Next stop on our Greek Island trip was one that I was looking forward to the most. I had heard of Mykonos, as it had become very popular travel destination, but we wanted to jump a little into the unknown on this trip. Looking for something a little more low key, less jetsetter and luxurious, but having enough to explore and keeping it a nice beach vacation, we settled on Naxos for the next stop. It had an old town, mountain villages, and plenty of nice beaches to visit.
Coincidentally, after settling on a Naxos itinerary for 5 days, it turned out to be directly south and a short ferry ride from Mykonos. The Greek ferry experience was interesting. Booked with one ferry operator, Golden Star Ferries, and were given tickets for another operator, Seajets. Sounded like we were rebooked, as our original ferry operator notified me that they weren’t running anymore that weekend. Fortunately, the concierge at the Branco understood the issue and took care of everything by calling the ferry operator. Even went out and got us the tickets the day before. The Branco driver dropped us off at the port, early as always, and we waited for our ferry to show up. Definitely confused as a Golden Star Ferry pulled up first.
Seajets ferry was a smooth ride, with plenty of seats. After 40 minutes we pulled right up to the port of Naxos and made our way to somewhere we could get Wifi to get in touch with our AirBnB host. We got a standard introduction to the area, recommendations on things to do and where to rent a car, then we were walked over to the apartment. Immediately after ducking off the main road into the old town, I was lost. We were taken through a restaurant courtyard, a few winding back streets, and somehow made our way to the door of the apartment. Completely turned around. I was very surprised by the place. Much bigger than I thought it would be, with a full living room, eat in kitchen, and separate bedroom. Even included a welcome kit with olive oil, honey, and jam, some Greek yogurt for breakfast, and bottled water.
What was most appealing about the place was the location. We were right in the middle of old town, down one of the many maze alleyway-like streets throughout the city. We got lost making our way back to the real estate management company to pick up a forgotten hat. Decided to make the best our short time of remaining daylight and explored around our immediate area, including the walk up to Apollo’s temple and the harbor. Saw some of the best sunsets that night before we dove back into the old town streets to get lost again.
I had gotten a recommendation for the Flamingo Restaurant from a neighbor who called Naxos his favorite Greek island. Got a seat on the outdoor roof terrace.
Naturally, I had to go full ocean meal; octopus and squid. Those with a spiteful distaste of seafood were in luck, as the lamb kleftiko turned out to be the better dish.
Finished off the meal with some complimentary dessert shots.
Still trying to fit in as much as we could our first day in Naxos, we explored the old town streets, getting lost in the process. Made it up to the highest point in town at the Castle of Naxos to see the city at night, before crashing for the evening.
A few video clips of our first Naxos sunset and a walkthrough of the apartment.
Our first full day in Naxos was kind of all over the place when it came to planning anything. Getting lost in the Castle old town streets at night made us want to experience the excitement of this place during the daytime. We made the same hike through the tiny streets back up to the castle and grabbed some coffee with a view. Once there, the realization set in that we had seen these same streets and views already set in, and decided to make the most of a full day by motivating to see some of the mountain towns that were on our list.
We rushed back down to the port and caught an 11am bus to the mountain towns, making our first stop at the marble town of Aperanthios. Other than the several cafes located on the first street at the bottom of the town right near the bus stop, there weren’t too many people in this town. The narrow stairs and pathways throughout the city were similar to the Old Town, except everything was made of marble. While catching a few more pictures wandering around, we ended up running into a worker on a donkey coming back town one of the stair pathways.
Grabbed beer and lunch with one of the better Greek salads we had on the trip, all the while warding off bees which were rampant on this one street, before catching the bus back down the mountain.
Chalki was the next town we stopped at. I really enjoyed the sunny mountain village vibes with the old stone architecture of these places. The town was only a few streets with shops and cafes. Took a quick tour of the Vallindras Kitron Distillery with a few samples of the Kitron liqueur. Had my first Greek coffee, appreciated the picturesque “bug and tree” situation in the town center, then we headed out on a hike from the town to the surrounding villages that was displayed on one of the maps. Our translation of the signs, as well as interpreting roads vs. property divider fences/paths, was probably not accurate, as we ended up hiking for over an hour and getting lost, on what was supposed to be a 20 minute circle. Luckily we found our way back to the bus to make it out of the mountains late in the afternoon.
