Back to Naxos 7 Years On!

The first part of our island hop has been a little frenetic to say the least. In recent years I began to knock the ‘hit and run’ approach to island hopping on the head. It’s not that it’s exhausting (but it is) it’s that I much prefer a better quality of experience. To be able to at least feel the ‘essence’ of a place. However, for this particular trip it is intended to give the Grandadults a ‘flavour’ of what island hopping has to offer.

We are up early for the Blue Star Chios to take us to Naxos. An early ferry and the GA’s do me proud and are all waiting in the courtyard with their luggage. They had heeded my advice on what we had witnessed at the port a day earlier. We have time to spare and have pastries and a drink in the cafe where this time, it is our cases piled high.

This particular ferry in my experience can be a little chaotic when boarding and disembarking so I repeat our boarding mantra – “Stick together and show no mercy!” It has worked for us before and I daresay it will work for us again! She’s on time and boarding is actually OK.

We make our way up onto the deck and one by one the GA’s disappear to read, phone boyfriends, do whatever it is one does on Tiktok!

This is my first time back on Naxos in 7 years. I first visited in around 1995 which is (counts on fingers) gosh – around 27 years ago! I’ve visited several times since then and have always liked this island very much. It’s a large island and not wholly reliant on tourism as part of its economy. It has a thriving potato industry (who doesn’t love a Naxian potato) along with other forms of agriculture, farming, fishing and not to forget the marble/quarrying industry.

I’ve always sold this destination to our clients as an ‘island that has it all’. Naxos is well known for it’s long stretches of golden sand beach and IMHO there aren’t many beaches in Greece to rival it. Not only this, it has gorgeous mountain villages and of course the very atmospheric Kastro quarter which has always been my favourite place to stay. This time however, we are staying at the Hotel Proteas in Stelida which is close to Agios Prokopios Beach. The main reason why I’m staying here is because as a tour operator (with my day job working for Hidden Greece) we work with some fantastic family run hotels and it is always good to go and try them out in person. Also I want to try somewhere different to where I’d usually stay so this opportunity seemed perfect.

Disembarkation also goes surprisingly smoothly and we eventually spill out from the car deck onto the large harbour in Naxos town.

One of the benefits of staying in the Kastro quarter (as have done previously) is that it is right in front of you as you disembark. It may require a climb up some steep cobbled steps where cars can’t have access but it is well worth it. Instead our mission is to catch the bus to Stelida. Bus tickets are purchased in the station before boarding and then it is a bit chaotic trying to find the correct bus to Agios Prokopios. We ask a man who seems like he knows what’s what and he points to a bus. There is a queue which we join. After about 10 minutes a man standing by another bus shouts a list of destinations which includes Agios Prokopios and a mad rush from all directions ensues. We do manage to board the bus but there is standing room only. We are squeezed in like sardines and it isn’t a very comfortable ride.

The bus heads out through the town and eventually out past the small airport and salt flats. We are close – I have it starred on Google maps.

Once at the bus stop called Lagos we take the side road and the hotel is about a 10-15 minute walk (with luggage) mainly due to my age and level of unfitness. The GA’s are well ahead of me.

We receive a lovely welcome from our host and are shown to our room which overlooks the pool. Yes we have a pool!! Always a luxury as a budget traveller. the GA’s are exstatic!

Here at Hotel Proteas, we are in a 2 bedroomed apartment. They have brought in an extra single bed to accommodate us which is perfect. First impressions are that our hosts are absolutely meticulous about everything here. Hopefully this will be the perfect place to relax towards the end of our holiday and maybe a chance to unwind a little. Not only that, as we are here for 5 whole nights it is actually worth unpacking our suitcases properly for the first time. I can’t tell you what a relief this is. It’s not just that clothes begin to get really crumpled after a while, it’s also that I like the to smell fresh. Keeping them in packing cubes with tumble dryer sheets certainly helps but there is no substitute for being able to hang your clothes in fresh air.

Once sorted, the GA’s head all 5 yards to the pool. I suspect this is where they will stay for the rest of the day.

Peter and I decide to walk down to Agios Prokopios which is about a 20 minute walk from Hotel Proteas – thankfully down hill this time. We stop at Kavourakia along the way for gyros – our first of the trip.

