Greece has over 6000 islands, consisting of many different island groups. Naxos is part of the Cyclades, one of the most commonly visited island groups. Other islands in the Cyclades include Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, Milos, Ios, among some other less known islands. Naxos does not have a commercial airport in use today so you will need to take a ferry to reach Naxos.
The Cyclades are located SE of mainland Greece. In general, when traveling to the Cyclades from locations outside of Greece, the possible airports to consider flying into are located in Athens, the island of Santorini, and the island of Mykonos. Athens will have the most options available. Santorini and Mykonos airports may also have direct flights from destinations outside Europe, but flights will likely be less frequent and more expensive. This is largely because flying directly to the islands is advantageous. Even if not planning to stay on Santorini or Mykonos, the ferry trip to the other islands in the Cyclades will be shorter (45 mins – 2 hours) in comparison to the ferry trip from Athens (2 – 4 hours). In order to reach Naxos, look for flights to any of these three destinations: Athens, Santorini and Mykonos.
The next part of planning your journey is evaluating the ferry options. Seajets, World Champion Jets, Blue Star Ferries and Power Jet are a few of the big ferry companies. Start by checking any of the individual websites for planned ferries and entering your beginning and ending destinations. Using websites like ferryhopper or directferries can also be helpful to find options available as these websites will provide an overview of all options available from point A to point B on a given day. Ferry tickets usually range from 50 – 100 euros, depending on the journey route and can be bought online. Closer to the date of departure, you will be able to either download tickets electronically or can pick them-up at the ferry port.
When planning your trip, keep in mind the ferries in Greece are usually delayed by at least 30 minutes. This seemed to be pretty standard based on our experience. Therefore, book adequate time when depending on flights or ferries. If possible, in order to optimize time on the islands and reduce stress of potential flight or ferry delays impacting the journey, consider taking a flight in the afternoon / evening and then catching a ferry the following morning. Another option is to plan to spend time in Athens, Santorini or Mykonos before or after your time in Naxos. This can also help reduce the long travel days and dependencies on different forms of transportation running on-time.
Note: Taxis are sparse in both Santorini and Mykonos. With this in mind, if you are flying in or out of either location plan to book a car transfer in advance to bring you from the airport / ferry port / accommodations to the ferry port / airport / accommodations. Upon arrival in the ferry ports, travel agency drivers will be holding up signs for their customers.
In summary, when traveling to Naxos, plan to book:
Naxos is the biggest island in the Cyclades. The main town in Naxos, Chora (Naxos town), is located on the SW side of the island. This is also the side of the island with the most beautiful beaches and where most visit on a Naxos holiday. In order to reach the beaches, there is a very easy bus system in place. Buses run every 30 or 60 minutes, depending on the time of day and season, and are large coach buses. Head to the Bus station office near the port in Naxos Town to pick-up a bus schedule and purchase tickets. Most one-way bus tickets are 2 euros. Buses are very helpful to access commonly visited beaches including: Plaka (about 20 minutes from Naxos town) and Agios Prokopios (10 minutes from Naxos town).
If looking to explore the island or prefer not to be dependent on the bus, renting a vehicle is also common. There are a variety of options when it comes to renting in Naxos: cars, ATVs, buggies, and scooters. Rental companies can be found all around Naxos town. You can choose to rent for a single day or multiple days depending on your intentions. If just looking to get out and explore for a day, one day should be sufficient, but if looking for flexibility or staying away from the centre of town, you may want to consider having a car for a few days.
Buggies and ATVs are commonly rented for single day use to access lesser visited beaches. While the ATV can be taken on all the main roads and off-roads, the buggy is a slightly more preferable option if looking to explore some of the hillside towns and other parts of the island on a day excursion. ATVs tend to rent for around 40 – 50 euros, while a buggy will be between 70 – 90 euros. Most rental companies require the driver to be 23 due to insurance policy agreements.
Auto Moto Falcon, located in Naxos Town, has rentals available for all four types of vehicles noted above. The service was excellent and employees were incredibly helpful, providing a recommended itinerary for the day to explore key points on Naxos. They were very clear on how to use the buggy we rented, and very friendly. If looking for a place to rent from, I would highly recommend this company. Renting a buggy for a day was 70 euros (with an additional 20 euros added on if you opt into a specific insurance package which includes the company coming to change a flat tire at any point if required). Gas is not included, but this is standard for rentals in Greece. You will be asked to return the vehicle with a similar amount of gas as you picked it up with. Plan to top-up the tank at the beginning of your journey so you will not worry about finding gas stations along the way.
