Sites & Villages
Naxos is the larger island of the Cycladic circle and needs more than a couple of days in order to explore and discover the beauties of it. Traditional villages, towers, archaeological sites are expanded all over the island.
The busy, and in the summertime crowded, capital of NAXOS is located on the western side of the island. The town is the commercial centre and main port of Naxos. Last census showed a population of about 6500 permanent residents. Chora is historically divided in two neighborhoods:
The KASTRO located on the top of the hill – area of the catholic Venetians and BOURGOS – for the Greek orthodox population. Each summer, especially in August, the crowds are tremendous. Holidaymakers as well as locals, walk up and down enjoying their vacation or leisure time, shopping or drinking coffee, having a meal or drink in the many cafés, bars or restaurants. In general, Chora offers all facilities and conveniences of a developed tourist resort. The ferry quay is at the northern side of the waterfront promenade along which you find a great variety of restaurants and cafés, tourist offices, travel agencies, shops, bookstores with Greek and international newspapers.
Agios Georgios is the busy, well organized beach in the southwest end of town. The bay is well protected from the wind and the waters are shallow, which makes it is a popular place also for families.
The PORTARA is one of the first things one sees when entering the port of Naxos. At the end of the quay, where it reaches the promenade, turn left and follow the causeway to the Palatia islet. The PORTARA is the huge gateway entrance to the unfinished Temple of Apollo. Portara actually means giant door or gate in Greek. Is consists of four blocks of marble, each weighing 20 tons and four meters long. It reaches a total height of six meters. The tyrant LYGDAMIS began the construction about 530 BC, but the temple was never completed. As it was dedicated to the god APOLLO is is positioned towards DELOS, in resemblance with the DELION, the Apollo temple on Delos. Another theory describes it as a place of worship of DIONYSOS.
During the 5th and 6th century AD it was used as a Christian church. Later big parts of the marble of the temple were used for the construction of the Venetian castle. This left only the PORTARA, the entrance, as we see it today.
According to mythology, the Palatia islet was the place where Theseus abandoned ARIADNE before Dionysos found her.
KASTRO – THE CASTLE
The Venetian Marco Sanoudo built the castle on the hill top of the old town of Naxos in 1207 and made it the capital of its duchy. It is a complex group of buildings including the duke’s palace, the catholic Cathedral, large towers and many other buildings. From its former three gates, two can still be seen: The southwestern known as “Paraporti” and the northern – the Trani porta or great gate. At the great gate look for a vertical line displaying a Venetian ell carved on the gatepost. Merchants measured the cloth they were selling in the castle. The Krispi tower (Glezos tower) houses now the Byzantine Museum. Sereral of the Venetian mansions inside the old castle are dated back to the 13th or 14th century and still bear the insignia of their original owners above the doors.
Close to the central square at the highest point of the castle one can find the Jesuit school and former mercantile school. In 1739 the Ursuline school was founded and extended step by step until it became a labyrinthine set of different buildings. Nowadays parts of it are used for cultural events.
Best time to stroll trough this mediaeval town, with its cobbled streets up and down the natural hill is during the siesta time when it is quiet. One can still find small shops and cafés up here and you have great views to the sunset.
Bourgos is the old settlement on the foot of the hill under the KASTRO. It was the area of the orthodox population. Also here one finds a labyrinth of narrow streets, small shops and picturesque buildings.
ROMAN CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL
This mediaeval church with a simple marble façade is located in the KASTRO. Inside one can see tombstones of the 16th and 17th century bearing the insignia of important catholic families. In the bishop’s residence a Byzantine icon from the 14th century is displayed, as well as icons of the Cretan school. Next to the Cathedral there is the small orthodox church of Theokepasti.
ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL – METROPOLIS
This cathedral is located behind the northern end of the waterfront. It was built in 1780 on the site of a small chapel using material of older churches or ancient buildings. The interior is richly decorated and shows icons of many periods
CHURCH OF THE PANAGIA VLACHERNITOTISSA
One of the oldest churches of the island. There are two icons of the painter Angelos of Crete.
CHURCH OF THE MYRTIDIOTISSA
Mostly the first church one sees on Naxos, located on the small island at the port.
MONASTERY MONI AGIA KYRIAKI
It was a monastery during the time of the Turkish occupation and used also as a secret Greek school. In the courtyard there is the small church of the assumption of the Virgin.
This unique museum was opened in 1999 in the square of the orthodox cathedral. It exhibits on 400 m² underground and above the findings of the 1980 excavations as they were discovered. There are fragments of a Mycenaean city of the 13th to 11th century BC. You can see a part of the town walls, small pottery workshops with kilns for the baking of the pots.
