Area of island: 445 sq. km/172 sq. miChief town: NáxosNáxos, the largest and most beautiful of the Cyclades, is traversed from north to south by a range of hills which fall away steeply on the east but slope down gradually on the west into fertile rolling country and well-watered plains.
The hills rise to a height of 1,003m/3291ft in Mt Zas (ancient Drios) and are cut by two passes. The economy of the island has depended since ancient times on agriculture, marble-quarrying, emery-mining and the recovery of salt from the sea, which have brought it a considerable degree of prosperity. With its limited hotel resources, the island is not yet equipped to cope with mass tourism, but it has much to offer visitors - an equable climate, a wide variety of scenery and monuments of antiquity and the Middle Ages.Náxos was a center of the cult of Dionysos. It was here, according to the legend, that Theseus abandoned Ariadne.There is much archeological evidence to show that the island was first settled by Carians and Cretans and developed a flourishing Cycladic culture in the third and second millennia B.C. In the first millennium these first settlers were followed by Ionian Greeks, who in the sixth century B.C. extended their rule over Páros, Ándros and other neighboring islands. During this period there was a celebrated school of sculptors on Náxos, notable for such works as the colossal statue of Apollo on Delos. A member of the first Attic maritime league, Náxos became subject to Athens after an unsuccessful rising and was compelled to accept the redistribution of land on the island to Athenian citizens. In spite of this it became a member of the second Attic maritime league. After being held by Macedon it passed under Egyptian rule, was briefly assigned to Rhodes by Mark Antony and thereafter became part of the Byzantine Empire.In 1207 Náxos was occupied by a Venetian nobleman, Marco Sanudo, who made it capital of the duchy of the Twelve Islands (duchy of Náxos), which flourished until 1566. It was taken by the Turks in 1579 and was under Russian rule from 1770 to 1774, but, like the other Cyclades, retained a measure of independence. In 1830 it joined the newly established kingdom of Greece.
Naxos Town, Greece
Náxos is the capital of the island of Náxos. It lies in a fertile district in which vines, fruit and vegetables are grown, is picturesquely situated on the slopes of a rocky hill crowned by a ruined Venetian castle, the Kástro (1260; panoramic views), which now houses a school run by Ursuline nuns. Other features of interest in the town are a number of dilapidated Venetian palaces (in particular the Barozzi and Sommaripa palaces), the Roman Catholic church of St Mary (13th C.) and the 15th century chapel of Áyios Antónios on the harbor. Excavations beside the principal Orthodox church have brought to light Hellenistic stoas and evidence of Cycladic culture.
There is an interesting museum with archeological material from all periods of the island's history, including a fine collection of stone vessels and Cycladic idols of the third millennium B.C., pottery of the Geometric, Archaic and later periods, statues and capitals. In the courtyard are stones carved with Venetian coats of arms and a large mosaic of Europa and the bull.
Address: Palace of Sanoudo, Greece
Opening hours: Apr 1 to Oct 31: 8:30am-3pm; Closed: Mon
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 8:30am-3pm
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 8:30am-3pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Greek National Day (Mar 25), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Easter - Christian, Good Friday - Christian
Entrance fee: Adult Admission Cost, Concession or reduced rate Discount, Students from EU Free, Child 18 & under Free
Useful tips: Admission is free on Sundays between November and March.
Náxos Town occupies the site of the ancient capital of the island, the main visible relics of which are a 6m/20ft high marble doorway and the foundations of an unfinished temple of Apollo or Dionysos (sixth century B.C.) on the rocky islet of Sto Paláti, which is connected with the main island by a stone causeway.
Excursion to the Marble Quarries
Above Apollónia Bay, to the southeast of Cape Stávros, the northernmost tip of the island of Náxos (40km/25mi from Náxos Town), are a number of ancient quarries of the Naxian marble which was used in sculpture and architecture and also as a roof cladding.In the Ston Apollona quarry is the 10.4m/34ft long figure of a kouros, left unfinished because of a defect in the marble. Above the quarry is the Venetian castle of Kalóyero.The characteristic coarse-grained Naxian marble also outcrops between Mélanes and Potamiá, farther south, where there are other unfinished kouroi and a door-jamb (which was presumably destined for the Sto Paláti castle).On the slopes of the Vóthri valley can be seen large emery mines which were already being worked in ancient times.
Worth visiting while on the island of Náxos are the Venetian castles of Ápano Kástro (2km/1.25mi from Khalkí; 13th C.), Áno Potamiá (southeast of Náxos town; guide needed), Apaliros (in the southwest of the island) and Cape Panerimos (southeast of the island).
Many churches on the island of Naxos have Byzantine wall paintings, notably Áyios Kyriakos at Apíranthos (where there is a small museum with Cycladic material of the third millennium B.C.) and Áyios Artemios at Sangrí (ninth c. frescoes).
Characteristic of the Venetian and Turkish periods on Náxos are the fortified tower houses (pyryi) to be seen, for example, at Khalkí (15 km/9 mi east of Náxos town) and in the Drimália valley.
Below the southeast side of Mt Zas on Naxox is the marble tower of Kimáro (Hellenistic). On the west side of the hill is the Cave of Zeus, an ancient cult site.
Ten km/6 mi northeast of Náxos is the white Faneroméni monastery, with a church of 1603.
The Erimonísia or Nisídes ("Islets") are a chain of lonely and barren islands in the triangular area between Náxos, Amorgós and Íos. The most northerly are the Voidonísi, a group of small islands. To the south of these are Donoúsa (pop. 200; alt. 0-488m/0-1601ft) and the Makáries, a group of islets between Donoúsa and Náxos. Farther south again are the Koufo islands - Presoúra and Áno Koufónisi (area 8 sq. km/3 sq. mi), to the north, and Káto Koufónisi (5 sq. km/2 sq. mi), to the south; to the east of these are Kéros (14 sq. km/5.5 sq. mi), on which an acropolis of the third century B.C. has been excavated, Antikéros and Dríma. To the southwest is Skhinoúsa (10 sq. km/4 sq. mi; pop. 200), with the village of Skhinoúsa in the interior of the island. The most southerly island in the group is Iráklia (18 sq. km/7 sq. mi; pop. 250), with the village of Iráklia above the anchorage in the bay of Áyios Yeóryios.
Town & Museum, Apiranthos, Greece
An interesting archeological museum is to be found at Apiranthos, a village where a number of rare customs and habits have survived. This little town rests on a mountain side with beautiful old alley ways, whitewashed buildings and arched passageways.
Apollonas is a picturesque coastal village on the north shore of the island of Naxos. Of note is the unfinished statue of "kouros" (youth) which still rests in the quarry and dates to the 6th Century B.C.
Donoussa has incomparable beaches and traces of prehistoric habitation. The island is located east of Naxos.
Schinoússa - Messária
At the pretty harbor of Messaria on the islet of Shinoussa, there are ruins of medieval fortifications.
St John Chrysostom Monastery
Northeast of Naxos is the old fortified monastery of St John Chrysostom.
At the small isle of Iraklia there is a cave (Ai-Yiannis) with superb stalactites. Traces of the Cycladic civilization have been found here. The island is located north of Naxos. The island is very small and visitors should not expect to find all of the regular amenities.