Out of the 200+ Greek Islands, Naxos was one of our selections during our Greek Island Hop of Summer 2022. We arrived on the island with minimal plans and neutral expectations, and our experience on the island absolutely blew us away.
The legends say that Naxos was the chosen land, where the Nymphs decided to raise young Zeus, aka the king of the men and gods. Filled with white sandy beaches, lively villages, and impressive ancient temples, Naxos is indeed a land blessed by the gods. Plus, it’s one of the greenest islands of the Cyclades!
We wanted to see as much of Naxos as possible, as it was bigger than the other islands we were visiting. We had two and a half days to explore the island and this post covers everything we were able to do during that time!
Naxos is a place where you can stroll around amazing ancient towns, try authentic dishes, and meet the welcoming locals. So if you’re ready to explore the hidden gem of Greece, here are 11 things you have to do during your visit to Naxos.
As nice as it is to rent a car… may I suggest opting for a Buggy? We got ours from Motopower Car Rental and it was only €85 per day. We affectionately named our Buggy “Bill,” after Donna Sheridan’s adventurous summer fling in Mamma Mia.
Driving “Bill the Buggy” around Naxos felt like going adult go-karting. We had total freedom on the roads and an abundance of places to explore! There are fewer feelings more liberating than an open-air buggy on such an expansive island.
*We rented our buggy for one day and accomplished blog post points 1 – 9 in that amount of time. We felt very satisfied dedicating one full day to a Naxos road trip, and the remaining time relaxing at our hotel/in our local beach town.
Near the town of Naxos (the ferry port), you’ll find the Temple Of Apollo. You can’t miss it, it’s the true icon of the island! This temple dedicated to Apollo was originally built by tyrant Lygdamis in 530 BC. The only part that survived from the temple after centuries is the enormous marble entrance, called Portara.
We were recommended to visit the Temple of Apollo twice – once during the day and once at sunset. So that is exactly what we did! We book-ended our road trip with visits to the Temple of Apollo and it was sheer perfection. The colors of the water and sky were so spectacular!
3. Drive along Naxos’ west coast to Eggares
By taking this route along the west coast of the island, you’ll end up in a town called Eggares. Here you’ll see the blue top church Κοίμησης Θεοτόκου, which is surrounded by those famous pink flowers.
We were more than happy to take a moment to enjoy this peaceful place. To add to the splendor, there was even a little horse grazing near the church! All of the photos we took here were definitely postcard-worthy.
4. Plan a visit to the Eggares Olive Oil Museum
…or just completely stumble upon it like we did!
Eggares Olive Oil Museum is one of Naxos’s oldest remaining olive mills. The Eggares Olive Press dates back to the 1800s and it was used by the locals to press olives for oils.
Nowadays, you can admire some historical displays, but the real experience is tasting the various spreads. Paired with fresh bread, the spreads were extremely delicious – especially the red pepper ones! They even had an olive oil chocolate chip cake, which was as soft and flavorful as could be. Yum!
If you want to take home a few authentic Greek oils and spreads, you can shop for some souvenirs here as well. We couldn’t resist grabbing a few things to bring home to our loved ones!
5. Wander around Naxos’ town of Melanes
If you take joy in meandering through beautiful narrow streets, then you should stop in Melanes. This little town feels like a maze where you can find moments of quiet, as well as locals doing their everyday activities.
For instance, there was a man painting the white cracks of the rocks on the pavement. Why did I not realize those were hand-painted!?
While in Melanes, you’ll have many photo opportunities including a beautiful viewpoint, charming staircases, and another church with a blue dome. But arguably, they are even more gorgeous in person!
6. Visit Kinidaros – a place of lovely people
The little town of Kinidaros should definitely be on your list if you want to feel the kindness of the people. When we impulsively stopped for a refreshment, a Greek Yia-Yia (grandmother) was more than happy to welcome us to her store and show us around. Even though she didn’t speak a word of English, you could feel her warmth and kindness through her actions. We got to sit out on the back patio and admire the view. Before leaving she gifted us with some fresh hand-picked apricots, making sure we remembered that in Greek they are called “Ver-ee-co-co”.
