What else can you find on the Greek Aegean? Some lower-key islands, Naxos and Crete
The less known spots on the Greek Aegean Sea are the less travelled islands, we headed there after Mykonos and found a great way to relax, connect with the locals and learn more about Greece by visiting Naxos and Crete.
From Mykonos it was a ferry ride to Naxos, leaving the crowds and the clubs behind. I must not lie to you as as soon as we arrived to Naxos I felt the isolation and silence in comparison to Mykonos and for a second I freaked out. Then I noticed how everything was so much accessible and easy to digest, without the crowds, the high prices and just a true Greek atmosphere, where the locals go.
Arriving at the Naxos port was a little chaotic as masses of two ferries were disembarking and as a small town that it is there is no organization. The best idea that I had was to schedule a driver in advance to pick us up at the ferry station, avoiding having to wait in line in a hot summer day to get a taxi. There are not many taxis in town, literally just a few, and during peak hours drivers will ask you to share your taxi with others. Planning ahead and scheduling with your hotel to be picked up as the best idea.
This time we were staying at the Naxian Collection (an SLH property) not far from the old town of Naxos, right in between the town and the most popular beaches. The hotel was on a hill, overlooking the greek countryside with some views of the salt lagoon and the beaches in the distance. Secluded, quiet and with much space. Every room is a suite and you get your own pool, or you get to share one pool with another suite. Every time we went in the pool it was only us, so it did feel like a private pool.
In Naxos town, you can walk around through narrow pedestrian streets and see all the small shops, restaurants and bars that the town has to offer. As these are narrow alleys they are a great way to stay out of the sun rays during the hot summer days. There you can still see what remains of the Castro, a walled-in city within the city, located just above the island's main harbor. The town really comes alive at sunset and night with many restaurants open, bars are packed, people lining up for ice cream and just mingling with all the locals felt very festive.
During the day there are so many spots and beaches to check out. The first day we wanted to explore the Apollo Temple and Portara. This is probably the most iconic structure from Naxos, just google it, and visible from the harbor and town. It's a few hundred feet walk from the town, up a hill and once you get there you'll get the best views of town and the harbor. After (or before) that, make sure that you jump in the artificial pool sitting right at the bottom of the hill and next to the harbor. It was a very refreshing way to absorb the surroundings and seeing how the locals get to cool down during the summer. Perfect pool that anyone can access in town.
The most popular beaches are on the East side of the island. Head to Agios Prokopios which is probably the most popular beach, and closest to the old town. From there we rented an ATV and just drove south to check out more beaches. We stopped by Ayia Anna and Plaka but there were more to check out down South. They were indeed busy, not jammed packed but it was hard to find a couple of chairs to rent under the umbrella. A lot of locals just enjoying the sunny warm days.
The highlight of Naxos was definitely taking a catamaran tour along the coast for a full day. There are many companies in town that rent ATVs, motorcycles, tours, and days on boats. The company that we rented from is Naxos Catamaran Apollon and it was great. They pick you up at the port, so in the morning we headed to town and parked our ATV there, boarded the catamaran with other nine people and ventured Southeast with the crew. We got to see many of the beaches that we had visited the day before and more. The best part was to anchor in the middle of the Aegean Sea, away from any crowds and jump in the aquamarine waters offshore. A day of blissful sun, good food and spectacular scenery. Best way to see Naxos, hands down.
After a few days in Naxos we embarked once more, this time to Crete. This was the longest ferry ride so almost an entire day went into travel. Not only because of the ferry but also because Crete is such a big island that the port was a two-hour drive from the hotel near Chania. This was definitely something that I didn't plan very well, unaware of how large Crete is, even though I knew it is big I didn't measure how large it is.
Honestly, Crete needs a dedicated trip for only that island as there is so much to do and see and takes time to get around the island. We explored the old town of Chania which reminded me of Venice as it's known for its 14th century Venetian harbor. At the harbor entrance is a 16th-century lighthouse with Venetian, Egyptian and Ottoman influences. This was an important port of commerce for Cretans for a long time and you can see all that history around town. It was a good place for shopping with the most affordable prices on the Greek islands.
On and all it was an amazing trip cruising the Greek islands, starting from Athens, to Mykonos - Naxos and Crete. About 19 days to explore them all and it wasn't enough time by the time we got to Crete and then flying back to Athens. Plan your trip in advance as there are just so many islands to explore and it's always the hardest to pick which ones. All of them beautiful, unique and with amazing friendly people. You can't go wrong with any islands that you pick.