But since it’s a large island with extensive coastline, Naxos also has its share of rugged beaches that won’t appeal to the masses. One example is Stelida (also known as Hohlakas), a quiet sandy beach in an area on the northwest tip of the island named after the 151-meter peak — Stelida — that rises above the coast.
Although the Stelida area is a popular place to stay, offering dozens of accommodation options including hotels, studios and villas, it’s best known for gorgeous Agios Prokopios beach, which sweeps along the island’s southwest coast in a long, wide arc more than a kilometer long. In fact, Agios Prokopios is one of the three most popular beaches on Naxos, along with St George’s and Plaka. By comparison, very few visitors bother venturing to Hohlakas on the northeast side of Stelida. My Naxos travel guidebooks don’t even list Stelida in their beach directories!
Signs on a road in Stelida point the way to local hotels and restaurants
A view of Stelida mountain from coastal rock formations at the south end of Agia Anna beach. Agios Prokopios beach, one of the most popular strands on Naxos, is the long strip of light brown sand that sweeps completely across the upper third of the photo.
A rugged, wind-swept beach at the base of Stelida mountain
Although it’s fairly secluded and serene, Hohlakas is a a rugged, wind-swept strand that looks a little scruffy and rough around the edges. It will never be one of the island’s “must-see” beaches; nevertheless, it’s an ideal spot to escape the tourist crowds for some private alone time, to do a bit of sunbathing, or just to enjoy some superb views of Naxos Town while watching ships and ferries come and go from the port. (The views are many times better from a hotel access road partway up the northeast side of Stelida mountain, above the beach, so it’s well worth the trek to head up there for a look.)
We discovered Stelida/Hohlakas beach during our first visit to Naxos in 2005. We were staying at the Naxos Beach II hotel in Stelida (recently renamed Naxos Magic Village), and asked the reception staff how we could get to the nearest beach. They told us that while Stelida was only a 5-minute walk away at the bottom of the hill below the hotel, they recommended we go instead to Agios Prokopios, about 20 minutes’ walking distance in the other direction, because it was a much nicer beach. We decided to check out Stelida first since it was close by, so we walked down the hill, making our way down a dusty dirt road that appears to lead right into the sea.
To our surprise, the beach was almost vacant — only two other people were there, sunbathing on towels near the far right-hand side of the beach. But we quickly discovered why the place wasn’t busier. Book-ended by rocky cliffs on both sides, and blasted by strong winds and waves, Hohlakas looks a tad rough-hewn and scruffy, and doesn’t feel particularly comfortable and inviting. And while it boasts a long stretch of soft clean sand, large swaths of the beach are covered in pebbles and stones, while boulders and large rocks in the shallow water discourage wading and swimming.
Stelida mountain looms large in the background in this view from the pool at the Naxos Beach II Hotel (now called Naxos Magic Village), the first place we stayed at on Naxos
A view of Naxos Town from the Naxos Beach II hotel. Stelida beach, 150 meters below the hotel, is partially visible toward the bottom right corner of the photo.
The dirt road that leads down the hill to Stelida beach
The lower hillside behind the beach. Stelida mountain rises off to the left.
From this perspective, the beach road appears to run right into the sea
Looking across the right-hand side of the beach
Another view of the beach, looking to the right
Looking across the left side of the beach
Fresh sea air and sound of waves felt invigorating
We didn’t spend as much time at Stelida beach as we had anticipated. Although the sound and rhythm of big waves breaking against the beach felt invigorating, the incessant wind made our ears ache, and at times we could barely hear each other speak. But we couldn’t complain about the tremendous views and scenery. We could see Naxos Town on the east side of St George’s Bay, and the faint outlines of other islands straight ahead in the distance. Ships and ferries slipped into and out of the Naxos port, while sailboats, catamarans and windsurfers silently plied the waters far off to our right. Most intriguing of all were the fascinating colours of the bay and sea, which ranged from vivid emerald green to varying shades of turquoise and deep cobalt blue.
When the strong wind started spraying sand in our faces, we decided to move on to Agios Prokopios. But we could see how Stelida/Hohlakas would appeal to someone seeking solitude, or just a few hours of quiet reading or sunbathing on a less breezy day.
We visited Naxos twice more after that, staying on the Agios Prokopios side of Stelida mountain both times. On each of those trips, we either walked or bicycled back to Hohlakas to check out the views, listen to the waves, and watch as the sea colour changed with subtle shifts in the winds and the angle of the sun. For most holiday makers (especially those with families), the beach probably would disappoint, and wouldn’t be worth a visit. But since swimming and sunbathing aren’t vacation priorities for us, we appreciated the beach’s breathtaking views and the rugged natural setting.
Looking toward Cape Mougri — the point that juts into the Aegean Sea at the northwest tip of Stelida — from a rocky section of the beach
Choppy seas off Cape Mougri at the northwest tip of Stelida. Mountains on nearby Paros island provide a backdrop.
A row of umbrellas and lounge chairs on the beach. A sign says they are reserved for the exclusive use of guests of Villa Marandi Suites, but we’ve never seen anyone use them.
The loungers are located on the stoney section of the beach, but there is a long stretch of soft brown sand that’s comfortable to walk along in bare feet at the water’s edge
Looking out to sea from the middle section of the beach
Looking across the left side of the beach, toward the headland below Stelida mountain
Waves break against huge boulders in the sea several dozen meters from the beach
Naxos Town on the northeast side of St George’s Bay
A telephoto view of Naxos Town across the bay
Another view of Naxos Town across the bay. A sandy beach extends from the town to nearly halfway around St George’s Bay. The shallow waters make the Town beach a popular destination for families with young children.
Windsurfers test their skills in St George’s Bay. Several water sports centers on St George’s beach rent equipment and provide sailing and windsurfing instruction.
