Naxos Greece sits at the heart of the central Cyclades group of Greek islands and is one of the group's most mountainous.
Naxos is a big island, but with most tourism confined to the south-west coast where resorts pepper a vast blonde swathe of sand.
Unfortunately, much of the sand is gritty and coarse with many beaches backed by large, desolate salt pans.
The long, empty stretches of beach are fine for those who don't like the company of fellow tourists but may feel rather lonely for visitors who wish their beaches to be a little more lively.
Naxos Town port has a large harbour with the noted Portaras gate sitting proudly on the offshore islet of Palatia and the walled Kastro towering above a tangled web of narrow whitewashed streets.
Inland is some very impressive mountain scenery, particularly around Mount Zas where abundant springs and rich soil help create lush green valleys of citrus orchards and olive groves.
Rich farming means the Islanders have little need to attract tourism, so Naxos maintains a robust Greek identity, particularly among the many unspoilt traditional hill villages.
A good beach holiday island without the crowds, inland hillside villages and mountain scenery to add interest with easy island hopping on the many ferries can put Naxos high on a Greek island wish list.
Noted for a string of majestic sandy beaches on the south-west coast and for its good ferry connections Naxos makes an excellent choice for a holiday off the beaten track. Some beaches may seem too big for comfort, but small family beaches can be found. Visitors will mainly see huge swathes of sand backed by low dunes, scrub or desolate salt marsh behind.
The capital town of Naxos claims to be the gateway to the Cyclades and has the doorway to prove it. The gigantic marble door frame of Portara stands 21 ft high on the tiny Palatia islet linked to Naxos Town by a short causeway.
The frame is all that remains of a 6th century BC temple which was never finished. The giant doorway to nowhere is all that's standing
North of the causeway is the Grotta area where an old settlement lies sunk beneath the waves. To the south is the central town, a happy mix of the brash – tavernas, bars, car rentals and tourist tat, the twee – a web of whitewashed back streets stuffed with craft and curio shops, and the historical – narrow alleys wind up to the Venetian Kastro.
Further south still is a suburban sprawl of hotels and studios backing onto the long town beach of Agios Giorgios. The waterfront is a promenaders' paradise with an extensive and attractive sea wall, dozens of street tavernas and shops.
Cobbled whitewashed alleys up to the 13th-century kastro are places to get lost among arched porticoes, crumbling mansions, flowerpot gardens and street tavernas.
The kastro is topped with a Catholic Cathedral and a good museum with exhibits that include early Cycladic goddesses with prominent breasts and bellies and some stunning views from the balcony.
Naxos Town may have its tourist glitz but it's primarily Greek in character, and few will be surprised that visitors stay longer in Naxos Town than any other Greek island resort.
The whole of the Naxos south-west coast is one line of beaches, many blending into each other with only the names of nearest village to separate them. Some are huge swathes of sand backed by dunes and bamboo, others narrow slivers that shelve steeply into the sea.
Plenty of tourist facilities are in evidence on Agios Giorgios, or St George's, with solid ranks of sunbeds and surfboards but it's less commercialised than first appearances might suggest.
There may be hotels by the score, and a broken line of bars and cafes backing the beach, but the atmosphere is still family friendly and the taverna food mainly Greek.
The sand soft, deep and gently shelving into the shallow sea has a boarded walkway that runs the length of the tree-shaded crescent of fronting beach tavernas and bars.
The closer you get to Naxos Town the more hectic the pace. Further south the sand turns gritty, but there is the compensation of greater tranquillity.
Around the headland is a small inlet and bay at Mandari that houses a windsurfing school and beyond that a dyke, built at some cost to the local wildlife, to prevent periodic flooding of the island airport.
Brochures post up Agios Prokopios among the best beaches on Naxos, and while the southern end of this long, deep beach has some merit, there is little to recommend the northern end.
Tamarisks shade the soft sand southern end of the beach where a slightly ramshackle resort of hotels, studios, cafes and tavernas provides the backdrop.
