Hiking the villages of Naxos
The largest and most fertile of the Cyclades, Naxos is one of the only islands in the archipelago where you can still find traditional farming villages. This privately guided hike offers a chance to spend the day exploring the green hills of the Tragea Valley to see four of these small villages and hamlets.
You’ll venture far from the island’s beachside attractions to meet locals whose way of life hasn’t changed much over the centuries. These whitewashed villages are steeped in history and you’ll see one of the oldest and most important Christian churches in the area while learning of the important role it played during the Turkish occupation.
You’ll also get a chance to appreciate the natural beauty of the landscape as you hike between the two smallest villages on the tour. You’ll walk across the rough and rocky hills, dotted with dusty olive groves and scrubby oak.
Your driver and guide will pick you up at your hotel to drive you into the Tragea Valley, a fertile cradle of land at the foot of Mount Zas. The valley has been an important growing area since the classical era, and today it still supports extended families who tend extensive olive groves, citron orchards and other farming ventures. In fact, farms like these provide much of the fresh food served at chic restaurants on the country’s better-known islands.
You’ll begin in Halki, where impressive neoclassical houses are a remnant of the days when this was the island’s capital and commercial hub. Not to be confused with the Dodecanese island of the same name, this small village is packed with meticulously maintained pedestrian lanes paved in white stone. As you stroll along them, you’ll pass whitewashed houses that sport classic blue trim and bright-pink bougainvillea.
The quiet, rural charm of the town has attracted a small but vibrant community of artists and craftspeople, some with international reputations. As you wander through the narrow alleys and into tiny, vine-shaded squares, look for their boutiques and galleries.
From Halki, hike up the path along a gully to the village of Moni. This tiny hamlet, with just 200 year-round residents, is named after the Byzantine-era monastery (moni) that’s been converted to the Panagia Drosiani. Built in the 6th century, it’s one of the most important churches in all of Greece and your guide can explain the many myths associated with its name. Inside, you’ll find cave-like chapels, where nuns and monks taught Christianity and Greek language to children during the Turkish occupation.
From there, walk on through the countryside past olive groves, plane trees and stands of low oaks to reach the even smaller villages of Kaloxylos and Akadimi. Few venture into these areas of the island and you and your guide will be some of the only visitors there. Look for the restored olive press in Kaloxylos and the Markopolitis tower house, one of the few towers on the island not built by the Venetians. From there, return to your car for the drive back to your hotel.
The walk covers uneven ground and hills and generally lasts about five to six hours including the visits to the towns and a stop at a tavern for lunch.
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