A rugged coastline, endless beaches and the remnants of the archaic Cycladic culture make Naxos the most endearing of all islands in the Aegean sea. But that's only scratching the surface! If you look further, you are bound to be surprised by the sheer number of exciting vacation prospects waiting to be explored. Be it the beautiful whitewashed cultural and administration capital city of Naxos Town or the sporty beaches of Plaka and Agios Prokopios or even the old-world charm of its mountainous villages, the island is an out and out winner.
And that has begun to reflect in the footfalls of travellers from all over the globe, who are travelling the extra mile to discover even the most remote spaces of Naxos. Several tourist towns have come up on the busy Western coast, while there also the quieter villages offering a more laid back vacation. With so many available options, deciding where to stay in Naxos, then becomes quite a task. But we are here to with just that; we have listed some of the best neighbourhoods of Naxos and what they might have in store for you traveller!
The island's eponymous capital town or Choro, as it is better known, sits at the western coast of the island and is quite simply a dream. The whitewashed cityscape of Naxos Town and the Venetian charm have become distinctive features; the extensive coastline and a scenic harbour setting only further the city's appeal as a top choice for a majority of the travellers. If you're making your way to the island through the sea route, you will have sweeping views of the city even before you land at the island; local service providers at the town's main small but efficient harbour offers ferry rides and sea expeditions of their own, another fantastic opportunity to discovery Naxos' beautiful coastline.
And moving on the actual island then: the first thing that is likely to catch your eye (other than the immaculate white cityscape) is the ruins of central Venetian castle that sits atop a hillock. The former seat of power is one of the best examples of Venetian architecture in all of Cyclades and its huge complex today offers a variety of museums and historic sites. Even the walk up to the castle is absolutely splendid; you will enjoy finding your way through the meandering paved streets, crossing a handful of beautiful stone arches and of course stopping over at every corner to rummage through the souvenirs at local craft stores in the Old Market. The town also has some of the most sophisticated gastronomy that you'll find on the island as a slew of restaurants and trendy cafes have sprung up, serving both international cuisines and local delicacies.
Finding a nice waterfront hotel or apartment complex should not be too much trouble in Naxos Town; go for a sea-facing room if you're looking forward to waking up to stunning views everyday. The international airport is close and there's obviously the harbour to help with accessibility. Talking of which, just a little out ahead of the harbour is one of the island's most iconic landmarks: the ruins of the Apollo Temple. It is situated on the most extreme tip of the island and has a gigantic stone door, which offers a sunset viewing that you will regret missing!
It might come as a surprise to many, but the most charming part of Naxos are some of its central inland villages and not the busy beach towns. None however can quite match up to the beauty of Filoti, a small semi mountainous town that sits at the foothills of two separate mountain slopes. Filoti really is everything that you can expect from a picture perfect Greek vacation rown; lush surroundings, whitewashed townhouses with moss-covered walls and floral balconies, narrow paved streets lined with terraced cafes and craft shops are all the things that make this town a unique experience on an island where most entertainment prospects revolve around the beaches and a rugged coast.
And even after all of that, there's more to the town. The several churches, the delightful olive orchards and historic landmarks dating back to the island's time under the Franks all come together to lend a cultural heft to the otherwise sleepy hill town. The town's central plaza, Gefyra is home to some of the most picturesque cafes and restaurants in all of Naxos as well as a few great galleries and souvenirs shops. Talking of which, you should also head over to the town of Chalkio (just a short 5 minute ride from Filoti)—which is mostly just an extension of Filoti, just even more winsome. Bougainvillea trees cover the paved streets of this hidden gem of a town, the kind that will make you fall in love with its old world charm. The Fish Olive Gallery is one of the best art galleries in Naxos and is surrounded by equally elegant pastel coloured buildings that are right out of a fairy tale book!
Filoti is about 20 kilometres from Naxos Town and is accessible by road. A regular bus service runs between the two towns but can always hail a private taxi from the airport or the capital city for a more comfortable commuting experience. The town has a number of rental apartments and homestays that offer a very local experience, unique to this beautiful Cycladic village.
