Naxos and other Cycladic islands

This 220-strong group of islands in the Aegean Sea is home to some of the most popular destinations among Greek islands. We managed to set foot on a handful during our island-hopping itinerary in 2018. Santorini has its own entry and the rest of the islands are described here.


In 2 words: Greek paradise.
For your visit give it at least 4 days; you can get well acquainted with the island in the space of a couple of days, but you may want to linger.
Distances between main destinations require non-trivial amount of driving.
Worthy destinations: Naxos Chora; Halki; Apiranthos; Demeter Temple.
Left for another visit: Filoti; KoronosApollonas.
Last visit: July 2018.

Chora of Naxos
The island of Naxos (Νάξος) is the largest of all Cyclades, but enjoys only a fraction of popularity of some other islands in the archipelago. There is no international airport, which limits the number of foreigners coming here. There are no world-renowned sites that would attract highlight-seeking tourists. Those who come to Naxos are looking to experience the best of Greek hospitality and weather in a quieter setting.

We are completely in love with it.

The Old Town of Naxos (“Chora”) is the kind of village I have always imagined Greek villages to be. Atmospheric town core on the hill, labyrinth of narrow lanes, picturesque corners at each step. Kastro ♥♥♥ district at the very top of the hill is almost entirely not commercial (although there are a few galleries and shops here or there) and has a few minor sights (such as Archaeological Museum and a couple of churches). The lower levels of Chora are a delightful chain of boutiques-and-restaurants passages. There is also a great Orthodox Cathedral ♥ at the northern edge of the old town.

The well-developed waterfront is more commercialized and gets very lively in the evenings, but it is expansive, open to the gorgeous marina, and definitely nowhere near as busy as Santorini or Mykonos.

A popular picturesque spot on the promontory at the entrance to the harbor is Portara ♥, a sole remaining fragment of an ancient fort. At sunset, hundreds of people come up here to photograph the sinking sun. At other times, the location provides great views over the port and the town.

If you happen to come across concerts at the Cultural Center in Kastro (daily programs run in the summer), we highly recommended going to at least one. We attended a traditional bouzouki music concert ♥, with songs and dancing – great entertainment for almost two hours. Open bar is part of the admission price.

St George beach ♥ is about 10 minutes on foot from the port area. Sandy and very shallow, it is great for children. The biggest drawback is virtual absence of any transportation options to get there, but if you stay in Naxos Town, you can definitely walk there.

The island is not small, and getting to other towns, beaches, or points of interest will require transportation. There are plenty of options to rent a car, as well as infrequent bus services between major points.

Another option is hiring a private guide. Nicolas of Naxos Discovery (link) ♥♥♥ gave us a fantastic overview of the island, with stops at quaint towns, visits to Byzantine churches, interactions with local artisans, and plenty of information on the history, geography, and flora of Naxos.

Demeter Temple ♥♥, about 25 minutes drive southwest of Naxos Town, is a comparatively small but very impressive archaeological site – and free for entry, too. It may get crowded by mid-morning with bus excursions, so come either early or in the late afternoon.

There are over 40 Venetian towers on the island, remnants of time when Venice ruled it. Many remain in private ownership, but some are open for visits. We only explored Bazeos Tower from the outside.

The village of Halki ♥♥ (Χαλκί) is the historic capital of the island. Its pedestrian core is full of interesting galleries and local artisan shops. There is also a kitron distillery ♥ worth a visit. A few minutes walking off the edge of the village takes you to St-George Diasoritis ♥♥, and incredible Byzantine church (only open for visits a couple of months in the summer).

Another village definitely worth visiting is Apiranthos ♥♥ (Απείραθος), “the marble village” – and one of the highest on the island.

Those are not the only interesting villages on Naxos, although our guide suggested that the rest are less picturesque. Having a car at your disposal will certainly allow you to explore other villages and parts of the island.

Another great way to explore is a day of sailing. It will allow you to swim in hard-to-reach locations, set foot on other islands, take a look at natural wonders such as Rhina cave ♥, all while passing the day in comparative leisure. (Itineraries vary.) Captain Panos ♥♥♥ is a choice that we most enthusiastically recommend – nicest people, great atmosphere, gorgeous locations, grand time! Go easy on rakia that is offered for free among snacks and refreshments.

