From Mykonos it takes about 2 hours to get to Naxos with stops in Paros and Amos. Naxos is the larges island of the Cyclades but much more authentic and laid back than party island Mykonos.
When you arrive by ferry you can see the “Portara” on the hill next to the harbour. They call it “the door of Naxos” and it’s one of the many archaeological landmarks you will find here. Naxos has everything I missed on Mykonos. The food is better and more affordable (a lot more!), the beach bars are more laid back and you’ll see a lot of couples and families here. I stayed at a simple hotel with a perfect location. My hotel was about a 10 min walk from the port and 1 min from the town beach Agios Georgios. Chora (centre) is vibrant at night with lot’s of restaurants, shops and bars. The streets smell of sweet waffels and crêpes that you find on almost every corner.
Walking around in Chora
For dinner I can recommend almost everything. Just double check of they serve traditional Greek food and you’re good. A main course meal should cost you about 5 to 10 euro’s and is served with bread. (They charge you about 1 euro for the bread, this is normal)
First things first: rent a scooter or a car. Make sure you rent a scooter with enough power as you might need to drive uphill depending where you’re travelling to. I saw pretty much everything. The whole west coast, where you can find some really nice beaches, is done in one day (including some swimming) and I took a whole day to explore the old towns (middle of Naxos) and the North back to the west coast and where I started.
Both routes are completely different in scenery.
The Westcoast route »
Start by having breakfast at Agios Georgios Beach where you will find a chill surfer beach restaurant all the way at the end called “beach cafe”. They serve tasty fruit smoothies during the day and colorful cocktails at night. Each week they have a BBQ including fresh fish. Continue towards the south and visit Mikri beach where you can find the wind and kite surfers. It’s not cheap to get a lesson but it’s free to watch and that’s a sight on it’s own! End at Kastraki beach where you will find some beaches where you can enjoy the waters in your birthday suit (if you know what I mean!)
The old town route »
The guy at the scooter rental said it right: ‘you haven’t visited Naxos if you don’t visit the old towns.’ From Hora (Chora) you drive towards Halki (on the roadsigns it’s written like “Chalki”.) This historic village is very cute and you will find a few tavernas (restaurants) where the food is extremely authentic and fresh. I stopped for an iced Frappé coffee and drove up to Filoti where you can find the Cave of Zeus where you need to continue on foot and climb up for about 20 min with incredible views along the way! Tip » Bring enough water and some lighting for in the large dark cave.
After that I kept going towards Stavros, Koronos, mesi and Apollonas until you reach the most northern part. In between I drove down to Liona Bay where you will find a rocky beach with black sand and 1 or 2 restaurants. Great for cooling down before heading on.
The views on this route are rocky, but in some area’s extremely green and fertile. From the North you drive back along the coast where you will end where you started. It’s a long drive (2-3 hours) but so worth it! Naxos is a great destination to stay for about 3-4 days if you’re travelling through the Cyclades. It’s authentic, great for all sorts of travelers and won’t hurt your wallet. Folegandros and Santorini are not far, so you can make Naxos part of your Greek island hopping tour.