The island lies close to Paros at the heart of the Cyclades group of islands between Crete, to the south, and the Greek mainland, in the north.
With no international flights journeys to Naxos can be time-consuming. The three main routes to Naxos are flights to Athens, Mykonos or Santorini and then a ferry trip to get to Naxos.
Cheap flights to Mykonos and Santorini help cut ferry times but probably require an overnight stop. Fortunately, ferries are plentiful as Naxos, like Paros, is a major ferry hub of the Cyclades islands.
Naxos roads are generally good and vehicle hire is widespread and plentiful. Daily buses run to all the main villages but Naxos is a big island and private transport is needed to see some of the most beautiful areas.
A wide range of holiday accommodation is available with the cheapest rooms in Naxos Town.
Naxos has no international airport but does take domestic flights at the small Naxos Airport (JNX), about two kilometres from Naxos town on the road to Prokopios.
Visitors can get a cheap flight to Athens where there are daily domestic flights to Naxos, with a flight time of about 30 minutes.
An alternative route is a flight to Mykonos or Santorini and one of the many ferries that leave daily for the island. Ferries of Santorini may depart later in the day, making a one-day journey to Naxos a possibility. Usually, however, these routes require an overnight stop on Mykonos and Santorini and flight and ferry times do not always coincide.
There are few facilities at Naxos airport, just a small waiting area, toilets and, recently, a cafe. There are frequent delays on departure and arrival. There is no public transport to and from Naxos airport but usually, there are plenty of taxis outside to meet incoming flights.
Naxos is the hub of the Cyclades ferry service and well served with often more than 70 a day in and out of Naxos port in the summer season.
Ferries leave daily from the ports of Piraeus (Athens) and Rafina on the mainland. The crossing usually takes six to eight hours although there are faster catamarans and other high-speed ferries.
Blue Star Ferries runs up to three ferries-a-day from Piraeus with a journey time of four to five hours while Sea Jets cuts the time to three to four hours.
Both companies also operate services from Rafina (actually closer to Athens airport than Piraeus) with up to seven crossings-a-week each in just over three hours on Sea Jets but closer to six hours with Blue Star.
Blue Star and Sea Jets also have daily sailings to Mykonos and Paros and Santorini, with up to seven crossings-a-day between them.
Ferries leave Naxos most days for ports in the Cyclades and Dodecanese islands. Hellenic Seaways runs services to Ios, Paros and Piraeus, sometimes two-a-day.
Aegean Speed Lines also has six sailings weekly to Paros and to Piraeus while NEL Lines operates five-a-week to Paros and usually once-a-week to Aegail, Katapola, Santorini, Schinoussa, Donoussa, Iraklia, Koufonissi, Sifnos, Kimolos, Kythnos and Lavrio and more often to the islands of Ios, Mykonos, Syros, Milos, Folegandros and Thirasia.
First impressions of Naxos port are not great; a huge swathe of concrete covered with cars, buses and lorries. But a right turn at the end of the quay leads to the Paralia promenade with its cafes, bars, tavernas and the main taxi rank. The port is the main departure point for daily island cruises to the more remote Naxos beaches. Daily cruises to Paros and Santorini are also common in the summer. Day trip excursion to Mykonos and the historic island of Delos are also very popular. Most travel agents can be found on the Paralia promenade next to the port and boards display all the latest outings.
Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades group at 19 kilometres long by 13 kilometres wide, a total area of 430 sq km, a coastline of 150 kilometres and a population of around 16,000 with the largest settlement at Naxos Town (Hora).
Naxos is also the most fertile island of the Cyclades with many natural springs and agriculture, not tourism, playing the bigger role in the island economy.
The island is known for its crops of vegetables, notably potatoes, and for citrus, olives and cattle breeding. Naxos also produces cherries, cheese, nuts, pomegranates, figs and corn in the fertile valleys of Engares, Melanes and Potamia.
Naxos is fabled for its high-quality marble and was once a major source of emery, the industrial remnants of which survive at Moutsouna on the east coast.
The landscape of Naxos is very varied, from high mountain ranges to lush fertile valleys. The highest peak is Mount Zas at 1,004 metres.
Climate of Naxos
Naxos has a typically Mediterranean climate with dry summers and mild winters. In July expect up to 13 hours of sunshine daily and temperatures in the high 20s to a record maximum of 38°C.
Temperatures from June to September average 27-29°C by day and will top 20°C at night. Fresh seas breezes help to keep humidity down and it's rare to see any rainfall.
Winter temperatures on Naxos hover around14-15°C by day and 9-10°C at night. Most of the rain falls in the winter months with the heaviest rain showers in December.
Roads on Naxos have much improved in recent years and there is any number of car and bike hire firms to choose from. Naxos is a big island and, although there is a decent bus service to the main villages, visitors need their own transport to see much of the island. The scenery is particularly beautiful inland especially around Aperanthos, Melanes, Apollonas and Danakos, the coast between Mikri Vigla and Pyrgaki and the area around Engares with a scenic east coast road from Moutsouna to Psili Ammos.
Naxos has a good bus service, although it is geared more to locals than tourists. The main bus station is near the port, close to the tourist information centre. Naxos buses leave every 30 minutes from the Hora to Prokopios, Agia Anna and Plaka. Inland, buses run to Halki, Filoti, Apiranthos and Apollona and there are also bus services to Keramouti, Koronoas, Melanes, Mikri Vigla, Moutsouna, Pyrgaki and Sangri.
Naxos bus services and times in English can be downloaded here and it's a good idea to get a ticket before boarding. Services are operated by KTEL which also runs round-island tours in the summer.
There are plenty of taxis in Naxos and a radio-taxi service is also available on 22444. The main taxi rank is on the Paralia, the main promenade near the port and taxi drivers charge a fixed rate to all the main stops such as the airport and beaches at Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna and Plaka. To take a taxi anywhere else on Naxos it is better to negotiate the price first.
Naxos is a terrific island for walking, crisscrossed by paths and donkey trails. The Naxos Tourist Office has a wide variety of maps of walking trails and its worthwhile seeking out copies of Naxos and the Small Cyclades by Graf Editions, which outlines 30 hikes, and Walking Tours on Naxos, by Christian Ucke, on sale in island bookshops. There are fairly accurate maps available in local shops. Roads Edition 111 and the Topo series are very good for planning walks. The roads are mostly asphalt and very quiet once out of Naxos Town and so fairly safe to walk.
Naxos has a wide range of holiday accommodation. The choice includes quality hotels in Naxos Town to cheap rooms in many of the Naxos island resorts. If you arrive on Naxos without a reservation in high season expect to take pot luck with the many room owners that wave signs at ferry passengers in the port or try the tourist office on the Paralia promenade near the bus stop.
Naxos Town has plenty of reasonably priced rooms and many of hotels. Most of the holiday Naxos accommodation is centred around Agios Giorgios Beach on the southern edge of the town. Other beaches along the coast to Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, Plaka and Kastraki also have some holiday accommodation.