The largest and loftiest (at 1,001m/3,284ft elevation) of the Cyclades archipelago, rugged Náxos is one of the few Greek islands besides Crete that could feed itself – you see flocks of sheep, goats and cattle everywhere, along with all manner of market gardens. The local small potatoes are renowned, commanding a price premium, as do a range of island cheeses. All of this, of course, finds its way onto the menus of the better local restaurants.
For casual visitors, there’s enough else on offer to keep them busy for a week or so. The main town, specifically its hilly old quarter known as the Kástro, was the seat of the Venetian Duchy of Náxos, who ruled most of the Cyclades from this fortress after 1204.
The steep lanes of Kástro and its downhill continuation Boúrgos provide many an atmospheric wander, while out in the countryside loom the tower-mansions of the Venetians and their descendants, Byzantine country churches, and a few very ancient monuments.
The biggest mainstream draw is Náxos’s entire southwest-facing coast which, from the resort of Ágios Prokópios down to Agiassós near the island’s southerly cape, essentially forms one great long beach, separated by little headlands and backed by a sometimes bumpy, discontinuous road. Get a good map for all rural safaris (Terrain no. 311, ‘Naxos’, 1:40,000, sold locally, is fine, as is Anavasi no. 10.28 ‘Naxos & Small Cyclades, also 1:40,000, which details all numbered hiking paths).