Naxos town was everything we hoped it would be. There’s a harbour dominated by the Portara, a huge marble gate built from four massive blocks of marble said to have been erected around 500BC as the entrance to a temple.
There’s a pier for the passenger ferries and another for the fishing boats and commercial craft. We spent may happy hours sitting in a cafe or just on a bench watching all the activities in the port.
Behind the harbour the town rises up to the ancient ‘kastro’ or old town with narrow twisted streets, archways and quite a few dead ends. We enjoyed a guitar concert in a mansion built by the Venetian rulers of Naxos, a very atmospheric place still with the original 800 year old ceiling constructed of juniper wood covered with dried seaweed and a layer of sand. Local wines and spirits were available throughout the evening!
Away from the coast Naxos is mountainous with the tallest mountain in the Cyclades, Mount Zas, at 1004 metres almost as high as Snowdon.
We took the bus through stunning scenery to the unimaginably rustic village of Apeirantho. Although it is visited by tourists and has several small museums (all closed when we were there) it’s a quiet place and doesn’t appear to have lost it’s particular character. It was unclear how many people live there, we saw mostly women and older men but there is a school.
We came across a bakers shop which appeared to have been unchanged for centuries, bought a loaf and ate some hot bread straight away!
It’s walking country and we returned the next day to follow the route to an ancient church said to be just over an hour away. The path was rocky, steep in places and plunged us immediately into timeless rural Greece complete with goats and a shepherds hut clearly still in use.
After an hour, with the path becoming more treacherous all the time, no church was in sight. Alan walked ahead for another 10 minutes but still no sign.
So we ate our lunch and returned in time for the bus back to town.
Naxos was a favourite place and somewhere we’d like to return one day.
For now it’s time we set off for home, with a final visit to Athens.