Some rental companies may require an international drivers license. If traveling from the US, I would recommend taking a trip to AAA and getting an international drivers license just in case. We did not need it, but we were happy we had it. AAA makes it very easy, just requiring 2 passport size photos, your drivers’ license, and a signed form to receive an international drivers license for 1 year from the date issued.
Note – in peak season (July & August) consider either renting a vehicle in advance or stopping by a rental company at the beginning of your trip to put one on hold for a specific day while visiting. We visited Naxos at the beginning of June and did not have any issues getting a buggy to rent on the same day, but the first rental company we tried had all their buggies already reserved in advance.
When exploring Naxos Town (Chora), this can easily be done on foot. There is also one beach walkable from the town, Agios Gorgios, which is about 15 minutes from the centre of town. Taxis are available in Naxos, and not as challenging to get as in Santorini or Mykonos. However, if staying in the centre of town, it is unlikely you will need to use taxis.
Naxos is different from some of the other Cyclades. In comparison to Santorini and Mykonos, Naxos is much quieter, creating a more peaceful and calm atmosphere. Even though a fair number of tourists still visit Naxos, it is nothing in comparison to the quantities visiting Santorini and Mykonos. This is also because unlike Santorini and Mykonos, cruise ships do not dock in Naxos. This, along with the fact that Naxos is less-known, allows it to be a more authentic Greek island experience.
Chora (Naxos Town) is the ideal location in Naxos to stay. The ferry arrives and departs from the port right in town, making it easy to walk to your accommodations. Naxos Town has the most going on including numerous restaurant options, cute boutiques, cafes, and local shops. Nevertheless, if wanting to leave Naxos Town, it is easy to catch the bus from Naxos town and venture away for the day to beaches or on other excursions.
Naxos Center Houses is a great option if available. There are a few different rooms available to book for a short stay, with one having a huge balcony available. The customer service was excellent with the owner being very responsive and flexible with check-in & check-out times. The host provided recommendations for Naxos, and the accommodations themselves were very nice (including air conditioning). It is located in Naxos town, making it easily accessible to Chora Old Town, the port, and Agios Gorgios (beach).
Hotel Grotta is another great option, with a rooftop terrace providing stunning sunset views.
Note on accommodations if traveling through Santorini to reach Naxos:
The ferry port in Santorini and airport in Santorini are located about 20 minutes from each other and found in the center of the island. If just transferring through Santorini, plan to stay nearby to reduce travel time. It would not be recommended to stay in Fira or Oia, commonly visited towns in Santorini, if just transferring through Santorini. Villa Danezis is a small, affordable hotel between the two, with very friendly hotel staff. The hotel staff is great with all communication, and very helpful with booking private transfers for travel days.
The Old Town Chora is a small part of Naxos town, located just a few streets in from the port. The area is full of nice boutique stores, winding streets, and the quintessential white buildings with colorful windows and doors. This area was my favorite area by far in Naxos to get lost in on the little walkways.
This is easily the best area to shop. Explore this area first, before buying anything from a potential tourist shop. There are a few stores (noted below) outside of this area that we found and liked, feeling they were also nice boutiques. However, the Old Town Chora had an abundance of great shops with clothes, jewelery, beach attire, sandals, hats, and other local goods; I easily could have shopped here for hours on end, but had to limit myself based on the amount of space in my suitcase!
The Temple of Apollo, also called Portora, is located about a 10 minute walk from the port and far side of Naxos Town. It is a giant, windowlike structure sitting on the hill along the shoreline in Naxos. It is one of the main sites to see in Naxos. Plan to spend at least one evening here watching the sunset, as the views are gorgeous.
If spending a few days in Naxos, plan one day away from the beach and out exploring the island. Rent an ATV or buggy (preferred if following the below route) and traverse through the hills of Naxos.
Suggested one-day buggy excursion itinerary:
The first stop is about 20 minutes from Naxos town. Park your vehicle and walk about 5 minutes to reach the giant statue of a man laying flat on the ground. This is a quick stop, as there is not much to see aside from the statue itself, but the statue is special as it dates back to the 6th century.
The second stop brings you to another very old building, this monastery pre-dates the Parthenon. It is another quick stop, but the drive provides some beautiful views. Keep your eyes up and look out for marble mines; you will be able to identify these as there are big sheets of rock (marble) cut very straight towards the top of the hills. This part of the drive will also feel much different than your starting point, as you will see rolling hills and the most green you will see on the island, with olive trees and crops growing along the sides of the hills.
Chalkio (also known as Halki) is a tiny hill-top town. When stopping here you have a few options. Be sure to wander through the streets (although this will not take long at all, as the town is very small).
