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An Epic Solo Roadtrip Exploring The Island Of Naxos, Greece: Things To Do In Naxos
Putting together a Greek island-hopping itinerary is a bit nervewracking, because there are so many amazing islands to choose from. Even once you narrow down to the Cyclades, you’re spoiled for choice. But I’m here to tell you that the island of Naxos—and specifically a Naxos roadtrip—needs to be on your itinerary!
From the ruins of ancient temples and Venetian castles that rise above the delightfully jumbled streets of the towns, to the sparkling turquoise waters and long sandy beaches, Naxos is a hidden gem that is less crowded and more affordable than its famous sisters of Santorini and Mykonos.
Because it is often overlooked and is also the biggest island in the Cyclades, you can plan a super diverse Naxos itinerary and feel like you have the island to yourself. Hike among Byzantine churches, olive groves, and goat farms. Chill on a golden sandy beach surrounded by a cedar forest. Chow down on fresh seafood and surprisingly-great cocktails in what has become a bit of a foodie destination.
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For me, Naxos was a welcome respite from the crowds of Santorini…very chill, with some of the best beaches in the Cyclades, turquoise waters, and whitewashed buildings as well as remote, ancient mountain villages. It ticks a lot of boxes.
I deliberately paired my Naxos roadtrip with a few days in Santorini, where I stayed in a mind-blowing cave hotel, experienced the beauty and insanity of Oia, and explored the (less insane) rest of the island.
I was looking for a very different experience, then, in Naxos—beautiful beaches, diverse architecture and history, delicious and unexpected cuisine, and the chance to feel like I was getting real, quiet glimpses into local culture rather than just a tourist’s idea of Greece.
You’ll find something for everyone here, from solo travelers like myself, to couples, families young children, friend groups, or multigenerational. So my goal with this post is to do a super deep-dive into the island and then show you all the amazing things to do in Naxos on your epic roadtrip!
How this post is structured:
- Why should you visit Naxos?
- Where to stay in Naxos
- What to wear/pack
- How to get to the island
- Getting around: do I need to rent a car? + driving
- Things to see in Naxos (what to do on your roadtrip)
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Why visit Naxos?
Let’s start with just a few of the many reasons that Naxos is worth a visit:
- Naxos is a melting pot of Mediterranean cultures…from Thracians to Ionians, to Romans and Venetians, you’ll see the millennia of history, as the island has been at the center of Cycladic life since 4000 BCE.
- Naxos has (arguably) the best traditional sand beaches in the Cyclades, with golden sand and sparkling azure waters.
- It’s easy to rent a car and get around.
- It’s also one of the most affordable destinations in the Greek isles, meaning you can frequently find high-end hotels at prices that feel like a bargain.
- Unlike other Greek islands, Naxos has an unhurried pace and never feels crowded or busy.
- It’s got great food and cocktails, including an up-and-coming foodie scene.
- The island is more green and mountainous than you’d expect (it somewhat resembles Crete), with enchanting mountain villages, Byzantine ruins, fields, and sheep paired with the beauty of its beaches.
- It’s a very popular walking or hiking destination, with lots of trails winding throughout the island.
Let’s tease out a few of those things further. Naxos is the most fertile island in the Cyclades, looking quite lush (by Cycladic standards, as the island grouping is mostly dry and volcanic). You’ve got plains of of olive trees, lemon trees, and grape vines, tree-covered hills and valleys, and quite a bit of agriculture—Naxos provides a lot of Greece’s dairy and potatoes, and the island is very proud of both.
If you only stay in Naxos Town and don’t explore further, you’ll miss the green, hilly interior and the enchanting ancient mountain villages sprinkled all over. Naxos is and always has been a cultural crossroads, with 5,000 years of history layered on top of each other.
A quick snapshot of the island’s impressive history…I’ll skip the prehistoric and Neolithic times since I don’t have a lot of details but there is evidence here. Naxos flourished after 700 BC under the Ancient Greeks. then Romans ruled the island for about 600 years beginning in 338 BC. It became part of the Byzantine Empire from 362 AD to 1204. The Venetians ruled it from 1207 until the island fell in to the Ottoman rule in 1566, and they had it until 1831, when it was liberated by the Modern Greek State. That’s a LOT!
