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Europe, Greece, Travel

Exploring Naxos Old Town

September 10, 2018
Naxos Old Town

 

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Exploring the winding streets of the Naxos Old Town is a wonderful way to spend a day in Naxos especially after spending the day at the beach. It is the classic white village of Greece, and many locals still live in the Old Town making for an authentic Greek experience.

When you first enter the Old Town, you are entering the Bourgos area. The Bourgos area is where the Old Market is located. The Old Market is the place to shop and eat in the Chora, the village. You will find a variety of shops and restaurants here.

As you go further into the Chora, you will enter the Kastro area. The Kastro is the area that is still occupied by much of the 13th century Venetian Castle. As you get closer to one of the three entrances, look for signs on the ground or walls that say Kastro.

Things to do in Naxos Old Town

Besides getting lost and finding hidden gems, there are lots to explore inside the Old Town of Naxos.

Naxos Old Town

Shop till You Drop 

Shopping is easy to do in Naxos Old Town and there is something for everyone. There are the typical tourist shops with souvenirs such as magnets and t-shirts and then there are clothing stores, jewelry stores, craft stores and more.

Naxos Old Town

Some of my favorite shops include:

– Papyrus Jewelry and Used Books have a huge selection of used books in many languages and some beautiful jewelry as well. I have never found a used bookstore on a Greek Island before.

Pocket Gallery has some stunning crafts and sells bags made from old sails and they can tell you what boat they came from.

– Morfes Ceramic Workshop makes beautiful and functional pieces. Ask them to show you the magic salt and pepper shaker!

Argilos is the best place to get quality Turkish and Greek towels which are essential when visiting Greek beaches as most hotels will not let you take their towels to the beach. The Greek towels are made in Crete of bamboo.

Jubilee is the place to go if you want really unique gifts such as handmade candles and stone lamps. They also had some Greek made notebooks.

Explore the History of Naxos 

Naxos Old Town is full of history and you can easily see most of the historic sites in this area in a day.

– Of course, the Kastro should be your first stop. If you want to avoid all the climbing, you can take the elevator. Finding the elevator can be tricky, so here is a link to the Google Map. There is a small fee to take it but in the heat of the summer, you would pay anything not to climb the stairs. I recommend catching the sunset from the Kastro!

Naxos Old Town

– The Archeological Museum of Naxos is located in the Kastro area. It is housed in a 17th-century Venetian building and has 5 floors of artifacts.

– Right the edge of the Old Town is the Mitropolis Museum. This museum is the ancient site of Naxos town. It is an open air museum but you must go down some stairs to get to it as it is below street level.

– The Folk Museum Collection is another treasure to discover in the alleys of Naxos Old Town. The collection is of modern pieces from 1975 to the present and represents the folk art of Naxos.

Eat All the Food

As mentioned earlier, some of the best restaurants can be found in Naxos Old Town. Most of these places serve Greek food at reasonable prices. However, you cannot get the atmosphere of eating at a table in the alley with people passing you by other than in the Old Town.

Metaxi Mas is a beautiful restaurant spread between two buildings with tables in the alleyways. The food is traditional Greek food and everything I have eaten here has been excellent. If you have a large party, make a reservation and you might want to eat earlier than the traditional Greek dinner here as I went at 9 the other night and much of what I wanted was already finished.

– Located right next to Metaxi Mas is Apostolis. The charm of this restaurant will make you want to sit down and the flavors will make you want to eat there every day!

Naxos Old Town

– Living up to its name of Labyrinth Wine Restaurant you may get a little lost trying to find this wonderful garden restaurant but it is worth it. This restaurant is only open for dinner and takes only cash.

All three restaurants appear in the video clip!

Have I convinced you to explore the Naxos Old Town yet? Find a place to stay in Naxos by clicking here.

