Tout ce que vous devez savoir avant de venir dans notre merveilleuse île

Our Secret Guide of Naxos & Lesser Cyclades (2024 updated)

Embark on a journey to the Greek island paradise of Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades, where breathtaking natural scenery, a rich tapestry of cultural history, and genuine local experiences await. Nestled within the Cyclades archipelago, these islands offer a serene alternative to their bustling counterparts like Santorini and Mykonos. This guide will unlock the treasures of Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades, ensuring you maximize your 2024 adventure.

Naxos, the crown jewel of the Cyclades in terms of size and fertility, is steeped in history that reaches back to ancient times. It stands as a testament to the archaic Cycladic culture and is famed as the mythological birthplace of Dionysus. Highlights include the majestic Portara, the remnants of Apollo’s temple; a picturesque Venetian castle; and timeless Byzantine churches. Varied landscapes await—from lush valleys and golden beaches to quaint mountain villages and exquisite marble quarries.

Surrounding Naxos, the Lesser Cyclades—comprising Donousa, Irakleia, Koufonisia, and Schoinoussa—offer a haven for those seeking peace, simplicity, and untouched beauty. These islands boast crystal waters, hidden coves, and idyllic fishing villages, making them ideal for island hopping, hiking, snorkeling, or simply unwinding in serene surroundings.

Unveiling the Charm of Naxos

Naxos beckons the adventurous spirit in every traveler with its hidden gems and a kaleidoscope of activities. Whether you’re passionate about hiking, biking, sailing, or diving, the island promises enriching experiences for all. Let’s dive into some of the best activities and destinations that Naxos has to offer.

Hidden Gems for the Adventurous Traveler

  • Embark on a hike to the summit of Mount Zas, the Cyclades’ tallest peak, and bask in the breathtaking panoramic views of the Aegean Sea and its surrounding tapestry of islands. Mythology whispers that this majestic spot was where Zeus spent his youth, eluding his father Cronus. Nearby, the mystical Zas Cave awaits, said to be where Zeus was nurtured by a nymph.
  • Take a scenic bike ride from Naxos Town to Agia Anna, where the path winds you past stunning beaches, quaint salt pans, and through aromatic cedar forests. For the more adventurous, mountain biking trails beckon, leading explorers to the ancient marble quarries of Flerio.
  • Set sail to the splendid islets of Glaronisi, Parthenos, and Panormos for a day of swimming, snorkeling, or fishing in the azure waters. Alternatively, join a boat tour to the enchanting Lesser Cyclades, where the captivating islands of Donousa, Irakleia, Koufonisia, and Schoinoussa await.
  • Dive into Naxos’ underwater marvels to discover a vibrant marine life, awe-inspiring rock formations, and intriguing sunken wrecks. Premier diving spots include Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, Agios Georgios, and Alyko, perfect for both newcomers and seasoned divers looking to join a diving safari.

Savor the Tastes of Naxos: A Culinary Journey

Naxos is celebrated for its culinary excellence, rooted in a rich agricultural tradition and diverse cultural influences. The island boasts high-quality produce such as olive oil, cheese, honey, wine, and potatoes. Delight in the local cuisine at taverns, restaurants, and festivals alike. Here’s a taste of what you shouldn’t miss.

  • Sample the distinctive Naxian cheeses like the spicy arseniko, creamy xinomyzithra, or sweet anthotyro. Don’t overlook the graviera, a hard cheese with a nutty essence, renowned for its protected designation of origin.
  • Savor authentic Naxian dishes such as rosto, a savory pork cooked in tomato sauce and garlic; patoudo, a herb and rice-stuffed lamb dish; or gouna, sun-dried mackerel grilled to perfection with olive oil and oregano. Refresh with salads, pies, and soups crafted from fresh vegetables and herbs.
  • Indulge in Naxian sweets: melachrino, a honey-soaked cake adorned with nuts; xerotigana, thin pastries fried and dipped in honey, or pasteli, a sesame and honey bar. Also, enjoy an array of spoon sweets, jams, and the irresistible loukoumades.
  • Quench your thirst with Naxian wines such as the white Kitron, aromatic and derived from citron tree leaves; the red Apiranthos, fruity with a base of Mandilaria grapes; or the golden Liasto, made from sun-dried grapes. For a unique blend, try rakomelo, a concoction of raki and honey.

Cultural Festivities and Local Traditions

Naxos is an island rich in cultural heritage and vibrant traditions, offering numerous festivities and celebrations throughout the year. Here are some of the yearly highlights.

