Naxos: The quietly traditional heart of the Cyclades islands


Mike Andrew photo of a lane in Naxos Town

Shops line a narrow lane in the historic Old Market district of Naxos Town. Photo by Mike Andrew.


Sitting at the heart of the Aegean, can the unassuming and traditionally minded Naxos hold its own against its cosmopolitan neighbours?


Guest post by James Andrew

The shutters bang and clatter against the window. The howling, whistling noises coming from outside are more than a little disconcerting. The meltemi, the strong warming wind that blows constantly through the Aegean at this time of year, is definitely strong today.

Looking out of our villa window at the large, agriculturally rich fields, curious, twisted rock formations and, in the distance, the somewhat foreboding Mount Zas silhouetted against the dusk skyline, this all feels slightly alien. Certainly it’s a world away from the cosmopolitan and touristy island of Santorini from which we caught the ferry earlier in the day. No, this is very different. This is the much less visited and certainly less known island of Naxos.

Positioned at the heart of the Cycladic (or White) Islands, Naxos sits somewhat oddly next to its much-lauded neighbours Santorini, Mykonos and Paros. Whilst the island has gradually been building a fan base amongst Greece afficionados in the know, it still remains defiantly off the main cruise routes. Its main port in Naxos Town sees the arrival of daily ferries but no towering cruise ship behemoths like the ones that anchor in Santorini’s caldera.

The highest peak in the Cyclades, Mount Zas dominates the island. Breaking from the image of barren, volcanic lunar landscapes one most associates with this area of Greece, Naxos is blessed by nature. Green and verdant throughout, it defies convention. So, how would this island that lacks Santorini’s chic, polished veneer and Mykonos’ cool, hipster vibe reveal itself? Can it compete with its upmarket neighbours? We cracked the rattling shutters open and stepped into the wind to find out.


Fish Olive Creations Facebook page photo of Mount Zas on Naxos

A view of Mount Zas, Filoti village and Halki village (bottom). Photo by the Fish & Olive Creations art gallery and shop in Halki.


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  1. Willie Willming

    March 23, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Jamie: A wonderful description of the Greek Island and your love for travel and adventure. Also great photos by Mike! I shall send this article on to others to enjoy. Cheers, Willie & Ed

  2. Well done! My 12 trips to Greece since ’99 have included 13 stays on Naxos … so you KNOW how I feel about it… Jamie your trip was way off season, but even in May & June, Naxos retains its relaxed serene feeling inland, and even in tourist areas … as the sun lowers over the horizon, talk hushes, people sit and gaze. In my little corner market, the eggs are not in cartons; they’re brought in every morning from the farm, heaped in a basket on the Counter. Under the huge old Plantana tree in Filoti “square,” the priest plays checkers with a mustachio’d retiree. At the beach, swimmers look up as the (small, prop) plane — 3 per day — heads for the (tiny) airport. May it be ever thus.

  3. Traditional of course !! But quietly? the half of the island maybe!

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