Sailing into Naxos was a pleasant surprise after the underwhelming port of Parikia, in Paros. Like in Syros, we again had a wall of houses rising up from the harbour front, this time reaching a castle on top.
In the distance, high mountains were visible with villages of white houses nestling beneath the peaks. We were staying for 5 nights and were immediately reassured that we had made the right choice in staying so long.
Our first few days were spent wandering the maze of lanes in the hillside, discovering churches and enjoying views back over the harbour.
We learned that historically the castle district was home to the Roman Catholics, while the lower slopes were home to the Greek Orthodox communities. Our guidebook warned us that we would get lost, and they weren’t wrong, with arched alleyways heading off in different directions, and the only reliable truism being that the castle was up and the port was down.
Several times we visited Naxos’ most famous landmark, the incomplete temple of Apollo that sits on a rock a short walk along a causeway from the harbour. This structure comprises two marble columns topped by a lintel, providing a beautiful frame for summer sunsets over the town.
We roamed south along the coast, passing beaches backed by casual cafes and bars that give an idea of visitors’ focus in summer.
From every vantage point, the stunning setting of the town was obvious, and it is easy to understand why this is such a well regarded island. The nearby hills are home to churches and monasteries and we trekked up these too, glad of the exertion to warm ourselves as the cool temperatures continued.
A highlight of our stay here was the fantastic accommodation we were staying at. We had an apartment with kitchenette, with breakfast included, run by a local family. Apart from being a great way to meet some lovely local people, it helped us discover Naxos’ produce. Breakfast every morning included a bowl of Naxos yogurt, the likes of which we never had before. So creamy – like the best ice-cream you have ever had – and so tasty by itself, and absolutely delicious when eaten with Greek mountain honey.
We also got to sample some home made cakes that were included in our breakfast every day, and discovered a favourite: Greek orange and yogurt cake. Also worth mentioning is that this B&B is incredible value – for both of us we pay 21 Euro a night for everything, including a delicious breakfast so substantial that we don’t eat again until late afternoon. So far we have found Greece to be very expensive – off-season accommodation is really the only exception – and will write more about that, and the daily struggle for Greeks to live, another day.
To date, on our island visits we have not explored far beyond the main harbour towns, content to take things slowly, and reminding ourselves that this is a way of life for us, and not a race to see everything possible. However, on Naxos, with 5 days and the beautiful mountains beckoning, we couldn’t resist the temptation of going inland, and our next blog post will cover that …