Naxos Orientation Walking Tour, Naxos

Naxos Orientation Walking Tour (Self Guided), Naxos

Steeped in mythological mystique and ancient history, the captivating city of Naxos on the eponymous Greek island in the Aegean Sea is renowned for its cultural landmarks and stunning attractions.

The name "Naxos" is believed to be of ancient Greek origin, possibly stemming from the word "naxai," which means "vines" or "vineyards." This is quite fitting, as the island's fertile land has supported agriculture, including grape cultivation, for centuries.

Naxos boasts a fascinating history that dates back to antiquity. It was once a significant center of the Cycladic civilization, which flourished during the Bronze Age. During the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Naxos held significant control over trade in the Cyclades.

In 502 BC, Naxos initiated a rebellion against the Persian Empire, sparking the broader Ionian Revolt and eventually the Persian War with Greece. After the Fourth Crusade in the early 13th century, Marco Sanudo, a Venetian, conquered Naxos and the nearby Cyclades islands, establishing himself as the Duke of Naxia, leading a line of 21 dukes until 1566.

Under Ottoman rule, from 1564 to 1821, Venetian influence remained dominant, while Turkish impact on Naxos was limited. In 1821, the islands rebelled against Ottoman control, and Naxos officially became part of the Greek state in 1832.

The imposing Naxos Castle, otherwise known as Kastro, is a historical fortress built by the Venetians in the 13th century. It stands as a testament to the island's medieval past, offering panoramic views of the town, Naxos Marina, and the sea.

For those interested in Byzantine art and history, the Byzantine Museum of Naxos is a must-do, much like the Mitropolis On-Site Museum, adjacent to the architectural gem of the Holy Orthodox Metropolitan Church. Another charming religious sight not to miss is the Church of Our Lady of the Myrtle, a serene place to immerse yourself in local spirituality.

And of course, you would want to see the iconic ruins of The Temple of Apollo, or Portara, framing the sky like a door to another world, while renovated Venetian mansions offer a glimpse into the upper crust of yesteryear.

The purported home of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, fringed with glorious beaches, collisions of turquoise waters and sapphire horizons, Naxos invites you to delve into its rich history, explore its cultural treasures, and bask in its Mediterranean charm. So wait no more! Embark on this self-guided journey and uncover the layers of Naxos' captivating past. Immerse yourself in the stories of ancient civilizations, marvel at architectural wonders, and experience the magic of this enchanting place for yourself!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Naxos Orientation Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Naxos Orientation Walking Tour
Guide Location: Greece » Naxos (See other walking tours in Naxos)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Naxos Castle
  • Archeological Museum
  • Byzantine Museum
  • Naxos Marina
  • Church of Our Lady of the Myrtle
  • Holy Orthodox Metropolitan Church
  • Mitropolis On-Site Museum
  • Temple of Apollo - Portara
Naxos Castle

1) Naxos Castle (must see)

Naxos Castle, locally known as Kastro, stands proudly on the island of Naxos. The term "Kastro" translates simply to "castle," making it an unmistakable destination that carries a legacy of fortification and protection. The castle, in conjunction with the protective tower of Glezos, plays a crucial role in safeguarding the historically significant fortress of Sanoudos in Chora, the main town of Naxos.

The fortification's formidable presence is made apparent through its strategic layout and architecture. Three grand gates, serving as entry points, bear the weight of its historical significance. Among these gates, Glezos stands tall and vigilant, resembling a sentinel stationed near the north-western gate. This tower, resolute in its duty, serves as a reminder of the island's past struggles and the need for protective measures.

The circular design of Naxos Castle is both intriguing and impressive. Rising to approximately four floors, it encapsulates the essence of centuries gone by. Each floor tells its own tale, and as you explore its depths, you can almost hear the echoes of ancient footsteps and feel the pulse of bygone eras.

For those with a thirst for historical knowledge and a passion for understanding the past, Naxos Castle offers a profound opportunity. It stands as more than just stone and mortar; it's a living museum, a gateway to a time when fortifications like these were essential for survival. While exploring the castle, you're not just a visitor, but a time traveler, immersed in the stories of those who once called this place home.
Archeological Museum

2) Archeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum of Naxos is nestled within the walls of a graceful 17th-century Venetian building, and museum serves as a remarkable embodiment of architectural aesthetics from that era. Originally conceived as a school for Jesuits, its storied past saw it transform into the School of Commerce during the late 19th century before ultimately embracing its destiny as the Archaeological Museum in 1973. Such a remarkable journey through time has led to its designation as a historical monument, an emblem of the island's profound historical significance.

As visitors traverse the museum's five floors, they embark on a captivating journey through Naxos' history, encapsulating the remnants of a civilization that flourished from the Late Neolithic period to the early days of Christianity. Treasures gleaned from excavations across the island adorn its halls, from mundane artifacts of daily life to exquisite works of art that breathe life into bygone eras.