This town is home to the Vallindras distillery, which is as Kitron distillery. Kitron is a local alcoholic drink distilled in Naxos from a fruit about 3x the size of lemons. The drink resembles something similar to the dessert liquor from Italy known as limoncello. If interested, you can take a tour or purchase some Kitron from the distillery. If wanting to stay a bit, grab a snack at Café Grecco or lunch at Giannis Tavern.
Be sure to also check out Marmario shop, which sells Naxos marble pieces including coasters, bowls, and pieces of art.
If ready to continue on, head towards the Rotunda restaurant. This can be a great stop for lunch or just a drink as it has beautiful panoramic views. The food is nothing special, but still makes for a great stop. Alternatively, just grab a drink on the terrace and instead plan to have lunch in stop 3 or stop 5. Above the restaurant, you can walk up a hill (~5 mins) to the windmill and have another view over the entire surrounding area with views extending to the Sea.
Another tiny hill-top town, Apeiranthos is the last stop before you back track part of your journey. It is only a few minutes past the Rotunda restaurant; as you approach the town, you will feel like you have to drive past the town to reach it. You will come across parking available and can park here or continue onward and there will be more parking available. Walk through the little streets of Apeiranthos and stop for a snack. Other than this, there is not much to do in this little town so it could be a quite quick stop as well.
Note – avoid driving further past Apeiranthos to Mountsouna. The road is treacherous, with some very steep inclines / declines, and also locations where the road is not wide enough for two vehicles. The town itself is small, and does not warrant the anxiety created from a stressful drive to reach the town.
From Apeiranthos, reaching the Temple of Dimitra will take about 30 minutes so strap in for a bit longer of a drive. This is probably the most “touristy” stop of the day, as you have to purchase a ticket to view the temple and associated museum. That being said, it is only a few euros. There are technically opening and closing times, so if this is a crucial stop for you, be sure to double check the times on the day you are visiting.
Now it is time to head back towards the beach. From the Temple of Dimitra, driving to Alyko beach is another 30 minutes. The beach itself is less busy as it is further from Naxos Town. If looking to relax at a quieter beach, consider heading here and relaxing for part of the afternoon.
However, even if you are not looking to stop at the beach, this is still worth a visit. The beach is beautiful and there is an unfinished, and now abandoned, hotel with interesting 3d-like street art. Take your buggy to as far as the road will go and then park once you see the remains of the hotel. Walk around the building structure and find some of the art pieces, as well as admiring the beach views around you again.
Finally, drive along the road closest to the beach. Head towards Plaka beach or Agios Prokopios if looking for other beaches to stop at. Even if you are not looking to stop at the beach, the coastal route is still an ideal driving route as it provides beach views along the drive.
Head back to Naxos town and drop your vehicle off following a successful day excursion exploring the SW portion of Naxos island.
For those interested, the SE portion does not have roads to traverse as this is where Mount Zas sits. The NE and NW parts of the island can be visited at times, but are especially unpleasant on windy days and Naxos has a lot of these.
One of the main reasons to visit Naxos should be for its gorgeous beaches. The SW side of Naxos is known for having beautiful beaches, and they are very accessible from Naxos Town. Below are a few of the beaches worth visiting while in Naxos. When visiting beaches, there will likely be different vendors offering lounge chairs to rent for the day. Walk along the beach of your choice and inquire on prices at different vendors, as often they will range in price from 5 – 45 euros depending on the bed type, row, time of year (i.e peak season), and beach. Most lounge chair vendors are associated with a tavern or restaurant where you can order beach-side food and drinks.
The below beaches are ordered based on their distance from Naxos Town.
Notable for its location, Agios Gorgios is just a 15 minute walk from downtown. The beach itself is not as nice as some of the others, but is great for its convenience. This is a good option for travel days or when just trying to visit the beach for a shorter period of time, thus not wanting to waste time using the bus to travel to further beaches.
Located less than 6 km west of Naxos Town, this beach was probably my favorite. The beach itself has lots of lounge chairs available to rent for the afternoon and the water is a beautiful mix of green and blue colors. The area around the beach is busier than some others as there are a variety of local taverns, shops and kebab houses. It is very family friendly and generally a calm beach.
Another very nice beach, Plaka beach is located a bit further from Naxos Town at 10 km. Plaka beach is often the top beach noted to visit in Naxos. It has some more upbeat lounge chair rental spots bringing in those looking for afternoon cocktails on the beach with music and more energy. Note that Plaka is nudist friendly, and there are some sections of the beach where this is especially prevalent. It is often also recognized as a nice beach to watch a sunset.
