Naxos Island, Greece.
843 00 02
Naxos : area 389 sq.km
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
As the road climbs up from Ano Potamia, the rocky height of Epano Kastro comes into view to the east (left). The castle can be approached from this side along a path signed from the road, or else from the east—from Tsi kalario which lies 5km further on (45 minutes’ climb by either route).
Built on a knuckle of rock protruding from a boulder strewn landscape of dramatic dryness, Epano Kastro was constructed by the Venetians in the late 13th century so as to extend their control over the important and fertile interior of the ‘Trageia’—the plain which extends to the east and south of here. All-seeing and always visible, Epano Kastro functioned as a constant reminder of Venetian dominance in an area which was some distance from the island’s capital. The site was fortified in prehistoric times and a small stretch of late Classical walls in isodomic masonry is visible below the summit. The castle possessed two enceintes: the horse shoe shaped barbican with artillery emplacements (suggesting a later 16th century date) belonged to the outer ring; the curtain-wall higher up was the inner enceinte. It was rein forced by three rectangular and three semicircular towers, and enclosed an area with cisterns and living quarters. On the surrounding slopes are several, barrel-vaulted church es—Aghios Giorgios, the Metamorphosis, the Panaghia Kastriani and the two-aisled catholicon of the Monastery of Aghios Ioannis. The fortress ‘seemed by far the most inland spot we had yet visited in the Cyclades,’ Theodore Bent commented when he visited in 1883. There remains no trace of the hot springs which he was shown just below the summit, however.
Below Epano Kastro to the southeast, about half way between the castle and Tsikalario, lies an important and unusual cemetery of the Geometric period. (The tombs are to the south of the footpath to/from Tsikalario, reached by a path beside a stone wall which runs south and crosses a small, rocky ridge through a defile before descending to the cemetery.) The cemetery appears to be a collection of monumental family tombs on a plateau. The site is dominated by a menhir which stands over 2.5m high. The burial tumuli, some of which have a diameter of as much as 12m and were marked by circles of orthostats, are highly unusual for the period. Evidence of the funeral pyres at the centre of the tumuli has been found and a notable quantity of fine wheel-made pottery, painted vessels and jewellery (now in the Naxos Archaeological Museum): this dates mostly from the 9th and 8th centuries bc, and reveals contacts with Attica and other regions of Greece and the Aegean.
In the village of Tsikalario is the church of Aghios Stephanos (D), with remains of 13th century painting. Uphill, c. 500m to the northeast is the ?7th century basilica church of the Taxiarchis Rachis at Monikia—a curious, domeless, three-aisled basilica now in ruinous condition, also with vestiges of early paintings.
Naxos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.