The Cycladic Civilization, having reached its zenith in the third millennium BC, finds a proud representation within the museum's walls. Naxos, a beacon of Cycladic art during that period, comes alive through the exhibits. Fragments of history are meticulously curated – the marble Cycladic statues, elegant and enigmatic, showcasing a progression from rudimentary violin shapes to intricately carved female forms, their features imbued with symbolic meanings. These sculptures, once gracing sacred sites, tell tales of grave and fertility goddesses, their male counterparts perhaps serving as humble attendants.
Byzantine Museum

3) Byzantine Museum

The Byzantine Museum is housed within a commanding four-level tower in Kastro. The museum offers visitors a unique journey through time, where the past is intricately woven with the present.

The tower itself is a remarkable piece of history, exuding an air of majesty that is enhanced by its panoramic view of the harbor and its strategic location near the northwestern gate of Kastro. As visitors approach the tower's main entrance, they are greeted by the Barozzi family coat of arms, an emblem that speaks of the tower's illustrious lineage. The interior door, adorned with the Crispi family coat of arms, further evokes a sense of the tower's storied past.

However, it was the P. Glezos family, the tower's final owners, who forever linked their legacy with this architectural gem. Their benevolent act of donating the tower to the state ensured its preservation and transformation into a cultural treasure. Today, the tower is affectionately referred to as the Glezos tower, or Apirathitissa, a name derived from Apiranthos, the hometown of the donor family.

After meticulous restoration efforts, the tower now stands as the proud home of the Byzantine Museum, encompassing the entire Cycladic region. Within its walls, visitors are treated to a captivating collection of Byzantine sculptures originating from Naxos and the surrounding Cycladic islands. These sculptures, meticulously dated between the 7th and 12th centuries, bridge the gap between eras and offer a glimpse into the artistic expressions of the past.
Naxos Marina

4) Naxos Marina

Marina Naxos stands as a beacon of modern maritime hospitality. Situated against the backdrop of a picturesque bay, this marina presents a seamless blend of tranquility and convenience, welcoming boaters from all corners of the world. With its comprehensive services and stunning surroundings, Marina Naxos is the ultimate gateway to a maritime adventure of a lifetime.

Boasting a well-equipped facility, Marina Naxos caters to a diverse array of boating needs. Anchored by 70 berths, it provides ample space for vessels of varying sizes and types. Safety is a paramount concern, and the marina's commitment is evident through its round-the-clock security and vigilant surveillance, ensuring that boaters can enjoy their stay with peace of mind.

One of the marina's most captivating features is its proximity to a treasure trove of attractions that beckon to be explored. Immerse yourself in the whispers of history by visiting the ancient ruins of the Temple of Apollo, a testament to the island's storied past. Nearby, the Byzantine Castle stands as a sentinel of time, offering a glimpse into the island's medieval heritage. Nature enthusiasts are in for a treat as well, with the allure of the Naxos Town Beach and the enchanting Golden Beach, both renowned for their beauty and tranquility.

Naxos, itself a tapestry of archaeological wonders, traditional villages, and awe-inspiring landscapes, sets the stage for a plethora of activities to indulge in. From wandering through ancient sites that hold the secrets of past civilizations to embarking on invigorating hikes that reveal the island's hidden gems, Naxos offers an experience that resonates with both history enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Church of Our Lady of the Myrtle

5) Church of Our Lady of the Myrtle (must see)

Perched atop a tranquil islet in the heart of Naxos harbor, the Church of Our Lady of the Myrtle stands as a charming beacon that warmly welcomes all who arrive on the island. Its picturesque white facade and humble design offer a striking contrast against the azure waters that surround it. This small but captivating chapel boasts a history that intertwines the ancient beliefs of the Greeks with the devotion of modern-day pilgrims.

In the days of old, the islet upon which the church now stands was a place of reverence dedicated to Poseidon, the mighty god of the sea in Greek mythology. Sailors and islanders would gather on this sacred land to pay homage, seeking his favor and protection for their maritime endeavors. The echoes of this ancient worship still linger, giving the site an air of mystique and spiritual significance.

Today, the Church of Our Lady of the Myrtle has transformed from a place of pagan worship to a sanctuary of Christian devotion. The chapel's namesake is the Virgin Mary, a central figure in the Christian faith. The chapel's unassuming beauty is a testament to the harmony of its surroundings, harmoniously blending history, religion, and the serene natural landscape. The whitewashed walls and simple architecture create an atmosphere of serenity and contemplation.