Kite surfers and windsurfers are drawn to this beach, with ideal conditions to support their sports. There are little beaches and coves around here, without lounge chairs, where you can get a more private beach experience and lay on your own towel on the quiet beach.
Further away from Naxos town, this beach is nice for catching a sunset. It is easiest to visit Kastraki with an ATV or car.
This beach is off the beaten path and therefore less busy, but it is also harder to get to. It is about 40 minutes from Naxos Town and easiest visited with an ATV or car. There is an unfished and deserted hotel near Alyko beach, which draws in visitors due to some of the 3d artwork drawn on the abandoned hotel walls.
Although more touristy, walk along the Chora waterfront to take-in the surrounding views
The top of Mount Zas is the highest point in Naxos. There is a 3-4 hour hike (~5 miles roundtrip) you can do to the top of Mount Zas for panoramic views over the island. If choosing to do the hike, plan to start earlier in the day so you are not hiking in the hottest part of the day with the sun beating down on you. Also be sure to pack extra water, as you will quickly get dehydrated on the uphill climb to the top.
The hike starts at Aria Spring (Fontaine dAria) located about 30 minutes from Naxos town. When on the hike, if having trouble finding the trail, look for stacked rocks which are used as trail-markers to guide hikers on the correct path.
Be sure to catch at least one evening sunset while in Naxos. Watching from the Temple of Apollo in Naxos town or along a beach (Plaka or Kastraki) are ideal places to enjoy the sunset in Naxos
Naxos has tons of lovely boutique stores, selling locally designed clothes, hats, and jewelry. There are also local shops selling handmade leather sandals, leather belts, and leather bags. Be sure to save some time to wander in the different shops; I never expected to shop so much when visiting Naxos, but all the local shops had so many nice pieces catching my eye. The Old Town Chora has many boutiques concentrated in a small area, with most of the shops being authentic. Be careful in other parts of town and avoid the tourist trap stores.
A few of the many nice boutiques to note include
A day boat excursion is a great way to spend a day in Naxos. There are many different options available including trips to smaller islands around Naxos, excursions to beaches on Naxos which can only be reached by boat, lunch and stops in ideal swimming spots, among others. Consider booking in advance as options may be limited if you wait to book until after you arrive in Naxos.
In Naxos Town, be sure to avoid most (if not all) of the restaurants along the port. These are largely tourist traps, with overpriced food and subpar quality. Naxos shocked me at how good all the food was, from soulvaki to fresh seafood dishes to delicious grilled meat platters. Every meal was phenomenal, and at a very reasonable price especially considering the portion sizes. Thus, it is a shame to waste a meal on a spot with mediocre options.
If visiting in shoulder season, reservations may not be required. That being said, I would recommend putting a reservation in at a few restaurants after you arrive. Just walkby the restaurants and ask for availability in the upcoming nights. If visiting in peak season (July / August), consider checking if any restaurants will take reservations online or over the phone. Not all will, but the town will be busier in peak season.
Chora Old Town has lots of cute tavernas with outdoor seating, nice vibes, expansive menus, and delicious food. If you do not have reservations, walk around this area and try one of the many local tavernas as most will not disappoint.
Location: Chora Old Town
This hidden restaurant keeps its waitstaff busy, as many people want to dine here. The menu has tons of options to fill your Greek cuisine craving. The portions are large and well priced so come hungry! The octopus orzo and the grilled shrimp were both delicious entrees. The restaurant serves you a little dessert on the house at the end of your meal
Location: Naxos Town
This restaurant is located away from the port and serves delicious Greek dishes. If possible sit in the back garden area, off of the street where the restaurant is located. The menu is filled with different local Greek dishes; the shrimp and fish of the day were both excellent. Before leaving, the hostess gives you a local dessert liquor to enjoy.
Location: Naxos Town
A commonly recommended restaurant, this spot is always going to be quite full. Try an assortment of Naxos Cheese and the slow roasted Goat served in a bag for some unique local dishes. This is an excellent option for dinner, but note there are many off the beaten path restaurants which are just as good, only missing the tripadvisor ratings so do not fret if you are unable to visit this restaurant. For dessert, the restaurant treats everyone to a bowl of fresh watermelon before they leave.
Location: Plaka Beach
This beachside restaurant has a lot to offer. Nikos & Maria sets up tables on the beach in the evening providing a beautiful spot to dine and watch the sunset. A portion of the restaurant is also off the beach and is affiliated with a hotel next door. Additionally, you can rent lounge chairs from Nikos & Maria, ordering food and drinks directly to your beach chair. The food is delicious and is a great option whether looking for a place to lounge on Plaka beach with a snack or dine on the beach catching a sunset while enjoying a tasty meal.