7. Enjoy silence at the Paleochristian Church of Panagia Drosiani
This small Byzantine church dates back to the 6th century and it looks beyond ancient. It is indeed the oldest Christian church on the island. Its small chambers hold carvings, old faded paintings, and an atmosphere so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
Take a wander, admire the history, and enjoy the silence that surrounds you.
8. Admire beautiful views in Filoti and eat at Rotonda
While driving around Filoti you have to stop and gaze at the breathtaking scenery. We pulled our buggy, Bill, off on the side of the road and admired the view from a lookout point!
By the time we got to Filoti, we were getting hungry. So we stopped at a restaurant named Rotonda. Placed in a remote area, the restaurant has mind-blowing views and offers a wide variety of dishes so you can enjoy a true Greek feast.
Make sure to order the famous tzatziki and pita and the local specialty called Moussaka– which is often compared to a “Greek lasagna.” End your meal with a digestive made from cinnamon and orange, take one last look at the views, and then get back on the road!
9. Take a dip in the Naxos beach town, Apollonas
Apollonas was about 40 minutes out of our way, but nothing compares to a nice swim right in the middle of a town! We had heard great things about this area and knew it would be worth the trip.
We took a magnificent route to get there, parked our Buggy, and walked around the streets to find a beach smack dab in the middle of everything. The waves were blue and clear blue and absolutely perfect for an end-of-day swim.
The only proper way to refuel before heading back to our hotel was by getting a refreshing snack and sitting by the water. We opted for our very first greek yogurt of the trip and it was mixed with fresh honey and walnuts. It was just as delightful as I hoped it would be!
10. Eat at a traditional Greek family tavern, Giannoulis
We were so lucky that we happened to be staying down the street from one of the most popular restaurants in Naxos. Giannoulis had quite a reputation in town (as you can tell from their extensive Google reviews) and it completely lived up to our expectations. We loved it so much, we went twice!
The hospitality we witnessed at Giannoulis was on a whole other level. (and trust me on this, I’ve worked at Walt Disney World!) It felt like we were welcomed into the family’s home. Every bit of food we had was truly impressive, the portions were huge, and it was authentically prepared. Our server even took a shot with us to finish off the meal!
For being such a busy restaurant, coming to Giannoulis was an intimate and memorable experience. Our waiter would even wave to us every time we walked by the restaurant after our initial meal! What an amazing memory. We felt so welcomed and happy that we got to experience this place! I’ll be dreaming of their Greek food for the rest of time!
11. Watch a Movie under the stars
When you’re in Naxos, try to find an open-air theater to grab a movie under the stars! If you’re really lucky and want to live your Greece life to the fullest, you may be able to find one that’s playing Mamma Mia!
On our very last night, we saw a flyer that they were playing Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! (even though this specific movie was filmed in Croatia, it’s “set” in Greece so we were super excited!)
The movie venue was called “Prokopios arts festival” which was basically a restaurant/bar/cafe with an outdoor theater in the back! You can make reservations, which we didn’t, but I would recommend doing so for better seats.
We got to watch our favorite movie outdoors while sipping on wine and soaking in the atmosphere of Greece! How does it get any better than this!?
Oh wait… it does get better! There was a super fun crew of people watching the movie along with us, and after it ended, we had an impromptu dance party! We all stayed at the restaurant, they cleared the floor, and turned on the Mamma Mia soundtracks so we could all dance the night away!
You never know what kind of magic is gonna happen in Greece – you just need to be open to it 🙂
We Love Naxos!
So that wraps up our journey around Naxos! You can see a lot in just a few days, and of the four islands we went to – Naxos was my favorite. We made the best memories and had the most fun here.
This island is enchanting, visually stunning, and full of adventures just waiting to be had. I cannot recommend it enough and I feel confident that anyone who visits here can find their own little slice of paradise.
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