North, towards Naxos Town, however, is a desolate, flat salt marsh and a long, flat stretch gritty ball-bearing sand that ends in almost Saharan desolation.
Great slabs of rock along much of the northern shoreline don't add to the appeal. At least the rock is flat and smooth underfoot, but it is still a nuisance for anyone wanting a swim.
The village of Stelida, behind and above Prokopios village, is a popular target for holiday companies and some up-market hotels and apartments have sprung up.
The dainty harbour at Agia Anna is the first destination of caiques out of Hora. North of the small jetty is a line of modest tucked behind a fine beach of soft, golden sand.
A few scattered rocks appear where the beach gives way to the coarser grains of Agia Prokopios, but the lovely setting and shallow seas make this a splendid beach.
Relatively short at around 300 metres, the sands can quickly fill when the caiques and buses roll in, so an early visit is needed to bag the best spots.
To the south of the jetty, a small harbour is enclosed by a rocky outcrop that features a formation known as Shark Rock, sculpted by winds to resemble a shark.
Snaking south is a wide dirt track leading to the Plaka beach area and vast kilometres of coarse white sand. Agia Anna beach is well placed for exploring the island's more remote beaches while staying in touch with lively Naxos Town seven kilometres away. And they grow the most delicious spuds on the flat, fertile plains nearby.
Around the headland south from Agia Anna and past a tiny church, the coast opens up into a huge vista of flat, sparkling white sand that shoots away into a distant haze.
The huge beach area is known as Plaka, but it is so big the various sections have their own names and this, the most northerly part, is known as Maragas.
Once home to a single ramshackle taverna the full dirt track behind is substantial enough to take cars and even buses, and it's lined with shaded tavernas, bars, apartments, shops.
A campsite also lied hidden in the knots of trees and stands of bamboo that line the shore. A few straggly trees on the beach give shade to taverna chairs and tables.
The dirt track eventually peters out in the giant dunes where the Plaka area proper begins and where the naturists like to hang out.
The main Plaka beach is almost impossibly huge, with deep golden banks of sharp sand for several kilometres backed by low dunes and rolling farmland.
Beyond Maragas, the shoreline gets more exposed and desolate although small cantinas appear here and there and sunbeds come out along the most popular stretches.
Otherwise, it is just sand, sand and more sand, very exposed and with little shade. Low dunes lie behind, and the uninhabited islet of Aspronisi lies offshore.
Visitors can reach the southern end by heading along the main road to Alyki, turning off just before Tripodes (according to the map) or Vovlios (according to the signs) and keeping left down the valley past a high watchtower.
Curtains of bamboo and dead-end farm tracks conspire to foil all but the most intrepid but those who persist enjoy the sparsely populated dunes where naturists tend to congregate.
About 18 kilometres from Naxos Town the sands of Plaka eventually give out at a chain of small, pebble coves surrounded by cedar trees in an area known as Orkos beach,
Once the preserve of nudist bathers, privacy gave out when the Orkos Village apartments were built nearby, and textiles moved in.
It has now become one of Naxos' best-known surfing beaches and visitors can find watersports here and at neighbouring Mikri Vigla.
This pleasant spot has pebble and sand coves extending for more than a kilometre backed by red coloured fields that are usually planted out with potatoes.
Orkos is reached from the road to Mikri Vigla, turning right at the seashore along a dirt track.
The familiar resort of Mikri Vigla sits on a large promontory around 19 kilometres from Naxos Town. A centre for windsurfing, scores of holiday apartments and small hotels are sprinkled higgledy-piggledy over the high headland hill.
There are beaches both north and south of the large headland. Parthenos is an exposed stretch of sand where onshore winds make it a popular haunt for windsurfers.
The sand is a coarse white grit, and a large hotel complex overlooks the bay where the islet of Panagia lies offshore.
To the south is the long straight swathe of Sahara beach, a name appropriate to the four kilometres of coarse white grit that disappear into the flat, desolate distance.
Arrestingly beautiful from afar it is not a popular beach for bathers with scruffy scrub the only shelter and a single basic beach cantina in the summer.
