The largest of the Cyclades, Naxos packs a lot of bang for its buck. Its main city of Hora is a web of steep cobbled alleys, filled with the hubbub of tourism and shopping. Yet you needn't travel far to find isolated beaches, atmospheric villages and ancient sites.
It was on Naxos that an ungrateful Theseus is said to have abandoned Ariadne after she helped him escape the Cretan labyrinth. She didn’t pine long, and was soon entwined with Dionysos, the god of wine and ecstasy and the island’s favourite deity. Naxian wine has long been considered a useful antidote to a broken heart.
Naxos was a cultural centre of classical Greece and of Byzantium, while Venetian and Frankish influences have left their mark. It is more fertile than most of the other Cyclades islands and produces olives, grapes, figs, citrus fruit, corn and potatoes. Mt Zeus (1004m; also known as Mt Zas) is the Cyclades’ highest peak and is the central focus of the island’s interior where you will find such enchanting villages as Halki and Apiranthos. The island also draws outdoor enthusiasts, with kiteboarding off the sandy southern beaches, and traditional footpaths to follow between villages, churches and other sights. Walking guides and maps are available from local bookshops.
Hora has the colour and bustle you'd expect of the island's port and capital. Settled on the west coast, the old town is a tangle of steep footpaths and is divided into two historic Venetian neighbourhoods: Bourgos, where the Greeks lived; and the hilltop Kastro, where the Roman Catholics lived. Despite being fairly large, Hora can still be easily managed on foot.