The Greek island of Naxos is mostly unheard of with UK windsurfers yet it’s one of the few spots in the world which offer great conditions along with loads of other activities for non-windsurfers.
Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades group of islands. Situated right in the middle, it feels the full force of the Meltemi wind during the summer months. Its major advantage is the lack of a major airport meaning that the island is free from the thousands of UK tourists who aim to spend their entire holiday clubbing and eating English breakfasts.
Photos: Jonas Roosens & Alistair Bentley
|Windy Season||The summer – especially July/August|
|Wet Suit?||Boardies/Speedos or shorty if you stay out for long|
|Average Wind Speed||Force 4-6|
- How To Get There
The island’s major advantage can also be thought of as a disadvantage. The lack of major airport means there are no direct flights from the UK (or anywhere!). This appears to ward off most English tourists and as a result the island is considerably less ‘touristy’ than some of the other Greek islands, with the predominate nationality being Swedish or Norwegian. The disadvantage however, is that it involves a ferry to get to.
The most obvious route is to fly to Athens then get on a ferry to Naxos. Athens is a well served European airport and flights can be found from the UK for £30-£60. Mykonos and Santorini are nearby islands which also have direct UK flights and are well served by the ferries. Flights to these islands are generally more expensive (£100-£200 plus) but will dramatically reduce the journey time.
- British Airways (if you don’t take kit)
- SkyScanner is one the best ways to find the cheapest deal however, it can miss out some of the airlines. Taking kit on these airlines is relatively easy and usually costs £35 for a ‘windsurfer’. As usual, when travelling with kit try keep bags under 30 kg, arrive early and bring a copy of your receipt to prove you paid for your ‘windsurfer’.
Once you land in Athens there are two options to get to the port (Piraeus), an express bus X96 leaves every 20 minutes during the day and every 40 minutes at night from the airport’s arrivals level (between doors 4 and 5) to Karaiskaki Square in Piraeus, right outside the ferry harbour (Gate E7). The trip takes about 1.5 hour and costs €3.20. While it is possible to take kit on the bus it is generally better to assume you won’t be allowed – especially in peak months. A good trick can be to move the kit on the bus while the driver is having a fag then buy two tickets, one for you and one for your kit.
The other option is a taxi. If booked early this should not cost you more than €50. If you are alone then it can be a good idea to ask any other tourists around you to join and lower the cost.
The transfer to the ports of other islands is much quicker than Athens (e.g. Mykonos 10mins) and the best way is by taxi.
It is also possible to get a small plane from Athens airport to Naxos through HYPERLINK “http://www.olympicairlines.com/” Olympic Airways. This is €75 and has to be booked months in advance. No kit allowed.
The fast ferry from Piraeus to Naxos costs €50 and takes 3.5 hours. If you are only going for one week then this is the option for you.
The slow ferry costs €32 for an economy seat and €36 for an ‘air type’ seat. In peak season it is definitely worth going for the ‘air type’ seat as economy can potentially involve spending the entire 7 hour journey sat outdoors in the chain smoking zone on a plastic chair with the engine exhaust blowing in your face. Also depending on which ferry you use the journey can sometimes take up to 10 hours so check the times first!
It is possible to take a ferry from a closer port than Piraeus known as Rafina, this is only 15 mins away by bus or taxi. The ferries go less often from Rafina and there is no fast ferry. One disadvantage is that the ferry is tiny with no space for kit – as one of my friends found out when they were forced to strap his kit to the side of the funnel!
There is usually no problem with taking kit on the ferry. A good tip is to board the ferry just before it leaves at the same time as the crowds of people so they are in a rush and have no time to approach you.
There are two major ferry companies, it is vital to book at least a week or more in advance during July/August as they get very full.
Transfer from Port to Hotel
Transfer to your hotels can be arranged either through the hotel directly or through the rental centre. If you are camping or cowboying it then a taxi should cost no more than €7. If you don’t have kit then it’s a 20 minute walk to the windsurf beach from the port but this is definitely not possible with kit.
