is a brandy made from pomace (the pieces of grapes (including the stems and seeds) that were pressed for wine making and is similar to Italian grappa. One of the places that continuously serves Rakomelo is Cafe Naxos, located in the narrow alleys in the port's old town. Enjoy it with your "parea" (company of friends) by the cosy fireplace or outside in summer.
On the Rocks Bar - ... is located in the heart of chora naxos downtown between the seafront, called "paralia", and the really old town. Have a seat in the early evening for an aperitif or a before-dinner-cocktail and see the people passing by while the sun is fading away ... enjoy the atmosphere and get yourself a perfect drink - maybe accompanied by a havana cigar or shisha (waterpipe)... 
As on most islands, a phalanx of touts greets each arriving ferry waiving placards advertising rooms for rent and (usually) offering free transport. In the months of July and August you should book in advance; but otherwise, these immediately available rooms are often the best value. Bargaining is usually possible. Be sure and establish the location of the accommodations first -- as distance can add to expense.
Word of advice: It is not an uncommon story on Naxos that someone who initially planned to stay for only a few days missed their original ferry out, and liked the island so much that they ended up staying there forever. They are living proof of Ariadne's legend, who was left behind here by Theseus after they escaped from Crete, and remained to become the wife of Dionysus.