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Around Naxos

Naxos islandNaxos has a good enough bus system so you can see the main towns and get back before sunset. You can also rent cars, motorbikes and even 21 speed mountain bikes from many places. But keep in mind that there are mountains involved and you may want something with an engine. Also driving in an unprotected vehicle can be dangerous in the summer. If you are going to be there in July and August and you know you will want a car, you may want to ask your travel agent or hotel to book it in advance. All the roads between the towns are in pretty good condition and there are road signs telling you which way to go so a car will get you just about anywhere. Still there are many unpaved roads that lead to remote beaches, valleys and settlements, especially in the southern part of the island and a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended for trips to Panormos Bay, Kalados Bay and Abram Bay. 

Temple and sanctuary of Demeter, NaxosThere is a lot to see on this island if you are not the type who is satisfied laying on the beach all day drinking frapouzos (my friend Steve Gratz' invention: a frappe with a shot of ouzo.) The island is made of several mountains and in between are green valleys, rich in vinyards and orchards as well as Venetian towers, Byzantine monasteries, Mycenean ruins, churches and marble quarries. Mount Zeus near the village of Filoti is the highest mountain in the Cyclades. It takes about three hours to get to the top on foot. The impressive Bazeos Castle is several kilometers outside of Naxos town and has a number of exhibitions and performances during the summer. The castle has been taken over by the Benaki Museum in Athens and has become a cultural center. A few kilometers down the road near the village of Ano Sagri is the Sanctuary of Demeter (photo) built in 530 BC which overlooks the valley that has been providing the area with food since ancient times.

Village in NaxosThe village of Filoti (photo) is known for its Panigiri for the Virgin Mary, a festival that goes from August 15th to the 18th. It is a quiet village with a very pleasant climate, some historic churches and some nice cafeneons. It is actually the largest village of Naxos and one of the most lively. The village is built on top of two hills separating it into 2 different neighborhoods. One of the best spots is the Platanos Cafe in the square. Take a short walk starting from the characteristic platanos tree, where main square  is, and walk up the stairs on the left of the tree. The most interesting monument is  Panagia Filotitissa, the parish church of the village with its impressive marble iconostasis. Continuing to the right, you cross a little square that looks more like a theatrical stage and reach the renovated Venetian Barozzi Tower, built in 1618, but is now  private property. Continuing your walk, you pass by the village's Health Centre and finally you get back on the main asphalt road where all the shops are. There is an interesting market in this village, with plenty of taverns, cafeterias, pastry shops, but also super markets situated on the sides of the asphalt road. Also, worth of mentioning is a private Collection of Hellenic Currencies belonging to Nikolaos Moustakis. Filoti is an interesting place to go after a hike to the nearby Zas Cave and to the summit of Zas Mountain (1004m) the highest point of the Cyclades and the Central Aegean.

There are a number of other traditional villages, like Apeirathos, which was settled by refugees from Crete, where they still wear traditional costumes and the streets are made of marble. There is also an archaeology museum, and two small but interesting museums, one a folk museum and the other a museum of natural history. They are small, located in what were once a couple shops, but they are worth visiting especially if you have kids. The town itself is a labyrinth of tiny streets and alleyways that is fun to explore. There is also a lovely taverna called The Platanos that is a nice cool place to stop for a meal or a coffee.

 The town of Halki is the capital and commercial center of the mountain villages and contains a couple Venetian towers, the 10th Century Church to the Virgin Mary with it's wall paintings. The most interesting place to visit in town is the old Ballindras Factory where they make the local drink Citron and their excellent ouzo.

Beach in Apollonos, NaxosThe town of Apollonas was at one time a quiet fishing village but is now a tourist resort with a beach. There are hotels and  bus loads of people from Naxos town who come for lunch and to see the giant Kouros, a 28 foot tall marble statue that was left unfinished in the ancient quarry above the village. The village itself is small and quaint with a number of fish tavernas and cafes or you can swim in the sheltered bay. The Kouros is well worth seeing and is located on the road above the town with signs pointing the way. See my Apollonas page.

There are two more similar kouros statues at Myloi in the Melanes valley near the ancient quarry. In the town of Moni is the Monastery of Panagia Drosiani, built in the 6th century with a roof made of field stone and some interesting Byzantine frescos. The town of Komiaki is the highest village on the island and is famous for being where kitron, the local liqueur originated. The town and surrounding areas is covered with vines and the cool mountain air makes it a very enjoyable place to walk.

Village of Eggares, NaxosThe town and area of Eggares is large lush valley filled with kalamia, the reeds that are found all over the island as well as the citron groves to produce the drink for which Naxos is known. There is a monastery-tower built in the 1600's on the coastal road to Amiti Bay. There are several quiet beaches in this area and further along the road to Apollonos is another medieval tower in the area called Agia.

If you hurry you can see the whole island in a day. But because the roads are narrow and winding, hurrying is not advised and by cramming everything into one day you will miss a lot. It is best to plan on several days of exploring and break the island up into sections. While exploring Naxos you will discover that it is really a big area and you can sometimes feel like you are traveling around remote areas of the Peloponessos or the mainland rather than one of the Cyclades islands.

Car Rentals
Elias Manoua is the owner of Swift Rent-a-Car in Athens and works with car rental companies all over Greece and can assist you in finding the car you want at a reasonable price. Great prices and good cars.

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