There is a huge range of ways to get to Naxos so you will have to find the one which suits you. The trip can easily be combined with spending a couple of days on a different island. There are also regular ferries from Rhodes so one option is to do a week in Prasonisi then a week in Naxos. It’s only worth the trouble of taking your own kit if you are staying for longer than a week.
Complete holiday packages can be arranged through the two local centres Flisvos or Naxos Surf Club.
- How The Wind Works
Naxos is served by the meltemi wind which blows all summer from May to September. The wind occurs when high pressure forms over the Balkans and low pressure forms over Turkey. If the system is working then the wind will always come from the north, often with a bit of west or east in it which makes a big difference to the conditions. We stayed in Naxos for 3 months over the summer. Not surprisingly, due to the Meltemi, we found that the wind mimicked the wind in the rest of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.
Instead of quoting wind stats which in most cases can be extremely dubious, we have made a simple guide:
If you are staying for only 1-2 weeks then go in July or August. The wind is very consistent during this period with most days reaching a solid force 5. In August the wind blew force 6-7 over 90% of the time.
If you are planning to stay longer, then June and September can still be good. As with most places in Greece, however, the wind is less consistent during these months.
Unlike places such as Vassiliki, there is no regular daily wind pattern. For some weeks it was stronger in the evenings and others in the morning, whilst sometimes it would blow all day. So when it’s windy, go windsurfing!
- The Sailing Spots
Best wind direction: NE, N, NW
Worst wind direction: S
What’s on the bottom?: Sand, some rocks, seaweed.
Any hazards: Stingy seaweed.
Other water users: NONE, No kites are allowed due to the airport and powerlines being so close. No swimmers, no boats and never that many windsurfers.
Suitability/levels: All. Very good for children as the wind is onshore and water is very shallow in front of the centre at the north of the lagoon.
Wipe-out factor: Very low. There is rescue cover but only ever used for the waves. The stingy seaweed is the main danger and only occurs at the south end of the lagoon. The sting is not bad and easily treated with ammonia.
Outside the reef
Best wind direction: N, NW
Worst wind direction: S
What’s on the bottom?: Very deep outside the reef. The reef itself is full of sea urchins and sharp shallow rocks.
Any hazards: Getting washed over the reef. Either from the waves pushing you on to it, or the wind dying.
Other water users: None, again no kites allowed.
Suitability/levels: Advanced, confident waterstarting.
Wipe-out factor: Medium to low. Although there are hazards, they are easily avoided if you are careful.
Best wind direction: Very strong N, NW, NE
Worst wind direction: Anything else.
What’s on the bottom?: Mostly sand but there is the odd shallow carpet like covered reef.
Any hazards: The waves can be quite powerful especially over the reefs. The wind is very gusty up the top of the beach but this is where the best waves are.
Other water users: Some swimmers, again no kites allowed!!
Suitability/levels: Advanced, confident waterstarting.
Wipe-out factor: Medium to high, it can be tempting to ride the waves all the way in but this is generally not a good idea.
Secret Spot – aka Shaka Bay
Best wind direction: N
Worst wind direction: S
What’s on the bottom?: All sand.
Any hazards: None.
Other water users: None.
Suitability/levels: Medium – you need to be able to turn around quickly!
Wipe-out factor: Very low.
- Water State
Naxos is primarily a flat water spot. It consists of a large shallow lagoon surrounded by a reef. Whilst it is always ‘flat’ in the lagoon, it is only on the edges that it becomes a true freestyle/freeride paradise. Because the lagoon is no more than chest deep throughout, it is perfect for beginners and intermediates (advanced sailors might even forget how to waterstart!).
However, Naxos has potential for waves. Outside the reef there is always a rolling swell if the wind is blowing. In high winds, and the right direction (NW) these can reach mast high and are great for jumping. There is also a wave beach (St George’s) up from the lagoon which features a number of soft reefs that allow for some surprisingly good wave sailing! While the potential for getting waves is one of Naxos’s many advantages, we would not recommend anyone staying for less than the two weeks should expect to get some.
