Naxos is a rugged, beautiful island and home to Mount Zeus (or Zas), the highest mountain peak in the Cyclades.
The ancient Greeks believed that this was the birthplace of Zeus. You can visit the very caves of Zeus that this mythological legend refers to on the mountain. Naxos was the second Greek island I visited after Santorini, and it provided a wonderful contrast to the bustling tourist hub and geography of the caldera. Naxos is a much less busy island when compared to Santorini or Mykonos, but that doesn’t mean it has less to offer. From golden sand beaches, ancient ruins and museums there’s plenty to keep you busy. But first on my list was the mountain!
One of my favourite things to do while travelling is to go hiking. It allows you to get away from the charming yet chaotic energy that these busy little island towns provide, and offers a different perspective. Greek philosopher Plato believed that he was given two things to succeed in life, ‘education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together’. A philosophy I completely agree with, so when Mount Zeus was suggested for things to do in Naxos, I jumped at the opportunity.
Where Should You Begin The Hike?
There are actually two points from which you can start the hike up Mount Zeus.
You can begin at Filoti or Agia Marina. I chose to start this hike at Agia Marina. The hike is more commonly completed this way as the route to the top is a lot easier and far less steep. While starting in Filoti is also possible the way up is less clearly marked and some climbing and clambering may be involved. So I came down the mountain this way instead.
Catching The Bus
To begin the hike you will need to catch a bus from Naxos town to the start of the track.
Catch the bus from the bus stop (which is near the port) to ‘Agia Marina’. I caught the 9.30 am (€7 return). The bus doesn’t actually stop at the beginning of the track, so after disembarking you will need to follow the road up the hill for about 5 minutes. You will see a small church and car park on your right, this is the beginning. It took about an hour to get to the summit of Mount Zeus from where the bus dropped me at Agia Marina.
- While Agia Marina isn’t listed as an official stop, it’s the next after Filoti. You can find the full bus schedule and times here.
Made it! The highest point, at just over 1,000 metres, offers stunning panoramic views of Naxos and the surrounding islands. Everywhere you look there are incredible views of the island and its neighbours. Naxos is the biggest island in the Cyclades and has a lot to explore and offer, but this was my favourite experience on the island by far.
Making Your Way Down
From the summit you can either go down the same way you came up or down a different track that goes past the caves of Zeus and ends in Filoti.
The initial part of that track isn’t obvious, but as you are descending the summit the track to Filoti begins on your left, a number of cairns built by previous hikers along with red spray-painted dots will mark the way. Once you reach the fence line, follow the path left. This will eventually lead you to a car park from which you can just follow the road back into Filoti. The bus from Filoti back to Naxos leaves at 2 pm and 4 pm. It took me 2 hours to get to Filoti from the summit, which includes the time taken for photos and snacks. So if you time it right you can catch the 2 pm bus.
☞ Related: If you enjoy hiking you may also want to climb Mount Olympus
Lunch In Filoti
You will most likely get down from Mount Zeus in time for a well deserved lunch and Filoti has a number of restaurants to choose from. I chose to eat at Scholarheio. With a delicious selection of traditional food at comparatively affordable prices, it was a no brainer. And you know it’s going to be good when the locals are dining there! I sat and enjoyed a scrumptious moussaka, with the afternoon sun gleaming through the trees.
And A Sunset To Finish
After hiking Mount Zeus what better way to end your day than with the sunset! The Temple of Apollo or Portara, which means great door, is a beautiful place to watch the sun go down. It was originally built in the 6th century BC under the order of Naxos ruler Lygdamis, but when he was overthrown in 524 BC the temple remained unfinished and these ancient ruins are all that remain. Today the great arch provides a gorgeous frame for the setting sun.
After this it’ll be time for some dinner. Oasis restaurant in Naxos is the embodiment of Greek hospitality. Located in a quieter part of town on Aristidi Protopapadki Street close to Agios Georgios beach, friendly and engaging staff will make you feel right at home. The second recommendation which is amazing if you love cocktails as much as I do is Diogenes cafe. On the main street in Naxos town, this place offers 100 different types of cocktails for only €5! Cheers (‘yamas’ in Greek) to a great end to a great day.
- Let us know how your hike goes! Do you have any others in Greece you would recommend? Would you climb Mount Zeus in Naxos?