Without wanting to sound overenthusiastic, Naxos is a jewel of an island. It has everything: a pleasantly bustling town, inland villages, some impressive hills and, of course, the beautiful Mediterranean Sea lapping at its shores. Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades, and it is well worth venturing out from your hotel – below is our suggestion for a one-day road trip taking in the island’s highlights. The road is winding and steep in places, but we found the driving fairly stress-free and the roads quiet.
Start in Naxos town. You can either pre-book car hire over the internet or chance it at one of the town’s travel agents – we found a reasonable, fuss-free deal just by walking into one of the travel agents on the seafront.
If you can, set out early so that you can enjoy the stunning Temple of Demeter in solitude. Head towards Vivlos, then Ano Sangri, and follow signs to the temple (the last part of the drive is on rough dirt tracks, but they are in reasonable condition). This stunning marble temple (partially reconstructed) is set in a green valley and dates from the 6th Century BC.
From here, head back to the main road and follow signs to Chalki, the former capital of the island. This traditional little town boasts some lovely Venetian-style architecture and is a good place to stop for a coffee in the town square, or to take a look at Penelope – a shop showcasing the traditional woven goods produced by the owner. A little further along the main road, Filoti is another nice place to stop for a bite to eat.
One of our favourite places on the island was the little village of Apeiranthos (although this is one of the biggest settlements on Naxos, with a population of just over 1000), which is impressively located with views over the valley. We would recommend a stroll through the ancient streets followed by coffee and loukoumades on the lovely terrace at Cafe Samaradiko, which has a fantastic view. There are also a number of museums to have a mooch around – the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Folk Art, the Geological Museum and the Museum of Natural History.
From here, enjoy the drive up further into Naxos’ mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for the tiny chapels perched improbably on either side of the road. Follow signs to our next stop, Apollonas, where the road descends steeply to this quiet seaside resort. There are a few nice waterside restaurants to choose from, and tables are so close to the water that you can watch fish swim up and down while you munch on your souvlaki. There’s also a small beach here which is safe for children (and adults).
One of Apollonas’ and Naxos’ main draws is the gigantic Kouros – half-finished statues still lying there in an ancient marble quarry. It’s a steep (and very hot) walk up from the town, but you can park easily just by the entrance to the site.
From here, it’s a pleasant drive back to Naxos town along the North coast of the island. There are some steep drops and fantastic sea views (but roads are in good condition and we found them a pleasure to drive on), so sit back and enjoy the ride.