NAXOS



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Naxos - general

General
Largest of all the Cyclades islands and with the highest peaks of the group, Naxos is the central, geographical hub around which they all cluster. Although not the administrative capital, it is the most important island of the group and in many ways the key to understanding the others. It has a patrimony of history, archaeology and monuments which puts it amongst the three or four artistically richest islands in the Aegean.
   Because it has always been well watered, well forested, well endowed with minerals, and with a spacious, fertile interior, the island has tended to stand out amongst the other Cyclades which, by comparison, often suffered seri ous deficiencies of water or had little fertile land. Today it still offers the grandest and most varied landscapes in the Cyclades. Although its forests are gone—apart from some groves of immemorial oaks around Mount Zas—it is still rich in water, and its tranquil spring-fed orchards and olive groves in the heart of the island considerably modify our customary picture of the dry ‘Cycladic land scape’. The striking beauty of this central garden of the island is further enhanced by the numerous Byzantine stone churches dotted among the trees, dating from the 6th to the 16th century, and mostly decorated with paints of great quality and unforgettable presence. They are so many in number that even this guide has had to resort to discussing only a selection. They speak of a prosperity on the island, especially in the period after the settling of a tolerant Venetian dominion on Naxos in 1207. But most of all they are the product of the island’s undying sense of its importance as a small realm of civilisation in the middle of the sea.
   The fascination of Naxos , however, is not just that it possesses ancient remains and painted churches in great numbers, but that the particular nature of the ruins and churches is so unusual and instructive. The extraordinary, unfinished 6th century bc statues, lying in their rock-cradles in the hills of Naxos , are a treasure-house of information about early sculptural techniques precisely because we catch them as ‘work in progress’; the temples at Gyroulas, at Yria and the ‘Portara’ reveal, in their ruined or incomplete state, the very turning of the wheels in the evolution of architectural ideas. Through these monuments we come to experience vicariously the problems and the ambitious solutions of the ancient artists and builders. Similarly, the icons in Chora and the painted Byzantine churches are of such variety that they are like a history of eastern religious painting in miniature—from Romanising beginnings, through the struggles and un certainties of Iconcoclasm, to the constellation of humble talents with quite diverse artistic personalities and capabilities who worked in these tiny rural chapels in the 13th century. Naxos moves and instructs, where other islands may just ‘show’.
   Development in the last few decades, especially around Chora, has been pursued without great care, and much of modern Naxos is an unfitting appendix to its great his tory. Fortunately it is such a spacious island that it has areas, as large as counties, that still preserve a traditional and rural island atmosphere, with far flung corners which are quite undisturbed. And even in the heart of the tourist areas of Chora, there are surprises; the Tziblakis cheese shop, functioning since 1938, is still an Aladdin’s cave of Naxiot produce, the like of which it is hard to find else where—honeys, different types of sheep’s cheeses, oils, herbs, dried fruits, olives, Kitron, Tsipouro, and wines worthy of the name of the island’s patron divinity—Dionysos.


Naxos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.


access

Naxos Island, Greece.

By boat:
Naxos has on average two or three connections per day throughout the year to Piraeus, and one or two each day to Rafina; the services all take cars, and the journey time typically varies between 4.25 hours (Hellenic Seaways Highspeed & NEL lines) and 5.5 hours (Blue Star Ferries). Nearly all services stop at Paros en route.
There are daily connections south to Ios and Santorini in the summer, either by ferry or Flying Dolphin: this reduces considerably in the winter to twice weekly.
The Express Skopelitis leaves Naxos at 3 pm every day for the Lesser Cyclades Islands, weather permitting.
By air:
Olympic Air currently runs one daily return flight from Athens to Naxos , with small craft only (c. 30 seats). The airport is 3.5km from Chora.

Naxos Travel Guide

eating

Naxos Island, Greece.

Of the myriad tavernas on the harbour front at Chora, the freshest fish and seafood is to be had at the minuscule, "To Steki tou Valetta", where excellent octopus and wine are served.
Of quite different character—elegant and with some carefully designed dishes—is Elli"s restaurant in the Grotta area of Chora.
For beachside eating, just outside Chora, Paradiso at Aghia Anna has good food, served at tables under trees on the sands.
One of the best of all fish restaurants on the island outside Chora is Michalakos at Moutsouna. For its setting by springs in the village of Ano Potamiá, the taverna Pigi is a joy—very popular with locals on Sundays.
Katsalis, under the plane trees in Filoti, is also to be recommended.
And for making a picnic from the best Naxiot wine and produce, the Tziblakis cheese shop on the main Papavasileiou Street in Chora is still excellent—even if in recent years the shop has become more self-conscious than before.

Naxos Travel Guide

further reading

Naxos Island, Greece.

Theodore Bent, The Cyclades (1885), reissued 2002 by Archaeopress, Oxford in the ‘3rd Guides’ series. For an excellent documentation of Byzantine Naxos , Giorgios Mastoro poulos, Νάξος, το ἄλλο κάλλος/ Naxos : Byzantine Monuments, Athens, 1996, cannot be bettered.

Naxos Travel Guide

lodging

Naxos Island, Greece.

For its size and importance, Naxos is poorly provided with good accommodations, outside the resort hotels.
The Chateau Zevgoli in the heart of the bourgo is the most charming place in Naxos, although its name promises more than it delivers and the rooms are small and over decorated (T. 22850 25201, fax 25200). The owner, Mrs Despina Kitini, also possesses a couple of spacious studio rooms up in the Kastro, which represent a good alternative: she can be found at the useful ‘Naxos Information Center’ which she manages, opposite the main ferry quay.
Karabatsi Studios, at Aghia Anna offer friendly, family hospitality of utter simplicity, at a short distance from the Chora (T. 22850 26440, www. dinaNaxos.com).
Of the resort hotels, Lianos Village at Aghios Prokopios, is comfort able and unpretentious (T. 22850 26366, fax 26362, www.lianosvillage.com).

Naxos Travel Guide

practical info

Naxos Island, Greece.

843 00 02
Naxos : area 389 sq.km
perimeter 133km
resident population 17,357
max. altitude 999m.
Port Authority: T. 22850 22300 & 23939.
Tourist information: Zas Travel (T. 22850 23330, fax 23419)

Naxos Travel Guide

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