The largest of the Cyclades islands, Naxos, is often paired with a visit to its neighbor Paros and smaller surrounding islands. You can visit in 24 hours (it's a short ferry ride from Santorini, making it a perfect day trip or overnight). To really experience Naxos, however, consider spending up to five days here: you'll be able to tour traditional mountain villages, take in the unspoiled nature of the island's interior, and check out some of the island's beaches, said to rival those in Santorini.

Planning Your Trip to Naxos

Naxos benefits from a deep dive with its picturesque villages, natural landscapes, and exotic beaches, so you should really take your time exploring if you want to see what this island is all about. If you want to be able to check out some of the smaller islands that surround it, you may want to spend up to five days here and use the last for a day trip out at sea, alighting for a brief visit on Amorgos, Koufonisia, or Paros.

Most visitors to Naxos choose to stay in Naxos Town (also called Chora) or nearby St. George for their convenience and vibrancy. A stay in Naxos Town means you'll have access to plenty of shopping and dining, especially in the area known as the Bourgos, and you can easily rent a car or hire a guide to take you elsewhere on the island.

If you're on Naxos for a beach holiday or simply feel like you'd rather see the sea from your window, there are plenty of hotels closer to the famous beaches of Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, and Plaka, most popular in July and August.

Learn more about Naxos and the Cyclades with this ultimate guide.

Naxos in 24 Hours

Octopus drying in the sun, ready to be cooked into deliciousness

If you have limited time in Naxos, you'll most likely spend most of it in Naxos Town. The island's main municipal center, Naxos Town, is graced with plenty of characteristic whitewashed homes, as well as some mansions that are remnants of its Venetian past.

The town's main sites are close enough to be visited on foot in a matter of hours. These include the Portara or gate to the Temple of Apollo, a square stone structure that stands alone like a portal to another world, and the Kastro, a labyrinthine historic quarter with a castle, built by the Venetians in the 13th century. Museums include the Archaeological Museum of Naxos, housing treasures from the island's many prehistoric sites, and the Mitropolis, a museum around a preserved archaeological site.

You should also take a bite out of Naxos in a more literal way: take a food tour to explore the traditional cuisine of the island, which is famed for its olive oil, citrus fruits, and a bevy of meats and cheeses, thanks to its fertile land perfect for grazing goats and sheep.

Of course, Naxos is an island, and that means the most fertile territory of all surrounds it: the waters of the Aegean Sea, which yields lobster to be boiled, octopus to be char-grilled, and any number of fish delicacies to be eaten at the island's waterside tavernas. A guide can show you where the locals eat, take you out of town to see where the trees are full of the bitter fruits that will become olives, and even show you the Eggares Olive Oil Museum in the village of the same name, where you can do a taste test and buy homegrown products.

Finally, a visit to one of Naxos's famed beaches is definitely in order. Among the most popular is Agios Georgios, beloved for its closeness to Naxos Town but also busier, Agios Prokopios, a short bus ride outside of Naxos Town. Plaka is a good option if you'd like to rent a beach chair and have a local restaurant serve you surfside, while Orkos is much smaller and more remote, with no infrastructure at all but instead, that remote desert island vibe so many visitors dream about.

Learn more about the little-known side of the Cyclades with this guide.

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Naxos in 2-3 days

Naxos is known for its tranquil beaches with crystal-clear waters

With two to three days on Naxos, you should be able to link up with a guide to get a local's perspective on the island. Plan half-day or full-day tours that dig deep into Naxos's culture and history or lead you around to different growers, producers, and tavernas to give you a taste of the island. An olive oil or vineyard tour will show you the island's interior, where you can witness age-old processes that lead to some of the world's most treasured delicacies and meet the people who have been dedicating their lives to centuries-old food traditions.

You can also take a day to drive around some of the island's mountain villages, giving you a very different taste of the area from the tourist sites and bustle of Naxos Town. Going with a guide will solve the problem of transportation (many have their own cars) and will get you up those winding roads to hillside towns like Ano Sagri, Damarionas, Halki, and one of the oldest Apeiranthos, monasteries like Agios Ioannis Chrisostomos, which has been running steadily as a remote place of worship for centuries, and ancient ruins like the Temple of Demeter and the Temple of Dionysis.

You can also take to the seas, booking a yacht or small boat to circumnavigate the island, stopping at several of the nearby small Cyclades where you can swim off remote beaches or take a leap into the deep from a rugged clifftop, or explore small caves full of coral and colorful fish. You can also pop over to Paros for the day to enjoy its local café culture and quaint fishing villages, as well as a swim.

This itinerary combines Naxos and Paros in an eight-day trip.

Naxos in 4-5 days

A characteristic view of Naxos from the water

In up to five days on Naxos, you'll really be able to slow down and take in the island's treasures at your own pace. Consider taking a longer hike in the interior or a cycling tour that will have you traversing winding roads with impressive views. The Seven Villages Trail connects the island's main mountain towns by rugged, marble-paved paths, traversing olive groves and grazing grounds for livestock, and awarding you with some magnificent views.

You can also hike up Mount Zas, named for the god Zeus, to explore its famed cave known for stalactites and stalagmites. Use your hiking day as a way to take advantage of local markets, stocking up on fruit, bread, meats, and cheeses to make a picnic.

With more time on Naxos, you'll also be able to spend more time on the beach, either relaxing in the sun and taking a dip in the blue-green waters or trying out some water sports. Many of the island's beaches are good for windsurfing and kitesurfing, as well as kayaking and standup paddleboard. If you're advanced, you can take out a board on your own and practice your skills, and if you're a beginner, there will never be a more beautiful location to learn.

This itinerary fits a visit to Naxos into an epic Greece trip.