Peter and I reminisce about our last stay here – or rather I reminisce and Peter tries to remember what I’m talking about. His memory really isn’t the best. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a kinaesthetic and visual learner and my photographs can take me right back to a particular moment in time. Maybe Peter has early onset memory loss or it could be that he still thinks in Arabic and then has to juggle things around in his head translate thing for them to make sense. Whatever it is he really can’t remember anything.

I said “Remember that time when we spent the day on Agios Prokopios and we had those amazing loukoumades on the beach?” He looks at me blankly.

“OK” I say “So do you remember that time when we then walked to Agia Anna and we saw the rock that looked like a shark?” “No” he says.

“Heavens above!” I exclaim (or words to that effect!) To prove that these are not figments of my imagination, I pull up the images on my phone as evidence. Nope – not even the photographic evidence resonates with him. I’ll just have to take him to the ‘shark rock’ in person and see if he remembers it then. Who on earth could forget loukoumades like this!!!!

We mosey on down to Agios Prokopios Beach and my first impression is shock. Shock at how busy this beach is and how many sunbeds and umbrella’s they’ve managed to cram into such a small space. I’m a bit disappointed to see this to be honest. I’m even more disappointed to see the Mykonosation of the beach with the various classes of sun lounger based on row position. I just hate it. I appreciate that after an economic recession, a pandemic and a new economic crisis looming that businesses need to strike whilst they can, but at what cost?

We walk further along the beach up to Agia Anna which is also busy. There are small pockets of beach that have been left natural but these stunning golden beaches in my view are the absolute jewel in the crown of Naxos. Let’s hope that some of the natural beach has been preserved on Maragkas Beach and Plaka where some of the most beautiful stretches of sand are located.

Whilst passing Agia Anna I take the opportunity to show Peter said shark rock that we were talking about earlier. The shark has aged since 2015 and now has a white beard. Peter has also aged since 2015 and also has a white beard!

Peter looks at the shark rock blankly. Nope! Absolutely nothing. Not even a flicker of recognition!

Anyway, it is good to see that Agia Anna still has a bit of charm. The flat rocks that create the sea wall are a good place to swim and sunbathe if you don’t mind the discomfort of sitting and/or lying on solid stone. More bars and restaurants have popped up along the back of the beach and there are definitely more signs of new development the further along you walk.

We continue walking along Maragkas Beach. I have all of my fingers and toes crossed that this area hasn’t succumbed to sunbed frenzy and the jewel has been spared from the over development!

I think that it’s fair to say that there have been pockets of development along this beautiful stretch of gold sand. We see clusters of kabana’s and sunbeds but at least these are spread out a bit more and you don’t feel as though you’re breathing your neighbours air. There are things that are designed for Instagram I guess – I don’t know what you’d call them. Thankfully there are also stretches of beach that have been left natural. The development that has taken place behind the beaches is rather ordinary and looks as though it has been done without much design or planning. Some of the hotels have swimming pools that overlook the road. I appreciate that this also overlooks the beach and/or sand dunes but I don’t think I’d fancy lying by the pool with cars whipping up dust from the road. Anyway, I’m not staying there so it doesn’t matter. This is just an observation.

We walked almost (but not quite) to the end of Plaka Beach. Exhausted we fall into a beach bar for refreshments.

After re-hydrating our brains we realise that the bus doesn’t actually continue this far down the road. At some point it diverges inland away from the back of the beach. We ask in the café bar where the nearest bus stop is located and we are told that we have to walk inland a little and it is next to a supermarket.

Off we set with no real clue of where we are going. We struggle to find the bus stop. The area is so new that not even the supermarket shows up on Google Maps – or anything else for that matter. We are left with no option but to head back the way we came, along the beach road.

The buses run infrequently so when we stumble across signs of life i.e. a supermarket we rush in to buy the tickets just in case one decides to drive by. Thankfully we don’t have to wait too long. The bus isn’t going to Stelida. It isn’t even going to Agios Prokopios but directly back to town. We take it. Another bus ride is better than the thought of walking in this heat. Both buses are full. We are standing for both journey’s. There is the same chaos at the bus station. I’m not really enjoying the bus experience on Naxos so far.

Back at the hotel the GA’s are chomping at the bit to eat so showers are had and hair is brushed (that’s all I bother with nowadays). The female GA’s however, make substantially more of an effort.

