Visiting Naxos, one of the most central islands of the Cyclades, can always serve as a stopover. But lately it’s becoming a destination again. The once labeled as family island is now getting back on the radar with surfers flocking in the long sandy stretches and foodies discovering the latest local delicacies of this fertile land.
As I go back to Naxos, I notice the numerous landmarks I had missed on my previous visits as I was rushing to Apiranthos, the most gorgeous yet very well known by now mountainous settlement of the island. Gorgeous waters, cute little tavernas and a wide range of mountainous terrain that is waiting to be discovered!
Chora and beyond
Just before hitting the beach, we escape the hot streets of Chora and visit nearby Melimelon for a hearty breakfast at this patio that was once serving as a hotel and a marmalade family business. We feast over their sophisticated dishes that Mrs Evangelia prepares -you should definitely try their signature omelette dish topped with red pepper jam- and sip the last few drops of coffee before we venture out for the sea and sun!
August can be tricky around the Cyclades as the winds blow in all sorts of directions and speeds. Luckily, Naxos -despite its almost straight-perfect sandy stretches on the West- remains somewhat protected and offers beautiful turquoise waters all the way from Agios Prokopios to Mikri Vigla and beyond. The farther away from Chora, the less touristy and rewarding the experience becomes!
Catching the perfect wave outside Agios Prokopios beach can be tricky and as we drive south we leave behind the touristy and packed plastic sunbeds of Agia Anna and (most of) Plaka beach. We drive by two similar beachfront tavernas, Taverna Paradiso and later on The Three Brothers: traditional wooden chairs painted in white and blue, lightbulbs hanging on top of the small tables and a cluster of tamarisk trees making them the perfect Instagram frame. Finally, a few steps further down, we settle for the more upscale Tortuga Beach bar and enjoy the crystal clear waters in the comfort of the wooden beach-beds!
Chalkion, Filoti and Apiranthos
As we leave the city buzz behind, we start ascending towards the mountainous terrain and make our first stop in Chalkion, the first ever commercial center of the island that now boasts beautiful alleys and carefully restored neoclassical buildings. The road takes turns and each one reveals marvelous details of the Cycladic land as we reach the abandoned settlement of Sifones.
The Kitro destillery from the Mandilaras family in Chalkion is paramount to the local community here, a dive back in time as we enter their manicured shop, as is the traditional kafeneio of Galanis where locals hang with the infamous galaktoboureko dessert! A few bites, meze style, are more than enough for a late afternoon treat before heading to Filoti and the Rotonda café that hangs off the cliff just before reaching Apirtanthos.
Apiranthos has long been known for the Cretans that once migrated in the late 1940s and the beautiful settlement they built, now mostly popular for the infamous burger at taverna Lefteris. We enter the nicely decorated main floor and descend to the lush garden underneath the walnut tree before we feast over the best cheese pie ever!
Moutsouna, Kinidaros and Eggares
On a different day we head east to explore the bays near Moutsouna and we’re astounded by the great views towards the Lesser Cyclades, mostly Koufonisia as slowly descend to sea level. Psili Ammos, the best beach around that area, is a long sandy stretch with multiple dunes where we hide under the shade of the tamarisk trees and enjoy the nice breeze.
Moutsouna is this small old port with a couple of traditional seafood tavernas, the only ones that stand a chance in satisfying a demanding stomach, which we skip though in favour of meat. On the way back to Chora, we take the advice of a friend who’s been visiting the island religiously for the past few years and stop at he famous meat taverna Stou Vasilarakiou (actually this first opened as a butcher shop) in Kinidaros for a carnivores late lunch! On the way back we pass through Eggares and make a brief stop to visit the Olive Oil museum and also the monastery of Pyrgos Ypsilis in Galini.
The sun is almost ready to set and the slow-paced drive back to Chora is a nice treat as we gaze the various landscapes and patterns the clouds form. People have already started gathering in Portara to enjoy the sunset views but we opt for one last stop to Kastro, a small apperitivo and some last minute shopping of local treats from Tziblakis pantry shop. We’ll be certainly coming back but until then we want to retain some of that local essence and flavour with us!