While the UK had a bank holiday last week, Greece did not, however old habits die hard so we decided to go on our own mini-break, (there are some people; naming no names who feel are having a permanent holiday – but I promise it was also for work purposes!) Naxos seemed the perfect choice with it’s endless expanse of beaches and sand-dunes you can almost feel that you are in Aberdyfi or Borth! (sorry a bit of my Shropshire childhood there.)
Naxos is the largest of the Cycladean islands and lying pretty much in the centre, means it has the advantage of being close enough to access from all of the other islands including Crete. Whilst not being large in UK terms (it is smaller than Shropshire) it feels positively huge compared to Syros.
The 7am Jet from Syros to Naxos is not my favourite ferry to be honest, not being at my best first thing in the morning, and unlike Brian I find it incredibly difficult to just put my head down and sleep,
I love it when the ferry pulls in to Naxos town, as one of the views is to Naxos’s most famous landmark The Portara. The Portara is all that remains of a temple, the construction of which was started by the tyrant Lygdamis around 530 BC. Whilst most scholars believe was intended to be a temple dedicated to Apollo others argue it was dedicated to Dionysus (I will get back to him later). The Portara is linked to the town by a man-made causeway, a walk definitely worth doing according to Brian (in my defence the day he walked up there was very hot and I was quite happy to sit and watch the world go by with a cold coffee!)
After establishing the moped had made the journey with no new scratches (that’s another story completely), and having breakfast in our favourite café in the port, we checked in to the beach resort of Mikri Vgila the area where most kite and windsurfing in Naxos can be found.
We definitely chose the right accommodation, a lovely two-bedroom studio with everything you could need, including a kettle – which I find vital! A large sheltered balcony (definitely great with the gusts!) and the most comfortable bed I have slept on for a long time.
I must add the weather conditions the day we arrived for kite and wind surfing were perfect, it was to put it mildly, gusty.
Naxos’s west coast is one long beach and from the busy beaches of Agia Anna, Agios Prokopios the further south you head the quieter they seem to get. We spent time at Plaka beach which although busy had plenty of available space. We did not go just to spend time on the beach, although I think this is perfectly acceptable on holiday (which yet again I need to stress we were not ) 🙂
Stepping away from the beach (something you may have gathered that I find incredibly difficult to do!) We set off on the moped to visit the interior town of Chaliki, stopping off on the way at the ancient Temple of Demeter near Sangri and walking up to the medieval church of Agios Nikolaos (see I do walk!) which dates back to 1270, unfortunately it was not open meaning we could not view the frescos inside, however it was worth it for the magnificent views and the feeling of tranquillity.
We then made a detour (well Brian saw a sign!) to Bazeos Tower, the former monastery of Timios Stavros. It is currently hosting a contemporary art exhibition called Phantasma; the goat bell installation on the top level is acoustically perfect for its setting especially as we were the only people visiting.
Chalki is situated in the fertile central region of Tragea which contains numerous olive groves and at one time was the capital of island. It is a pretty town with many neo-classical buildings and Byzantine Churches some dating as far back as the 7th century, we visited two of these Churches both of which had incredible frescos.
Chalki is also famous for the Vallindras Distillery which produces Kitron a liqueur unique to Naxos which has been produced in Chalki since 1896. You can visit the distillery for free and see how the Kitron is produced and even sample it (they also produce their own variety of Ouzo) but guess what we didn’t (yes, I missed a distillery, we just ran out of time!) We did however buy a bottle of the yellow variety which I have since found out it the strongest, not that I have tried it yet!
Driving through the middle of Naxos you notice how fertile and green it is with fields of crops and farms. This explains how Naxos is blessed with good food and wine, no wonder the ancients worshipped Dionysus I told you we would get back to him didn’t I!
Three days are not enough to visit Naxos, and I feel yet again we have barely scratched the surface. So, here’s to our next trip!