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Friday, July 02, 2010

NAXOS ISLAND: SANDY BEACHES AND GLORIOUS SUNSETS

 PLAKA BEACH, NAXOS

Naxos is one of my favorite of the Greek Islands.  It's the largest of the Cyclades, a mountainous, fertile island with miles of fabulous sandy beaches.
In history, Naxos was a cultural centre of major importance and was considered the cradle of Cycladic civilisation in about 1000 BC.  It was one of the first islands to work marble and in a couple of sites on the island you can still see giant Kouros statues that have been left in situ when the marble cracked as they were being moved out of the quarries.  In Greek legend, this is the island where Theseus abandoned Ariadne after their escape from Crete when the great volcanic eruption on Santorini devastated the Minoan civilisation.  On my very first visit to Naxos several years ago, one of the things that had impressed me was the sent of 'abandonment' because around the island are many abandoned villages.  Many of these coastal villages were abandoned during the pirate rates of the 1200 ADs and later during the occupation by the Ottoman Empire.  A round-the-island tour takes you to many of these sites including a tiny church where there was a secret school so children could be taught the Greek language after the Ottoman's forbade it. 

Naxos is also known as being the producer of the best potatoes in Greece and the production of a delicious aperitif known as Kitron, made from a lemon-like fruit.  The island also has emery mines.
MARAGAS TAVERNA AND CAMPING, PLAKA BEACH

I've been to Naxos four times already.  The first time I came I stayed at a campsite closer to Naxos town. The second time I came, I camped at Maragas Beach.  The beach here is idyllic, miles of sandy shore and sparkling, warm, turquoise water.  The third time I came, I was staying farther up the shore at Irinia Beach but it was an easy walk to spend the day here at Plaka Beach near the camp site that I enjoyed so much.  On last year's trip my sister, niece and I were staying at a hotel far up on a bluff overlooking the sea and although it was beautiful, I longed to be by the shore.  We did take a day to come to Plaka Beach and lay around on the beach lounge chairs, swim, and have dinner at the beach tavern.  But I decided then that I simply had to return, this time with my little tent, and camp once again at Maragas campsite.

So this is my plan:  Shortly after arriving in Athens on August 10, I intend to head for Naxos with my little tent and park myself at Maragas Beach.  Some time during my stay, a new-found travel writer friend, Inka, will join me so I'll have the privilege of showing her around this beautiful island.

The town of Naxos has a distinctly Venetian flavor with vaulted streets and an old castle.  The Venetians rules here for some time during the invasion of pirate in the Aegean Sea so their architecture still remains.  It will be fun to explore some of the other small villages and the many beaches too.
And one thing that is a special event each day is to sit at a beach taverna and watch the amazing Naxos sunsets.


NAXOS SUNSET

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