Is Naxos safe? Short answer, yes. Obviously things can happen anywhere, but Naxos is a quieter and less-touristy island, and you really get a sense of community and people looking out for each other. The crime rate is very low and locals are friendly and laidback. The island is a great destination for solo female travelers in particular.
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How to plan your trip
In this section I’ll talk about Naxos itinerary planning more broadly, including where to base yourself, accommodations, getting around, and more. Then we’ll talk more about the various things to see in Naxos in the remainder of the post.
The biggest thing to know is that you don’t need a concrete itinerary—this is not a “plan out every minute of the day” type of destination. But it’s good to know that it’s quite a large island, so difficult to truly explore in a very short time. If you only have a day or two, you can focus in on a few things or consider taking a tour with a local.
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Where to stay in Naxos
It’s always critical to consider where you base yourself. While you can reach most places within Naxos fairly easily, you still have to remember that you’re driving on winding, hilly, unfamiliar roads and so it’s nice to stay somewhere fairly close in order to minimize driving times.
I stayed in two different hotels in Naxos, and would strongly recommend both. The first was Hotel Grotta, which was great—overlooking the ocean in Naxos town, with gorgeous views, wonderful hospitality, good food, and a 5-minute walk into town.
The other was the unique luxury ELaiolithos, the only hotel located up in the mountains. The location and views were amazing, and the hotel uses only local materials, food, and drink. You get such an interesting experience here including the owner Helen’s hospitality, it’s absolutely worth a stay.
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What to wear in Naxos (your packing list)
I visited Naxos in late September and it still definitely felt like summer, though got a bit chilly at night with the wind. My first two days on the island (when I was in Naxos Town) were SO WINDY (it made dresses difficult). But then once I was inland more, the wind died down.
I wore a good mixture of lightweight, breathable, stretchy pants and tops. Personally I’d skip jeans (too heavy and take up packing space).
- My go-to travel pants are from Athleta, and the exact style that works for me is their Brooklyn Ankle Pant, specifically these ones.
- These ones and these ones are two new travel pant favorites as well, super comfy and the fit is good on my body type.
I definitely wore sundresses once the wind died down, though. I’ve had excellent luck with StitchFix in the past few years, though prefer to pick my own out vs. use the personal shopper option.
- Amazon is a great option for all sorts of styles, and a really good return process (which is KEY!). Some good styles would be a t-shirt dress, a tank dress, or something flowy with fluttery cap sleeves.
- Flowy skirts (like this) or long flowy dresses (like this, this and this) are perfect as well.
I’m not really a sun hat person and it would be less helpful in windy Naxos Town, but if you’re doing a lot of walking/hiking inland, it’s a good idea. While I didn’t feel as hot (due to the wind), I had to be more careful of the sun…good sunscreen was a must, as were polarized sunglasses!
You’ll want comfortable and stable shoes for walking up and down the slippery and often-uneven stones of Naxos Chora. My constant companions are these Rockport ones, which balance comfort/cushioning and cuteness (party in the front, biz in the back).
- Aerosoles are my #1 go-to for really cute but still comfy sandals if I don’t need massive cushioning (a style like this for instance). Other great brands I’ve found are Naturalizers (like these) and Vionics (like these or these), and these Aerothotics are a really good and very affordable option.
- I spent a ton of time in my Olukai sneakers on this trip as well, specifically these Pehuea Li ones!
Don’t forget a good swimsuit, a headband (clutch for keeping windy hair out of your chapstick), a good face moisturizer, and I always have my fave clean makeup (which does great in sweaty weather)!
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How to get to Naxos
There are two main ways to get to Naxos—by ferry or plane. I arrived by ferry and left by plane, so will speak to both briefly below.
Naxos is connected to Paros, Ios, and Santorini by ferry routes year-round, with a lot more sailing times during the high season. I recommend a fast ferry, and the travel times between them will vary from 45 minutes (Paros to Naxos) and 2 hours. Naxos also has regular ferry connections to Amorgos and Mykonos.
I took the ferry from Santorini, which takes about an hour and a half. I took the PowerJet ferry by Sea Jets, which cost €55, and booked using FerryHopper, which was super easy (and then I could access my ticket on their app). I’d book ahead of time during peak season, to be safe.
It’s a huge clean boat with plenty of seating, food options, and more. You’ll stow your luggage upon entering the boat (a few people with small amounts of hand luggage chose not to), then spend the time in your assigned seat or walking around (or finding an open seat elsewhere). I don’t find this type of boat to have a lot of motion/rough seas issues, but I’m sure it can on occasion.