  • Revel in the Carnival, observed in February or March, and be part of the colorful costumes, comedic sketches, and musical parades. Engage in customs like the koudounatoi, donning bells and animal skins, or the lampadifories, a tradition of carrying torches while singing.
  • Embrace Easter, Greece’s most significant religious festival, where the air is filled with solemn ceremonies, folk dances, and fireworks. Relish traditional dishes such as mageiritsa, a soup made from lamb offal, and tsoureki, a spice-flavored sweet bread.
  • Experience the Naxos Festival during July and August, offering an array of artistic performances, concerts, and exhibitions within the historic Bazeos Tower, a 17th-century monastery turned cultural hub.
  • Dive into the Agrotourism Festival in September to gain insight into rural life and Naxos’ local products. Participate in workshops, seminars, and tastings, organized by the Women’s Agrotourist Cooperative of Naxos.

The Enchanting Lesser Cyclades: Amorgos, Koufonisia, and Beyond

Embark on a captivating journey to the Lesser Cyclades, beyond Naxos, to discover the unspoiled beauty of Amorgos, Koufonisia, and the charming trio of Donousa, Iraklia, and Schinoussa. These islands offer a breath of authenticity, far removed from overcrowded tourist spots, providing a unique glimpse into traditional Greek island life. Let’s explore the highlights that make each of these islands a must-visit.

The Irresistible Charm of Amorgos

Amorgos, the easternmost island of the Cyclades, boasts some of the most dramatic landscapes, with its rugged coastline, steep cliffs, and towering mountains creating a stunning contrast against the azure sea and sky. The island is renowned for the 11th-century Panagia Hozoviotissa Monastery, perched cliffside at 300 meters above sea level, home to a revered icon of the Virgin Mary. This site is not only a cultural beacon but also the heart of an annual religious festival every November 21st.

Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa (Amorgos)

Explore the traditional villages that dot the island, such as Chora, the island’s capital, a maze of whitewashed houses, quaint alleys, and windmills, along with Katapola, Aegiali, and Tholaria, each offering unique vistas and a peek into island life. Beach enthusiasts will adore spots like Agia Anna, Mouros, and Kalotaritissa for their cinematic landscapes and serene sunsets. For adventurers, Amorgos is a trekker’s paradise, crisscrossed with trails linking villages and landmarks, and offering boat trips to the islets of Nikouria and Gramvousa for those in search of secluded coves and crystal-clear waters.

brown wooden table and chairs on white snow covered ground during daytime


Exploring the Idyllic Beauty of Koufonisia

Koufonisia, split into Ano and Kato Koufonisi, provides a picture-perfect setting with its golden beaches, turquoise waters, and natural tamarisk tree canopies. This island, the most popular among the Lesser Cyclades, mesmerizes visitors with its easy-going vibe and breathtaking scenery. Notable beaches like Finikas, Fanos, Platia Pounta, and Pori are just the beginning. Don’t miss exploring the intriguing caves and rock formations that line the shore.

brown rock formation near blue sea during daytime

The single village of Koufonisia, doubling as the island’s port, is a delightful mix of white houses and vibrant flowers, boasting a warm welcome from locals. Sample the local seafood, cheese pies, and loukoumades in cosy taverns, cafes, and bars. Cultural sites like the church of Agios Georgios and the Folklore Museum reveal the island’s rich heritage. As an added bonus, Koufonisia serves as an ideal launchpad for island hopping.


Discovering Donousa, Iraklia & Schinoussa

For those yearning for peace, simplicity, and untamed nature, Donousa, Iraklia, and Schinoussa are hidden treasures awaiting discovery. These islands are perfect for a serene getaway, offering crystal-clear waters, secluded bays, and picturesque fishing villages. Donousa stands out for its wild beauty and pristine beaches such as Stavros and Kedros, capturing the heart of nature lovers and hikers alike.

a group of boats floating on top of a body of water

Iraklia, the largest of the trio, holds a fascinating history, from its quaint villages to the mesmerizing cave of Agios Ioannis and ancient rock paintings. It’s also a diver’s paradise with the sunken remains of a German plane in Alimia Bay.

brown airplane under water

Lastly, Schinoussa may be the smallest but it packs a punch with its culinary excellence and vibrant culture, hosting the Naxos Festival which showcases a range of artistic performances. Its hilltop village Chora offers unmatched Aegean views, making it a gem within the Lesser Cyclades.


Travel Tips and Essentials for Naxos & Lesser Cyclades

Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades offer the quintessential Greek island experience, appealing to travelers seeking authenticity. To ensure your journey is as enjoyable and seamless as possible, here’s what you need to know before setting off to these stunning destinations.

