The largest island in the Cyclades, Naxos is known for its varied and mountainous scenery, stunning beaches, crystal clear waters, picturesque villages, rich ancient history, and unspoilt natural beauty. Discover the best things to do in Naxos in this guide.
I’ve spent time on many of the Greek islands, and Naxos is definitely one of my favourites. It’s much less touristy than some of the other islands nearby, (read: Mykonos, Santorini, etc.), but no less stunning.
There are so many places to see in Naxos; it’s a perfect destination to visit. Whether you plan to visit Naxos for a short break, or an extended holiday, you’ll find a wealth of sights, activities, and experiences to enjoy.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Naxos.
1. Hike to the Top of Mount Zas
Mount Zas is the tallest peak on Naxos and the highest point in the Cyclades; offering incredible 360-degree views out over Naxos and the surrounding islands.
According to Greek mythology, Mount Zas is where the god Zeus was born and raised.
There are several different trails to the top, but the one that’s the best paved and easiest to follow starts near the village of Filoti, about 30 minutes from Naxos Town by car. Enter “Saint Marina Holy Chapel” into Google Maps to locate the start point.
The hike to the summit and back takes 3 – 4 hours, depending on how long you spend at the top. It’s best attempted either early in the morning, or later on in the afternoon to avoid the heat of the day. This is especially true during the summer when high temperatures and relentless sun can make the trek much more arduous.
Be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat. There isn’t much shade once you get out of the trees near the start of the hike. The views from the top are simply stunning though, and definitely worth the effort.
If you’re keen on doing some physical activities in Naxos, don’t miss this amazing hike. I did it last year and it’s definitely one of my favourite things to do in Naxos, Greece. I only saw a handful of other people on the mountain, and shared the summit with a couple of eagles soaring overhead – a really incredible moment.
2. Catch Sunset at the Portara (One of the Most Iconic Things to do in Naxos)
The ancient Portara, a colossal marble “gateway”, overlooks the port of Naxos. It’s the best known landmark on the island, and is emblematic of Naxos. Built between 530 – 506 BC, the Portara is the only part that remains of the unfinished Temple of Apollo.
It’s a very special landmark that features in a fair amount of Greek mythology as it was seen as a portal to the gods.
Whilst it’s still impressive during the day, sunset is the best time to visit the Portara when it’s lit up with bright floodlights and the archway frames the setting sun – it’s one of the most amazing sights in the Cyclades, and one of the best free things to do in Naxos.
The Portara is an easy 10 minute walk from the centre of Naxos Town, just past the harbour, via a little causeway.
3. Visit the Venetian Castle in Naxos Town
The Venetian Castle is one of the most popular attractions in Naxos Town. It was built by the Venetians in the 13th century, and was used as a fortress to protect the town from pirates and invaders.
Today, the castle is open to the public, and offers stunning views over the town and harbour. There are a few small museums inside the castle walls explaining some of the rich history of Naxos and its importance in local folklore and ancient mythology.
Opening hours vary depending on the season, but it’s usually open from 9am – 5pm.
4. Enjoy Naxos’ Stunning Beaches
Naxos is well known for its beautiful beaches, and there are plenty to choose from.
Agios Prokopios is a long sandy beach with crystal clear waters, while Agia Anna is a smaller beach with many cafes, bars, tavernas, and places to stay.
Both beaches are easy to access from Naxos Town, either by jumping on a public bus, or hiring a car or bicycle.
A little further south, Plaka Beach is another great option. It’s fairly popular, however the beach’s large size means it’s usually possible to walk a little way along the beach and find a secluded spot.
If you’d like to visit several of these beaches as part of a guided/self-guided e-bike tour, this highly rated company can help you organise everything.
5. Go Scuba Diving
Scuba diving is one of the best things to do in Naxos, and there are many dive centres on the island offering lessons and guided dives.
This is a fun and exciting way to explore the underwater world, and with over 50 dive sites around Naxos, there’s plenty to see. There are reefs, shipwrecks, caves, and a wealth of marine life all waiting to be discovered.
If you’ve never dived before, don’t worry – most dive centres offer beginner lessons. Once you’ve completed a few dives and are comfortable with the basics, you can start exploring some of the more advanced dive sites.
Scuba diving is a great activity, and even if you have non-divers in your group, they can still join in the fun by snorkelling.
Check out this top-rated scuba diving school that offers guided dives for all abilities.
6. Explore the Island’s Picturesque Villages
Naxos is home to a number of charming villages, each with its own unique atmosphere.