Slabs of rock line the shore just below the surface of the water, a nuisance for swimmers.
Poorly signposted from the main road, Kastraki is a succession of small coves running for about three kilometres.
Kastraki means 'little castle' in Greek and the small Venetian fortress of Pyrgos Oskelos sits about two kilometres east of the village.
The coast here is punctuated with a scattering of apartments and the imaginatively named hotel complex of Summerland.
The main beach is long and sandy, backed by dunes, scrub pine and prickly pear and some impressive rock formations are found between the various coves to add interest while trees here and there to provide some natural shade.
A few seafront tavernas open in summer and sunbeds go out on the most popular parts of the sands, but much of the coastline here is empty for much of the year, given the 20 kilometres distance from Naxos Town and the relatively difficult access.
The southern end of the beach is known as Glyfada which has two small lakes behind the beach and some excellent seafront tavernas.
One of the most beautiful headland spots on Naxos has several narrow beach coves tucked between wild rocky outcrops with near vertical cliffs covered in deep green scrub pine and cedar trees.
Those who venture to Alyko, about 21 kilometres from Naxos Town, will find several narrow strands of golden sand, some a favourite of naturists.
The scene from the clifftop is so good you could eat it although the exquisite scenery is blessed with the ugly forgotten shell of a hotel complex, monotonously grey and grim.
The north side of the headland has a string of sandy coves and a small port, while on the south side is a splendid cedar forest and a long beach of gritty white sand.
This end of the island can be windy and waves can get very choppy. Getting down the cliffs to the beaches can be tricky and there are no services here but a mini-market can be found next to a taverna about two kilometres further on the main road.
A wide track leads down from Alyki to the beach of Pyrgaki, about 23km from Naxos Town and the last stop on the coastal bus route.
Visitors will find a shortish, sand and shingle beach that marks the end of the coastal swathe of sands for which Naxos is most famous.
Access to the beach is down a short dirt track. It is very deep and exposed with no shade unless you retreat to where the cedars or to the nearby beach taverna.
A large and intrusive hotel complex spoils the views but it does least it offers some useful facilities, although there is a cafe and a taverna here also.
The beach is sandy and well protected from the wind, although there are rocks along the shore. Often deserted, this is one of the most beautifully peaceful beaches on Naxos.
The road south out of Pyrgaki follows the coast to the remote sandy beach of Agiassos. The road turns into a dirt track although it is not a particularly tricky drive.
A few scattered houses make up the hamlet about 24km from Naxos Town. The large beach is a mix of sand and shingle with a gentle slope into the sea.
There is a taverna with great views above the beach and a few rooms to rent. Few visitors make it this far, so it's an ideal getaway for those who like to avoid the crowds.
There are no sunbeds and little shade except at the northern end where a large clump of trees is set back from the shoreline.
Draw a line from Pyrgaki, in the south-west, to Moutsouna, in the north-east, and it will mark the boundary for all decent roads on Naxos. With a few exceptions, this is donkey track territory and, with beaches less attractive but all worth a mention.
The south-facing beach of sand and shingle at Kalandos sits about 42 kilometres from Naxos Town at the head of a small sheltered inlet in the far south of the island.
The remote cove, well protected from northerly winds, has no facilities, although a small cantina has been known to open in the summer months.
The beach is best reached by heading south out of Filoti to the turn-off for Chimaros Tower. A dirt track road gets pretty rough and a 4x4 is needed to do it safely.
Kalandos also features on some excursion boat tours from Naxos Town although the sea journey is a long one.
Panormos is an attractive but remote south-facing sand and shingle beach on the south-east coast, about 45km from Naxos Town.
The beach can be reached from Kalandos along a coastal footpath but it is hard going. There is also a road that branches left after the Chimaros Tower turn-off, but this is only for 4x4 vehicles. The easiest way is the longest – heading south along the asphalt coast road out of the north-east port resort of Moutsouna.
There are facilities but there is car parking and some shade from a line of tamarisk trees on the eastern end of the beach.
