The Deliciously Awesome Naxos
You know you’re doing something right when Anthony-I’m so cool when I sleep sheep count me-Bourdain decides to do a piece on you. Or your island. And that is exactly what happened with Naxos. Because Naxos is a slice of fried gold stuffed with cheese diamonds and glazed with olive oil silver. The agricultural produce, and hence the dairy and meat, is of stratospheric quality. Anthony found out the easy way.
Now, that’s not to say that Naxos has nothing else on offer. Lord have mercy! Naxos is the biggest and greenest of the Cyclades, and is in fact the highest point in this island complex due to Mt Zeus and its own particular microclimate. The activities, sights, beaches and things to see and do are diverse, and as is customary in any Greek island the people and the nature are equally beguiling.
The island’s deep history has seen invaders such as the Venetians, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. They’ve all left their mark in the form of castles, churches and palaces. But most importantly, the ancient Greeks left a piece of history when they built the temple of Apollo (or what’s left of it).
In Naxos, the main calling card is food. Glorious food. Rich, fertile soil, with unique minerals yields some of the most amazing potatoes in the world. The Naxian potatoes are awesome and you need to try them. The same goes with all the vegetables. And there are the cheeses and the sausages made locally. In each village there are different variations so really you can’t go wrong. The island is peppered with family owned tavernas and eateries that will blow your mind, clean off. Just don’t expect the fish to be on the same level. They will just be superb as opposed to crazy good. No biggie.
After eating for Britain, you’ll be wanting to burn all that excess energy; perfectly understandable. No one likes feeling bloated. So you’ll be happy to know that Naxos has several hiking trails, 41 villages and some pretty scenic peak tops. Yup, you’ll be seeing waterfalls, vineyards, olive groves, springs, valleys, emery mines, caves, rivers, small lakes and lots of awesome wildlife.
You can even rent buggies and explore the island (the roads are great, no worries) on a more comfortable ride.
Surfing and windsurfing are also on the menu. The northern beaches harnessing the Meltemi winds are ideal. Amitis, Parthena and Mikri Vigla offer great surfing and wind surfing opportunities when the wind is favorable (that is, pretty much continuously).
Also try Agios Prokopios beach. It has been voted the 3rd best beach in Greece and a top 10 beach in Europe. Good for families as they are organized and offer amenities to keep the nippers engaged. The white sand dunes of Plaka beach are an instant draw for the little ones, too. But with so much sand and so many blue flags it really is a win-win situation.
As with anything Greek, or pertaining to it, there is a lot of baggage involved. Historical baggage that is. And you start straight at the top. Mt Zeus is where the almighty himself was born, allegedly. Now called Mt Zas, it makes for great hiking trips atop to reach the homonymous cave through the scenic mountain village of Filoti. Apollo also has a presence in Naxos. His worshippers built him a grand old temple, of which only the portara remains on the harbor’s edge as testament to its divine legacy.
Further in, the Archaeological Museum of Naxos presents us with the history of the island. It features items dating back to the Neolithic and Early Christian periods such as figurines, vases, idols and all matter of artefacts housed in an elegant 17th century Venetian mansion in Chora.
The Venetians left quite the indelible mark on the island. It is littered with remains of castles in various forms of disrepair, most notably the Tower of Glezos, Tower of Gragopoulos and the Tower of Agia.
In addition to such noteworthy architecture, the island boasts some great monasteries such as the Monastery of Agia Drosiani. A 6th century church with well preserved paintings dating back to the 7th century.
Naxos packs a wallop. There is no denying it. From the mystical aura of the portara to the visceral joys of Greek island life and its natural beauties, all the way up to Mt Zeus, Naxos is a veritable paradise destination for those in the know.