One of the most popular places to visit in Naxos is Apeiranthos, a village located in the mountains near the centre of the island. This traditional Greek village is known for its picturesque whitewashed houses, winding streets, and stunning views.
Most of the main villages in Naxos are connected by local buses, so it’s fairly straightforward to reach them even if you don’t have your own car.
Alternatively, you can take a small-group tour of some of the island’s smaller villages off-the-beaten-track. Click here for more information.
7. Cycle Through Beautiful Countryside
One of the best ways to explore Naxos is by bicycle, and there are plenty of great cycling routes to choose from.
If you’re looking for an easy ride, head to the west coast of the island where you’ll find flat, coastal roads. For a more challenging ride, try one of the biking trails in the mountainous interior of the island.
There are many places to hire bicycles on the island, and most hotels and guesthouses will be able to organize bike rental for you.
Alternatively, you can take a guided bike tour. This is a great option if you’re not as confident cycling in unfamiliar places, or if you can’t decide what to see in Naxos. The tour leader will know the best routes and can offer useful tips along the way. Click here for more information and to book.
8. Sample the Delicious Local Cuisine
Naxos is known for its delicious food, and there are plenty of great places to eat on the island.
For a traditional Naxian meal, head to a taverna, either in Naxos Town, or in one of the villages. Here you’ll find plenty of local specialities, including stuffed zucchini blossoms, chicken stew, cheese pie, and incredible fresh seafood.
Wandering the backstreets of Naxos Town, day or night, you’ll encounter a huge range of food to try from people offering fresh local ingredients, and prepared delicacies from little stalls. Come hungry – it’s an amazing experience.
You can also join a guided food tour, which will teach you more about the history of the island and its cuisine. Click here to learn more.
9. Do a Professional Photoshoot
Naxos Town is incredibly picturesque. With its traditional whitewashed architecture, atmospheric backstreets, fountains, polished steps, and colourful flowers, it’s a photographer’s dream.
But sometimes it’s nice just to explore and enjoy being in the present, whilst somebody else shoots some amazing photos to capture your time there. Even better if that person is a professional photographer.
This photoshoot tour would be perfect for solo travellers, families, or couples who want to be all together in some of their favourite holiday snaps.
10. Shop for Traditional Handicrafts
Some of the best places to shop for traditional handicrafts in Naxos are the villages of Apeiranthos, Filoti, and Moutsouna. Each of these villages has its own selection of handicraft shops, and you’ll find a variety of different items for sale including pottery, jewellery, and textiles.
If you’d like to see some of these items being made, head to the Pottery Limpertas Manolis, in Damalas. Here you can watch the potters at work and purchase some of their creations.
Naxos is famous for its ancient marble quarries, and marble sculpting was one of the earliest known artisan activities in Naxos. Even today many handicrafts, sculptures, and other pieces of artwork feature this beautiful stone.
To try your hand at the ancient skill of marble carving, check out this tour run by a local sculptor.
11. Take a Day Trip to One of the Neighboring Islands
Naxos is surrounded by a number of beautiful neighboring islands, all of which are worth exploring.
Some of the best known islands include Mykonos, Santorini, and Paros. Mykonos is known for its lively nightlife, and Santorini for its dramatic volcanic scenery and stunning whitewashed buildings clinging to the side of volcanic cliffs. If you’re looking for some culture, Paros is home to a number of ancient Greek temples.
Many of the other islands around Naxos are equally as beautiful, and significantly less crowded, (and cheaper). My favourite is Ano Koufonisi, which is both small and wonderfully undeveloped.
The best way to explore these neighbouring islands is by boat, and there are many different trips available. For example, this full-day sailing cruise will take you to explore some of the Small Cyclades islands.
12. Visit the Ancient Ruins of Delos
The ancient ruins of Delos are a must-see for history buffs visiting Naxos. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to a number of ancient ruins, including the Temple of Apollo, and the House of Dionysus.
To get to Delos, you’ll need to take a ferry from the port of Naxos Town. There are a number of ferries that run throughout the day and the journey takes around 30 minutes.
Once you arrive on the island, you’ll need around four hours to explore the ruins. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, as there’s a fair amount of walking involved.
Overall, Delos is an interesting site to visit and provides a fascinating glimpse into Ancient Greek culture.
It’s also possible to visit Delos as part of an organized group tour from Naxos. Click here for more information.
13. Go Windsurfing or Sailing
Naxos is the perfect place to go windsurfing or sailing, with its breezy coastline, calm waters and stunning scenery.