The islet's name and the church's dedication to the Virgin Mary are commemorated annually on September 24th, a date that holds special significance in the hearts of both locals and visitors alike. This day is marked by a meaningful ceremony that pays homage to the Virgin Mary's role in the spiritual life of Naxos. It's an occasion that unites the island's residents and invites those who are fortunate enough to be present to partake in the shared faith and culture.
Holy Orthodox Metropolitan Church

6) Holy Orthodox Metropolitan Church (must see)

The Holy Orthodox Metropolitan Church stands as a testament to both faith and history, its roots extending back to the year 1787 when it was founded by Bishop Neophytos. This sacred edifice is devoted to Zoodochos Pigi, a Greek term signifying the life-giving source, an evocative reference to the Virgin Mary. Situated in close proximity to the ancient Grotta site and the Metropolis Museum, the cathedral occupies a unique place in time and space.

The cathedral's construction is a marvel in itself, showcasing a harmonious blend of materials culled from various temples and structures. A particularly intriguing detail is the use of graphite pillars, believed to have been transported from Delos, the venerable island steeped in ancient history and spirituality. These pillars, symbolizing the continuity of devotion through ages, stand as silent sentinels in the cathedral's architecture.

As one crosses the threshold into the cathedral's interior, a rich tapestry of history unfolds through a collection of icons that date back to the era of Ottoman sovereignty. These icons, lovingly preserved, serve as windows into the past, allowing worshippers and visitors to connect with the spiritual legacy of their forebears. Among the cherished relics, a gospel holds a special place; it is thought to have been gifted by Empress Catherine of Russia, a gesture that echoes the interconnectedness of faith across distant lands and cultures.

Outside the cathedral, the front area unveils another layer of history entwined with the sacred. Remnants of the 2nd and 1st millennium BC, including the tomb of Naxians from that era, have been unearthed, offering a glimpse into the lives and rituals of ancient peoples. These relics, like echoes from the distant past, emphasize the continuity of human quest for the divine and the sanctified.
Mitropolis On-Site Museum

7) Mitropolis On-Site Museum

The Mitropolis On-Site Museum was established in 1999 and holds the distinction of being the first museum of its kind in Greece and one of the few in the world that provides visitors with the unique experience of witnessing ancient artifacts in their original context. This museum serves as a bridge between the past and the present, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the tangible remnants of bygone eras.

Situated amidst the picturesque landscapes of Naxos, the museum's significance extends beyond its physical structure. It is a repository of archaeological wonders that have been meticulously excavated from the grounds upon which it stands. The artifacts on display are not merely objects frozen in time; they are fragments of a living history, narratives etched in stone, pottery, and metal.

At the heart of the museum's collection lies a Mycenaean workshop of vessels, an invaluable window into the artistic and technological achievements of an ancient civilization. This workshop, where skilled artisans crafted vessels of both utilitarian and aesthetic value, speaks volumes about the craftsmanship and creativity of the Mycenaean people. The artifacts found here provide insights into the daily lives, trade, and cultural practices of this civilization that once thrived in the region.

Intriguingly, the museum also houses a tomb dating back to the Geometric period. This tomb, a silent witness to the passage of time, unveils stories of the rituals, beliefs, and burial practices of an ancient society. The tomb's contents, meticulously preserved, offer a glimpse into the cosmology and reverence for the afterlife that defined the spiritual realm of these people.
Temple of Apollo - Portara

8) Temple of Apollo - Portara (must see)

The Temple of Apollo - Portara is a symbol of Naxos and a cherished landmark that captivates visitors with its historical significance and stunning views.

Erected during the 6th century BC, the construction of the temple was initiated by the tyrant Lygdamis, who sought to create a structure that mirrored the grandeur of other renowned temples of the time. The specifications drew inspiration from the temples of Olympic Zeus in Athens and the goddess Hera on Samos, resulting in a unique blend of architectural influences.

The temple's dimensions were impressive, spanning 59 meters in length and 28 meters in width. What distinguishes this temple from others of the Ionian style is its unusual entrance on the western side of Naxos, defying convention and adding to its distinctive character.

Today, the temple's monumental marble gate stands proudly amidst the remains of its foundations and the echoes of an unfinished peripheral colonnade. This evokes a sense of the temple's grandeur, even in its incomplete state. Additionally, an arched Christian church, built in the 6th or 7th century, now rests atop the ancient ruins, further adding to the site's layers of history.

The islet of Palatia, where the Temple of Apollo - Portara stands, carries a deep mythological significance. It is linked to the worship of Ariadne, the Cretan princess, and Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry. The island's association with the myth of Dionysus abducting Ariadne on its shores has made it a sacred site for Dionysian festivities. It is believed that this islet was the very place where these joyous celebrations first unfolded, imbuing the location with an aura of merriment and divine connection.

In the present day, the Temple of Apollo - Portara is accessible through a paved footpath that connects it to the Naxos mainland.