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About Naxos island, Greece

Naxos is the biggest island of Cyclades. It is an exceptionally fertile island, with long history breathtaking landscapes and a lot of sightseeing; all these attract a lot of tourists, all year round, but especially in summer. It has an extent of some 440 square kilometers and a coastline of approximately 150 kilometers.

Thanks to its fertile soil the island produces various goods and it is famous for the agricultural and livestock products, especially wine, meat and various kinds of cheese. The visitors of the island have many choices: wonderful lovely beaches, sightseeing of historical interest and a fascinating natural environment to wander in.
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Mythology

Several myths of the ancient Greek Mythology are connected with the island of Naxos, which evidences that human activity on it dates back to early prehistory. The most important myths refer to Zeus, the king of gods. According to one of them, Zeus spent his childhood in the cave of Zas, as the name of the mountain indicates (“Zas” is a false pronunciation of “Zeus”). Other myths connect the island with the god of wine, Dionysus and with Ariadne, the daughter of the mythic Cretan king Minos. According to this latter, when Theseus, the son of the king of Athens killed the Minotaur in Crete, he kidnapped Ariadne, the beautiful daughter of king Minos to bring her along to his country. On his way home he stopped at Naxos and decided to abandon her there. It is here that the god of wine Dionysus found her fell in love and married her. According to another myth, Ariadne, when Theseus left her alone on the island, she went to the small islet of Palatia, fell in the rough sea and killed herself.

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History

The history of Naxos goes back to early prehistory; according to archaeological research the first traces of human settlements on the island is evidenced as early as in late 4th millennium b.C. Ever since, as archaeological finds and written sources show, human activity on Naxos is uninterrupted up to the present.

The scholars suggest that the first residents of Naxos were colonists of Thracian origin; it was them who introduced the worship of Dionysus, the god of wine on the island. Later on Naxos was occupied by Carians; their leader, called Naxos, named the island after him. Being one of the most important centers of the Cycladic civilization, Naxos continued to flourish in more recent periods of history as well. During the Archaic period the island, thanks to the high quality marble it produced, became the center of sculpture in the Aegean; it obtained considerable income and was counted among the most important commercial and marine powers of the period. Naxian sculptors were those who made the Kouroi, the statues of young men of the Archaic period and the Lions of the sacred island of Delos. Later on, Naxos became an ally of Athens; during the Persian wars it suffered extensive damages by the Persians. After the system of the city-states declined, the island followed the destiny of the rest of Greece: it was successively conquered by the Macedonians, the Ptolemy’s dynasty and the Romans.

During the Byzantine period the island suffered considerable destruction by the pirates and by Saracen invaders. It is in this period that many coastal settlements were transferred to the mountainous inland, so that the people were protected by the attacks of pirates and of various would-be invaders.
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After the Francs occupied Constantinopolis in 1204, the Venetian Marco Sanudo took Naxos and the neighboring islands and established the strong and famous Duchy of Paronaxia. Under the Venetian domination Naxos knew a long period of safety and prosperity; a lot of buildings were constructed on the island, mainly castles and strong houses which could protect the people. In 1537 the island was occupied by the Ottoman H. Barbarossa and –with the exception of a few years, in 1768, when it passed to the Russians – it remained under the Ottoman domination until the Greek Revolution of 1821.

The brave people of the island contributed much to the Revolution of 1821. When Greece became independent, Naxos was incorporated to the newly formed state. Ever since, its history is common with that of Greece. During the World War II, in the years 1941 – 1944, the island was occupied initially by the Italians and then by the Germans, who brought about several damages in reprisal to the strong resistance of the locals.

Today Naxos is a flourishing part of Greece with considerable agricultural and stock breeding production and well developed tourism. The island is a favorite destination both for Greek and foreign tourists.

Climate

The climate of the island, with mild winters and cool summers, is one of the factors of attraction of tourists, not only in summer (from Easter to September), but also all year round. The most significant features of the climate of Naxos are the “meltemia”, the northern summer winds, often strong enough, which result in cooling the atmosphere, but also attract numerous fans of windsurfing; the second feature is the bright sun and the high annual rate of sunlight. Sea is another factor of the mildness of the local climate and makes the island an ideal destination, especially in summer. Rains are rare and take place mainly in a few days in summer; dry spells, even in winter, are common enough.

All these factors contribute to the fertility of the island whose agricultural and stock breeding production not only covers the needs of the residents and the thousands of visitors, but is also exported in the markets of Athens and of Europe.
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Activities

Naxos is ideal for many sports and recreation activities and sports either in the sea and on the beach, or in the nature and the mountains. Whatever you choose, the natural environment, completed by the tourist and sport facilities, will certainly charm you.

The numerous organized beaches offer several opportunities for sports; and if you are beginner, the staff of various schools for sports will be willing to help you. Whatever you choose, beach volley, pedalo or surfing, you will have good time. And, if you prefer windsurfing, you will soon realize that you are in the right place. The bright sun and the crystal clear turquoise sea complete this fantastic image.

The mountain and the hills of the inland are very interesting for walking, hiking and trekking; a good network of old and of more recently constructed footpaths will bring you in places that it is impossible to reach in other ways. And, if you are fan of bicycle, the numerous dirt tracks will lead you to nice places, calm and beautiful, with springs and trees which make up an ideal environment for relaxing.
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Shopping – Local Products

Naxos is a very fertile island and you will certainly confirm this from the local products you will try. The agricultural products are very famous and are exported in Athens and other places of Greece, but also in the markets of Central and Northern Europe. The most well known product is the potato, excellent and very delicious. You will also find nice wines, gorgeous fruit and vegetables and high quality olive oil. Equally famous are the local cheese: the local gruyere, the “xyno” (soft sour cheese) and the “myzithra” (soft or hard more or less salted cheese). The local meat is also very nice: you will find lamb and kid meat, but also veal. Both cheese and meat are exported in Athens.

People of Naxos like feasts and have a long tradition in local music, in satiric poems and dance. So, they have made nice products suitable for these occasions, as the traditional liquors; the most famous among them is the sweet-smelling citron liquor, which you will find in almost all the stores of Chora, but also in the villages and tourist resorts. Of course, you may taste them in the traditional cafés and taverns. Also don’t miss to taste and buy the local sweets, made of local fruits.

Finally, you will find a lot of local handicraft products , as woven clothes and embroidery, as well as traditional ceramic vessels, whose shapes and decoration follow the long tradition of the island, going back to the Neolithic times.
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Access

Naxos is connected with Piraeus, with the neighboring islands of Cyclades and with several other islands of the Aegean, by conventional and high speed ferry boats. There is also air connection with Athens all year round; in summer there is also connection with other airports in Greece, as well as charter flights from several cities of Europe. An extended network of public buses connects the capital town of Naxos (Chora) and the port with most of the villages and with the popular beaches of the island.

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