First off, I could PROBABLY spend a full month on Naxos without getting bored. The beauty of it (other than the obvious landscape) is that it’s touristy enough that there’s plenty to do, but it’s not so touristy that it’s overrun and crowded. If you just go a little bit out of your way, you might just even find a beach all to yourself 🙂 Our overall consensus was that we would absolutely return if we ever get the chance, and would even bring kids when we have them as Naxos is very family friendly. This is a list of my favorite budget-friendly things to do in Naxos! (For info on where to stay read here)
*Disclaimer: all images and opinions are my own, for which I did not receive compensation
1.) The Portara – If you’ve done ANY research into Naxo before reading this post you’ve probably seen this trademark monument already. This 26-foot-high, 2,500 year old marble doorway is probably the most popular landmark on the island. Known as The Portara, or The Great Door, this structure is all that is left of a partially built temple that was never completed. The temple was thought to honor Apollo and is sometimes referred to as the unfinished Temple of Apollo. It is located on a tiny island on the other side of Naxos Town, which is connected by a man-made causeway. Watch out for the waves on windy days…waves often crash right over-top of the walkway, so make sure you time your walk/run right otherwise you’ll get soaked! The third photo is the view from the Portara looking back down the causeway to town.
2.) Mikri Vigla – this coastal portion of Greece offers beautiful beaches in a more private atmosphere. We rented an ATV for the 3 days we were on Naxos and drove until we saw something that made us want to stop…needless to say, one of those stops turned out to be Mikri Vigla. We arrived in the morning and found a little tavern next to a beach that boasted no beach goers yet. However, expecting the beach to fill up, and feeling more adventurous that morning, we climbed over the rock faces to find our own space that would be sure to stay free of other beach goers. The water is turquoise and green and deep blue, all at the same time, and super clear! We brought our goggles and dove in and out all through the rocks to find all sorts of fish. The beaches here are great for the total relaxers and for adventurers alike! However, just a disclaimer, if you’re adventuring over the rocks be prepared to lay out on the rocks too, we didn’t find any sand beach coves once we climbed the rocks.
3.) ATV – seriously, the best decision we made the entire trip! Rent an ATV for $20-$30 a day for the time that you’re visiting! It’s way cheaper than a rental car, and allows you to explore so much more of the island. These 4-wheelers will get you down the unpaved gravel and mud roads, cruise around on the “highways”, and get up and down mountains with no worries. Being that we were traveling on a budget we shared one and I rode on the back, which worked out best for us since that meant I got to soak in all the views! Riding on the ATV made it super easy to see around and pull over and stop whenever we felt like it. Not to mention the awesome feeling of having the wind on your face and the sun on your back! Away from the beaches, the Naxos terrain is very mountainous, and is dotted with olive trees and “wine bushes” as my husband calls them. You’ll want to make sure you get the full experience!
4.) Temple of Demeter – these temple ruins, located in Drimalia is a bit of a drive, so you’ll want an ATV (see previous bullet above). Built in the 6th century BC, it served as a temple until partially dismantled in the 6th century AD and a church was built over top. It was later abandoned and plundered for its marble. Eventually restored by German archaeologists, it was rebuilt from the original columns and stones that remained on site. Since we knew we weren’t going to have time to see any ruins in Athens we made sure to see this one and we were so glad we did…plus, it gave us a good reason to adventure into the countryside off the beaten path.
5.) Chora – also known as Naxos Town, or Hora, this is the center of Naxos. It extends down the the waterfront where fishing boats and catamarans line the harbor. All along this harbor sits a variety of open air outdoor restaurants covered by canopies. You can find almost anything you want along this strip but the specialty is seafood. The town also includes the Kastro (castle). This Venetian castle is now a maze of shops and restaurants weaving within it’s walls, with lots of nooks and crannies to explore around every turn!
6.) EAT! – if you haven’t already done a google search of Greek food you need to get on it, or, check out my post about the top 10 foods to try in Greece. Eating is an experience in and of itself….partly because of the amazing food the Greeks offer, and partly because of the views from the restaurants. Every place we ate in Naxos was waterfront and offered a spectacular view! Typically, we would eat the free breakfast at our hotel, make little stops for coffee, drinks, and snacks throughout the day, and then split an entree for dinner on the water. We found that this system worked perfectly for us because it allowed us to sample a little bit of everything, including the more expensive seafood dinners, without spending much money. Our lunch stop “snacks” often included frappes, mixed drinks, wine, Greek yogurt, and/or appetizers like fried cheese and stuffed grape leaves. To learn more about the food check out that post here.
7.) Filoti – we only found this town thanks to my husband’s Norwegian based family who visit Naxos each summer and turned us on to it. They advised us to make sure we drive inland to Filoti to have frappes “under the trees”, and we were not disappointed! This quaint, charming little town gives you a real feel for
authentic Greek life, as it is not a popular tourist destination. In fact, Filoti was the only place during our entire trip where we went to place an order and no one spoke English. We would absolutely recommend making a side trip here if your schedule allows!
8.) Plaka Beach – beautiful pristine beach! It’s a bit out of the way if you’re staying in Naxos Town, but so worth the drive! Not to mention, with it being out of the way it’s definitely less crowded than the beaches of Agios Georgios next to Naxos Town. If you’re looking for a family beach then Agios Georgios perfect, but if you’re looking for more privacy with a place to lay back and sip a drink, Plaka is your beach!
Of course, there are many other options for Naxos activities, including water sports, hiking, horseback riding, catamaran and sailing tours, museums, etc., we just only had 3 days, so we could only fit so much in, plus, we were working with a budget. But just like the food, I’m sure you can’t go wrong! For the time that we were there, we felt like we got to do a lot, and most of it for free! I mean, in all reality, who REALLY needs more than a great beach anyways??!