The architecture of Naxos is highly appreciated for its Venetian style. The island was under the rule of the Venetians for many years and the fact that feudalism was practiced at the time has led to multiple elements of Venetian architecture being apparent all over the island until today. However, the rich historical heritage of Naxos doesn't stop there. Sites of archaeological and historical interest, religious buildings, and watermills are also part of Naxos' multifaceted layout.
At first sight, anyone can notice that the island's sights are strongly influenced by the Venetian culture that was enforced for many years. In contrast to the rest of the Greek islands, Naxos has one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the Cyclades. Kastro is renowned for its defensive character and noble atmosphere. The Castle of Marco Sanudo, as it is also named, sits atop a hill overlooking the Aegean. Below the castle, one can encounter beautiful white houses in Cycladic style, narrow alleys, romantic archways, and beautiful churches. The abundance of architectural monuments and the picturesque features compose the magical scene of Chora of Naxos along with the Venetian towers and the whitewashed two-story houses built one next to the other.
A walk around the capital is a chance to admire the rich architectural styles of the island, including the mansions and traditional houses. The mansions of Naxos are some of the oldest residencies which belonged to noble families and feature large rooms, high ceilings, and luxurious decoration. Some situated outside the castle walls were built by wealthy Greeks, while others showcase a strong fortress character. The traditional houses, though, are the most widespread architectural style in Naxos, considering the need for simplicity. Such houses also lie in the countryside - small farmhouses built of stone.
In addition, another Venetian castle is situated near Potamia village. It is called Epano Kastro (Upper Castle) and was fortified since ancient times, but the remnants are mostly from the Venetian rule period. The castle used to be the residence of Marco Sanudo - the Duke of the Archipelago, who later decided to move to the Castle of Naxos.
Naxos is also one of the islands that brought to light numerous Venetian towers from medieval times that still stand in the surrounding regions. The number of towers is a result of feudalism. When Naxos was under Venetian rule, it was divided based on a feudal system, a social and political system in which landholders provided land to tenants and expected loyalty and services in exchange. Most of the towers were founded in the 17th century, with only thirty surviving today. Some of the most renowned include Bazeos Tower, Agia Tower, and Gratzia Tower. Many towers were also used as country houses. Another village worth visiting for its Venetian influences is the quaint Apiranthos.
Last but not least, one can not omit the ancient/classic sites of the island. Naxos is intertwined with mythology; it is the island that the god Dionysus loved the most and blessed with fertile land full of vineyards. It was also the place where Theseus took Ariadne after he killed the Minotaur and left Crete. Portara - Naxos' trademark - was constructed in the 6th century BC as a part of a temple - probably dedicated to Apollo, the Olympian god of light and music - that was never finished. Another major place of archaeological interest is the Temple of Demeter close to Sangri village. It was made of the finest Naxian marble and also dates back to the 6th century BC.
Naxos is also linked to the history of Byzantine art, being home to many churches and monasteries of that era. The church of Agios Mamas in the lower part of Potamia was founded in the 9th century AD and used to be the Orthodox Cathedral of Naxos. On the other hand, Panagia Drossiani church in the area of Moni comprises the oldest Christian church in Naxos and dates back to the 6th century AD.
The island is also home to a deserted Jesuit Monastery, which is located close to Melanes. It was established in 1673 on the ruins of a Venetian mansion and served as a space for meditation for monks. It is in a good condition and visitors can admire its elegant architecture.
Last but not least, an old watermill sitting in a natural setting is also available in Naxos - particularly, in the area of Potamia. Such mills are often encountered across the island since the water had always been plentiful Naxos. The Drillis Watermill was built around 300 years ago. In the past, women gathered there to wash clothes and take ground flour. Nowadays, the mill has been restored by its owner and comprises a unique yet hidden sight in Naxos.
Guests can enjoy their stay in traditional hotels & accommodations that have respected the authentic Cycladic architecture.