Captain Panos Sailing
Naxos Harbor, Naxos
There are a few different boat companies on Naxos, but the expeditions led by Captain Panos and his crew easily lead the pack. There are dozens of secret coves, hidden caves, and sandy beaches on Naxos that are reachable only by boat, and Panos knows all of them. It takes a full day to get the lay of the land, but the hours pass too quickly in a haze of swimming, snorkeling, and—for the more intrepid explorers—cliff jumping. Water, snacks, and beer are abundant on the boat, and lunch is served on a nearby island, Pano Koufounisi. The crew knows every nook and cranny of the island and is especially good at encouraging the more nervous swimmers into the water. Their historical and topographical knowledge, meanwhile, beats any guidebook.
Naxos Port, Naxos
This two-and-a-half-thousand-year-old marble doorway leads nowhere. What was left of the never-finished temple was completely ransacked by Turkish and Venetian invaders during their respective occupations of the island. Standing about eight meters high, the Portara is made of solid marble and stands on what has become its own small island (blame the wind and waves for the erosion) reachable by causeway. There is something majestic about this portal. Maybe it’s the fact that it faces the island of Delos, the birthplace of Apollo. Or maybe it’s that this giant doorway is still standing, having survived the battering of the elements for thousands of years. In any case, the scenery and the structure are simply breathtaking.
Temple of Demeter
It makes sense that any temples dedicated to the goddess of grain would be situated near farmland or, at least, what was once considered fertile ground. In this case, a lush valley just south of Sangi village. The temple itself is pre-Acropolis, dating to 530 B.C. It was discovered in 1949 and has since undergone extensive restoration. Read up on Demeter before making the visit—it goes a long way toward bringing the temple to life.
Naxian on the Beach
The best part about this hotel is the earthy, relaxed atmosphere.
The scent of simmering chicken and pork roasting on the spit draws people into Giannis, but vegetarians will find plenty to order, too. The bean salad with feta had one goop staffer coming back more than once on her summer trip, and the hilltop setting in the village of Chalki is gorgeous (try to explore the little alleyways and meandering streets after dinner). Service can be slow, but such is the pace of life in this hidden-away town, far from the crowds at the port. Just roll with it—and bring cash.
The little town of Koronos is about eighteen miles from the main town of Chora on Naxos. This means that Matina Taverna is pretty much a locals-only spot, and a trip here is a good excuse to get off the beaten track. Stavros—Matina’s husband—is a Naxian who grows his own vegetables, churns his own dairy, and even makes his own wine. It’s all served at the restaurant, with plentiful portions of Stavros’s cheese to round off a meal. There’s no menu. Instead, the server lets each table know what’s cooking that day. Matina’s slow-cooked stews and meat braises—all simmered in traditional clay pots—and her flaky vegetable-stuffed pastries make for deeply nourishing, soul-satisfying dinners.
Plaka Beach, Naxos
If you’re into the idea of trying an island delicacy like wild goat (and you should), try it here. It’s what Petrino is known for—along with some killer homemade chocolate ice cream. The setting, off Plaka beach, with tables shaded by a leafy trellis, makes for relaxing, lazy lunches.
Naxos Town, Naxos
Meze Meze sits right on the main harbor and can get a bit touristy, but that has no bearing on the food. The garlicky shellfish and cheese-stuffed squid are standouts, but you could skip dinner and come here just for dessert. The crispy and sweet candied carrots, unlike anything we’ve had before, are served with a healthy dollop of savory Greek yogurt.
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