Naxos is the biggest island in the Cyclades, but relatively speaking, is quite small. We rented a scooter for three days and began our exploring south of Naxos Town (the main town, where the port is), along the long stretches of beach
. Once outside of Naxos Town the roads become pretty scarce for traffic. We were a little nervous about the scooter after witnessing the driving habits of Greeks in Athens, but were glad to find the streets quite empty most of the time. Many roads on Naxos are just dirt tracks but the main ones connecting the towns and leading to most beaches are paved. Scooters aren't allowed on the unpaved ones but there are also four wheel ATVs and dune buggies available to rent, which a lot of tourists opted for. Back to the beaches; our Corsica guidebook told us that their Plage de Saleccia was the finest in the Mediterranean, but after visiting Naxos we would have to disagree! The beaches here are fine white sand and the water crystal clear and turquoise. They stretch for long distances and the best part is that there aren't enough visitors to fill them up, so it is very easy to have peace and quiet and your own private plot of sand.
The recent lack of rain was quite obvious; the landscape was dry and arid with dusty, rocky hills rising up all over the place (which explains the thick layer of dirt that covered us every time we returned from an outing). We visited the inland villages of Filoti - built into the foot of Mt. Zeus, the tallest peak in the Cyclades at 1000 m and on which is a cave that is said to be the birthplace of Zeus - and nearby Apiranthos, both quaint and pretty in their own ways (much of Apiranthos is built of locally quarried marble)
. From here we drove a beautiful stretch of road, hung on the side of the mountains, where we had excellent views over the desert-like valleys and the surrounding ocean. Surprisingly it was cold, especially since we were exposed on our scooter and didn't bring any jackets with us (and why would we...it was over 30 degrees near the water!). This scenic route brought us to the northern coastal town of Apollon where we found a small secluded piece of sand to lounge on. Just outside this village is a 'kouros' - a ten meter hunk of marble carved into the shape of a man from the sixth century, but abandoned unfinished because of imperfections in the stone.
As is our usual custom and with our penchant for last minute dramatics, we almost ran out of gas on our way back to our hotel. As we left Apollon to begin the 36 km drive back to Naxos we realized that we were running low. The tank was approaching empty and we knew we were many miles from the next gas station. As the needle slipped into the red, we began using as little fuel as possible. We coasted down hills and on flats and uphill I opened the throttle just enough to feed the engine baby sips to keep us moving. We were sure we were going to strand ourselves. Two elderly British couples driving in dune buggies that we passed back near Apollon had now caught up to us and passed us in return. Just at the time when the needle was a hair width short of 'E' (and after several kilometers of constant cursing) we passed a sign indicating a gas station 1000 m away
. We were pretty excited that we were going to make it - that is, until we saw the same sign, about 500 m further on that said the gas station was 2000 m! Anyway, we continued on (not that we had a choice) coasting along at twenty kilometers an hour. A few more curses later, we came upon the gas station. Just ahead of us the two couples in the dune buggies were also pulling in. We came up beside them and heard one remark "well, we were certainly on borrowed time there!". We asked them if they were almost out of gas too and they said they were. We all shared in a relieved laugh, gassed up, and hit the road again. It would be interesting to find out how many people do the same thing, or actually run out of gas on the long fuel-less stretch!
Our fourth and last full day on the island was spent lounging on a beach near Kastraki, south of the main town. We fully enjoyed our time on Naxos and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Greek islands. It is developed just enough to offer anything you could possibly want, but is still cheap and the people are very friendly. Naxos Town has a classic beach town feel to it and it is very relaxing walking around or sitting on an ocean side terrace sipping on a cold drink. The beaches are beautiful and the water clear and pristine. It was the perfect antidote to Athens and we left relaxed and ready for Santorini.
As soon as we arrived at the Naxos port we were greeted by our hotel owner, George. He picked us and a couple of other guests up to take us back to the hotel (Windmill Naxos). He was very nice, extremely friendly and helpful, always giving tips on where things are and what to do. We booked our room online, but the hotel was full for the first of our five nights on Naxos. We emailed George to ask about possible accommodation for this night and he obliged, but we had to spend it in a neighbouring hotel. George picked us up at noon sharp on our second day as promised and brought us to our room in the Windmill. Before he left he gave us a map of the island (after pointing out where to go) and a chilled bottle of local white wine.