Remains of the Geometric period (900-700 BC) indicate it as a place of worship.
The archeological museum is located in the KASTRO, near the central square inside the former Jesuit school. The famous novelist NIKOS KAZANTZAKIS attended this school for a short period. The building dates back to the 17th century and represents a fine example of Venetian architecture.
The museum exhibits findings from the Late Neolithic (5300 BC) to the Late Christian (500 AD) period from Naxos and some neighboring islands. On the large room upstairs the biggest collection, besides in the National Archeological Museum in Athens, of marble idols (Cycladic period) is displayed. On the same level one can find objects and utensils of the Protocycladic period (3200-2300 BC). Outstanding are a twin pyxis of blue-grey marble, a clay vase in the shape of a mask and another vase shaped like an animal.
Other objects are from the Mycenaean and Geometric periods as well as terracotta figurines from the Hellenistic and Roman period.
In the room on the ground floor one can see four trunks of Kouros statues and a female statue from the Classical period.
A colorful mosaic is to be seen as well.
DELLA ROCCA-BAROZZI VENETIAN MUSEUM
This museum is close to the northwest gate inside the Kastro limits. It is housed in an old tower house (13th century). One can dip inside the world of the Venetian Naxos and the historic Kastro. Tours of the Kastro are offered as well. Special evening events like concerts or folklore dances take place several times a week.
CHURCH AGIOS IOANNIS THEOLOGOS
Just 1 kilometer north of CHORA. Built on the steep slope on the mountain inside the rocks. Magnificent views over the town, the sea and the neighboring island PAROS.
AGIA is located close to the street to APOLLONAS in the north of NAXOS. Directly at the street you can see a watch tower (Pyrgos) from the Venetian times. Down a steep path there is the beautiful former Monastery (dedicated to Panagia) hidden behind big trees. The sound of a spring will guide you down. Great place for a picnic break.
AGIOS ARSENIOS – VILLAGE
Beautiful village east – inland – of AGIA ANNA with whitewashed houses and beautiful gardens. Worth visiting are the churches in and around the village
AGIOS MAMANTOS – AGIOS MAMAS
This church is located left of the road between GALANADO and SANGRI. A path leads down in the valley. The oldest parts date back to the 7th century. In Venetian times it was a Catholic church of the bishop.
YPSILIS TOWER – PYRGOS TIS YPSILIS
This tower is located at the north coast of Naxos in the area of the village GALINI. The first constructions were in the 14th century and it is one of the oldest nd strongest fortresses on Naxos. Later the tower was used by the Naxians in their fight against the Venetian occupants. In the year 1600 it became a monastery named PANAGIA TIS YPSILOTERAS.
ANO SANGRI – VILLAGE
Ano Sangri is located about 5 km behind the village of GALANADO along the main road on a fertile plateau. Residential village. After Sangri you can see the PYRGOS BAZEOS, built in the 17th century that was transformed later into a monastery – MONI TIMIOS STAVROS. (the true cross). Normally called PYRGOS TIMIOS STAVROS.
Findings from different historical periods show that this area has been inhabited since ancient times. During the 13th century there was a Venetian castle in order to dominate the surrounding areas and to be used as rescue place in case of pirate attacks. It is located on the top of a hill (421 meters) north of POTAMIA.
This atmospheric village in the mountains, on a vine-covered hill is also nick-named as the marble village. In the streets and paths as well as many houses are laid and constructed with marble stone. In the 17th century it was inhabited by refugees from Crete who escaped from the Turks. It has been a centre for emery mining. One can still hear the distinct dialect of Crete with its the singsong pronunciation. The spirit of the village is a independent and artistic-creative one. The women are traditionally good weavers and founded the “Apiranthos Women´s Association of Traditional Arts. In their shop you can buy locally manufactured woven articles.
Many inhabitants engage themselves in different forms of art. One of the most famous violinists of the Aegean lives in this village.
Another famous representative from Apiranthos is MANOLIS GLEZOS, a resistance fighter during the World War II who replaced the Nazi with the Greek flag on the Acropolis. Later he became the representative for Cyclades in the Greek parliament.
The village as many in Cyclades is not accessible for cars but there is a parking on the main road. After entering the village from this side First you will find the Museum of Natural History and a little bit further the main street the Archeology Museum and the Geology Museum. Close to the entrance, there is a nice collection of Cycladic findings from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age. Cycladic idols and slabs with engraved astronomic motives and illustrations of humans and animals. The Folklore Museum displays tools and traditional products of the area.
The church Panagia Aperanthitissa dated back to the Byzantine time and has a marble iconostasis and bell tower. The church Agia Kyriaki is one of the oldest (9th century).