Just a short walk from Lagos Mare Hotel is a place called Taverna Perama – just perfect for our evening meal. We polish off some Greek staples such as fresh fish, grilled lamb, chicken ‘Slovakia’ and an array of starters.

The GA’s still have an appetite for more – especially sweet and sugary food. We head a bit further down the road to Il Gusto for crepes. Not just any old crepes – crepes with fillings of absolutely every description you can imagine – you can just point at the jars and say what you want in it or choose from the menu. The crepe menu is extensive. I don’t know what my crepe was called but I do remember that it had Grand Marnier in it! They get Instagrammed and Snapchatted. I eat mine.

I was searching online for the menu for Il Gusto to share here. I didn’t find one but I did find a Facebook page. Scrolling down it they have some interesting video’s of Agios Prokopios and some stunning photographs of Naxos. One post took my eye in particular and it was a petition entitled “Save Agios Prokopios Natural Beauty! Remove the Plastic Sliders from the Sea!”

When I saw the word slider I initially thought that it was about beach footwear and that maybe a collection of discarded flipflops needed cleaning up from the beach. Looking at the photographs I then realised that this petition dated June 2018 referred so some large inflatables that had been installed on Agios Prokopios Beach. They are quite hideous and look alien against the natural beauty of the beach.

It was heart warming actually to see that there is a group of active local people fighting to protect the natural beauty of this gorgeous beach. Four years after this campaign was launch they appear to have achieved their mission to prevent the inflatables from embedding themselves into the landscape but it seems this was replaced by sardine like sunbeds. I’m not condemning the use of sunbeds on beaches. God knows when I occasionally have a beach day I prefer to lie in comfort. However, surely a balance must be struck between preservation of the natural environment and the development of the facilities that we tourists like to take advantage of?

Our hearts cry. They have just turned Agios Prokopios, one of most beautiful beaches in Greece into an ugly amusement park. The sublime view is destroyed and there are more structures on the beach waiting to go into the water. We guess they don’t understand that people come here for the beauty and to escape the honkey tonk crap that has ruined many of the world’s beaches.

Please, everybody who reads and agrees with this post, please share it to your friends and sign. Thank you!

What a day. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. ♥

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  1. Interesting read Stephanie – I’d actually thought about Naxos for the future, as I enjoyed visiting Paros a few years ago. But I think your descriptions of the busy beaches may have put me off – as you know I love quiet and authentic – will be struggling with this on Naxos !

    1. Hi Liz. Naxos really is an amazing island. I have much more to say about our stay in July – some of it good and some of it not so good but this really has nothing to do with Naxos at all. The sheer numbers of people heading to Naxos in high season this year was inevitable. Unfortunately the infrastructure – and I’m talking about the buses mainly were just unfit for purpose. It just couldn’t cope with the demand. Do go to Naxos. You really won’t be disappointed. Just don’t go in peak season. ❤

  2. Naxos was marvellous! I stayed at Naxian Spirit, which was a bit off the beaten path but close to a grocery store, not far from Agios Georgios and a tolerable walk from town. I was there in September. I took a one day tour around the Island, which was amazing, and so worthwhile. I’m a hiker, so took the public bus to Filoti to hike Mt. Zas! That was a journey… and Zas cave was epic. The bus trip was fine, not too busy or hair raising. Next day, I did hire a sun bed and relax at the beach, with a drink and lunch! I found Naxos town busier than I expected, but with a cruise ship in the harbour, that can be expected. I didn’t drive at all and found the buses got me to where I wanted and back with no problem. This was my first trip to Greece!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed Naxos Pat. I believe that the number of tourists dropped after the end of August and I’m sure that made a massive difference to your experience. Having been to Naxos several times over a period of 27 years I’ve seen gradual changes but this year the place was almost unrecognisable. It’s a large island so technically should be able to handle high numbers of tourist including the cruise liners. However, in the middle of July the bus service simply couldn’t cope with the demand and led to a rather poor experience for me and my family. Now that hike from Filoti to Mount Zas. I tried this 27 years ago and got completely lost. We spent several hours walking through fields trying to get directions from farmers but in the end gave up so well done. Is it better signposted nowadays? No Google Maps back then! 🙂 I’ll have to write about this trip when I get a chance – photo’s were pre digital camera so I’ll have to route them out!

Let me know what you think. ❤

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