Trip Start May 20, 2008
Trip End Sep 15, 2008

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Flag of Greece  , Cyclades,
Thursday, June 12, 2008

6/12 The Blue Star ferry from Santorini to Naxos was quite nice since I was able to lay out on the upper deck and read for the short 2 hour trip. It was like being on a cruise ship without the big price tag. We passed Ios which is supposed to be a big party island. Arriving in Naxos was very scenic as you're greeted by the impressive Temple of Apollo.

Once one of the largest temples in Greece, the 6th c. BC Temple of Apollo today consists of only an archway. Originally it had 12 columns on each side and 6 on each end although there is no evidence the formal temple was ever finished. I explored the site during my stay and can see why the ancient Greeks chose the location since it looks over a nice harbor and provides great vantage points to observe sea traffic.

George from Windmill Naxos met me at the port and drove me the short distance to his pension. He pointed out key places in the small town and provided a much needed map (I'm still irked at not having a good one in Santorini). The pension is perfectly located near the central square (which is actually a traffic circle but I guess they aren't sticklers here). My room is great with AC, a small refrigerator and even a TV with CNN!

The roads in Naxos Town are very narrow and only allow one car to pass at a time. I'm not sure why they don't make the roads one way but they aren't so driver courtesy just takes over to determine who gets to go. Scooters are pretty common but walking seems the easiest way to get around in town.

One day I hiked up to the old Kastro which is so-called because it was the Castle of the Dukes. The Dukes of Naxos rejected Venetian rule and instead installed Latin law which was not popular in the Cyclades. As a result the Dukes and other Latin newcomers were generally isolated in the Kastro and separated from the Greeks. There are no big gates anymore but the apparent separation of citizens of the different heritages still exists today among their ancestors.

The owner of the pension gave me directions to find the bus to the beach since there is not a beach in town. He said the bus stopped at the cinema at the end of the road. Well I walked to the end of the street but didn't see a movie theater so I just kept walking looking for a bus stop. I also needed an ATM but didn't see one of those either. As usual I kept walking and walking and walking and eventually just reached the beach which was 8 or 9 kms from town. Turns out there is only 1 ATM among all of the different beach towns. Fortunately it was working so I was able to take the bus back to town. There are no bus stops between town and the beaches but I did get off at the first bus stop upon reaching town. I then saw the cinema that George used as a reference point. It turns out the "cinema" is not a movie theater as I interpreted the word, but it's an open-air, outdoor, dirt yard where movies are shown and people bring picnics. The actual structure is just a cinderblock square with no roof so it just didn't fit what I was looking for. Thankfully, now I know!

The beaches on Naxos are gorgeous! They are the nice, sandy beaches Americans are used to albeit with beautiful, clear blue water. There were no waves really but watershoes are needed because of sea urchins, hot sand and rocks. I visited Plaka Beach most of the time since it is the longest and most famous of the Naxos beaches. There were some small trees and even sand dunes. Prokopios and Anna beaches were nice too but they were smaller and had more kids. The bus schedule is good so there was no need to rent a car. There wasn't much to look at in the water other than some small fish, sponges and sea grass.

The beaches are great because there are no big hotels in the area, just small villas and pensions. I'd love to know how they have kept developers away! There are even small farms that go right up to the sea. The road to Plaka even turns into a dirt road! There are some nice outdoor restaurants and small markets but nothing to spoil the beauty of the beaches. The island of Paros looked close just across a small channel and there were other islands visible as well.

If I had to describe Naxos in one word it would be unspoiled. You don't see any big hotels in Naxos, no chain restaurants, few tourist shops, no cruise ships, etc. As a result the tourist population is manageable and doesn't overwhelm the local flavor of the island. The island itself is the largest of the Cyclades and I didn't explore any of it beyond the small area around Naxos Town and the nearby beaches. Unfortunately, Naxos doesn't have a gym and I sure don't miss going!

Naxos would be a good place for anyone to visit since I think it can appeal to everyone unlike Mykonos or Santorini which appeal to certain segments (i.e. young couples and young partiers respectively). Naxos is just a relaxed, laid back place that is very welcoming. It also doesn't have the super high prices of other Greek islands. The locals all seem to know each other and will stop their car or scooter to say hi and have a brief chat with their neighbors. The locals are always smiling, laughing and seem to be enjoying life.

On another day I walked all the way to the end of Plaka Beach to take some pictures. On the way back I decided it would be better to walk on the dirt road instead of the beach. The dirt road (like all Greek roads) wound around small fields that were bordered by small rock walls (and sometimes pink oleander). The rock walls are the equivalent of our fences but they are everywhere and obviously took a lot of labor and time to construct which makes me wonder why so many were needed. I'm thinking the land was divided and re-divided over the years as it was handed down from generation to generation making the parcels today quite small.

I cut through fields of hay that had recently been harvested as well as potato fields. I saw potatoes but wasn't sure if they were rejects or if the field just had not been harvested yet. The road I took, of course, didn't track along the water but went inland quite a bit so I got quite a bit of exercise for returning via that route but got to understand local life a little better.

One of my guidebooks says, "Writers have regularly labeled Naxos the most beautiful of the Cyclades." I can certainly see why! The book goes on to say that the coastline south of Naxos Town is a beach strip without equal in the Aegean. I hope our catamaran group gets to see the unspoiled scenery of Naxos in a couple of weeks!

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sarniasiren on

No Gym? Return to base.
Hello Bobby,
Delighted you liked Naxos.
You missed the gym [as you intended?] close call as only about 100 yards from Picassos and Scirocos. It is off the square going out of town near to a pizza takeaway which advertises the number of years they have been in business about 2500, I bet you didnt miss that!
Enjoy your trip,

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