Heading north along the coast from Hora, the road winds and twists past the Tower of Ayia, the majestic ruins of a castle with a spectacular ocean backdrop, passing through Engares, where the Engares Olive Press is a worthwhile stop – check out the equipment, sample various foodstuffs and stock up on olive products. Further north, the road eventually takes you to the pleasant fishing village of Apollonas. Signposted in an ancient quarry on the hillside above the village is a colossal 7th-century BC kouros, much larger and easier to find than the Kouros of Flerio.
Apollonas’ pebble-and-sand beach is decent and tavernas line the waterfront, serving the freshest of fish. Swing by Nikos Art for very reasonably priced ceramics in Japanese Raku style.
Take the main road south from Apollonas towards Apiranthos and you pass a turnoff to Lionas, where a scenic 8km drive past old emery mines leads you to a lovely stony beach and a couple of tavernas, including super-friendly Delfinaki, serving up great home cooking and farm- and sea-fresh ingredients.
Further south of the Lionas turnoff, the road splits in two at Stavros Keramotis church; take the right fork to Moni, with its wood-carving workshops, stellar views of Mt Zeus, and the 7th-century Panagia Drosiani that attracts pilgrims from far and wide.
From Moni you can return to Hora via the marble quarries on the road between Kinidaros and Melanes and the Kouros of Flerio, two marble statues dating back to the 7th and 6th centuries BC, signposted in an ancient marble-working area near Mili.
Beaches south of Agios Georgios (Hora’s town beach) include beautiful Agios Prokopios, which is sandy and shallow and lies in a sheltered bay to the south of the headland of Cape Mougkri. It merges with Agia Anna, a stretch of shining white sand, quite narrow but long enough to feel uncrowded towards its southern end. Development is fairly solid at Prokopios and the northern end of Agia Anna.
Sandy beaches continue as far as Pyrgaki, passing the beautiful turquoise waters of the long, dreamy Plaka Beach and gorgeous sandy bays (some popular with naturists) punctuated with rocky outcrops. You’ll find plenty of restaurants, accommodation and bus stops along this stretch – it’s an idyllic place for a chilled-out beach stay. Maragas Beach Camping has a good set-up across from a long sandy strand south of Agia Anna: camping, studios and rooms, a supermarket and a taverna. There’s a regular bus from Hora that stops out front.
At Mikri Vigla (http://mikrivigla.com), golden granite slabs and boulders divide the beach into two. This beach is becoming an increasingly big fish on the kitesurfing scene, with reliable wind conditions. Flisvos Kite Centre offers kite- and windsurfing classes and rents equipment to certified surfers, as does Naxos Kitelife. You can stay next door at Orkos Beach Hotel, where rooms are clean and comfy.
There is more windsurfing and kitesurfing action in Pyrgaki, south of Mikri Vigla, reachable via an unpaved road past the Aliko promontory. Look out for Hawaii Beach, just north of the promontory, known for its limpid blue waters.
Heading back north via Kastaraki and Vivlos villages, stop by the Axiotissa taverna for one of the best meals on the island.
Practical Tip: Road Trip
Naxos is a big island. If you have limited time and want to see it all, we recommend renting some wheels and heading out on a road trip. It's feasible to visit Halki, Filoti, Apiranthos and Melanes in a big loop in a day, and even head further afield to Apollonas or Lionas.