Natural Wealth

1. Naxos shows abundance in emery, an industrially important rock type that has been used for its iron bearing properties. Smyrida as it is known to the locals, dates back to the Bronze Age and most of the world’s supply of emery has originated from Naxos, in the bowels of Ammomaxi mountain. Emery is still mined today, but at a much lower rate since it has been replaced by synthetic substitutes, while Koronos village is where most emery mines (almost 50) can still be found today.

2. Naxian marble, or Crystallina as is the commercial name for it, is among the finest in the world. It comes in three grades: the stark white which is the finest of them all that accounts for 20%, semi-white which is the most common, accounting for 50% and the grey, which is the lowest grade and accounts for the remaining 30%. One other interesting fact about Naxian marble is that it appears vertically on the slopes whereas most marble is found in a horizontal manner.

3.Naxian marble is not a thing of the past; yes it used to be the main luxurious construction material for important sites throughout Greek antiquity. However, there still is a place for it today. There is a plethora of contemporary marble sculptors on Naxos island that bring marble art into the 21st century. Resident artists, both Greek and foreign, have set up workshops which you can visit and admire their artistic talent, using Naxos’ most prized natural commodity.

4. Not one but two, massive ancient sculptures of Kouros statues made from gray marble, typically referred to as the form of a young man, are found in Naxos. The Kouros of Apollonas, also known as the Colossus of Dionysus, is the first and dates back to the Archaic period. It is an unfinished beast of a statue measuring over 10 meters tall and weighing over 80 tonnes that lays horizontally weathered by the elements of so many centuries gone by. The second is found in the village of Melanes, is 6 meters and also lies on the ground. It is not as big as the first Kouros statue but it is better formed, and the male shape can be more easily discerned.

Mythology

5. In ancient times, Naxos used to be a center of worship for Zeus, Dionysus, Apollo and Demeter, hence all the references to these gods that are still very much felt today. Mythology speaks about the Cave of Zas in Naxos as being Zeus’ childhood refuge. According to the legend, Zeus was harboured away by his mother, to escape the madness of his father Kronus who sought to eat his children out of fear they would dethrone him. The cave has geological interest apart from the fable, reaching up to 115 meters in height and features stalagmites and stalactites.

6. Naxos was also claimed to be the birthplace of Dionysus, Olympian God of merriment, accounting for the rich and long standing tradition of wine making on the island. It is also said that a young Dionysus fell in love with Ariadne, a Cretan princess who accompanied Prince Theseus on his return to Athens after having slayed the Minotaur. On their journey back, they stopped in Naxos to rest and that is where Dionysus fell in love with her while she was sleeping.

Local practices

7. During June, the Naxians have a ‘fisherman’s festival in the village of Apollonas. Being an island, it relies heavily on fishing in addition to agriculture to sustain the livelihoods of the local populace. To honour this, the locals commence an evening sermon that blesses both the waters and fishing boats, followed by a feast where seafood is the star of the show, accompanied by music and dancing.

8. The ‘Demetria’ are a festival that has its roots in ancient times, showing respect for the Olympian goddess of agriculture, Demetra. It takes place during the first week in August in the village of Sagri, and is effectively an open-air market of various stalls that sell their wares around the courtyard of a quaint little 17th century chapel.

9. If you visit Naxos towards the end of September, you can participate in what the locals call ‘rakitzo’, the fermenting of raki, a typically Greek spirit similar yet quite different from the more widely known ouzo. Celebrations involve feasting and drinking, usually accompanied by music and dancing.

 

More reasons to love Naxos

10. In case you needed more reasons to love Naxos, the people are exceptionally humble, welcoming and hospitable. They run their local businesses with the same ethics that apply in their households, welcoming visitors and guests as if they were family. This is apparent from every single interaction you have, from a heartfelt ‘kalimera’ on the street to being welcomed at their taverna or in their home.

11. The diversity of Naxos makes it extremely attractive. It has the stunning beaches, the fascinating history that spans many time periods, the numerous traditional villages, the phenomenal hiking routes, the exceptional food, the interesting customs. It is favoured by families, groups of friends, couples and solo travellers alike, simply because there is more than something for everyone.

12. Most of all, Naxos is incredibly value for money. You will find very reasonable prices throughout the island, from your morning coffee to the sunbed rentals on the beach to the food, of course, despite it being absolutely delicious. A holiday in Naxos will not break the bank while it is sure to leave the most joyous of memories to be cherished forever.