You can also reach Naxos by ferry from Athens, which will take between 2.5 hours and 6 hours depending on which port and ship.
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Alternatively, you can fly. I believe all flights will connect through Athens (though don’t quote me on that), which certainly adds time and steps to your trip if you’re hopping islands, but if you’re moving between island groups that definitely may be your best bet.
There are several daily flights to and from Athens, and the Naxos airport is super tiny. It’s very informal, there are two ticket counters, and the line is out the door when a flight is coming up. I didn’t have to take anything out of my bag going through security.
They do weigh bags (or at least checked them, not sure if they would have caused an issue). Once you get through security, you go sit in a little waiting area and then walk out to the plan. Sadly they did leave my suitcase in Naxos (I had wine in it so could’t carry on)…this was the first trip I had with my AirTags and boy was I glad to have them!
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Do I need to rent a car in Naxos?
Short answer, yes! The question of how to get around Naxos is fairly simple…if you’re planning on a Naxos roadtrip, you definitely need a car. If you’re only going to spend time in Naxos Town, then you don’t need one.
This post was already getting super long so I’ve written a deeper post on renting a car and driving in Naxos. Be aware that the majority of cars will be manual transmission (stick shift), so you’ll have to work a little harder to find an automatic and they’ll get booked up earlier.
I always recommend searching on a few different rental car aggregators…my favorites currently are DiscoverCars and RentalCars, and AutoEurope (I often have better luck with the first two, but always check all three).
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Driving in Naxos
Again, I’ve written a deeper post talking about driving in Naxos, so will just mention a few things here. Mostly, the driving is completely doable—if quite hilly and winding. Naxos makes a great roadtrip destination.
The highways are in good shape and easy to navigate, but I did end up on a number of really bad rock and dirt roads.
Go slowly on those types of roads and be super careful with your tires. I grew up on gravel roads so am familiar with the driving and how to react if you start to fishtail, but if you’ve never driven that just make sure you’re a confident driver.
Google Maps worked on the island, but it’s important to realize that it doesn’t necessarily differentiate between the good highways or the somewhat harrowing narrow gravel roads with hairpin turns. You may have to backtrack on occasion if you don’t like a particular road you’re on.
Gas stations are full service (I always tipped a bit). I really recommend not getting low on gas, because there’s not always a gas station close by. Navigating the island is pretty easy overall, but often the signs are only in Greek and don’t tell you how far away you are from the destination. Having Google Maps is a helpful backup.
Here are other posts on Naxos to help you plan your trip!
Things to do in Naxos on your roadtrip
As I mentioned above, Naxos is a large island so it can be difficult to try and see everything in a very short time. I had three full days plus bits of others, and felt like I really got a good feel for things.
That included about half a day in Naxos Town, a half-day boat tour, and a couple full days of driving the coasts and mountain villages. I didn’t spend time just laying out at the beach, but you should factor that in if you want to.
I had cell signal throughout most of the island, except in the southwest near Agiassos Beach, occasionally in the mountains, and in the southeast near Panermos Beach.
Speaking of beaches, the best ones are generally on the west coast, and they are usually prettier, quieter, and have better sand the farther south you travel. The more remote southeast coast is also stunning and note remotely crowded. One tip: if a beach is described as “organized,” that generally means it has sunbeds and umbrellas available to rent, and plentiful restaurants.
If you’re tight on time, consider a small group or private guided tour that can help you sample some of the island’s best sights with a local guide. I’ll also shout out one thing I wanted to do—a food tour through the villages.
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Dive into Naxos Town
I first saw a photo of Naxos Chora on Pinterest, and immediately fell in love with that iconic view of whitewashed buildings piled atop a hill at the end of a narrow path, surrounded by sparkling blue water.
Chora (or Naxos Town) is the island’s capital, main port, and largest town (about 6,500 people). It makes a great base for exploring the island, with plenty of accommodation options (I stayed at the lovely Hotel Grotta), beautiful beaches, rich history, and a great food and cocktail scene.
You’ll find nice beaches all over Naxos, including a few in the Chora…the ones in town are good-not-great, but are very easily accessible and one of them is quite kid-friendly. Agios Giorgos and Agios Prokopios are both family-friendly, while Grotta Beach is rocky with more intense waves and wind. There are also myriad day sail trips to choose from, all leaving from the waterfront.