Quiet, peaceful area 4 km from Naxos Town
Although Hohlakas isn’t a destination beach, Stelida is still a good place to stay while visiting Naxos — particularly for those who enjoy peace and quiet and don’t want to stay near the hustle & bustle of busy Naxos Town.
The biggest drawback to the area is that it’s about 4 kilometers from Naxos Town, and the closest restaurants are several tavernas at the northwest end of Agios Prokopios beach– a 20-minute (or longer) walk from most accommodations in the area. (There are many more restaurants as well as minimarkets, a gas station, grocery store, car rental agency, travel office and laundromat in the main resort area at the opposite end of Agios Prokopios beach, but that’s over a half-hour walk away.) Most hotels do have their own restaurants, though; when we stayed at Naxos Beach II, we enjoyed a delicious barbecue and buffet dinner held on the swimming pool terrace at sunset.
Stelida isn’t totally isolated, however. Local buses pass through the district once per hour on the Naxos Town – Agios Prokopios route. But the distance won’t be an issue for travellers who rent vehicles during their Naxos holidays since the drive into Naxos Town takes less than 10 minutes, and Agios Prokopios is only a couple of minutes away. Mountain bike rentals offer another convenient — and considerably less expensive — alternative for travelling to and from Town and the southwest coast beaches. We have rented a car on Naxos only once in three visits, and that was just to take a day-long drive around the island. We have rented mountain bikes twice, and were surprised at how quickly we could reach the town and beaches by bike. And when we didn’t have bikes at our disposal, we walked everywhere — even to Naxos Town (roughly an hour’s hike, most of which is along the east side of St George’s Bay. When it was time to return to our hotel late at night, we took a taxi, which cost around €10.)
Since it’s uphill all the way from Agios Prokopios to Stelida, walking back to a hotel after dinner at a taverna in the resort area is a great way to burn off the calories from a hearty meal of delicious Greek food, wine and rakomelo. But the roads are poorly lit and don’t have sidewalks, so it’s recommended to carry a flashlight and step out of the way of approaching vehicles.
A view of Agios Prokopios beach and the south side of Stelida mountain
A view of Stelida from Agios Prokopios beach
A view of Stelida mountain from the Portara peninsula at Naxos Town
Approaching Stelida on road from Naxos Town to Agios Prokopios beach …
… and looking back in the other direction. The road passes between St George’s Bay (out of view near the middle left area of the photo) and the Naxos airport (also out of view, off to the middle right hand side of the picture)
A view of Stelida beach and Naxos Town from a road on the northeast side of the mountain
Big waves wash ashore on a windy afternoon
While we were viewing the scenery and taking photos, two men on mountain bikes rode down to the beach to check it out. They left only a couple of minutes later, as almost everyone tends to do when they see Stelida beach.
Another view of the Villa Marandi sunbeds and the totally-deserted beach
Accommodations range from studios to high-end luxury villas and hotels
There are plenty of places to stay in the Stelida area, with options ranging from budget-priced studios to affordable hotels to villas and luxury “boutique” properties. Accommodations on the hillside directly above Stelida beach include Paravatos Studios, the upscale Villa Marandi Suites, the Mediterranean Hotel, the Golden Sun Hotel, the aforementioned Naxos Beach II/Naxos Magic Village hotel (which, by the way, has undergone a major renovation and sprucing-up since we stayed there) and, even higher up the mountainside with the best vistas of all, the aptly-named Dream View Hotel. Also a short walk from Stelida beach is the Naxos Palace Hotel.
Accommodations on the Agios Prokopios side of Stelida include the reasonably-priced Lianos Village, where we have stayed twice, the Kavos Hotel villas and suites, where we have stayed once, and the 5-star Naxos Imperial Resort & Spa. The Pirgos Stelida Hotel sits on the west side of Stelida, facing Paros island. There are many more places to stay — last time we visited Naxos in 2009, Stelida was experiencing a veritable building boom, with numerous new hotels and villas under construction just on the hillside above the beach, with even more accommodations being built in the immediate vicinity and elsewhere in the Agios Prokopios area .
Another view of the beach, bay and Naxos Town
Stelida hillside view toward Mykonos and other nearby islands
Giant mounds of fragrant wild herbs and other plants blanket the gentle slope of the Stelida hillside behind the beach
Beach view of Naxos Beach II hotel on the hillside
A view from the sea of the Villa Marandi Suites (foreground) and a new hotel complex under construction higher up the hillside
Another sea view of Villa Marandi Suites, which I shot from the deck of a ferry that was bringing us to Naxos from Amorgos
A view of Villa Marandi from the road leading down the hill to Stelida beach
Stelida mountain rises behind the Naxos Beach II hotel, seen here from the beach road
A sailboat at anchor off Stelida beach. Another hotel is under construction on the hillside.
A sailboat passes Stelida beach in the golden glow of the setting sun
Below is a brief videoclip of Stelida beach, as well as links to two of my online Flickr albums; one contains photos of Stelida beach and views from the hillside above it, while the other includes photos of the Stelida area in general. To view photos of the Naxos Beach II/Naxos Magic Village Hotel, see my posts from September 1 2011, August 19 2011, and June 3 2011. Pics of some of the more popular beaches on Naxos, including Agios Prokopios, Plaka, Agia Anna and Mikri Vigla, can be viewed in my November 6 2012 post.
Above is a brief videoclip of waves breaking against Stelida beach on a windy afternoon
Above is my Stelida beach album on Flickr. Click once on the image to view a small-format slideshow, or click twice to access the online album and view full-size photos with captions.
Above is my Stelida sights and scenes album on Flickr. Double-click on the image to open the album and view full-size photos with captions.