Naxos and Mykonos are geographically close to each other and both hugely popular tourist islands, but for us the difference between them was like night and day. Where Mykonos was kind of crazy and expensive and overwhelming, Naxos was peaceful and quiet and incredibly relaxing - in short, it was everything we were hoping for in a Greek island vacation.
Like our Mykonos hostel, we booked our Naxos accommodation way before our departure date. I found an actual hotel for less than what we’d paid for our Fyre Festival tent on Mykonos, so that was a no-brainer. Naxos, as we found out, is the largest island in the Cyclades chain and the hotel was in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. We opted not to rent a car, so we had to get picked up in the hotel shuttle just to get out there so we were a bit nervous that we’d end up in some weird remote area, but it ended up working out amazingly well. The hour-long shuttle ride took us through some twisty mountain roads along the coast, giving us spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea and tiny little villages interspersed with long stretches of nothing but grass and trees and rocks.
The village we stayed in, Apollonas, is a little fishing/resort town on the north side of the island that’s tucked into a little bay sheltering it from the intense Cycladic winds. From the second we got out of the shuttle, we knew this was going to be very different from Mykonos. The village is incredibly tiny: it’s basically just one short promenade alongside the ocean, with a few tavernas and a single market plus the hotel we stayed at and a couple pensions (basically guesthouses). The rest of the village was just people’s homes. The buildings were all whitewashed with blue accents in the traditional Cycladic style. Unlike Mykonos, the beach here was small and rocky and there were no lounge chair/umbrella combos blocking the sand: we were free to lay our towels anywhere, for free. Definitely a welcome change.
Because we had no car and were effectively in the middle of nowhere, we did not have a very active week on Naxos, and that’s exactly what we wanted. We’d wake up late every morning, grab a frappe from the local cafe (the owner recognized us and our orders by day 2), and head out to the beach. After a few hours of swimming and sunbathing we’d have a leisurely lunch at one of the oceanside tavernas before retiring to the hotel for a nap or some much-needed American television (we’re thankfully all caught up on Game of Thrones and Twin Peaks now, we’d been missing it). The vibe in Apollon is definitely much more relaxed than anywhere we’d been so far in Greece - because it’s so small and quiet, everything moves slow and everyone’s very chilled out. I guess that’s what happens when you’re on island time all the time. We assimilated really well, I have to admit. We really appreciated being around locals (even the other tourists were mostly Greek) and being in a more affordable and more authentic-feeling place.
The best thing about our stay was definitely our hotel - a quaint little place called Adonis Hotel. It’s small and family-run and incredibly charming, and from the moment we got in we truly felt like we were part of the family. We ate most of our meals at the onsite restaurant - the menu changed daily and all of the produce was grown in their own garden. Breakfast involved tons of Greek yogurt, local cheese, and perfectly ripe figs and nectarines, and dinner consisted of the freshest Greek salads either of us had ever tasted along with local fish or meat dishes that were deliciously home-cooked. Stamatis, the owner, also made his own fruit liqueurs and was generous enough to share them with us, and at night we’d sit around on the porch with a half-liter of wine and talk about sports and Game of Thrones with Stamatis’s son. It was lazy, relaxing, and just an all around great time. We genuinely thought about extending our stay because we didn't want to leave.
For me personally, Naxos was the Greek island experience I’d been hoping to have in Mykonos. In Naxos, I never once felt overwhelmed or anxious or stressed out by the environment around me. Life moved at a comfortable pace, I didn’t feel like I was being ripped off at all, and I was able to just take in my surroundings and give myself a chance to breathe for a few days. It did wonders for my mental health, and I definitely feel like a calmer and less stressed person after our stay.
I honestly wish that I could make this blog post longer, because Naxos was one of our favorite stops so far on our entire trip but there are only so many words you can write about being lazy on the beach all day. We had a marvelous time because we were so worn out after Mykonos, and we really felt like we needed to just sit back and relax for a while. We definitely took a gamble booking a hotel in an area we knew nothing about, but it worked out so well and we could not be happier with our time in Apollonas. We left feeling rejuvenated and refreshed, with far better attitudes than we’d had when we got to the island. Sometimes you just need permission to do nothing, and Naxos definitely gave us that.