If you would like to take excursions to other islands while maintaining your base on Naxos, there are several day-cruise options. We took advantage of the Delos/Mykonos itinerary on MV/CAT Alexander ♥ – the ratio of sailing versus exploring is not that great in the end, but you still get about 3 hours in each location.

Places to Eat

All places last visited in 2018.

Typografio ♥♥ occupies several terraces around a square at the southern edge of the main commercial path inside the Naxos Chora. Simply amazing peaceful pedestrian village center setting, attentive and efficient staff, not extensive but great menu, wonderful food (especially lamb shank and sea bass filet). Damage: €87 for effectively 2 people (kids decided to only have drinks), with wine.

520 ♥ is smack in the middle of the main commercial path inside the Naxos Chora. It is both a bar and a restaurant, with the terrace right above the port, offering great sunset views. The food is a bit eclectic, but pretty good. The service is nice, the experience is pretty positive. Damage: €107 for 2 adults and 2 kids who ordered little, with wine and tips.

Rotonda ♥♥, on the approach road to Apiranthos, boasts fantastic views for miles across the island. The food is pretty good as well – and the portions are really generous. Damage: €60 for 4, with wine.

Lodging (and a place to eat)

Grotta Hotel ♥♥♥ is at the northern edge of Naxos Town and is possibly the best family-owned hotel in the known Universe. Modern well-appointed cleanest rooms and public spaces, large bathrooms, nicest staff, all possible amenities (including a small pool with jacuzzi), great sea views… A fresh cake is left in the room after every cleaning. Breakfast is phenomenal, so much choice of both homemade and standard items that you will struggle to maintain your waistline. The only small drawback is electricity: you cannot run a/c while away from the room, or when the terrace door is not locked.

The walk to town center takes 5-7 minutes and may get tedious for some, but we found it quite nice. The nearby beach, unfortunately, is all large rocks – not exactly a safe swimming environment, so St-George (mentioned above) – 20 minutes away on foot – is the nearest option.

The hotel offers dinner menu, which is relatively not extensive but is very good – and mostly of simple traditional dishes; definitely a good choice for at least one of the nights of your stay.


Delos Archaeological Site
Delos (Δήλος) was a sacred island in the ancient times, and today the main and only reason to come here is for its huge archaeological site ♥♥♥. It is very impressive, with sections of remaining walls and preserved artifacts adding to the usual collection of free-standing columns. There is also a very nice collection of artifacts at the compact museum. The lovers of ancient finds could easily spend a day here – 3 hours allocated by the day cruise schedule is the absolute minimum.


Mykonos (Μύκονος) is lively and colorful, but feels a bit artificial in its prettiness. Many churches ♥ give it a bit of gravitas – and there are nice views along the bay, in addition to plentiful picturesque corners in town. Too many designer names on the commercialized streets correlate to crowds in town, but there are also fun galleries and atmospheric little streets. A few hours in Mykonos Town is on balance a fun experience. You are unlikely to miss the row of windmills ♥ or the area called Little Venice ♥; there are also several minor museums.

Places to Eat

There are plenty of gyros or crêpes eateries in Mykonos Town, which could be best options time- and money-wise when you only have a few hours to spend.

We instead went for lunch to Familia, which turned a bit pricey. The setting on the square is nice, the menu is pretty good, and the food is excellent. The service was fairly indifferent. We paid €75 for 3 plates and 2 bottles of water, with tips. Last visit: 2018.

Upper Koufonisia

We spent a little over an hour on this sunny and sleepy island, swimming at the nice Finikos beach ♥, and having a good lunch at the beachfront taverna ♥ of the same name (for €45 for 4, including wine).

Lower Koufonisia

We only swam in the coves of these island during our sailing trip from Naxos, setting foot for no longer than a couple of minutes on one of the secluded beaches. Those coves and beaches are a good reason to work sailing to Lower Koufonisia into your itinerary on Cyclades.


We actually did not set foot on Paros and only dropped anchor in Naousa port during the day-cruise. The people who joined us on that cruise and stayed on Paros, painted a pictures of an even less touristy quintessential Greek environment than Naxos, something that could be appealing to certain type of traveler.

Other notes for Greece