Where to go in Naxos: A wine lover’s guide
Ever wondered where the Decanter team go on holiday? Our in-house team recommend where to eat and drink, from their own trips. Decanter managing editor Amy Wislocki shares her insider guide below, with some extra recommendations from Decanter.com editor Chris Mercer, who also visited Naxos this year.
Where to go in Naxos
Naxos is the largest of Greece’s Cyclades islands, but it has a surprisingly low profile given its many attractions – which include long, sandy, uncrowded beaches, a beautiful mountainous interior and Chora, a lively harbour town unspoiled by tourism.
Its quiet and authentically Greek vibe is largely down to the fact that it’s not the easiest place to get to. There is a small airport on the island, but international flights invariably involve a transfer via Athens. The other, popular option is to travel by ferry, either from Athens or a shorter journey from Mykonos or Santorini.
Naxos isn’t a wine-producing island, and many of the bottles you’ll see on supermarket shelves are from neighbouring Paros. Look out for wines from the reliable family estate, Moriatis – perfectly acceptable holiday wine.
The island currently has a starring role as the chosen location for ITV’s celebrity reality show, Our Shirley Valentine Summer, which is bound to see interest in the destination soar. Go while it’s still quiet!
Where to stay
Walk-in trade is welcome at the small poolside restaurant of this delightful hotel. Perched above the bay at Agios Prokopios, it enjoys sweeping views of the ocean and to Paros beyond. The emphasis is on traditional Greek cuisine imaginatively presented, prepared using local produce; there’s usually a fresh pasta or risotto dish on offer too. Look out for the daily specials board.
It’s not cheap, but the childrens’ menu helps keep costs down if you have kids in tow. The wine list is predominantly Greek, and reasonably priced.
Kavos Naxos is highly recommended also as a place to stay – the team that run it are friendly and efficient, the architecture, landscaping and interior design are all highly tasteful, and some of the villas and apartments have a rooftoop terrace with stunning open views. www.kavos-naxos.com
It’s hard to argue with a hotel that offers free cake and a crisp glass of the family owner’s white wine to guests on arrival.
With sea-facing sofas and a roof terrace including sun loungers, this has got to be one of the best places to watch sunset in Naxos, aside from perching yourself on the rocks near to the Portara itself.
The home-made breakfast spread here is one of the best I’ve seen at any hotel – lots of fresh fruit, tarts, flans, eggs and cheese and cakes. We thought the staff were attentive and polite, and the rooms were very clean. Most have a garden terrace or balcony.
They offer free pick-up from the Port, which is only around ten minutes’ walk away but the hotel is on a hill just out of town; hence walking with heavy suitcases could be arduous.
Unlike the breakfast, Grotta’s evening restaurant is a fairly simple affair, and perfectly fine, but we found it better to head out to the restaurants in the old town (Chora) most of the time, after a sunset aperitif.
There is a small indoor spa area here, which is a pleasant afternoon refresher, but there is no outdoor pool.
This family taverna offers truly authentic Greek dishes, and is usually full of locals (always a good sign). Located on the first floor and with no outside space beyond a balcony over looking the harbour, it doesn’t score particularly highly on ambience – the fluorescent strip lighting on the food display cabinet doesn’t help.
But this is the best food you’ll find in Naxos town – the yellow split fava with raw chopped onion, and the veal slow-cooked with aubergine and feta are both to die for. And the family that run it are the friendliest, most welcoming hosts you could wish to find.
Situated in a quiet square, just off the main drag, this is an oasis of calm – until the coachloads of tourists arrive! It’s simple Greek cooking, but the friendly service and picturesque setting make it a firm favourite.
Find a seat under the shade of the large eucalyptus tree if you can, and enjoy a leisurely lunch. The menu does include a few salads – and not just Greek salad – for those who feel they’ve overdone it on the moussaka and tzatziki.
This taverna with rooms attached is one of many restaurants along a strip that faces directly on to Agia Anna’s sandy beach. It’s aimed squarely at tourists, and doesn’t have any pretensions to grandeur, but it’s worth a visit for the good, honest cooking and beachfront location. Also highly rated in Agia Anna is Axiotissa, nearby.
This is a bit of fun, and a good place to visit with kids – or if you’re just fed up with Greek food and wine! Surprisingly authentic Mexican cooking, great margaritas and a location directly across the road from Agia Anna beach.
There’s a changing area with shower, and a kids’ playground too. They’ve been cooking Mexican food here since 1996, so they know what they’re doing – it runs like a well-oiled machine.
Short one day road trip from Naxos town
Naxos town > Demeter Temple > Halki > Apeiranthos > Naxos town
You can hire a small car for the day near to the Port for around £40 excluding petrol and I would highly recommend it as a way of seeing more of the island. There is also a bus for the more adventurous.
A round-trip heading out of the town on the Naxou-Apiranthou road will take you down to the Temple of Demeter in the heart of Naxos’ traditional agricultural region.
Demeter was the Greek goddess of grain and agriculture – or harvests – and this temple was at least partially built by a notorious island tyrant called Lydgamis, who is believed to have come to power after leading a peasants’ revolt in the area.
Beyond the temple, follow the same road for around 15 minutes to Halki – also known as ‘Chalki’ – the former capital of the island. Once there, Giannis Tavern is a great little spot for a coffee or also lunch.
There is also a boutique art gallery, a distillery for the local Kitron spirit and a deli named ‘Naxia Gi’ filled with local olive oil, honey, cheese and herbs – a lot of it their own.
After Halki, it’s up into the hills, through another town called Filoti. Each bend brings another stunning view and it’s worth stopping off at Rotonda, a hilltop restaurant that is only open in the summer months and with panoramic views stretching right down to the sea and Chora on clear day.
Next along this route is Apeiranthos, an extraordinary town built almost entirely of marble. It’s not a big place, but you’ll find several cafes and restaurants in the old town here, too.
From here, it’s about a 40 to 50-minute journey back to the centre of Naxos town.