The east-facing beach at Psili Ammos is a long scimitar of rolling sand that banks up in drifts to the scrub and cedar trees behind.
At 42 kilometres from Naxos Town, it is too far away ever to get crowded and is best approached on the south road out of Moutsouna along the good asphalt coast road.
A few houses are scattered about but otherwise, the area is pristine with fine sand and shallow, clear water. There are no facilities here.
A couple of kilometres south is the even more remote Kleidos, a beach area of three inlets split by rocky outcrops and one of the prettiest places on Naxos.
There are no facilities and very few people. Rock overhangs provide shade on two of the stone and shingle beaches and walled hillside terraces reach almost to the sea.
Once the main port for shipping out the emery mined in and around the villages of Apiranthos and Koronos, Moutsouna is the gateway to the remote east coast beaches of Naxos.
Emery was replaced by carborundum and the industry died, but parts of an aerial runway remain a relic of the resort's industrial heritage as do the rail tracks that line the harbour.
Moutsouna is a pretty port and one of the few genuine fishing harbours left on Naxos.
It is reached by a good, but narrow, twisting road from the inland village of Apiranthos and it's about 45km from Naxos Town.
Pleasant fish tavernas overlook the small east-facing sand beach and the port where the old derricks still stand that once swung emery into the waiting boats.
A little to the north, over the headland, is Axala beach, known for its fine and varied pebbles. To the south are many pretty coves that extend all the way to Psili Ammos.
The east road out of the hill village of Koronos leads down to the rugged but scenic seaside village of Lionas, another of the old emery ports of Naxos.
At about 40 kilometres from Naxos Town, it doesn't get too many visitors and there are only a few rooms available to rent.
Lionas beach is stone and shingle with no facilities, apart from some charming seafront fish tavernas. The asphalt road goes right down to Lionas beach but drivers should take great care on the narrow, twisting bends. Lionas is a beach for escaping the crowds but otherwise, it has little to recommend it.
A colossal stone statue, or 'kouros', abandoned on the hillside around the 6th century BC has turned the remote north-east seaside village of Apollonas into a tourist draw.
Once an emery exporting port, tourism is now the leading money spinner with tour buses arriving daily from Naxos Town, which lies about 54 kilometres away.
The beach is very public, overlooked by dozens of taverna tables (one taverna is named Baywatch) but it has soft sand with some shingle.
A path leads west around the rocky headland to another beach, wilder but a little more private.
The kouros lies just outside the village on a well-marked route. The statue is more than 10 metres from top to toe and some cement steps have been built around it to provide easy access.
Also worth seeing are the old marble quarries at Empoli. Many works of art have been created from the fine marble mined here.
The north-west coast of is noted for its beautiful countryside, particularly around the Engares region but the coast is mostly inaccessible cliffs for much of its length. There are only a couple of beaches of note, although these are exceptionally beautiful.
The windswept Abram beach, also called Abrami, is a lovely shingle beach overlooked by a huge head carved into the rock by the Greek sculptor Rokkos.
A summer taverna overlooks the beach offering great views of the bay and there are a few rooms to rent in the area. Rarely crowded this is an ideal spot for a quiet holiday.
The beach is shingle with some sand and Abram is exposed to the north winds with views across to the islands of Paros and Mykonos.
About 20 kilometres from Naxos Town there is a good asphalt road, then a dirt track for 300 metres to the beach. Nearby is Agios Mirnas monastery and a small shingle strip at Pachia Ammos to the south.
The beach at Amyti, or Amytis, lies below two reservoirs that supply water to Naxos Town. An idyllic spot with fine, soft sand, it offers the best bathing on this part of the coast, though the Meltemi can bring the waves crashing in.
Amyti is close enough to Naxos Town to be a popular target for day trippers and a good asphalt road threads through the beautiful Engares region to a dirt track of about 3km.
A beach cantina sometimes opens in the summer but otherwise, there are no facilities. Nearby is the fortified monastery of Ypsilos.