Greek island life is all about escape: eating … drinking … napping on the beach. And then there’s Naxos, Greece. The largest of the Cycladic island chain sits between its popular cousins, Mykonos and Paros. Its splendors range from Mt. Zeus to one of the most sought-after beaches in the Aegean Sea. But it boasts a creative underbelly steeped in ancient history.
AGEIST contributor Patricia Garcia-Gomez recently returned from an artist residency in Naxos with a short list on why the unsung island should be on our bucket list destinations this year.
On just one island, you can feel that you’ve been to eight different islands
The experiences, communities, feelings, foods and landscapes across Naxos are that varied. We started one day by climbing Mt Zeus, literally walking into the clouds to reach the highest summit in the Cyclades (also believed to be the birthplace of Zeus, god of the sky), and by the end of the day, we were strolling down cedar forest-covered dunes for a sunset swim.
A creative life
Naxos has long been an island of artisans, from the workers of the famous Naxian white marble, to potters, weavers, and wood carvers. On the contemporary side, there is the Bazeos Tower, a former monastery that has been part of the landscape since the 16th century. Each year, a handful of international artists are invited to take over the tower and fill it with site-responsive work for a summer exhibition. Sculptors, painters, installation artists, and photographers live in the tower and establish a dialogue with the surroundings. Seeing the work here is like having many different windows into Naxos, and there are also concerts under the stars all summer long (Patricia’s work can be seen here).
Inconvenience is greatly rewarded
While tourists crowd around the island’s better-known beaches (like Agios Prokopios, which is rated one of the best in Europe), we love the ones that you have to work harder to get to: Psili Ammos for its remoteness, Hawaii for its wildness, and Lionas for its most beautiful white stones (you will want to take them all home, but please don’t.) Things aren’t always well-marked in Naxos Greece, which lends a sense of adventure–or being lost, which often leads to something magical. We missed Psili Ammos entirely the first time we went looking for it but ended up on a gorgeous drive down the islands’ undeveloped east coast, ending up at small, super-cute Panormos, which we had to ourselves.
The way it sounds
First, the cicadas. They are an ever-present soundtrack that moves with you no matter where you are on the island. Then, the roaming goat bells. Bells that sound like waterfalls, both near and far in the distance. It’s mesmerizing. The sound becomes a part of you.
In spots it feels like life exactly as it has been forever
While enjoying some of the island’s tastiest grilled fish at The Net in the small fishing village of Moutsouna, we noticed that there was a buzz about. In the distance we heard a fiddle, then an accordion, and there was a swell of excitement as a winding wedding procession made its way through the village and into the tiniest of churches in the square. Life moves around you here (if you go slow enough).
Naxians love their island
For a charming conversation about the history of Naxos, and oven-fired pizza, go to Mitos. Ask for Petros.
And last but not least…escape
Stay at Corona Borealis, seven suites perched so perfectly in the folds of a seaside cliff that all else feels very far away. Its private beach is also one of the best swims on the island (Ask for Anita). And make sure to nap on the beach. It’s kind of a requirement.