Naxos was our Greek island of choice mainly for its beautiful beaches. But sea, sun and sand can be the same almost anywhere, and after a few days I started seeking visual confirmation that I was indeed in Greece. We decided to rent a car and drive inland, curious about the tiny villages in the hills and mountains of the island.
After living in flat-as-a-pancake Holland, I realized I’ve lost my ability to tell hills and mountains apart. Everything looks like a mountain to me now, and I get wildly excited about even the least bit of elevation.
So I loved the drive into the heart of Naxos, especially seeing the tiny Greek Orthodox churches perched on the most impossible of peaks. In some places, it’s as if someone built a church there just to prove that it could be done. There are three churches in this shot, can you see them?
Tucked into the hills (okay, I’m pretty sure these are hills) along the way were shining white villages, standing out against a landscape that managed to be both lush and dry at the same time.
We decided to stop at a tiny village called Apiranthos after reading that it’s considered by many to be one of the most picturesque villages on the island. That’s because many of its houses, walls and even streets are made of white marble.
If the words “white marble” make you think of the p0lished, gleaming smoothness of a hotel bathroom or posh penthouse floor, think again. This is white marble with character and soul, worn down by generations of life simply happening.
There are three museums in Apiranthos (for archaeology, geology and folk art), but mostly we wanted to just be out in the sun and let Greece sink in. We wandered around narrow white alleys, looking at people’s houses in varying states of maintenance, seeing how they live. From the number of wooden chairs lined up outside houses, I’m guessing the villagers like to sit outside and enjoy a cup of coffee with their neighbors.
There isn’t much for tourists, which makes Apiranthos decidedly un-touristy. Hurray for that! There are a few cafes, taverns and a handful of shops which manage to look as charming and picturesque as the town itself.
In search of more to see and do, Marlon and I found ourselves in a marble-paved square lined with rickety houses, old men chatting over cups of thick Greek coffee, and an elderly lady in black walking through with what seemed like a large bag of dried herbs on her head.
We stopped at a souvenir store (with nice hand-carved folk art and toys) to ask if the town had a main square. The owner smiled and said, “This is it.”
I don’t think things could have gotten any more traditional, tiny and charming than that.
P .S. The drive down was gorgeous too!