Beach, Greece, Travel

The Best Naxos Beaches

August 27, 2018
Naxos Beaches

Many people say that Naxos has the best beaches in Greece and I would have to agree with them. Not only are the Naxos beaches amazingly beautiful but there are many to choose from. Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades and is accessible by ferry and plane. It is an excellent alternative to the more popular Santorini.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Beaches in Greece can be either organized or unorganized. Organized usually means they are maintained and have umbrellas, chairs, and sometimes restrooms. Most of them have several tavernas or bars serving food and drinks. Unorganized means there are no facilities. Unorganized ones are usually further out of town but are usually less crowded. A few of the unorganized ones will still have a taverna or two but not always.

Agios Georgios

Agios Georgios beach is the beach right in the central town. You can walk there from the center in about 15 minutes or stay right next to the beach and walk there in less than 2 minutes. The beach is a good size and has plenty of options for tavernas and bars. The umbrellas and chairs are usually run by one of the restaurants or bars. Prices vary, and some will let you use them for free if you purchase something.

The water is shallow closer to town, and it gets deeper further down the beach. The section that is shallow is shallow for quite a ways out, and you can walk out far before the water gets above your waist. Given that it is so close to town, the beach is more crowded than some others. The sand is also packed down until you get further away from town.

Agios Prokopios

Naxos Beaches

Agios Prokopios beach is the first beach out of town. The water here is stunning. It is the perfect shade of turquoise that reminds me of the Caribbean. The sand is golden and soft although not fine sand. The beach is organized and is long, so there are lots of choices of places to sun yourself all day.

To get to this beach take the bus from Naxos Town. The bus driver will announce the stops. You purchase your tickets from the bus station in Naxos town. You should buy a return ticket as well. If you have rented a car, there is public parking about a 10-minute walk from the beach. The parking is before the beach.

Agia Anna

Naxos Beaches

Not far from Agios Prokopios is Agia Anna. This beach is small, but the water is shallow making it a great place for kids and snorkeling. The beach is surrounded by cedar trees, so the unorganized part has shade. There is an organized section of the beach as well.

Agia Anna is also reachable by bus from Naxos Town. The public parking for this Naxos beach is near the end of the beach. The entrance is not easy to see due to the trees though.

Plaka

Naxos Beaches

Plaka beach is one of the longest beaches in Naxos. The sand is fine and soft. The water is deeper here and has incredible color. Most of Plaka beach is organized, and you have many options of where to sit. The umbrellas and chairs are usually run by restaurants behind the beach and offer their full menu on the beach. Plaka beach provides excellent views of Paros and the ferries running to and from Naxos.

The bus also runs to Plaka and offers several different stops along the way. If you drive you should know that after Agia Anna the road changes to a sand road. The road is compacted so any car can drive on it. The road gets more narrow here, and you may need to go one at a time through some sections. My advice is to drive slowly. A good place to park is behind Picasso on the Beach restaurant.

Orkos

Naxos Beaches

I hadn’t heard of Orkos beach and only spotted it on my road trip to discover all the Naxos beaches. I noticed it because it was so pretty. The beach is smaller than many of the other beaches, and it is unorganized, but it is worth visiting. Orkos has thick sand so you won’t have fine sand all over you.

There is no bus access to Orkos so you will have to rent a car to get here. You can walk from Plaka if it isn’t too hot.

Mikri Vigla

Mikri Vigla is known for being the spot for kitesurfer and windsurfers in Naxos. Of course, you don’t have to be a kitesurfer or windsurfer to enjoy this beautiful beach. The sand is fine white soft sand. The beach is organized, but the umbrellas and chairs are few, so arrive early if you want one.

The bus does go to Mikri Vigla from Naxos town. It is also accessible by car, and there is parking along the road.

Kastraki

Naxos Beaches

If you seek fewer crowds, then Kastraki beach is the beach for you! Due to its distance from town and the fact that it is a larger beach means there are fewer people and they are spread apart. The beach has beautiful soft white sand. While the beach is organized there are not many umbrellas and chairs. I recommend you bring your own so you can enjoy the quieter parts.