Adjacent to the island's Naxos Apollon Airport is the beach-heavy town of Agios Prokopios. Known for its extensive eponymous sandy strip, Agios Prokopios is the top choice for travellers looking for a lazy beachside vacation without having to travel too far out from the island's city centre. The beach itself is great; sparkling blue water and soft sand here provide endless possibilities. You can drop by for a quick game of volleyball or a swimming session or laze around the coastline in the mornings or simply rent a giant umbrella and sunbathe all day long. There are several cafes and eateries lining the beachfront serving some great snacks and coolers. It helps that Agios Prokopios is not the most crowded so you can always find a nice spot, be it at one of the shacks or around the beach.
The neighborhood is also close to another great beach locality, Agio Anna. The small town is centered around a beautiful white church complex that sits not too far away from the smaller but equally seren Agios Anna beach. The family friendly beach has many picnic tables, seafood shacks and a large open air bar to cater to your whim. Much like their counterparts at the Agios Prokopios beach, these waterfront eateries are great to enjoy a fulfilling meal while gazing at the beautiful sea. The appeal for families is only furthered by the presence of a waterpark, Aqua Fun, which besides serving as a fun day out for the children also offers a great many waterslides and a popular restro-bar.
Agios Prokopios has a high concentration of hotels and resorts, second only to the capital of Naxos Town so you will have plenty to choose from. The proximity to the island's capital as well as the airport also makes it ones of the most easily accessible parts of Naxos.
Another great beachside village on the island is Mikri Vigla, located a little south of Agios Prokopios. The small village is known for both sporty beaches (in the north) and its sheltered coves (in the south) that are great for swimming as the nearby hills protect them from gusts of winds, while also providing a picturesque backdrop. The Mikri Vigla and the Limanaki beaches are the major draws but there are a few other smaller bays that are equally stunning. The Mikri Vigla beach, while great for swimming and sunbathing, also offers a few exciting activities including diving as well as a few watersporting prospects including kite surfing. The neighboring areas are known for some great seafood restaurants and traditional pubs; the village also has a small marketplace with a few convenience stores and vendors selling fresh local produce.
The southern beach around the Limanaki bay runs along the coast for about 3 kilometres all the way up to the village of Kastraki and is more sparse. Head over to the soft sandy strip for a more private experience or in search of the odd surfing school, as a handful have sprung up in this part of the island in recent years. Talking about activities to do around Mikri Vigla, the island of Panagia Parthena off of the coast of the village makes for the perfect day outing. The rocky island in the middle of the turquoise sea is a sight to behold in itself, but the real appeal of the island has to be its snorkelling excursions. Service providers can be found in the vicinity of the Mikri Vigla beach; while at the small island, make sure you pay a visit to the spotless white church complex.
Mikri Vigla is about 10 kilometres from the Naxos Town and is easily accessible by road. You can get a taxi to drive you to the village or use the bus service from the city centre. Getting a nice rental apartment close to the bay should be your preferred choice for accommodation in the sleepy town.
Sandwiched between the two bigger beach towns of Agios Prokopios and Mikri Vigla is the quaint and laid-back beach of Plaka. The neighborhood was once known for its nudist beaches, but today that's centred around the southern part of the beach and mostly during the off-season. Plaka is known for its long stretches of sandy strips that are just the perfect venues for long walks and family picnics. There are rental umbrellas and sunbeds for your lazy days; the water is clear and with the sea not being the most boisterous either, swimming is also a popular activity at the beach. The eponymous Plaka beach is the top attraction, but you can always try out the immaculate Orkos and Maragkas beaches as well.
The restaurants in and around Plaka are some of the best to try out local cuisine. The neighborhood has overlooked the mainstream eateries in favour of the home-grown businesses, which serve a wide array of delicious Greek delicacies so make sure you try out as many restaurants as you can. Further inland, the village of Vivlos offers some interesting prospects. A short 10 minute drive from Plaka, Vivlos is home to the historic windmills and a beautiful whitewashed cityscape right in the midst of a lush scenery. A day trip to the village will have you feel lost in the narrow streets of this distinctively Cycladic setting; keep your eyes for the beautiful churches, the village's folklore museum and the local landmark of Ariadne’s Tower.
Accessible by road, Plaka is about 10 kilometres from Naxos Town. It is also fairly close to Agios Prokopios and Agios Anna, which is just northwestern of the beach. There are many hotels and apartment complexes in and around the beach; Plaka even has a camping site for accommodation!
That's our complete list then. Take your pick and start planning your next vacation; a Cycladic dream destination awaits!