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I spent two nights here, but really only about half a day exploring the town. Climb the narrow, jumbled streets to find the ruined Venetian castle. Browse the Old Town’s souvenir shops. Find an awesome rooftop bar to sip a cocktail made with local kitron liqueur.
And, of course, wander the ancient ruins of the Portara. This 2,500-year-old partially-constructed doorway is gorgeous any time of day, including with the sun sparkling on the turquoise waters. But it’s especially amazing at sunset.
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Head inland & explore the mountain villages
So now let’s get that roadtrip started! My first stop was unplanned, I just saw the sign and decided to check it out.
I rolled up to the Monastery of Agios Ioannis Chryssostomos (John Chrysostom) and realized it didn’t open til 10:00am, so instead ate my donuts and sipped my coffee while soaking in the view.
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Then I stopped briefly at the tiny Chapel of Agios Ioannis Theologos, a tiny church built into the granite cliff that boasts breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea and the neighboring islands. I wouldn’t go out of your way to stop here if you’re on a tight timeline, but it’s a charming very short stop.
I think the light would be better for photograph at sunrise, or in the late afternoon.
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Then I headed inland to explore the many charming mountain villages of Naxos. I started with a stop at the Eggares Olive Press Museum. Naxos is full of olive groves, and this is where you can learn more about the olive harvesting process and how they make and use the oil.
It’s a very small museum, basically one room and then a gift shop with a tasting table. The musuem features one of Naxos’s oldest remaining olive mills, from at least the late 1800s. Our young guide took us through the museum’s few exhibits, explaining the processes and the island’s long history with the olive tree.
Naxos claims to have the world’s oldest olive tree (our young guide said it was 6,300 years old)…I can neither confirm nor deny! But they are *obsessed* with olive oil here, always using it in lieu of butter.
In fact, he said they even baptize babies in olive oil…because it makes them slippery so the devil can’t touch them 🙂 The tour is free, though you’re welcome to tip. You can also do a bit of shopping and taste some olive-based products, including semi-candied olives with yogurt and honey (the olives are boiled in sugar & cinnamon water).
This is a nice 30-minute stop, but I’d consider it skippable if you’re tight on time.
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Nearby to Eggares is the village of Damalas, where you’ll find a traditional pottery workshop. I wasn’t able to detour and visit, but had read ahead of time that if you catch the ceramist when he’s working, you can watch and he’ll explain the process (some Naxos tours stop here).
I mention this at the beginning, but sometimes Google Maps doesn’t quite get you where you’re hoping. I’d searched for the “Melanes blue dome church”. Honestly I’m not positive whether I got there or not, but I DID end up here in the general vicinity with this view (despite a slightly difficult drive). So…#winning??
As a side note, Melanes is one of the oldest villages on the island and is the start and ending point for a very cool loop walk to Myli to the Kouroi of Flerio and back. It’s supposed to be a beautiful walk, easy to do, and takes about 2-3 hours. You can see a detailed recounting of this walk from EarthTrekkers.
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While I had specific destinations in mind a lot of the time, it’s important to also just…drive. Take random side roads that look cool, stop and take pictures of little chapels on the side of the road.
Think about your time here less in terms of just the “things to do in Naxos”. The beauty of having your own car is that you can explore the little nooks and crannies.
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After maybe-or-maybe-not finding the blue dome church of Melanes, I went to try and find the Temple of Demeter. This was another fail for me. I searched for it on Google Maps and somehow it got confused. It took me to this spot where I walked a bit and realized I was in the wrong place.
This is what it should look like. What you see below is NOT it. The Temple of Demeter dates back to 530 BCE and is scenically located on a hilltop above the village of Kastri. It’s a nice spot to wander the marble ruins and admire the panoramic views. It should be on your way to the southwest-side beaches.
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From here I spent the rest of the day stopping in the mountain villages and wandering around. I’ve posted a real deep-dive on the villages and what to see and do there. For the sake of time and space I’m not going to go into as much detail here, so I definitely recommend checking out the other post.
Instead I’ll do more of a high-level overview of the coolest towns. I’m going in a generally-logical order below, but you can ping-pong between them for the most part (the distances are relatively small)…I think I ended up visiting Chalki like three separate times.
