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Naxos

Dionysos’ Island

Having slayed the Minotaur in Knossos, Theseus the son of the king of Athens, abandoned Ariadne, his young Cretan bride here after she helped him escape from King Minas’s wrath – as Dana Facaros wrote: “This was, even in the eyes of Athenians, dishonest.”

Mary Renault found a neat explanation to save her hero’s face – he glimpsed Ariadne in the deepest stages of a bacchanalian intoxication, bloodstained and wild-eyed in the grips of the god Dionysos, and fearing to introduce the taint of madness to his family, he decamped pronto.

The rolling fertility of this mountainous and well-cultivated island, and the abundant production of wine and lemon liqueur rather enhance this interpretation!

The Naxiots claim the almost unique distinction of having agriculture as their main industry rather than tourism. It is true that this was one of the last islands to open up to tourism, although now the sandy beaches lining the entire west coast and the Venetian towers and old village houses, plus an airport, draw a large number of tourists.


Best for

Easy access and variety - this is the largest Cycladic island and has vast stretches of beach, high mountains, museums, caves, cliffs, water sports, clubs, bars and plenty of inland villages with an authentic rural atmosphere.

Worst for

Wind in the summer, affecting mostly the northern and western part of the island and the tourist hordes that do luckily keep to certain beaches and areas.

Would Suit

Families, beach bums, windsurfers, explorers, local produce enthusiasts.

Would Not Suit

Those wanting stylish hotels, and the feeling of a very exclusive island.

Don't Miss

The ruined Portara of the temple of Apollo at sunset, walking in the Kastro area of Naxos Town, the villages of Apiranthos and Filoti, the Cycladic figurines in the Archaeological Museum. Or take a walk up to T'Apalirou - the fortress that held out against the Venetians for two months, the Byzantine church of Panagia Drossiani, one of the oldest churches in Greek history, as well as the fortified church of Fotodótis in Sagri which dates from the 15th century, with a surprisingly well-preserved dome. Drink chilled local Kitron Liqueur on a waterfront at dusk.

Activities

Windsurfing (www.naxos-windsurf.com), riding from Stamatis stables. Make the trip over to the small Cyclades-Koufonissia islands from Kalando marina on Mr Prassinos' kaiki (tel + 30 22850 71438 and + 30 6945 042548). Schinoussa island (four n.miles) on Manolis' speedboat-taxi (tel + 30 6979 618233). Iraklia island (three n.miles) on Mr Dimitris speedboat-taxi (tel + 30 6977 309847).

High Season

Avoid the west coast beaches, which fill up with tour buses.

Low Season

Bliss.