We all know Naxos, the island of Cyclades, which is one of the most popular summer destinations for over four decades. We know (or at least have heard of) the beaches that hold a beauty beyond any imagination and the significant historical monuments on the island, such as the Kouros (in the mountain village of Apollon) and the Portara (in Chora).
However, in this article, we will concentrate in 5 separate historical treasures of the island that many of us do not know, but are worth discovering! We can start here:
1. The Sanctuary of Iria
Heading to the South of the island (starting from Chora), near a place called “Livadi”, we will see the Sanctuary of Iria. This is a sacred place where a magnificent temple was built (during the Archaic period) to honor Dionysus. However, as assessed by various archaeologists, this area had been a place of worship from much earlier, perhaps even from the 14th century BC (Mycenaean Age), which makes the Temple of Iria, a unique historical treasure.
Tip: It is best to visit the Sanctuary in the afternoon, just before the sun sets. The shadows created by the Ionic columns and the colors that change the landscape during sunset, create an image you will never forget!
2. Traditional Citron Distillery
Walking through the picturesque, cobbled streets of the mountain village Halki (Municipality of Drymalia), we will meet the traditional citron distillery run by the Vallindras family. Citron (or Kitron) is a sweet greek liqueur (one of the national greek aperitifs) that is made of fruits and leaves of the citron tree that is cultivated on the island. This family-run distillery, which since 1896 is dedicated to the production of Citrus of Naxos and its exportation even in countries such as Russia, Egypt, the United States etc. Nowadays, the Vallindras family, still operates the same distillery, which is open to the public, while some young descendants of the family are there to help those interested to discover the magic of the whole production process of the sweet citrus.
Tip: You can try all types of citron produced in the distillery (also offered with excellent appetizers) and I am sure you’ll want to bring a bottle (or two!) home.
3. Bazeos Tower
Driving from Chora towards the village Sangri, on the 12th kilometer, we will see the Bazeos Tower popping up imposingly in the landscape of the plain of Agiassos. It is a building that was built around 1600 and was used as a monastery until the early 19th century. After the constitution of the Greek State in 1830, the monastery was abandoned and the tower was acquired by the Greek State, where it remained until its purchase by the Bazeos family in the late 19th century. Nowadays, the descendants of the family, recognizing the immense historical value of the Tower, restored it in 2000 and the tower is open to the public for visiting and has also hosted many museum collections, theater performances and concerts.
Tip: As you enter the courtyard of the Tower, on the left, there is a small room full of magnificent handmade gifts! You should not miss them!
4. Panagia Drosiani
As we move towards Tragea, just above the main road near the village of Moni, we will see the church of Panagia Drosiani. This is one of the oldest Christian churches in Greece and its interior is decorated with rare frescoes dating back to the late 6th century. Architecturally, Panagia Drosiani is described as an Early-Christian three-aisled church with a dome, while three other aisle chapels that were built over the centuries, were attached to the original «body» of the church.
Tip: You should avoid the midday hours (if you are visiting the church during the summer), because the uphill walk, might be proven challenging. Moreover, in the church’s courtyard, during the summer months, a lot of people are gathered, making handmade jewelry! This is definitely worth a look!
5. The Oil Mill in Eggares
Driving through western Naxos, after the village of Galini, we will meet Eggares; It is a small village where an old mill (one of the few that are left on the island) is preserved and restored. The «liotrivi» (as it is called in the local dialect), was an extremely important means of economic survival for the people of the countryside, in the 19th century. Today, this mill in Eggares, serves as a museum where a guided tour is offered.
Tip: You can combine your visit to the mill with lunch or dinner in local restaurants, like Stella’s Tavern (if you enjoy traditional stew and want to try Stella’s specialty which is aubergines in the oven) or Harry’s Tavern (if you prefer grilled meat or if you are curious about the famous omelet of the restaurant, made of 12 eggs!)