Once back, we checked out the Apollo temple, and with some time left in the afternoon we decided to grab another quick bus to the nearest beach, Agios Prokopios, for sunset. We had heard of the Naxos beaches and were not yet sick of the sand from our stay in Mykonos. Bus ride was quick, depositing us in a cool little beach town, with an empty beach for sunset. It was chilly that time of the evening so we didn’t really get a good beach afternoon out of it, but it was nice to see another sunset before heading back home.
Grabbed dinner at Apostolis, the “bicycle” restaurant, on one of the streets right outside our apartment.
Few video clips of the day.
Thursday was one of the few days where we had pre-planned a full day activity. We had decided we would spend the day on a catamaran tour, which was planning three different beach and snorkeling stops. Felt it would give us a good tour of what Naxos beaches were like, and would help us plan our next day if we saw one we really liked. Started with an early breakfast before heading out on the Rena.
With our first stop, we ended up making the trip across the water to Paros to visit Santa Maria beach. Great snorkeling right off the boat. We then went south and stopped at Kalogeros Beach in Paros, famous for it’s clay evidently, where you scrape it off the rocks and rub it all over your skid. Definitely weird. Had to be careful while on the rocks as the waves from the ferries would take you out if you weren’t careful. I couldn’t get over how clear the water was for snorkeling. Final stop was back across the water to Agrios Prokopios beach, where we had visited the day before. During high season, this miles long beach is apparently so full of people, you can’t find a place to sit on the sand. While the boat trip didn’t give us a tour of the southern Naxos beaches that we were expecting, the snorkeling off of Paros definitely made up for it.
Saw another great sunset while grabbing drinks at 520 Cocktail bar. Really got lucky with the Naxos sky colors this trip. I ended up feeling really loopy after the one drink at that place so we decided to head back home before dinner. While walking back, we happened to pass the Flamingo restaurant we had visited previously, and noticed they had an entire garden seating section with live music that we had missed on our first visit. Normally I try not to do repeat places on trips like this, but we felt we had to try this one out. It was a much better experience the second time around, with the music and plate smashing dancing.
Some video clips of the day, including sailing, live Greek music, and dancing.
Our last full day on Naxos, I was determined to get over my unreasonable aversion of driving in foreign countries. I hate driving in general, and one of my last trips to Vietnam where there are absolutely no traffic laws and the city traffic is insane, was still in the back of my mind. After breakfast at one of the waterside cafes, with a poor man’s spinach pie and more Greek coffee, we went straight to the car rental place near our apartment. I was laughing at the daily cost of $30. Most people at the place were paying 4 times as much to rent an ATV or scooter. Assumably telling themselves that’s what they wanted to do, but in reality they probably couldn’t drive a manual transmission. Rental company told us to keep the tank almost empty, just like we received it, and just put in $10 worth for the day. “It’s an island. There’s nowhere to go.”
First stop out of town was one of the largest beaches on the island, Plaka Beach, just south of Agrios Prokopios. Completely blown away by the water color and the soft beach sand. Seemed to stretch for miles in each direction, as we couldn’t see the end in sight. Had to spend at least a half hour there instead of continuing on, just because it was so pretty. It was actually difficult to force ourselves to leave.
Nevertheless, we drove on after our quick stop and proceeded over to Aliko (Hawaii) beach, on the southwest tip of the island. We had to hike through some sand dunes and vegetation before arriving at this small cliff-enclosed spot. Spent some time there as the water was amazing. After a while, again we forced ourselves to trek along to a few other southern spots with the car since we had it, all the while thinking about that first Plaka beach stop.
Driving around to spots along the remaining southern coast, each stop kept us closer and closer to just finally staying in the car and quickly looking out at the coastline, and concluding we would go back to Plaka beach and spend the rest of the afternoon there.
When we made it back to Plaka Beach, we finally stopped at a beach side cafe with dried octopus hanging for an advertisement. Couldn’t get enough this trip. Spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on this amazing beach before heading back to drop off the rental car.
For our last night in Naxos, rather than going out again to another sit-down restaurant, we headed back to the beach area of the town located at the south of old town, and picked up a glass of wine at Soulatso and chicken gyros at Gyro Gyro in Plateia Protodikeiou Circle. Low key dining and people watching. We picked up a slice of orange cake at the Sitári bakery next to the gyro place to enjoy at our last night in our Naxos apartment.
Amazing place to visit. Couldn’t have asked for a better trip. Don’t think I’ll ever get over Plaka beach. Only thing I would have changed about the itinerary was to get over my fear of driving a little sooner.
The next morning, packed up and headed over to the port for our next Seajet ferry to Santorini.