Did you know that Greece has over 6,000 islands and islets scattered throughout the Aegean and Ionian Seas, of which “only” 227 islands are inhabited? How do you choose which one to visit? Luckily for us we had my Greek friend Sofia to guide us through the avalanche of information about this topic. Ultimately, we settled on two islands: one popular with the locals (Naxos), and one very touristic but considered the most beautiful of them all (Santorini).
After an incredible 48 hour experience of touring Athens we were ready for our next adventure. 5am found us sleepily packing our bags and brushing our teeth in a hurry to catch the Blue Star Ferry boat to Naxos. The ride to port of Pirreaus was lively and our taxi driver gave us tips on the food we should try on the islands.
“Make sure to try the Naxos potatoes. They are sweet and smooth – the best fries in the whole Mediterranean.”
We all nodded excitedly. My stomach began growling even louder when our new friend began talking about the local goat cheese. I secretly hoped there would be some of this delicious food we could eat on the boat.
We did not buy tickets in advance for our trip, as we were told it would not be necessary. We simply walked to the kiosk in Piraeus and got our tickets that morning, 45 minutes before the boat was taking off. Since the first class tickets were only ten euros more expensive we decided to splurge. 5 and a half hours at sea with some of us suffering from motion sickness made it seem like good idea at the time. Later we discovered that the difference between first class and economy is… virtually nothing, except perhaps fewer passengers. So when we bought our ticket from Naxos to Santorini we chose not to waste our money. As for motion sickness, the Blue Ferry Boats are cruise size so unless the weather is unusually bad there isn’t much motion.
Breathing relieved we quickly boarded, got a table, collapsed in the comfy chairs, and ordered some coffee and spanakopita. When I say “we” I mean my husband and inlaws. I don’t drink coffee, but I like to passively partake in the ritual by smelling the aroma and even holding Clayton’s cup for a few minutes. Coffee is too acidic for my digestion and sends my sensitive adrenals on a roller coaster. The rather diminutive spanakopita was definitely not made with fresh Naxos goat cheese, despite the high price. I made a mental note to bring my own food next time as I enviously watched a Greek family produce a full blown breakfast out of their bags.
Although I had google searched photos of the Greek isles nothing prepared me for the incredible vistas I drank in as we pulled closed to shore. It’s a feast for the eyes.
Welcome to naxos!
Naxos is a quiet, peaceful island full of friendly mainlanders and Athenians coming here to vacation. I saw quite a few families with babies and toddlers enjoying the beaches and exploring the towns.
We rented two rooms for a budget friendly price at the Agios Prokopios Villa, a five minute walk from the Agios Prokopios beach. A taxi was sent for us at the port for 20 euros and we arrived swiftly at our destination around 1:30 pm. Based on the price I didn’t expect much and I was pleasantly surprised. Our room was large with a balcony and a kitchenette, the bed was comfortable with immaculate sheets, and the courtyard boasted a stunningly beautiful pool and bar. We even received beach towels!
Of course we were ravenous so as soon as we checked in we quickly changed into our bathing suits and walked along the quaint restaurants lining the beach. We figured we would kill two birds with one stone: have lunch and then have our first dip in the mediterranean.
It was hard to choose where to stop as the servers at every place stood outside beckoning us, sometimes aggressively, to come in. Paralyzed by indecision, we finally settled for a place with a good view, bustling with customers. Although I typically like to Yelp places we eat at first, our hunger wasn’t up for it.
We started with the local artisanal Naxos cheeses, then the famous potatoes, followed by a fresh Greek salad, dolmas, and meat balls. Everything tasted fresh and divine. We were pleasantly surprised when we were given watermelon slices as a complimentary dessert. In fact, every restaurant on the island will offer you a dessert or a piece of fruit on the house to wrap up your meal.
I was not prepared for the mediterranean sun sets – the pale lights dancing on the whitewashed buildings slowly drowning into the sleepy blue sea. It soothed my aching heart as I missed my family to whom I had said goodbye only three days previously. When I see another beautiful piece of the world I do feel rather guilty that I’m the only one seeing it, while my grandma has never been out of the country once. She doesn’t want to leave, I tell myself, but then how much of that has to do with her generation and the horrors of World War Two she witnessed at my age – while I stroll on the Mediterranean beach holding hands with my husband. I am grateful, so grateful to have these opportunities she didn’t have – humbled and grateful.
In Naxos we spent two days on the beach and one day exploring interior of the island, for which we rented a car.
We visited the marble village. Yes, it is made of marble, the whole thing. It was a surreal experience walking through the tiny streets with old Greek folk sitting outside their front door chatting quietly, nodding at us as we walked by. I didn’t want to leave this place. I felt like I had walked into a parallel universe or time warp.
We admired the mountain of Zeus. The view was spectacular and the road was – I won’t lie – a bit precarious. There were a couple times I had to close my eyes and lay all my faith in my father in law’s driving skills.
We also explored a few temple ruins and stopped in some tucked away little villages along the way for coffee, snacks, and lunch. None of those disappointed us, though my husband tells me the coffee in Greece is an… acquired taste. There is a quite robust farm to table movement on the island, so often you can find out where they source their meat and produce before you choose a place to eat.
We had only one disappointing meal, and sadly that was at the recommendation of the receptionist of our hotel. The Naxos Hotel restaurant, located on the roof of the hotel, has spectacular view but the food was mediocre at best and very much overpriced.
We had the best dolmas I’ve ever tasted washed down with some delicious Ouzo at the Blue Point Cafe perched right on the beach. When in Greece, you have to try Ouzo. We certainly did.
Naxos is an island I would love to go back to and spend even two or three weeks when we start having children. It is such a friendly, quiet, peaceful island. Consider adding it to your itinerary if you are looking for an Greek island that is less busy with tourists and late night bars and parties. The Agios Prokopois beach is an incredible beach, so look for something close by.
After we grabbed some delicious euros to go, we embarked on the Blue Star Ferry and off we were to the island of Santorini.