We have just arrived back from a two week stay in Naxos. We went with Kosmar staying at the Antonina Studios in Agia Anna. A seperate review of the studios will be put up shortly.
We always go to Greece and with Kosmar staying in small traditional resorts that are unspoilt, to an extent of course. As such we were promised this with Naxos and read nearly every review on the net I think, as well as being encouraged by the Kosmar brochure. All in all we were fairly disappointed.
Naxos is bizarre. I'm just not entirely sure what it is trying to be at all - it's as if there is a struggle between a traditional local vibe and the need to be more like Mykonos with its expensive bars blasting out R&B music. I dont know where to start really so I'll just take it on a place by place basis.
Agia Anna is really just based on and around the main beach. The beach is partly unorganised but its best strip is filled with various parasols from the bars and tavernas lining it. The beach is said to be quite quiet but it was seriously crowded in all parts while we were there between 9am and around 7pm. It is a very pretentious place, filled with groups of beach babe teenagers mostly American and European. There are also a lot of local teenagers who think they own the beach. The bars along the main strip are awful and expensive. It's like they want to be in St. Tropez or Marbella, the waiters serving you topless to show off their six packs and the waitresses serving you in tiny bikinis in bars such as Santana, Banana and Island wth R&B and rap music blaring out onto the beach. This stretch of bars and tavernas was probably the most unfriendly and unwelcoming that I've ever been to in all of greece. The beach here is highly regarded but overrated. I've seen better in places such as Thassos and the Halkidiki peninsulas. The place attracts a vain crowd who strut around in bikinis and sunglasses even at night. You do feel out of place and awkward going into a bar.
Pokopios is a little better. Still the same pretentious crowd of American and Greek teenagers but the bars are a little more low key. The food quality in the tavernas is poor compared to Naxos town but there a few good places, like Golden Beach cafe and Picanto Snack Bar. The beach is small and is always packed but the place is just a little more grown up.
Plaka is overrated. The tavernas which line the beach are expensive and poor quality. The beach itself is the best on the island by far. You can always find a bit of space to stick your brolly but it's still packed beyond belief at this time of year and its dirty and dusty. Not at all comparable with the carribean or Indian Ocean like some people say.
Naxos Town was the only place we enjoyed going. After a few days we were fed up with Agia Anna and Prokopios and ended up getting the bus to Naxos Town nightly. It's a 1.20 euro for a single trip which is good. Naxos Town is just brilliant. A harbour town bustling with traditional vibrance and local fisherman going about their business. The flow of life here is great and there are some brilliant bars and tavernas in the town. The main square is always very busy, but still good quality. Better tavernas can be found in the back streets and even on the main drag at the harbour. It's really great to walk around and through the winding streets, there are so many ways in which to turn you never know what you're going to come across. Fantastic place. If I ever went back I'd stay close to the town. Probably the best harbour town I've ever been to in Greece and that's saying something. You just leave all that pretentious vibe about plaka and agia anna behind.
We rented a car for a few days but I really would not recommend this. If you want to see the island get a moped or motorbike. The villages you pass through are not suitable for a car at all and as the main road passes through these villages there are no signs so it really can be quite scary at times when you are trying to navigate a maze of streets with a inch on either side of the car. At least with a bike you can turn around.
Beware of the trendy bars in Agia Anna. They were putting their prices up on drinks after a certain time of night. Banana Bar put their cocktails up from 6 euro to 8 euro after 8pm. Best cocktails can be found in Naxos Town at 4 euros each at places like Jam.
Generally the food in Naxos was good. Especially in the town. Recommended places:
Golden Beach, Prokopios - Nice little cafe serving the cheapest breakfasts on the islands and cakes and coffee etc.
Picanto Snack Bar, Prokopios - Best Gyros we have ever had in greece. They also do Souvlaki and other greek grill foods. Very inexpensive.
Palatia, Agia Anna - Only place worth going to in Agia Anna. Limited Menu but the food is spectacular. The Pasticio is especially good.
Scirocco, Naxos Town - Great food if a little expensive. Massive Menu of greek specialities. Never saw locals eat here which says something. It was packed EVERY night full of english and american tourists. Not a bad thing though, its just a popular place.
Platia, Naxos Town - Very friendly taverna. The Souvlaki here is really good as is the Lemon Lamb and Kleftiko.
Coffee Shop, Naxos Town - Opposite Jam Bar and On The Rocks, does amazing crepes both savoury and sweet also serves the best iced coffee on the island.
Waffle House, Naxos Town - As good as everyone says. Has waiter service for the waffles. Sit and watch the sickly looking kids slobbering over cones the size of Tubas. Nice. Seems to be overpowering the other local ice cream shops with is popularity. Shame. At 1.80euro a scoop it is pretty expensive but the ice cream is good.
Places I would not recommend:
Faros Taverna, Agia Anna - The worst place we have ever been in years of travelling Greece. Service was horrible and rude and the food was awful. My pasticio was burned black on the outside and ice cold on the inside. Very strange. They were more interested in big groups of people sitting down and not couples spending less money.
Santana Bar, Agia Anna - The most stuck up, pretentious place I've been. Not interested in you if you dont wear skimpy bikini or show off your muscles if you're a bloke. After having a 16 euro lunch there we asked to use the sunbeds, fine they said. A minute later they returned and charged us 6 euro for the privelage. A bizzare practice.
Banana Bar, Agia Anna - Put their prices up after 8pm a considerable amount. Wishes it was in Mykonos.
Basically we had a great time in naxos, by spending most of our good times in Naxos Town. Was very dissapointed with the beach villages. Not sleepy and traditional like the brochures say. Its a haven for noisy gangs of American and European Teenagers and according to some guys we met who had been there a few years on the run it is turning into a Mykonos sort of place. The bar owners aren't stupid. They know what type of crowd is seeping into the island and they are exploting that by putting things like beach parties on - "All Nite Beach Party - R&B / Rap" etc. If you want a great time where you can be yourself and speak to real locals and really feel the traditional aspect then go to Naxos Town or go to another island.
I wouldn't go back. Definately not for two weeks. I think at most it is a one week island and it is great for kids because of the shallow seas.
Kosmar were abysmal. The rep has to do two islands, paros and naxos which must be really hard. I felt for him. He didn't turn up to the welcome meeting and didn't ever come on time for the hotel visits which was pretty poor. But like I say, it's Kosmars fault for not investing in enough reps for that area.