The Pyrgos Zefgóli, named after is latest owners, was built directly at the rocky wall.
The small seaside village of APOLLONAS used to be a small fishing settlement but now it became also a popular resort not only to day-visitors. There is a picturesque small port lined with taverns and cafés and a small sandy beach.
Still many people come only to see the famous Kouros of Apollonas. A giant male figure from stone. Situated above the main road to/from Chora. You have to climb a few steps up to this spot without shadow. This Kouros is about 10 ½ meters long and should therefore be looked at from a certain distance to understand the statue. It lies inside this ancient quarry since the 6th century BC where the works begun but were never finished. The reason why it was left uncompleted is unknown. One theory is that at some point during the work it cracked. Others state that cultural reasons or even the death of the person who ordered it prevented the finishing.
BELLONIA TOWER – PÝRGOS BELÓNIA
The tower of Belónia lies on the road just before the Village of GALANADOS. Built in the 13th century it was the residence of the ruling family of the area. In the 80´s of the last century it was bought by a British lady and carefully restored. Now it is a private house and not open to the public. Next to the tower there is the chapel of Agios Ioannis – the right side orthodox (iconostasis), the left catholic (cross). At the front side of the church you can still see the shield of the Crispi family.
CAVE OF ZEUS – ZAS – ZEVS
The cave of Zeus is located in the area of FILOTI on the west side of the mountain. Leaving Filoti in direction Apiranthos after about 700 meters turn left (sign ZAS CAVE). Passing the Aria spring (500 meters altitude) you find the path which leads uphill – follow the sign. The cave lies at an altitude of about 600 meters. It is a natural cavern dedicated to God Zeus, in which artifacts made from obsidian and pottery were found. Mythology tells us that the mighty god Zeus was raised here. (A similar story is told about the Ideon-Andron Cave on Crete.) The first chamber is more than 100 meters long and 75 meters wide. If you decide to explore the cave further you should have some experience and take the right equipment along. Legend tells that locals were hiding here from the Turkish occupants. Two of the stalagmites are named “Priest” and the “Priest´s” wife.
MOUNT ZEUS – ZAS
Highest mountain of the Cycladic archipelago – 1001 meters.
Two walking paths lead up to the peak. The one passing the Cave Zas. The other easier route starting at the chapel Agia Marina.
CHALKI – VILLAGE
The beautiful village lies in the heart of the Tragaea region. It is the old capital of Naxos and centre of commerce. Numerous handsome villas and tower houses are the inheritance of this past. Many of these are fortunately still in use and therefore well kept. The main road goes around the village. Small lanes lead into the village and to the central square. It is worth strolling trough the quiet streets with the picturesque architecture. You should also pay a visit to the Vallindras Destillery where the famous liqueur Kitron is produced. The Kitron (citrus medica) has a long history on Naxos. The fruit is barely edible but the rind is preserved in syrup and served as “glika koutaliu” – a greek desert. The Kitron is the sweet version of the “Kitronaki” distilled from grape skins and citrus leaves. Today the Kitron represents the best known product of Naxos.
Besides the Vallindras Destillery you can find some gift shops with articles that you do not find easily in other tourist areas (pottery, ceramics, jewelry).
Unlike the other towers this building dates back to the Hellenistic period. It is situated at the south foot of the Mount Zas about 10 km from FILOTI. It is a circular tower built from Naxian marble, 15 meters high and surrounded by a strong stone wall. Historical research tells us that it was most probably one of a series of watch-towers on the most important Cycladic islands used to send out warnings around the islands. In case of an attack, beacons were lit on the tower which signaled the necessary alarm.
MONASTERY MONI CHRISTOS PHOTODOTIS (FOTODOTIS)
This monastery (Christ the Lightgiver) from the 15th century is located close to the village of DANAKOS. It is one of the oldest on the island of Naxos with massive walls. The lonely situation on the hill (560 meter) within the wild nature is very impressive.
DANAKOS – VILLAGE
In a narrow valley with plenty of water lies this small village at the end of the asphalt road. A path (Monopati) leads from there as far as the sea. Small kafenion and tavern with local products.
PANAGIA DROSSIANI – CHURCH
The church Panagia Drossiani lies just below the village of MONI, 2,5 km north of CHALKI. This church is among the oldest most revered in Greece and throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. The oldest part dates back to the 6th century and was extended later. It is a single space with a dome and several chapels have been added on the side of the mountain. There are extremely rare wall paintings from the first period of the church before the iconomachy doctrine prohibited icons for about one century (middle of 8th to middle of 9th century).
ENGARES – VILLAGE
Engares is a quiet village on the north side of Naxos, along the road Chora-Apollonas. It lies on the east side of a valley with a lot of vegetation. Close by there is the Prandouna Tower.
