Naxos walking holidays

Ugh, we hate clichés, but if you want to see the real Greece, head to the lesser visited islands and explore them on foot. Naxos is a prime example. It’s the largest, greenest island in the Cyclades group, but unlike nearby Mykonos and Paros it’s content to avoid the limelight. There’s as much to interest the curious archaeology buff on Naxos as there is the keen walker, and yet for the most part the island retains a pleasingly laidback atmosphere.

It’s not much of an exaggeration to say you’re walking in the land of the Gods here. Greek mythology has it that Naxos was the home of Dionysus (Roman: Bacchus), the ancient god of wine and fertility, and the remains of a temple dedicated to him can be seen, as well as the Portara, an ancient marble gateway that stands on the islet of Palatia, and is the entrance to what is thought to be the ruins of a temple dedicated to Apollo.
The valley of Tragea, known for its dense groves of olive and citrus, is also scattered with old villages and churches. Hills and valleys are perfumed with herbs such as lavender and thyme, and during the spring a tapestry of wildflowers – Naxos boasts no fewer than 18 species of orchid alone. The island is not short of stunning beaches either – several located close to the hora (main community), with its whitewashed cube houses, Byzantine chapels and medieval Venetian mansions. Apiranthos, another popular village to walk around, has streets paved with marble, and courtyards brightly bedecked with flowers.
Naxos really is a wonderful place for hiking. A sprawling network of trails links a superb collection of ancient sites such as that of Kouros, a gigantic statue dating to the 5th century BC that lies abandoned in the shade or the 13th century Kastro (castle) in the old town. And between them, villages clinging to mountainsides, lush valleys fed by springs and waterfalls, winding down to sandy coves and bays and the sparkling Aegean. A highlight of many walking trips is Mount Zas, the highest peak in the Cyclades at 1,004m. The king of all the gods Zeus is said to have been raised in a cave on the mountain, which you can actually see inside, while vultures soar watchfully above.

Naxos walking and sailing trips

Naxos walking holidays can also be combined with sailing, where you’ll sleep on a yacht with twin or double cabins and communal bathrooms, swim off virgin beaches, moor up to explore ancient Venetian settlements and of course enjoy a memorable Aegean sunset every evening.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Greece walking or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Benefits of local guides

Annie Antonatou from our Greece walking specialist Mystic Blue:
“We like to take our guests away from the touristic areas and show them the small, unspoilt islands of the Aegean and Ionian seas. With our guides you get a hands-on experience of typical island life and the “spirit” of our country, its people and its amazing culture. The historical information provided by our guides will help you understand the culture and the current situation in Greece. As we walk carefully selected routes, we show our guests the unique flora and fauna of the Aegean or Ionian islands. We also encourage our guests to eat at small, local taverns and taste the most delicious Greek dishes and fine wine prepared with local ingredients.”


Annie Antonatou: “We choose our walks so they’re suitable for anyone in reasonable fitness, and also those that best introduce people to the history, culture, and natural wonders of the Greek islands. Trails are well-marked but many could also be characterised as “goat” paths. Some sections can be quite rough and stoney too so we always recommend good boots and walking poles.”

Practicalities of walking on Naxos

Walking holidays on Naxos are often combined with other nearby islands, including Iraklia, Amorgos, Paros and Santorini over a one or two-week trip. The ferry over from Athens takes around five hours, so it can be a good idea to break your journey up with a night in the capital. You’ll stay in a mix of small, family run hotels and guesthouses.
You can opt for either a guided small group tour, or a self-guided, tailormade trip which gives you more flexibility over your travel dates, your routes and your pace. Expect leisurely walking, around three to six hours each day, with routes that are graded easy to moderate. Paths have moderate gradients, reaching ascents of up to 500m. If you walk fairly regularly and are in reasonable fitness, the terrain shouldn’t present any difficulties.
The best time to go on Naxos walking holidays is outside the summer – it can approach 27°C in July and August, just too hot for walking comfortably. In spring and autumn however, other walkers are thin on the ground even on popular trails and, what’s more the temperatures are like the island’s heritage, divine. Travelling either side of summer helps communities benefit from out-of-season income, too.
“The entire trip was very well-planned. Part of each day was spent sailing between beautiful and lesser-known islands, whilst still affording lots of time to have early evening walks through beautiful countryside and small, white-washed villages. There were plenty of opportunities for swimming and snorkelling in turquoise seas to work up an appetite for the delicious and healthy Mediterranean evening food at atmospheric tavernas. I loved being lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the boat at our evening moorings. Limit your luggage, as there is very little storage space. Book early if you want to have a double bed, as the bunk room is rather snug, but cosy.” – Lynday Gough on a Cyclades sailing & walking holiday
“Be prepared for some steep and rocky climbs and descents.....solid walking boots and a pole would be beneficial...We enjoyed excellent accommodation from local providers and ate at local tavernas that utilized locally grown produce...our guide was fantastic, and was passionate in sharing her comprehensive knowledge of the Cyclades islands with us. Her commitment to the conservation of the environment, her sense of humor, patience and friendship all ensured that our experience would be unforgettable.” – Joy Field on a Naxos & the small Cyclades walking holiday
“The hikes were thoughtfully selected as they were scenic, exposed us to local culture/lifestyle and mileage covered was sufficiently challenging. Annie, our guide, took very good care of us and ensured that I had options (I had some dietary restrictions) during meals - food was very good. We were there during off peak season so many shops were closed but we liked that it wasn't crowded. Perhaps plan to avoid the peak season but when more shops are open.” – Sze Mei Lim on a Cyclades walking & island hopping holiday
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: TimOve] [Kouros: Paul Arps] [Mount Zas: Zde] [Culture – local fisherman: Paul Arps]