A tour of Naxos the biggest of the Cyclades, Greece

I’m heading for Naxos, supposedly the island the place Dionysus, the god of wine and enjoyable was born. It’s the biggest of the Cyclades and possibly probably the most fertile as a consequence of rain clouds forming on its mountains.

I can see these within the distance as I method Chora, the capital, however I’m instantly impressed by the defensive citadel overlooking the bay, and the stays of the Temple of Apollo, Two imposing marble columns topped with a lintel, often called the Portara, rise excessive into the sky.

Chora

Like most islands, the port is lined with cafes and eating places however behind it, steep alleys lead as much as the historic neighbourhood, topped by the Kastro, a defensive bastion of twelve towers, though just one, the Tower of Crispi stays. It was constructed by the crusader Marco Sanudo within the 13th century when he based the Venetian Duchy of the Aegean.  Nonetheless, many Venetian mansions survive, usually with descendants of the unique households nonetheless dwelling there. Unusually for Greece, there’s a Catholic cathedral right here and a 17th century Ursuline convent. Nikos Kazantzakis, who wrote Zorba the Greek, studied within the French Industrial College close by

Temple of Apollo

Temple of Apollos

I courageous the waves pouring over the causeway to cross over to the Temple of Apollo, began by the tyrant Lygdamis round 530 BC. Many of the stone was pillaged to construct the Kastro however the Portara, or ‘Doorway’ was just too huge to cart away. Based on mythology, that is the place Dionysus duped Theseus into abandoning Ariadne on his approach again from Crete. It’s a powerful sight and within the night folks collect to look at the sunsets.

Seashores

I begin at Agios Georgios, Hora’s city seashore, and proceed south previous the attractive Agios Prokopios, sandy and shallow in a sheltered bay simply past the headland of Cape Mougkri. This merges into Agia Anna, after which there’s the lengthy, unbroken stretch of sand which is Plaka Seaside. Extra beautiful bays observe, punctuated with rocky outcrops, so far as Pyrgaki, actually the top of the highway.

The peaks round Mount Zeus are calling so I get in my automotive to discover the inside of the island. It’s very inexperienced, filled with olive bushes and grape vines with potatoes rising on the plain close to the ocean. As I begin to climb I see white villages dotted on the hillside with the mountains towering behind them.

Temple of Demeter

Temple of Demeter

Demeter was the goddess of grain, and this temple was constructed to encourage the harvests on this fertile space.  It dates from 530 BC and later an early Christian basilica was constructed excessive of it. In 1977 German archaeologists moved to at least one aspect and the temple was partially reconstructed. It’s a sexy website, sitting proud in the course of the fields and there’s a superb museum detailing its historical past.

Marble Quarries

The realm between Melanes and Kinidaros has been the island’s marble quarry since historical occasions and the hillside is scarred by large gashes. Naxos marble isn’t as wonderful grained as Paros however higher suited to giant constructions slightly than wonderful classical sculpture.  The rock would endure tough processing on the quarry earlier than being moved to the ultimate vacation spot. 

In Flerio there stay two examples of Kouroi, giant marble statues from the seventh and sixth centuries BC, every measuring about 5.5m. Each of those sleeping giants have damaged limbs, maybe broken by dangerous workmanship, and so they had been deserted endlessly.

Halki

Naxos is the biggest of the Cyclades group of islands and boasts the best mountain.

Halki was as soon as the capital of Naxos and it lies on the coronary heart of the Tragaea mountainous area, about 20 minutes’ drive from Hora. Good-looking previous villas and Venetian tower homes remind you of its historical past and it’s filled with arty boutiques. The native distillery, Vallindras Naxos Citron, was based in 1896, and remains to be producing the island’s distinctive spirit Citron, created from lemon leaves.

Apiranthos

On the centre of the island, Apiranthos sits on the foot of Mt. Fanari, at an altitude of 600m and sometimes has snow in winter. It’s near the marble quarries and its slim streets are paved with the stuff. Add Venetian towers, fairly two-storey homes, and picturesque squares and you’ve got an plain sense of grandeur. Curiously lots of villagers are descendants of refugees who escaped from tyranny in Crete within the 18th century and so they retain their very own dialect.

Filoti

Mount Zeus

Filoti is the biggest village within the area and is the staging publish for climbing Mount Zeus. There’s a round stroll which takes round three to 4 hours, however I drive as much as Agios Marina church at round 550m and begin from there.  

It’s simply over an hour to the highest on a well-marked path and by no means very steep, though I’m caught in low cloud just under the summit. From there I’m rewarded with large views over the entire of Naxos and its island neighbours.

FACT FILE

FLY: Wizzair has low cost flights from London Luton to Athens. 

GETTING AROUND: Naxos is a ferry hub so ideally suited for island hopping. The boat from Piraeus takes round six hours. Though there are restricted bus companies on the islands, a rent automotive is helpful.

STAY: The Princess of Naxos is on the outskirts of city, reverse the seashore, with a swimming pool.

EAT: Meze serves up wonderful seafood on the port. To Elliniko serves conventional meals in a backyard contained in the city. Kozi is nice for grilled meats.

MORE INFO: Naxos and Small Cyclades has details about the island
Go to Greece has details about the nation.

PACKAGE: On Foot Holidays supply 7 days strolling in Naxos and Amorgos from £645.

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