And in fact, we’ll start with Chalkio! You may also see it spelled Halki or Chalki, or probably like seven other names. Whether you’re sipping a drink outside a little cafe, devouring a slice of galaktoboureko, meandering through the narrow alleyways, shopping for locally-made crafts, or sipping kitron liqueur. it’s a must-see.
I tried walking to the church of of Agios Giorgios Diasoritis, but I either did it wrong or just got impatient (I think the latter?). Supposedly it’s just a 10-minute walk from the village, and I was following other people on the same mission…we walked past some old olive trees and a different church, then I finally turned back because I was tight on time. This church is where I was supposed to end up.
If you’re able to swing it (I recommend staying at nearby ELaiolithos), Chalki really shines in the late afternoon/early evening once the day tripper crowds have gone! She recommended dinner at Paravas, which is a super cool spot. I had saganaki, moussaka, traditional Naxian potatoes with graviera cheese, and some Greek wine.
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The main thing you’ll hear people talk about when it comes to Chalki is that it’s where the local liquor, kitron, is distilled. You can tour the Kitron Distillery if you’re so inclined. Mine was a self-guided tour through a few rooms. As someone who has toured a lot of distilleries and knows the general process, it wouldn’t be high on my list.
But you definitely need to *taste* kitron! I had a cocktail with kitron while in Naxos Town, but here I tried to get kitron ice cream next door to the distillery…sadly they were out.
If you’re doing a tour of Naxos instead of a self-driving roadtrip, you might consider doing a private tour and having them go to Chalkio but personally I’d skip the distillery.
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Okay, moving on. I loved the views of villages from the road as I was driving…I definitely had to stop to snap a pic!
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Next up is the town of Filoti. It’s only 2km down the road from Chalki, but I didn’t spend as much time here (mostly because I had a bit more trouble finding parking). Filoti is the largest village in Tragea Valley, so has lots of good options for taverns, restaurants, and apartment rentals.
And if you climb and wind your way your way up the hill from the main road, you’ll find a tight, steep maze of paths and alleys that are perfect for wandering without a destination in mind.
Make sure to catch the incredibly photogenic white marble church, Panagia Filotissia (Virgin Mary of Filoti), toward the top of the town.
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I was thoroughly charmed by all the kitties of Naxos (though they prefer to be admired from afar).
From Filoti, the natural next stop for me was Apeiranthos. One note—I think the views and pullouts are even better the opposite direction, so going from from Apiranthos toward Chalki.
But first I wanted to stop at Rotonda, a cafe and restaurant with stunning views. I’ve written a separate post on this lovely spot, which is a must-visit in your Naxos mountain village explorations, as long as the weather is nice (and it would be great at sunset!).
I had a late lunch and a glass of local wine while enjoying the view, then continued on toward Apeiranthos.
One other thing that’s in this general vicinity is the starting point to hike to the top of Mount Zeus, the highest point of the Cyclades. Naxos’ most famous hike starts at “Aria Spring” and is supposed to take an hour and a half. I didn’t end up doing any hiking while on Naxos, but it’s a very popular pasttime.
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Apeiranthos is definitely a must-visit on your Naxos roadtrip! The town’s name means “plenty of flowers”, and it’s a beautiful STEEP little village full of little alleyways and paved walking paths. For the most part you park on the edge of town and then walk into/up into the main town area.
I feel like I didn’t really explore the town as much as I’d have liked to. There are lots of beautiful viewpoints, some good souvenir shopping, and an old wood bakery (a dying art) that is supposedly there, which I forgot to look for.
All the marble-paved alleys and white buildings make the town just sparkle.
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From Apiranthos, you could next continue east through Koronos, and north to the small harbor village of Apollonas, then take the northwest coastal road back to Naxos Chora (if that’s where you’re staying).
We’ll get there eventually, but for tonight we’re wrapping up and checking into our amazing hotel. I’ve got lots of beautiful seaside towns and beaches to show you next.
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Before we wrap up our main mountain villages, here are the ones I’d hoped to visit and didn’t get to:
- Kaloritsa Cave Monastery…about 15 minute walk from Timios Stavros Monastery
Right near Chalki and Filoti and literally a minute from ELaiolithos is the famous Panagia Drosiani Church, Naxos’s oldest Christian church (from about the 6th century). It’s worth a quick stop.
