The inhabitants of Naxos are blessed
with living on a fertile and self-sufficient island. In
the mountainous inland villages, such as Koronos, Atsipapi,
and Mirisis, one may see villagers tending their vineyards
and vegetables on age-old parapets running along the mountain
slopes. At the lowland villages, the famous Naxian potato
is cultivated. A traditional fragrant liqueur is made
from citrus leaves. Before you leave the island, don't
forget to buy some local cheese, such as spicy arseniko
(=male) kefalotyri, fresh xynotyro, or xynomytzithra.
Up on the hill of Chora the imposing Venetian Castro (Castle)
is situated, an impressive monument of the long years
of Frankish domination. Its wonderful Manor Houses, featuring
some quite decorative Venetian blazons, are still inhabited
almost exclusively by Roman Catholic descendants of those
Venetian conquerors of old. The medieval street layout
has been kept intact within the Castro. All houses situated
along the Castle's periphery are actually its wall, and
all alleyways lead to its central square, where the Roman
Catholic Cathedral and the central tower are situated.
It is to that distant feudal age that the imposing stone-made
tower-houses (pyrgospita) can be dated, which are to be
found dispersed across the island.
Of the archaic temple
of Apollo, whose building started in the 6th century BC on the
isle of "Palatia", at the left of the Naxos port, only
the marble gate has been preserved, the Portara, as is called
by the locals. One can enjoy here what is probably the most beautiful
sunset in the Aegean. It is on this isle that the hero Theseus,
in Greek mythology, left his paramour, princess Ariadne of Crete,
who was later discovered by the wine-god Dionysus and was united
If you' re looking for something different, then why not go for
a quiet swim at Alyko, or at neighbouring Pirgaki, to the island's
southwest. A vast sandbeach with dunes that have been sculpted
by the winds, and a cedar forest that is unique in Greece, make
an exotic landscape.
A real treasure is hidden in Naxos' Byzantine churches, which
can be dated as far back in the past as the 7th century AD, and
as late as the 14th century AD. Successive layers of Byzantine
frescoes of unique value and impportance are still preserved in
the paleochristian churches of Panayia Drosiani at Moni, of Panaghia
Protochroni at Halki, of St. George Diasoritis, of Aghia Kiriaki
at Apeiranthos, and in many other Byzantine churches of the Naxian
island. The Ascension service (on August the 15th) at Panaghia
Drosiani is a unique experience.
Map of Cyclades Islands
Map of Naxos
marble was abundand and high quality in antiquity, and the pioneering
marble workers of Naxos were soon much coveted. Amongst their
surviving works of particular interest are two unfinished Kouroi
of superhuman size, dating to the 6th and 7th centuries BC, which
had been left lying in the quarries at Melanes and at Apollo.
The sanctuary of Dionysus at Iria and the all-marble temple of
Apollo and Demeter at Sangri are splendid specimens of early Ionian
architecture, which are now being wonderfully restored and preserved. Emery,
or "Naxian soil", Naxos' once much-coveted, multi-use
mineral, has nowadays fallen from the markets' grace. It remains
crammed in storehouses at Moutsouna, or just outside the mines'
mouths on the road leading to the emery-producing villages of
Koronos. The cable-cars that are left hanging inert noeadays
were once used to transport emery to the port of Moutsouna,
whence was forwarded to markets abroad.
away from the tourist crowds swarming the beaches, Naxos' mountainous
areas emanate their own authentic charm. The road proceeds past
verdant valleys and olive gardens, goes up on the bare mountains
with their mythic caves and their magnificent view to the sea,
stops at the villages' well-shaded squares and leads to ancient
monuments, Byzantine temples, Venetian towers, and abandoned water
mills. The town of Filoti throbs with life, and "marble-made"
Apeiranthos with its authentic Naxian architecture and small gems
of museums makes for a pleasant surprise. A
great many ancient towers can be seen on the island - once upon
a time they rendered a valuable service to the island's protection
against pirate incursions. The most impressive of all is the
circular tower of Himarros, an excellently preserved 4th cent.
BC building, which (one can imagine) provided a convenient defensive
bulwark for both ancient and later Naxians.