After the visits to myriad marble columns, temple remnants, and paved roads, the Kouros of Naxos are a refreshing change. The three Kouros are prostrate statues still lying where they were being chiselled from the local marble. Dating from 6th or 7th Century BC, these male forms are believed to be either the God Dionysus, or perhaps local heroes, destined to grace temples. They lie in the open countryside where skilled hands worked on the marble slabs until fatal flaws were revealed or the stone fractured. The statues were then discarded, unfinished, and irretrievable. These are sites of heroic failure and are touching and impressive reminders of the minor craftsmen behind the great antiquities. The best Kouros are at Apollon (10.3m long) and near the central town of Melanes. All are accessible by foot.
Getting there: local buses from Naxos port to Melanes or to Apollon. Kouros of Flerio, Kouros of Potamia are near Melanes and the largest is near Apollon.
Google map: bit.ly/10gGC28
Naxos is one of the biggest and most picturesque islands in the cycladic complex with endless beaches and restaurants offering local organic products. The most recognisible ancient monument is the "Portara" the gate of what used to be the temple of Apollo, situated close to the main port of the island. However Naxos has also many Byzantine churches and above all the famous "Kouros", the two gigantic statues which represent a young man. The first Kouros is located in the northern part of the island, in Apollonas and it is not worth the visit, whereas the second Kouros of Melanes is a fantastic sample of the geometric era (7th and 6th century B.C.) The unfinished Kouros at Melanes (or Flerio) is situated in a lovely garden full of citrus trees. At the end of the path there is a lady selling home made marmelades, a treat you just can't miss.
Naxos is a glorious antidote to the Greek beach experience. The largest and most agricultural of the Cyclades, it has an active present and a crowded history, that intertwine offering myriad pleasures. The ferry from Pireaus or other islands stops at the capital, Hora, a bustling port. High above the port is the ancient Venetian citadel of Kastro that has just been restored alluringly with millions of Euros. The central Tragaea plateau is the treat. Here a milder climate and friendly villagers welcome walkers. Aged olive and fig trees shade byzantine churches linked by ancient paths and tracks joining the villages. Halki keeps alive the unique citron distilling; Filoti spreads in the lee of Mt Zeus, the highest mountain in the Cyclades and excellent walking; Apiranthos exhibits the local marble in steep stairs and paving while offering wildflower walks and giddy sea views to the East. The plateau has scattered fortified towers and two of the island’s three 7th century BC, rejected male statues or Kouros, that lie on the hills where they were carved. Forget the moped and hire-car. Travel by local bus to see more and enjoy a warmer welcome.
Google map: bit.ly/j7mJMo
Naxos has everything. A headland marked by a temple ruin greets you as your ferry arrives.(There is also a small airport.) The harbour lies directly below the Old Town (Kastro), a maze of narrow alleyways on a steep hill and, at its foot, the new town (Chora) with plenty of shops and tavernas and a lovely sandy beach just beyond.
No need to hire a car; the island can be explored by bus and on foot to reach various small archaeological sites. For a whole island of antiquity take the day trip to Delos (with Mykonos thrown in).
The able-bodied should stay in one of the small hotels such as Anixis in the picturesque Old Town: plenty of steps but no traffic, not even bicycles!
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