Emery is a material that has been used since ancient times as a smoothing substance. In the early 19th century a cable railway for the transportation of the emery had been constructed which is not in use any more. MOUTSOUNA is still the shipping port but now trucks are used for the transportation.
FILOTI – VILLAGE
Filoti lies in the Tragaea area in the centre of Naxos. Built like an amphitheatre on the slopes of Mount Zas it is the largest village of the area. It is certainly one of the most beautiful villages on Naxos and has many restaurants and cafés. Popular spot for day-trippers. Worth visiting is the church Panagia Filotitissa (marble iconostasis and bell tower) and the Barotsis Tower. You can do a small walking tour trough the heart of the Tragaea from Filoti – Damarionas – Damalas (pottery work shop) then you reach the main road to Chora (bus connection).
GALANADO – VILLAGE
Galanado is a very traditional village on the road to SANGRI.
GALINI – VILLAGE
Small village close to ENGARES in a fertile valley. From here starts the road down to the beach Amiti.
GLINADO – VILLAGE
Small residential village in the vicinity of GALANADO.
The ruins of this fortress are located in the Northeast of Naxos. It was built after the 7th century as a watch post over the sea on a very steep slope. You can see the ruins looking south from the Kouros of Apollonas.
KINIDAROS – VILLAGE
Picturesque rural mountain village on the road between CHORA and MONI. Pretty church of Agios Georgios. Kinidaros is famous for its meat and diary product.
KORONIDA – VILLAGE
Koronida lies on the road between APOLLONAS and KORONOS. It is the highest village of Naxos at an altitude of about 650 meters. There is a labyrinth of small narrow streets and the houses look lie one built above the other along the steep slope. Koronida is famous for its woven products.
KORONOS – VILLAGE
Former a commercial centre of emery. Before world War II Koronos was a wealthy community after the economic situation got bad. It is built on the steep slope of the mountain. To reach the central Platia you have to walk down the narrow paths along the white cubic houses. Paradise for photographers. The church Panagia Argokiliotissa lies about 2 km east. Every year on the Friday after Easter a festival of the Zoodochou Pigi takes place which attracts many visitors.
KOUROS OF FLERIO
This Kouros lies within beautiful gardens with plenty of water which makes it cool even during the heat of the summer. It is dated back to the 7th century BC. Though smaller in size than the better known Kouros of Apollonas is is in a more advanced stage with fine lines and details. It is 6 meters in size and only parts of the right leg and the left foot are missing. This “cursed prince” lies inside a private orchard where you can find also a small kafenion and local products. Open every day until 7 pm.
LIONAS – VILLAGE
The steep road descends from Koronos with a lot of turns. Small, quiet village with pebble beach and taverna – not always open.
The area was and is used for emery mining.
MELANES – VILLAGE
Melanes is a quiet village located on a slope in a valley full of fruit and olive trees. The name refers to the black color of the local soil. In the area you find the Venetian Tower Mavrogeni (also called Pirgos della Rocca).
MONASTERY OF PHANEROMENI – MONI FANEROMENI
Just of the road CHORA – APOLLONAS in the area of ENGARES lies this monastery built in the 17th century.
MOUTSOUNA – VILLAGE
Moutsouna used to be a busy port for emery shipping. Nowadays it is more quiet, located on the east side of Naxos. The road descends from APIRANTHOS in a lot of U-turns.
SANGRI – VILLAGE
Sangri is located about 5 kilometers after GALANADO on the right side of the main road. There are Kato Sangri and Epano Sangri. Remarkable are the windmills.
About 1,5 kilometers south of Epano Sangri you will find the Temple of Demeter. This temple is one of the most important ancient sites of Naxos. It was built from marble in the 6th century BC. Especially impressive is the hilltop location. Part of the temple has been reconstructed. During the Middle ages it was destroyed and changed in a Christian chapel. The temple was dedicated to the goddess Demeter and mysteries took place here. There are roads leading to the temple from Epano Sangri and from the road to Ormos Agiassou.
This area is a vast plain and since ancient times the most fertile part of Naxos full of olive and fruit trees unspoiled villages, numerous churches and chapels from the Byzantine period and small farming houses. Most important village is Filoti. Worth visiting is also the restored olive press at the village Dalamas between Sangri and Chalki.
VIVLOS – VILLAGE
The village Vivlos (Tripodes) is a traditional small village in an intensively used agricultural area. Typical are the narrow cobbled paths and whitewashed houses. Among the sights of Vivlos are the windmills and the church of the Panagia Tripodiotissa remarkable for the sculpted wooden iconostasis and icons.