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As I’ve mentioned a few times in this post, for the second half of my Naxos roadtrip, I stayed at the unique ELaiolithos Luxury Resort. This is the only hotel in the mountains, and is a “green” luxury hotel run by local Helen Marakis, blending sustainability and hospitality.
She lovingly chose every single element of the hotel’s design and décor, and all the materials and food are using local Naxian materials and artists—it’s basically a love letter to the island! Helen is so welcoming and treats you more like family, inviting you into her life.
The hotel is nestled into the mountains, with a gorgeous sunset view and SO much peace and quiet (except the occasional distant clang of the goat bells). The breakfast is amazing, cocktails are great, and the rooms spacious and comfortable. I highly recommend a stay here! While it’s luxury, I found the price still very affordable.
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Before we head to the coast, there are two other spots I want to mention. I made a fairly short visit to Saint Anna Winery, and was so happy I did!
It’s tiny and charming, and I was welcomed warmly by the winemaker’s mom. I tasted a few wines (which were great but I didn’t have room in my luggage), and bought a tiny bottle of their sweet white and their grappa (made with cinnamon and spices).
I got to briefly meet Emmanuel, the winemaker, who arrived just as I was leaving. This is a little spot that mostly flies under the radar, and I think is worth a spot on your Naxos roadtrip itinerary! I wished I’d had more time here, and considered booking a small guided tour instead.
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From here things went…sideways. (Not in a wine “Sideways” way.) I can’t remember for sure where I was trying to go, I think back into the mountain villages. But somehow Google Maps took me on a tiny dirt and rock tracks. This happened from time to time, but 9 times out of 10 it worked out fine.
Just a minute after I left the winery, Google Maps took me down a terrible dirt road that first plunged steeply down, then wound and climbed back up into the hills. I was nervous about whether this was a legit road or one that was faking me out, especially as I went further on…and even further on.
Parts of the road were your basic gravel road, and others more rutted out. I was worried at a few parts about popping a tire or centering my tiny car on a rock. But then I stumbled onto Agios Mamas, a mid-9th century church that’s the oldest in the Balkans (I’m noticing a theme of many claims to “the oldest church”…).
It’s gorgeous and completely untouristy, worth a visit if you’re comfortable driving semi-sketchy gravel and rock roads.
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Beach-hop on the southwest coast
Okay, enough mountains for a while, let’s head to the coast! Either from Naxos Town or from the mountain villages like Chalki, getting down to some of Naxos’s best (easy to get to) beaches is really easy. They’re all kind of dotted along the southwest coast.
Most people will tell you that the best Naxos beaches can be found between Agios Prokopios and Mikri Vigla. And while I don’t want to argue with anyone, I don’t know that I agree. Sure, those are lovely (and they’re all right next to each other, so it’s easy to try them out).
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But for my money, Hawaii Beach was the most beautiful. It would be my pick for the best more “on the beaten path” Naxos beach. The beaches along the southwest coast are a bit further out from Naxos Town (though still a pretty short drive), so aren’t as crowded and tend to be quieter.
Hawaii and nearby Alyko Beach are “unorganized”, so they don’t have sunbeds, umbrellas, or tavernas. Bring your own drinks, snacks, and chairs. I didn’t make it to Alyko Beach, but it’s supposed to be gorgeous…pristine waters that are good for swimming, and surrounded by cedar trees and sand dunes.
To the right of Hawaii Beach is the abandoned graffiti hotel. Surrounded with dunes, rocks, and cedar trees, it’s an interesting place to wander for a few minutes. You can see out to Alyko Beach from the hotel ruins as well.
I briefly stopped here because I was dying for a bottle of water. I think this might be Pyrgaki Beach?
Continuing down the coast, Agios Prokopios Beach is a great spot to sit and relax. Unfortunately as you can see, the weather wasn’t really cooperating while I was there.
Just a few minutes away was a quick stop at Mikri Vigla as well. Though, while they have different names, you will notice on the map that Agios Prokopios are basically two points with one long stretch of sand between them.
This spot is popular for kitesurfing, due to the windiness this side of the island gets.
Drive the northern coast
Now you’ll get some whiplash, because I’m jumping all the way up to the north side of the island. You definitely want to drive the west coast from Naxos Town up and over to Apollonas—this drive is gorgeous!!
