Greece: Naxos - Gem of the Aegean

Written by  Maxine Albert

EUROPE Greece
With stunning islands and the most gorgeous water on the planet, Greece has always attracted tons of tourists, all clamoring for fun and relaxation in the Mediterranean sun. I just visited Greece and discovered a true treasure - Naxos - an island like no other. Go there now, for the secret is sure to be out soon.
Landing in Athens, I visited the Acropolis then marveled at the remarkable antiquities at The Acropolis Museum before I hopped a ferry to Naxos.

Naxos Magic
Celebrated Chef Anthony Bourdain came to Greece to visit several islands within the Cyclades and film the various locales for his popular CNN TV show Parts Unknown. When he arrived in Naxos, he fell in love with the place, canceled all his plans and devoted the entire episode to this one island. Once you taste the food, you too will feel the magic. Unmatched ingredients are the product of the fertile island’s long agricultural heritage. There’s a great respect for the land, food and tradition; artisanal cheese, olive oil and bread are plentiful. Each village has its own specialty dishes made from crops in family gardens with recipes still passed down through generations, and grandma sure knew how to cook.

Gastronomic Haven
Mr. Bourdain spent time with Maria Polikreti and Ioannis Margaritis who exemplify the best in Naxos hospitality. The couple have the top hotel on the island, Naxian Collection. In addition to its luxurious villas and suites with white marble interiors, Jacuzzis, private pools and expansive terraces overlooking the sea, the resort has a strong culinary focus. There’s a wine cellar, cheese aging room, breakfasts with scrumptious spinach and cheese pies plus other creative concoctions, delectable dinners and cooking classes with Maria’s mother, Juliana.
This summer Maria and Ioannis opened a luxe boutique beachfront hotel, Naxian On The Beach, with a new alfresco eatery that showcases the island’s exemplary seafood. Naxos is also known for its sugary white sand beaches and this is one of the prettiest beaches around. Sublime seabass carpaccio, ceviche, octopus croquettes, linguine with sea urchin, tuna, clams and mussels were among the many standouts at Tortuga Restaurant. Everything was extraordinary including the blue Aegean views. When not savoring the superb cuisine, guests can charter one of Naxian’s 2 or 4 cabin yachts to cruise around, visit another island or arrange a private transfer.
www.naxiancollection.com

Beaches and Ruins
In addition to its spectacular cuisine the largest of the Cyclades Islands offers splendid beaches like Plaka and St. Prokopios, as well as remarkable ruins. You’re bound to see monuments from the classical Greek and Byzantium period when Naxos was a cultural center. Stroll the medieval old town with its cobbled alleys, archways and ancient houses, in and around the Venetian Castle. Marvel at The Temple of Apollo and Archaeological Site of Grotta, both located in the main city of Hora. Park yourself at one of the cafes along the lively waterfront and enjoy the scenic views.

Explore
Take a leisurely drive exploring the green hilly island famed for its white marble quarry. Mt Zeus, the Cyclades’ highest peak is situated within Naxos’ mountainous interior where you’ll find charming villages. Halki’s neoclassical buildings remain striking reminders of its former wealth as a major trade hub. Today this quaint town boasts cafes, restaurants and artisan shops such as Fish & Olive filled with museum quality pottery. Glimpse daily life in the mountain village of Apiranthos: women crocheting, men sitting outdoors drinking citron, Naxos’ famous green liqueur. Try the tasty vissino, the traditional sour cherry dessert at Leftheris. Easy to tell that 3rd generation bread maker Tseledis Antonis in Kinidaros loves her work. I still dream about my exquisite lunch at Platia Taverna in the village of Galini. Surrounded by lemon and olive orchards, I relished a feast of tastiest rooster in tomato sauce, rabbit, goat cheese plus juicy tomatoes and stuffed zucchini fresh from the family farm. As Anthony Bourdain said, “If paradise exists, it will be here.”

To Arrange
Mina Agnos and her team of consummate professionals at Athens-based Travelive are experts in arranging customized itineraries in Greece. They take care of everything from the accommodations, top guides, cultural and gastronomic excursions, transfers between islands, to providing VIP services.
www.travelive.com
Homeric Tours has provided travelers with fulfilling and memorable travel experiences since 1969, and are experts in distinctive travel to the Mediterranean. www.homerictours.com

How to Go
This spring Emirates Airlines’ launched nonstop service from Newark to Athens making it the only carrier to fly this route year round. Now travelers to Greece can enjoy the airline’s superior service and premier amenities in business and first class, notably the impressive cuisine. www.emirates.com

 

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