Getting There: Navigating Your Way to Paradise

Reaching Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades is straightforward, with options to travel either by air or sea. Naxos’s small airport provides connections from Athens and other islands like Santorini, Mykonos, and Paros. Although flights are quick and regular, be aware they may be pricey and impacted by weather. Reservations can be made online or via travel agencies. Alternatively, ferries from Piraeus or other islands offer a more scenic route. Choose from the leisurely Blue Star ferries for a comfortable, budget-friendly option, or opt for swifter catamarans at a higher cost. Schedules and tickets are available online or at the port. As Naxos serves as the gateway to the Lesser Cyclades, including Amorgos, Koufonisia, Donousa, Iraklia, and Schinoussa, finding a ferry or boat tour to these lesser-explored gems is easy. However, service frequency varies with the season and weather, so planning ahead and flexibility are key.

Staying in Naxos & Lesser Cyclades: From Luxury to Budget

Accommodations in Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades cater to all preferences and budgets, from luxurious hotels and villas to budget-friendly guesthouses and campsites, including Airbnb options. Costs vary by location, season, and amenities, typically offering better value than other Cycladic islands. Bookings can be made online or through local agents. Naxos, being the largest and most developed island, boasts the widest range of accommodations. Whether you prefer the buzz of Naxos Town, the relaxation of beachside resorts like Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, Plaka, or Mikri Vigla, or the charm of mountain villages such as Apiranthos, Filoti, or Halki, you’re covered. The Lesser Cyclades, known for their authenticity and less touristy nature, offer simpler lodging choices, mainly in the primary villages or near beaches. These may fill up quickly in peak season. For adventurers, free camping is permitted in certain areas, like Kedros beach in Donousa and Mouros beach in Amorgos, though respecting local guidelines and the environment is paramount.

Maximizing Your Island Adventure: Activities and Experiences

The allure of Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades goes beyond stunning beaches and sunbathing. There’s a wealth of activities and experiences to dive into, tailored to your interests. Consider these recommendations:

  • Explore at your own pace by renting a car, scooter, or bike, uncovering secluded spots and breathtaking views. Rental agencies are abundant in Naxos Town and other key locations. Organized tours are also an excellent way to see the islands’ highlights.
  • Hiking is a brilliant way to experience the islands’ natural beauty and panoramic vistas. Whether it’s the trek to Mount Zas in Naxos, the spiritual journey to the monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa in Amorgos, or the scenic walk to the lighthouse in Koufonisia, unforgettable adventures await.
  • The crystal-clear waters invite you to swim, snorkel, or dive, exploring vibrant marine life and mystical underwater landscapes. Top spots include Agia Anna and Alyko in Naxos, Agios Pavlos and Kalotaritissa in Amorgos, and Pori and Glaronisi in Koufonisia.
  • Immerse yourself in the local culture and traditions, visiting historical monuments, museums, and churches. Don’t miss the special events and festivals that highlight the islands’ rich heritage and gastronomy. Learn about local crafts like weaving, pottery, and woodcarving, deepening your connection to these enchanting islands.


Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades stand out as ideal destinations for travelers seeking an authentic Greek island experience. These islands beautifully blend natural scenery, rich cultural heritage, and exquisite local gastronomy. They are perfect for those who love adventure, offering ample opportunities for hiking, biking, sailing, and diving. Access to Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades is convenient, whether by air or by sea, accompanied by a broad selection of accommodation to suit any budget.

Explore the other treasures of the Lesser Cyclades, including Amorgos, Koufonisia, Donousa, Iraklia, and Schinoussa. These islands provide a more intimate and diverse experience compared to their more renowned counterparts, captivating visitors with their enchanting charm and simplicity. For those in pursuit of a Greek island escape that promises surprises and ignites love at first sight, Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades are your undiscovered paradises. Reserve your journey now and unveil the enchanting secrets of these spectacular islands.


What is Naxos best known for?

Naxos shines as a destination with its long sandy beaches, perfect wind conditions for windsurfing and kitesurfing, and the richness of its local agricultural products like potatoes and cheese. Not to be missed is the Portara, the iconic doorway that stands as the lone sentinel of an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo.

What is the best island to visit from Naxos?

Finding the best island to visit from Naxos truly depends on what you’re looking for in a vacation. For those seeking a serene retreat, the Small Cyclades Islands such as Koufonisia, Schinoussa, Iraklia, or Donoussa offer peaceful havens. However, if the vibrancy and buzz of a bustling destination appeal to you, Paros, Mykonos, Amorgos, Ios, Folegandros, or Milos will be more to your liking.

How many days in Naxos is enough?

To fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Naxos, ranging from its historic sites and charming villages to its breathtaking beaches, a stay of 3 to 5 days is generally recommended.

Why is Naxos so cheap?

The affordability of Naxos can be attributed to its sizeable land coupled with a comprehensive selection of hotel rooms, attracting fewer tourists compared to other Greek islands. This dynamic leads to lower demand, making accommodations, food, activities, and transportation more budget-friendly.

Share the Post:

Related Posts: