If we fell in love with one place in Greece, it was Naxos. Although it is not exactly unknown, it does not attract as many visitors as some other Aegean islands. That is partially due to its relative un-flashiness and in large part due to the fact that it does not have its own international airport. Not overrun by tourists and yet never sleepy, the island in general and its principal town in particular offered us just the right mix of excitement and relaxation.
As on many other islands, the main town on Naxos carries the same name as the island itself, and therefore is also simply called Chora (“the Town”). Its small historic Kastro district up on a hill turned out to be exactly my expected image of a quintessential Greek town. Here is what it looks likes from the sea.
Unseen in this perspective is the wide seafront promenade, lined up by restaurants and shops. It absorbs a significant portion of vacationers, insulating the narrow inner streets from getting too crowded.
Those narrow streets and passages in the lower parts of Kastro are fairly commercialized, in a really picturesque kind of way.
The pictures above were all taken in mid-day, when these streets are practically deserted. They certainly get busier towards the evening.
One of the popular seafood restaurants on the main promenade has this advertisement of its product.
Here is a look at Kastro from the marina.
On a small islet of Palatia at the entrance to the harbor stands the Portara, the only remaining fragment of a never-completed 6th-century-BC Temple of Apollo.
Under the Venetian rule over the Aegean, between 13th and 16th centuries AD, the temple was gradually dismantled so that its marble could be used for the various buildings in Kastro. The Portara was apparently too massive for that and thus survived.
Here it is up close at sunrise, with the town in the background.
Since we are on the western edge of the island, the sun here rises behind the mountains and the city. It is not especially spectacular, which is why you can have the Portara largely to yourself in the early morning hours. Conversely, watching the sunset through the Portara is considered to be one of the top activities while in town. We correctly surmised that we would have to share the experience with dozens, if not hundreds, of other people on a fairly small parcel of land, so instead we used less popular viewpoints as well as restaurant terraces. This mini-sequence, in addition to showing the gorgeously setting sun, suggests how many people descend on the tiny islet at this hour.
Let’s take another look at the Kastro from the best viewpoint in town – the crest of the Palatia islet.
It is decidedly not as colorful as other places (e.g., Oia). As I said earlier, un-flashy.
From near the top of the historic district, a comparative rarity for me: the same perspective taken at different times of the day. Focal lengths differ, but otherwise I cannot pick which of the two shots I like better.
Another rarity: people-focused photographs. The cultural center in Kastro holds music performances through the summer. We went one night to a concert of bouzouki music. The virtuoso musician is the gray-haired guy on the stage, and our appreciation of his incredible skill with the instrument was further enhanced by the small troupe of traditional dancers.
Beautiful without being showy, lively without being boisterous – that’s Naxos City, my favorite town in Greece.