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NAXOS, smack right in the middle of the Aegean, and is the largest of the Cyclades islands.

Naxos is a quiet, family-oriented place of great natural beauty that has not been "discovered" yet by the multitudes that crowd its more cocmopolitan neighbors, such as Mykonos, Paros, and Ios. It boasts a long history and an important place in the development of Greek culture. It has been inhabited since pre-historic times and its long tradition of being associated with deities and Gods starts with its first settlers. Homer named the "Dia", because of the tradition that linked the island with Zeus, the Father of Gods. Other names it was given were "little Sicily", "Strongyli", "Tragia", "Dionysias", "Callipolis", and "Lipara", until, finally, it got its present-day name from King Naxos of Caria, an Asia Minor kingdom. The Careans, together with Thracians and Pelasgians were among the first to settle on Naxos. Zeus, the Father of Gods, if the ancient Greeks are to be believed, was born in Crete, on the Ideon Cave, but grew up in Naxos and named its highest mountain (1,000 meters, about 3,000 ft.) Zas. Dionysus, the God of wine and pleasure, joined up here with Ariadne, the pre-Hellenic goddess of fertility. Their union endowed the island with fruitful grapevines and a fertile soil. Naxos played an important role in the Aegean civilization that flourished around 3000 BC. Among the important changes that occured at this time are the evolution of seafaring, the copper industry, pottery, and the processing of marble. Our knowledge of this period comes from the remains found in tombs. Clay and marble vases, copper arms, tools, jewellery and, most of all, the famous cycladic idols, small and medium-sized statues of boys ("kouroi"). By the beginning of the second millenium BC and for about 5 centuries, naval dominance of the Aegean belonged to the Minoans, who lost it the Mycenae.

The hub of commercial and political activity in the Aegean then shifted to the Mycenean centres on mainland Greece and the Cycladic islands were used as bridges in the mainlanders' efforts to extend their dominance towards Asia Minor. A part of the Mycenean-era capital of Naxos (c. 1300 B.C.) was discovered under the Orthodox Cathedral square in Chora, which is today the archaeological site of Grotta. The site has been developed and is open to the public. During the following years Naxos is colonized by the Ionians. An important period of the island's development begins and reaches its peak in the classical period (c. 7th-6th century BC), resulting in great achievements in the arts, especially sculpture and architecture. Portara, the big marble gate that stands high on the island of Bacchus is what remains of the ancient temple of Apollo, built in that period, that was standing there. The ruins of the temple are called Palatia implying the palaces of Ligdami, the ancient tyrant of Naxos at the 6th century BC. The legend says that Theseus abandoned Ariadne here when he came back from Crete. In 490 B.C. Naxos was destroyed by the Persians who tried to spread their influence and dominate the Greek seas. After the final defeat of the Persians by the Greeks, Naxos became a member of the Athenian Alliance but it never recovered and was never able to retrieve its old splendor and importance.

Today Naxos combines the atmosphere of a modern tourist resort and the traditional color and culture of a typical Greek island. There are long sandy beaches with crystal clear blue waters and cedar trees, which run along the whole length of its southern and south western shores. The northern part of Naxos has wonderful beaches with deep blue waters. Unique wind conditions, the northern "meltemi" winds of July and August, make this an ideal windsurfing venue. Finally, Naxos features many wonderful dirt roads which cut across the island for lovers of off-road driving adventures. For bikers, the island offers narrow asphalt roads ideally suited for leisurly rides. For walkers, nature lovers, and explorers there are lots of paths criss crossing the island from shore to shore.

 

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