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Greentraveller's Guide to Naxos and the Small Cyclades, Greece

Written by Florence Fortnam, videography by Alex Cantouris.
Artwork for Greentraveller's Guides by Tina Smith and Mark Edwards

Foreword by Christina Kalogera, Director Greece National Tourism Organisation, UK & Ireland

When travellers come to choose their holiday they know that Greece has everything they are looking for. It is a safe destination, with great weather, amazing landscapes, warm hospitality and a fascinating history and culture. Moreover, Greece is a country of beautiful contradictions - you could walk through the olive groves and archaeological sites, move to clusters of islands, go through beaches and mountains and explore the breath-taking scenery all in one trip.

Naxos and the Small Cyclades is the perfect example of that. With so many undiscovered and commanding treasures waiting to be discovered, these beautiful islands are sure to captivate the most discerning of travellers whether interested in nature, hiking and trekking, cycling, sea sports and snorkelling, history and local festivals, arts and crafts or just simply good food and wine!

Naxos – the largest of the Cyclades – is a destination in its own right. It is one of the most mountainous and fertile Cyclades islands. The local potatoes are a treat and this is also the case for the island’s wide range of cheeses and citrus liqueurs. Its main city of Hora boasts a medieval castle and traditional cobbled streets filled with tavernas and shops while the island is renowned for its long stretches of sandy beaches, iconic villages and archaeological sites, including the famous Portara (Apollo Temple's entrance) overlooking the port. Naxos is also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts offering a variety of sea sports such as kite surfing as well as mountain biking and scenic walking trails passing through beautiful villages and sights of cultural interest.

Nearby Small Cyclades are one of Greece’s best kept secrets! They have a small permanent population of around two hundred residents and consist of four inhabited islands located between Naxos and Amorgos. Iraklia - the largest of the group at 19sqkm, Schinoussa, Koufonisi (also referred to as Ano Koufonisi) and Donousa. These beautiful small islands have a distinct character offering a unique holiday experience unlike any other in the Cyclades, whether the tranquility and secluded coves of Iraklia, the turquoise blue waters and gastronomic delights of Schinoussa, the breath-taking walking trails and beaches of Donousa, or the fast becoming fashionable Koufonisi with its beautiful Hora (main town) and sandy beaches with emerald waters.

Greentraveller’s Guide to Naxos and the Small Cyclades gives us a fantastic opportunity to showcase yet another amazing Greek destination.

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What our writer discovered in Naxos and the Small Cyclades

Here is classic Greece. Naxos and the islands of the Small Cyclades (Iraklia, Schinoussa, Koufonisi and Donousa) have it all: ancient monuments, fishing villages, sandy beaches, turquoise waters and fresh local food. In the tranquil interiors, you'll hear the tinkling of goat bells and marvel at beautifully kept white-washed churches.

You can expect generous Greek hospitality in the locally run guesthouses and restaurants, and there are activities for everyone, from kite-surfing, sea-kayaking and windsurfing to climbing, mountain biking and guided walking tours.

Exploring the archipelago by boat, mountain bike and kayak

The islands' wild ingredients, from mountain goat to thyme honey

Stay, Eat, See & Do

Our pick of places across Naxos and the Small Cyclades

Written by Florence Fortnam

Google Map Key:
Click on the coloured icons for more information about each listing
Green = Places to stay
Blue = Places to eat
Yellow = Attractions 
Purple = Activities

Click on the square brackets top right of the map to see individual listings

  • According to Greek mythology, Naxos is the childhood home of the Greek sky and thunder God Zeus
  • Mount Zas on Naxos is the highest peak in the entire Cyclades region
  • Naxos is famous as a source of emery, a dark granular rock, which was once mined on an industrial scale
  • Part of Naxos (including the sections of central and southern Naxos, and the areas from Vigla to Mavrovouni and the sea area between the bays of Karades and Moutsouna) is in Natura 2000 - the European network of protected areas
  • Naxos has a classic Mediterranean climate with relatively mild winters and very warm summers

Map of Naxos and the Small Cyclades

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