I kept having to stop and snap photos of the intensely-blue waters and some of the random ruins and towns I stumbled upon.
And then you round the bend and catch your first glimpse of Apollonas. It’s a beautiful seaside fishing village on the northern coast, with that small town feel.
There is a fairly famous sight nearby, the Kouros of Apollonas (a 30-foot statue of Dionysus/Apollo lying on the ground). I didn’t prioritize going to see it, but it may be worth a quick stop if you’re in the area (I hear the views from here are great).
But I was still decompressing from my harrowing Agios Mamas driving incident and just wanted lunch and a glass of wine.
Apollonas village has two beaches, one of which is sandy and small, with a calm bay. The other is a longer stretch with more waves and pebbles. The beachfront has plenty of shops, cafes, and tavernas, and is a great spot to nosh on fresh seafood.
Finding a parking spot was…challenging. But I finally did (and then had to move it and find another spot mid-meal because a giant tour bus couldn’t get through). What on earth those buses think coming through there is beyond me.
I found myself a spot at Grill Restaurant Apollon on the water, which was exactly what the doctor ordered. I devoured cheese pies that were the best I had on my whole trip, zucchini fritters that were decent but really underdone in middle, house wine, and chicken souvlaki.
I soaked in the view and then finished it off with some baklava and gave the kitty scratchy-pats. I’d definitely recommend Apollonas as a stop on your Naxos roadtrip itinerary, as it gives a very different vibe than the other beach towns. It could even be a good place to base yourself if you’re staying on Naxos longer (like in an cute seaside apartment).
More beautiful random views as I made my way between parts of the island. Because next we’re headed to the most remote parts, that most tourists never get to!
Get really off-the-beaten-path on the southeast coast
When I was planning my Naxos itinerary, I knew that getting on a boat was an absolute MUST for me. I’d wanted to find a more traditional smaller sailboat and do a full day trip, maybe to some of the other nearby islands. But I was visiting in late September and that just wasn’t in the cards weather-wise.
There are tons of different boat tours most of which visit Rina Cave. But based on a recommendation from my hotel host, Helen, I ended up instead choosing to do a boat trip with Yiannis.
To get there, I drove through Apeiranthos and Moutsouna, then along the east coast down to the south. It’s a really pretty drive, filled with dozens of tiny gorgeous beaches.
There are lots of ore hairpin turns and elevation gain and loss, but the highway is good quality. I felt like I was stopping every three minutes to take pictures.
You could hop out at any one of them and basically have your own private beach. This corner of Naxos is fairly unexplored, and if you have a car—and you should—it’s a must-visit in my opinion.
You can basically see me making the “heart googly eyes” emoji through this whole thing.
But finally I pulled up in Panermos. I don’t think it’s even really a town, just a beach with a few houses and tavernas. The first thing I noticed was the sparkling, crystal-clear water in various shades of blue.
I had a bit of time, so changed clothes and grabbed a delicious chicken souvlaki lunch, and then headed over to board Yiannis’s boat. You can’t book it online, but I found them pretty responsive to email and WhatsApp (you can contact them through their website).
We boarded the trehantiria, a small Greek double-ended watercraft that historically has been used chiefly for fishing. I appreciated that it had some covering, so I wasn’t frying in the sun.
As we went, Yiannis told us about the area, fun stories about the seven different lagoons we visited, and then took us to Rina Cave for some swimming and cave exploration.
Then we had a snack and some of his homemade wine, and did some more swimming. I was obsessed with the way the water shifted colors against the shoreline (and the white Naxian marble along the coast).
I can’t tell you enough that this is the perfect way to spend a few hours, if you’re looking for a different, quieter, more local feel than a bigger catamaran cruise! You can read more about the trip, how I booked, costs, and more in this post.
As you can tell, I jam-packed SO much into my four days in Naxos! Hopefully this gives all the details you need for the logistics side of planning your trip, and an idea of the wide variety of things to do in Naxos. It absolutely deserves a spot on your Greek island hopping itinerary!
Other mind-blowing roadtrips you’ll love:
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- The Perfect 10-Day Scotland Itinerary: Highlands & Islands
- A Perfect Northern Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
- The Perfect 7-Day Ireland Roadtrip Itinerary: Hidden Gems
- Why Slovenia Should Be On Your Bucket List…And What to Do
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