The best time to go windsurfing or sailing is during the summer months when the weather is warm and sunny. Pack plenty of water and sunscreen though as you’ll be spending a lot of time in the sun.
You can hire windsurfing gear and little sailing dinghies from either Naxos Town or the above-mentioned beaches.
Alternatively, book a spot on one of the many sailing cruises that run throughout the tourist season – roughly May to September. Click here to learn more.
14. Visit a Winery
Outside of Greece, it can be difficult to find good quality, reasonably-priced Greek wine. Happily though, on Naxos this isn’t a problem.
Although the island doesn’t produce as much wine as neighbouring Paros, Naxos is home to a few different wineries that make excellent wine. Most also offer wine tasting and tours too.
These tours take you on a journey through the winery’s history; from the planting of vines, all the way to the bottling of the final product. You’ll have a chance to see the wine making process up close, and learn about the different types of grapes that are used.
And at the end, you can taste and buy a range of different local wines, most of which are excellent. Overall, this is a great way to learn about wine making and sample some local wines. If you like wine, it’s one of the best things in Naxos to do.
For a traditional Naxian wine tasting experience, check out this tour which takes place at the Saint Anna Winery and showcases some of the best wines produced on the island – their dessert wines are particularly delicious!
If you’re not into wine, check out this distillery experience where you’ll sample local liquors and enjoy local snacks as well.
15. Hire a Car and go on a Road Trip
The best way to experience all that Naxos has to offer is by doing a road trip. The captivating coastal road is a great way to see the island, and there are many different villages and beaches to explore.
My favourite circular route, (and one that I definitely recommend as one of the best Naxos activities), is: Naxos Town > Filoti > Apollonas > Kampos > Naxos Town. The scenery, particularly around the northern and north-west coasts of the island, is simply jaw-dropping.
The island’s major roads are generally well-maintained and easy to drive on. However, some of the smaller mountain roads in the interior are very steep and winding, and there isn’t always a barrier between the edge of the road, and a steep drop, so take it easy!
There are several car rental agencies on the island, and most of them offer competitive rates. I usually compare prices using an aggregator to find the best value on offer.
FAQs About Naxos
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about visiting Naxos.
Is Naxos worth visiting?
Yes. Naxos is a beautiful island with a lot to offer visitors. From its dramatic cliffs to its sandy beaches, there’s something for everyone in Naxos.
If you’re looking for an amazing Greek island getaway, without the crowds that swarm to some of the more popular destinations, Naxos is definitely worth visiting.
How many days do you need in Naxos?
3 – 4 days is a good amount of time to explore Naxos, although it depends largely on what you want to do during your stay.
If you’re looking to see as much of the island as possible, then 5 days or more may be best for you. However, if you just want to relax on the beach and see some of Naxos Town, then 2 – 3 days should be plenty.
Personally, I could spend weeks there.
Where to stay in Naxos?
If you’re looking for a quiet and relaxing holiday, then I’d recommend staying in one of the villages outside of Naxos Town. If you want to be closer to the action, Naxos Town is the best place to stay.
Whichever part of the island you visit, you’ll find a range of different accommodation options available, including apartments, villas, and hotels to suit all budgets.
A couple of good Airbnbs are:
- Budget: This apartment with an amazing view in the village of Koronos
- Mid-Range: This beautiful apartment in Naxos Town
☞ SEE ALSO: 15 Best Airbnbs in Naxos, Greece
How to get to Naxos?
There are a few different ferry companies that offer services to Naxos, including Aegean Speed Lines, Blue Star Ferries, and Hellenic Seaways. The journey from Athens to Naxos takes around 5 hours.
If you’re travelling from another island in Greece, there are many ferry routes that connect Naxos with the other islands. It’s fairly common to visit Naxos as part of a wider trip exploring the Cyclades.
I recommend using Ferry Hopper to search for cheap fares for trips to and from Naxos.
The island does also have a tiny airport with daily flights to Athens. This might be a good option if you are very pressed for time. But personally, I always prefer to take the ferry as it’s much more relaxing and you can sit out on the deck and take in the gorgeous scenery on the way.
Now You Know What to Do in Naxos
Naxos is a stunningly beautiful island with something for everyone.
There are so many things to do on the island; from beaches to wine tastings, ancient ruins to road trips. No matter what your budget, or requirements are, there’s sure to be something that suits you in Naxos.
What are your top things to do in Naxos, Greece?
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