You can drive or take the bus to Kastraki. There is a large parking area that is unpaved right next to the beach. You will have to walk through some small dunes to get to the actual beach so make sure you have shoes on to protect your feet from the hot sand.

Pirgaki

Another beach that is less crowded due to its location is Pirgaki. Pirgaki might Although it isn’t any less beautiful than the other beaches. It can get windy on this beach, but offers great views and is frequented by windsurfers. The beach is organized but with a few umbrellas and chairs. There are a few cafes, but you might want to bring some drinks and snacks of your own just in case.

The bus from Naxos Town goes Pirgaki although not as often as the other buses. You can also reach Pirgaki by car.

Glyfada

This small beach is very pretty and very popular with the windsurfers and kitesurfers. There are few hotels nearby so you might find an umbrella or two to rent but best be prepared to bring your own. The sand is a nice fine white sand.

You will need a car to reach Glyfada beach as there is no bus service. There is a parking lot right by the beach.

Alyko

Alyko is an unorganized beach, but I wouldn’t let that stop you from visiting! It is one of the largest beaches on Naxos and is made up of three beach coves. It is less busy than other beaches and offers great views of the sunset. The rocks and cedar trees help shield this beach from the winds.

You can reach Alyko by bus. It will drop you at the second beach of Alyko, called Hawaii beach. You can also drive and park along the road or between the cedar trees.

Naxos Buses

As I have mentioned, many of the Naxos beaches are accessible by bus. However, the schedule is different for some seasons, and you should check the website for the most up to date timetables. If you are staying near the beaches and not in Naxos town, you can usually purchase your tickets at the mini-markets near the bus stop.

Naxos Hotels

I wish I had booked a week at the beach and then moved to town. Most of the beaches here have hotels or studios to stay in right across from the beach. Click here to check your options and rates.

Have I missed your favorite Naxos beach? Tell me which one in the comments!

Driving, Greece, Travel

Tips for Driving on the Greek Islands

July 9, 2018

Tips for Driving on the Greek Islands

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Driving on the Greek Islands might be daunting for some, it certainly was the first time I drove on Santorini. I had been warned about the turns and traffic. I was prepared for the worst, but it wasn’t bad at all. This last year I rented a car on Ios and had a different experience, so here are my tips for driving on the Greek Islands with confidence and ease.

Renting a Car

Most of the time, I like to rent cars in advance. This is for two reasons, usually, the rate is better and I need an automatic transmission. On some islands, renting a car in advance might not be an option though. Ios is not listed on several car rental sites I checked. However, if the island has an airport, you will most likely be able to book in advance online.

When booking rental cars in Europe, I prefer to use AutoEurope, click here for rates. Picking up the car is pretty straightforward and is similar to picking up a rental in any country. If you have a driver’s license from outside the EU, you will need an international driver’s license to rent a car. Some companies will not ask you, but you and the company can receive a fine if you are pulled over. The rule on this is being more strictly enforced since the beginning of the 2018 season.

Driving

Tips for Driving on the Greek Islands

Before I rented a car on Santorini, I had done some research on driving there. People warned the drive from the ferry to Oia could be scary. The drive was twisty and some the curves were next to cliffs, but the roads were well maintained and there were guard rails.

Ios was different. The island of Ios is not as popular as Santorini and many of the tourists do not drive. The roads were steep and many did not have guard rails. The rural roads were not well maintained. I am also deathly afraid of heights.

My tips are to do your research on the island you are going to. Find out about the geography of the island. Go on travel forums and ask about the road conditions.

Another tip for driving on a Greek island is to make sure you rent a car with enough horsepower. I had a two door smart car on Ios and it was barely enough for the steep Ios hills. This is also something to consider if you are going to rent an ATV instead of a car.