Chora Old town felt the most authentic and had many restaurants, which looked excellent. Had I stayed longer in Naxos, I would have wanted to try the following restaurants. They all had benefitted from providing a nice atmosphere, and just from walking by, the food looked delicious.
Location: Naxos Town
This spot has many typical Greek dishes, and is perfect for a sit down or takeaway lunch. I had my favorite soulvaki (also known as gyros) here, which is a pita wrapped around shredded meat (usually pork or chicken), cucumbers, lettuce, tomato, french fries, tzatiki and some mayo sauce.
Location: Agios Prokopios beach
A great spot to sit down for lunch when visiting Agios Prokopios beach or get food to takeaway and bring to the beach with you. The foot here was phenomenal, very cheap, and the wait staff was incredibly friendly.
Location: Naxos Town
Located on the outskirts of town, this is very much a locals spot. Naxos Grill is a great, quick lunch option for soulvaki / gyros, with options to takeaway or sit at one of their outdoor covered tables. They have many other typical Greek dishes available as well if soulvaki is not what you are looking for.
Location: near Apeiranthos
Restaurant sitting on the hillside near Apeiranthos, with panoramic views over the surrounding land and extending to the sea. The view from here is beautiful, well worth a stop for a drink if not a meal. The food is nothing to get too excited about, but the views make it worth a stop.
Location: Naxos Town
Local tavern just off the port
Location: Naxos Town
Casual Greek restaurant as a good lunch option in town
Cute Greek restaurant with patio seating; it is a good option for lunch if you find yourself stopping in Chalkio after 1pm (when they start serving food)
Location: Naxos Town
Rooftop restaurant and café, this is an ideal spot for an afternoon drink with a view over the old town. Note that in the evening, the terrace becomes shaded as the sun no longer reaches the terrace. This means it is also not a good place to watch the sunset. Alternatively, it is a nice location to grab breakfast or morning coffee, as the terrace is absorbed by the sun in the morning.
Quaint café making for a good stop to grab a drink or snack when exploring smaller towns and the more rural parts of Naxos.
Location: Naxos Town
Only selling bread, this hidden bakery has some of the best bread in town. Pop in here for a loaf of bread to make a snack.
Naxos is a perfect addition to a Greek Island trip if planning to island hop. It can also be visited for a long weekend from many European cities. Considering the amount of time it takes to get to Naxos and activities available, 2 – 3 nights would be the ideal amount of time to spend on the island.
For the island hoppers, this gives visitors enough time to get settled and not constantly feel like they are unpacking and repacking to hit the next island on the trip. It also provides, enough time to do different activities on island including a day excursion exploring areas away from Naxos town, a hike, beach days, and time for shopping. Of course, if interested in more beach days, extend your time.
It is a very relaxed and quiet island. This makes it a great location for families, couples, or those looking for a low-key Greek island trip.
Naxos is a chill and quieter island, ideal for nice beaches and a relaxed Greek island trip with incredible Greek food. It provides a unique and more authentic experience on the Greek islands
Mykonos is the party island, drawing in groups of friends looking a good time and planning to check out the beach parties during the day and bar hopping into the evening. This also makes Mykonos much more touristy, higher prices, and often food and services which are geared towards tourists.
Santorini is the typical Greek island getaway for the picturesque views, white buildings covered with coloured windows, doors and bright flowers, and magnificient sunset views. It draws in a lot of tourists, making it a less authentic experience, but is a beautiful island. Santorini draws in all types of travelers, but often is especially prevalent for couples due to the romantic vibes and luxurious accommodations available.
The best time to visit the Greek islands will be in spring, summer, and autumn. Many of the Greek islands essentially are shut in the winter, with many restaurants and shop owners returning for the touristy season. The prime tourism season for Greece is July and August, drawing in visitors from all over the world. For weather, July & August are an excellent time to visit, but will mean the islands are also busier. If feasible, try to plan a trip in the shoulder season (June & September). In these months, the islands are very open, but the crowds will be smaller, making the holiday a more enjoyable experience and also less expensive.
One thing the Greek islands have is great weather. From late May through October, you can expect sunny days and temperatures between 22- 35 degrees celcius (75 – 95 degrees Fahrenheit). The islands can get quite windy, but often this is nice with the hot summer days.
Transportation and Accommodations
Things to do and see
Food and Drinks