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Naxos — Big Island with More to Offer

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Greece sunset (Naxos)

While our heart belongs to our home island of Paros, Naxos is a big brother that we love dearly. Whenever we have time for a short break we head to this nearby neighbor–so close in fact that some people swim between Paros and Naxos.

Karin and I just got back from two days of touring Naxos. It was our post season break; we found it enjoyable and relaxing. We spend most of the time winding up and down the mountain roads and found it quite interesting to compare and contrast to Paros and the other islands that we have visited.

Naxos villages
Naxos mountain villages

I have advised many travelers that Naxos is much like Paros except that the tourist facilities are all in a strip along the West coast. This is true in comparison to the islands of Mykonos, Ios and Santorini which are each distinctly different. But it is not complete in that Naxos does have a unique character in its mountain villages, its extensive agriculture and it’s relatively large central city.

Another time with Joyce, our visiting cousin, Karin and I took a one day excursion to Naxos. We have travelled around quite a bit on previous visits yet I was surprised how much mining activity I saw this time. Some of it current; some obsolete.

mining tram

Included in our wanderings was Moutsouna, a beach town on the nearly uninhabited east side of the island. The mining history visible there reminded me of Crete as told in Zorba the Greek. At one time this was the world center of emery mining and export. Now you can get excellent fresh fish dinners surrounded by historical artifacts. Like this ski lift, . . . I mean ore tramway.

marble mine

While Paros is known for the ancient marble used in many famous statutes, Naxos is a major source of construction quality marble to this day. Can you imagine the vast tons that are sawed out of this mountain? We also saw another mountain being dismantled but couldn’t get close enough for a picture.

huge marble mine

Look closely for the large piece of machinery in the bottom center of the close-up photo for perspective as to the size of the pit. (It is on the first level of white.)

Naxos clear day

Another view of Naxos and the mines on a crisp clean October day. Taken from Tsoukalia on Paros.

Naxos goats

So many photo opportunities get away from us. Here is one that didn’t.
We had just passed a marble cutting factory on the right and noticed their discard pile to the left. As we got closer we saw the small herd of goats sunning themselves in the late afternoon. They found us interesting to watch as well.

Riding the back roads into the isolated valley that holds the ancient Temple of Demeter I felt I was living a scene from countless movies that I saw as a child. We were the explorers searching for the treasure that was not visible to mere passers by. Then we found ourselves in a hidden valley lush in vegetation and at its center a magnificent temple.

Demeter temple Naxos

It was quite interesting. This site is maintained by the Ministry of Culture so it has explanatory descriptions as well as a museum.


Our Island Paros — Overview

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        As one reads the guide books or browses the travel sites it is easy to become confused about the character of the Cycladic island of Paros, Greece.  Because it has more ferry traffic than any other island –due to being between Athens and the well known islands of Mykonos and Santorini—everyone who visits the area has been to Paros.

        Yet each beholder sees a different aspect.  The superficial don’t get past the rock & rolling beach clubs or the harbour drive full of restaurants and bars.  Some, especially those with young families, pass through to the adjacent isle of Antiparos which is well known for its quiet, laid back, small scale village lifestyle.  It is also a favourite spot for Scandinavians who like the nude beaches found there.

Video of Paros Highlights 🙂

        For the adventure seekers who wish to stay on Paros we recommend taking the first day to circle the island—non-stop it can be done in less than hour, but that is not the way to sample its joys.  To find the best beach the visitor has too look a few over and decide if  he wants a small cove all to himself, a wider stretch with a small taverna and a few other people or the big Golden Beach with hotels, cafes, windsurfers, waterskiing, etc.  Except that is not a necessary decision because a little further around the island at Santa Maria you can find all three types in close proximity. Many more Paros beaches described HERE

        Paros has two towns and numerous villages.  Parikia is the port city and commercial hub; Naoussa the up-scale tourist haven around a picturesque fishing harbour.  Piso Livadi is the archetypical Mediterranean village while it is said about Aliki at the undeveloped south end of the island, “Not many people find their way here, but those who do, don’t want to leave.”

        Perhaps we should also visit some antiquities as well.  That is easy as you can’t go anywhere without stumbling over or running into ruins from either ancient Greece or the Venetian period about 1,500 AD.  One of the best views is from a partially rebuilt Mycenaean site from about 1,500 BC.  Behind the main supermarket in Parikia is an excavated ancient pottery factory.  Our major Orthodox church, Ekatontapyliani, has Plexiglas floor inserts so you can see the ancient temple over which it is built.  More at Visit-Ancient-Greece.com

        For the activity holiday we have horse-riding, yoga clinics, painting and cooking courses, bicycling, hill walking, etc.  Of course there is every water sport that you can imagine.  Ever heard of kite boarding?  Paros is the Greece capital for that sport. Scuba diving, snorkeling and sailing opportunities abound.

            This short description of Paros has not included the vast array of art galleries, wineries and the like.  We have also selfishly not mentioned our favourite spots, you have to read more blog posts to discover those . . . 😊

fish hanging on a line
This is one of my favourite photos because it shows that old Greece still exists on Paros.

No Strikes on Paros

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For the last couple years during the economic turmoil we have been advising travellers to ignore the news from Athens.  The trouble spots can easily be avoided and once you get to the islands everything is peaceful and quiet.

This advice was reinforced yesterday.  The news headlines and travel advisories were full of details of the national strike of the major unions including all government employees.  So imagine our surprise went we went into Parikia to find everything open including the government offices and even the post office.  Banking business was normal and there were ferries coming and going as well as Olympic flights.

Evidently the only direct effect on the islands was ferries leaving the major port of Piraeus and some flights arriving and leaving the Athens airport.  We are guessing that the island people, including government workers and union members, realize the damage that demonstrations and strikes are doing to their livelihoods and do not want anything to do with it.

So, again my advice is go ahead and plan your trip to Greece–without a visit to Syntagma Square—and only pay attention to your own flights and ferries.  Ignore the alarmist press.

Clothing Optional Guide to Paros and Antiparos

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This is less a guide and more the relating of my limited experience and knowledge of nude and topless beaches on Paros.  Some of the facts have been related by others; I wouldn’t want my readers to think this is all autobiographical.

Like so many other subjects involving social mores naturalism is constantly evolving.  What I read before coming to Greece seven years ago no longer seems to be true.  For instance now you will occasionally see younger Greek girls topless; earlier mainly Scandinavians and Germans were going bare.  I didn’t used to see topless women at the beaches closest to town; now you do.  Now you see them everywhere so more women are taking the plunge.  It doesn’t take long for any woman to see a pair of boobs or a figure that is less attractive than her own so she soon thinks, if they can do it, so can I.

appear in public

Kolimbithres Beach Parrot

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Kolimbithres Beach is one of my favourite places to relax and it has been a consistent hit with the art groups that we take there.  There are two good tavernas and one not so good.  We have had excellent fish at H Vigla but for a casual beach lunch we usually go to Anemos.  I have found the people at the Fish-Taverna Kolimbithres seem to not like non-Greeks.

Kolimbithres

At Anemos you frequently see a bright macaw parrot perched in the trees.  I thought it belonged to the owners until I met it and its owner at the water ski facility.  I went there after hours because I had earlier misplaced my eye glasses and hoped someone had turned them in.

The man there, his dog and his parrot all turned out to help me look again along the beach.  I was ready to quit before he was and when I got in the car an idea hit me.  I called home and sure enough I had put my glasses inside my shoes that I had not put back on.  I apologised to the man for wasting his time and praised his lifestyle.

Now that I see this video I envy his life even more.