There are not many stop lights or stop signs on many of the islands, so proceed through intersections with caution. Greek drivers have been driving on these roads all their lives, so they tend to drive faster and what seems more erratically than you are. My advice is to drive in the right lane if possible and let them pass you.

You might see a Greek driver come up behind you and flash their lights. Basically, this means get out of my way. If you can’t, do so as quickly and safely as you can. As in many European companies, honking is common.

Parking

Tips for Driving on the Greek Islands

If you are renting a car, check that your hotel has parking. Finding a parking spot in small or crowded villages can be hard. The lots are often full, especially during the high season, from May to September.

Some parking lots are for use for patrons of a specific business, so check before you walk away. There should be a sign and they are usually in English and Greek. I only saw a few paid parking lots in Greece, so that isn’t as big an issue. It may even be worth paying so you can park in a real spot.

You will see some people get creative about making a parking spot. However, in a rental car, I would avoid this since your car will easily be spotted by the local police.

Purchasing Gas

Tips for Driving on the Greek Islands

Gas stations are few and far between on many islands or they are all in the main village. If you are going for a long drive, fill up before you head out and check to see if there are gas stations on your route.

Another thing to note is that most gas stations in Greece only take cash. They also will most likely pump the gas for you. If they do, I tip a euro or two to the attended.

Taking a Car on the Ferry

My tip is to not do this if at all possible. Driving on and off the ferry is done so quickly and many times you are expected to park your car in reverse once inside the ferry in a tight spot.

Renting a car on the islands is so easy and many car rental places have cars at the port, so you can pick up a car right there.

If you do decide to do it, you need to make sure you pay the fee for it when you book your tickets. There is also a place at the port to line up the cars for driving onto the ferry. Check with the port police when you arrive. They are wearing navy blue uniforms that look like military uniforms.

Driving in Greece doesn’t have to be scary if you are prepared and know your limits. Enjoy the scenery and the places you can only reach by car. Have you driven in Greece? Give us your tips in the comments!

Europe, Greece, Travel

5 Alternatives to Santorini

June 18, 2018
Alternatives to Santorini

 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

After I wrote my post, Why I Didn’t Love Santorini, many people ask what islands they should visit instead. So I am giving you my five alternatives to Santorini.

A few of these islands are close to Santorini and a few are closer to Athens. Each of them has comparisons to Santorini in some way and all of them are cheaper than Santorini.

1. Paros

Alternatives to Santorini

Paros is one of the large Cycladic Islands and is accessible by ferry daily from Piraeus port in Athens. Do not confuse it with Poros, which is an island closer to Athens. Paros used to be known for its marble quarries.

There is something for everyone on Paros. You can visit historic sites, get a tan on the beach or go windsurfing! It is a great alternative to Santorini because the villages have a similar style and since the main village, Parikia, is flat it is more accessible than Oia on Santorini.

Things to See and Do

  • Visit Panayia Ekatondapiliani Cathedral – This is also known as the church with 100 doors. It is very beautiful and there are tons to see.
  • Old Port of Naoussa – This is one of those iconic Greek places where cafe tables meet the sea!
  • Wander Parikia Town – This is one of the most beautiful towns on the islands I have seen. Tons of shops and restaurants to see as well.
  • Go Windsurfing – For the more adventurous, Paros has lots of wind making it a top spot for windsurfing.
  • Visit Golden Beach – One of the most beautiful beaches on the island and it is large. You might even be able to see the windsurfers from here.

2. Naxos

Right next to Paros is Naxos, the largest of the Cycladic Islands. Naxos has tons of beautiful beaches. It is also extremely family friendly. You can fly to Naxos as well as take the ferry.

I like Naxos better than Santorini as it is also flat at the port and the Chora is right next to a great beach. It means you don’t have to walk far for dinner or rent a car.

Things to See and Do

  • Visit the Kastro – Located right in the Chora, the 13th century Kastro is an ancient castle with three gates. Two of those gates are still in existence. The Kastro has several things to see inside including the Archaeological Museum.
  • See the Temple of Apollo – This is hard to miss as it sits at near the entrance of the port. Walking out to it is easy and offers great views of the sea.
  • Take a Dip at Agios Prokopios Beach – This great beach is right next to the Chora and has plenty of cafes and bars to hang out as well.
  • Go to the Eggares Olive Press Museum – The olive tree and oil are very important part of Greek life. This covers the whole operation of the press operation.
  • Take a Day Sail – Spend the day on the water and visit places only reachable by boat.

3. Ios

Alternatives to Santorini

Ios is close to Santorini and in my opinion, has the better sunset! The Chora is up on a hill just like Santorini but without the volcano.

Ios has 75km of beaches and is the island to visit if you are wanting to party or even if you are not. Given that parts of the activities are geared to young people, it makes much of the accommodation more affordable than Santorini.

Things to See and Do

  • Explore Skarkos – This is one of the best preserved ancient sites in the Cyclades. You can see some artifacts from Skarkos in the Archaeology Museum in the Chora.
  • Visit Managanari Beach – One of the most beautiful beaches in Greece. You can take a bus for the day to the stunning beach.
  • Eat at Octopus Tree – This tiny port restaurant has some of the best Greek food on Ios. I recommend the fried zucchini fritters. Here is my list of all the best places to eat in Ios.
  • Watch the Sunset from the Liostasi Hotel – The sunset in Ios is stunning and due to its unobstructed views, the Liostatsi is one of the best places to see it. You don’t have to be staying there, just order a drink from their bar.
  •  Visit Homer’s Tomb – Homer the poet is supposedly buried on Ios. It is a drive, but worth visiting. The view from here is amazing.

4. Kea

Alternatives to Santorini

Kea is a great alternative to Santorini that is close to Athens. It is also great if you want a less touristy option as it is mostly Athenians that come here. You could come to Kea on a day trip if you wanted to as well.

The hilltop village is white and blue like Santorini and offers great views of the island.

Things to See and Do

  • See the Lion of Kea – Located in the hilltop village of Ioulis is a Lion sculpture. It was carved before 600 BC.
  • Visit the Archaeology Museum – Also in the village of Ioulis is the small but great museum. The pottery has feminine features and I have never seen anything like them before.
  • Go Scuba Diving – This is one of the few islands have seen with a dive shop. The waters here were calm making it a great place to dive.
  • Hike to Ancient Karthea – This is a long hike but worth it to see the site and go swimming after.
  • Eat at Bourkarion – This family-owned restaurant is located in the village of Vourkari, which is just down from the port of Korissa.

5. Kythnos

Kythnos is also not far from Athens and is another great alternative to Santorini. The island is not too big, but if you really want to explore you will need a car as some of the best places to eat are not in the port. Kythnos still has some of the best food I have eaten in Greece.

It is also great as it is not crowded and much more affordable than Santorini.

Things to See and Do

  • Take a Dip in the Thermal Springs – In the village of Loutra right in the sea is a thermal spring.
  • Eat Mussels at Sofrano – Also in the village of Loutra is the great restaurant of Sofrano and has some of the best mussels I have ever had in my life.
  • Visit the hilltop Chora – This is one of the most charming white and blue villages and reminded me most of Oia in Santorini.
  • Swim at Kolona Bay – This two-sided bay offers great swimming and a stunning view of the surrounding island. There is a narrow strip of beach to relax on, but it is never crowded.
  • Visit Katafiki Cave – This is one of the largest caves in Greece. It was a mine and is now a tourist attraction.

I would never tell you not to visit Santorini, but it is expensive and is very crowded in the high-season. If you are only going to Greece once, then visit Santorini for a day or two and then visit one of these great alternatives. There are 220 islands in the Cyclades, so you plenty to choose from!

Do you have favorite Greek islands that are alternatives to Santorini? Share with us in the comments!