Most of the Greek islands have a little, or not so little, bit of mythology associated with them. In the case of Naxos, the myth says that Zeus spent his childhood there, hidden from his father, Kronos, who had the unpleasant habit of eating his children. But it was also here that Theseus abandoned Ariadne, the princess who gave him the spool of thread that would help him defeat the Minotaur. Thirdly, Naxos was the place where the god Dionysus, son of Zeus himself, was born and grew up in the company of the nymphs. So, yes: there's a lot to see in Naxos. Some of its treasures are related to its mythological heritage.
It is impossible to start a guide of what to see in Naxos and not begin with with the Kouros. These are two gigantic unfinished marble statues that still lie in the quarries where the carving work on them began.
There are two places where you can see Kouros in Naxos:
The quarry of Apollonas is just off the road, a little before reaching the village. The Kouros of Apollonas weighs over 80 tons, is 11 metres long and dates back to the 7th century BC; and Fleiro, home to two of these statues, but they are smaller and not as well preserved.
Mount Zeus can be easily reached from Filoti, a town that also features in this guide on what to see in Naxos. A small, rocky and rather steep path leads to the top, at a height of about 1,400 metres. This is in fact the highest point in the Cyclades and the place where Zeus is said to have come into the world. The views are unbeatable, but the walk can be a challenge.
Filoti is the largest village in the Tragea Valley and a place of real interest on the island of Naxos. Not just because the path to Mount Zeus starts here. The typical blue and white architecture of low-rise buildings is a feature of all its narrow streets. If there's one thing you're bound to enjoy in Filoti however, it's the food. In almost any restaurant you will find the most delicious local dishes.
Chora, which is also called Hora or Naxos, is where the ferry from Athens drops you off. Once you arrive, just follow the promenade to find the town centre. In fact, the most iconic sight in the city stands just at the tip of it: The Portara, on the small island of Palatia
There was a temple dedicated to Apollo on the small islet of Palatia. Do you remember that Theseus abandoned Ariadne on Naxos? Well, this is where the story says he did it. The Portara is the door to the temple and the only remaining vestige of it.
It is made completely of marble and from here you can enjoy beautiful views of the city, the mountains and the sea.
The oldest neighbourhood in the city is called Kastro, and you can reach it by walking through the streets of the Old Market. The typical houses of the Cyclades, with their white walls and wooden doors and windows painted blue are very much in evidence in this area.
Four small but very interesting museums will liven up your visit to Chora:
The Archaeological Museum's collection of statues; The display of clothing and furniture at the Della Rocca-Barozzi Venetian Museum, which shows how the nobles of the Kastro lived their lives; The remains of an ancient Mycenaean city preserved in the Mitropolis Museum; The traditions and culture of Naxos on display at the Folk Museum.
Only 20 kilometres from Chora and in a mountainous valley, Halki is one of the places you have to see on Naxos.
The small shops in its paved alleys sell all kinds of local produce and the main square is a real gem.
Here you will find the Vallindra distillery, where the Kitron liqueur is produced. It is made from lemons and comes in three varieties, depending on their alcohol content: green, white and yellow.
Azalas beach will surprise you with the depth of its waters, but be warned: it's stony rather than sandy.
The port of Moutsouna is beautiful, but it is worth visiting above all for the quality of its grilled fish. If Azalas' pebbles aren't your thing, you can try the fine sandy beach of the port.
As you can see, the island of Naxos is full of little hidden-away gems you can explore. One day should be enough to tour the most important sites, but you will get more out of the island if you stay here overnight.
We can help you choose the best destination for your trip.