Access to the waves from the lagoon is through a narrow ‘gateway’ in the reef which is marked by a red flag.
Depending on what kind of windsurfer you are a shorty can be a good idea. Naxos is slightly colder than some of the other Greek islands especially when the wind is strong. Both centres rent wetsuits so it’s not the end of the world if you forget to take one. A rash vest is recommended for anyone doing freestyle in the shallow section of the laguna to avoid being stung by the mysterious seaweed.
- Instruction And Kit Hire
There are two centres near Naxos town. The largest one is Flisvos, which has two stations: one on the laguna and the other on St George’s beach. The alternative is Naxos Surf Club which is located on the laguna closer to the flat water zone.
Kit: RRD & NeilPryde
Rental Price: €210 for a week’s rental plus €30 for insurance.
Storage Price: €45 for 1 week.
Advantages: Perfect shallow beginner area right in front of the centre, wide range of kit and showers and more family orientated.
Disadvantages: Sometimes very busy so the ideal sail size isn’t always available, takes longer to sail to the flat water zone.
Naxos Surf Club
Kit: JP & North
Rental Price: Standard €195 for a week’s rental, World Cup €215, plus €30 for insurance.
Storage Price: €45 for 1 week.
Advantages: Nicer chill out zone, better quality kit, closer to flat water, sails get personally trimmed for you.
Disadvantages: Far away from town, insurance doesn’t cover damage from freestyle – which is pretty outrageous!! They can be anal about kit.
There are loads of hotels and studios to choose from in Naxos, the ones below are close to the windsurf beach.
Lovely hotel situated 5 minutes walk from the beach and the discount supermarket, 15 mins to walk into town. Guests can also enjoy the swimming pool with sun-beds and umbrellas. There is a breakfast lounge, snack bar, television room, private parking, room service and daily cleaning. Room service is also available.
Prices in euros:
May & October June & September July & August One bed 20.00 26.00 60.00 Two beds / Double bed 25.00 32.00 75.00 Three beds 30.00 38.00 80.00 Four beds 38.00 46.00 88.00
Naxos Beach 1
This hotel is exclusively for Flisvos Sports Club guests. The hotel offers comfortable and tastefully furnished rooms with air condition and private balcony or terrace. Each room is equipped with telephone, safe, satellite television, mosquito net and refrigerator.
Prices in euros:
April, May, October June July, September August double room Category A 53 € 82 € 104 € 128 € double room Category B 42 € 65 € 87 € 108 € double room Category C 34 € 52 € 70 € 83 €
This is more suited to people staying longer than a couple of weeks in Naxos. They are 5 minutes from the windsurf beach/supermarket and not far from town. The studios are simple with 2 beds, a kitchen and a small bathroom. Pre-booking is difficult as they are run by a friendly local who can always be found practicing his light wind freestyle at the Flisvos Watersports. Ask for Mijales at the Flisvos beach cafe.
Price: €300-€400 per month. Prices are at his discretion, so be nice to him!
Free camping is illegal in Naxos and although you will see many trailers and vans parked on the Laguna beach, these cannot stay the night. However, there are a few commercial camping sites.
Located close to Naxos Surf Club. It has a swimming pool/chill out area and apparently is where the spirit of summer lives! It offers free transfer from the port which is a big plus as well as numerous facilities listed on the website.
- Low season (June): €7 and the tent is free
- High season (July &August): €9 if you have a tent. €2 extra to rent one.
The owner told us that electricity is free…woohoo!
Naxos is renowned for its cuisine. The town is full of local restaurants serving delicious Greek specialities. There are also a number of pizzerias as well as Mexican and Thai. Anyone who has been to Greece before will know that the cheapest thing on the menu is always Gyros, normally €2.
The best advice we can give you is to wander around and get lost in the beautiful old town and stumble upon a random picturesque restaurant.
This is part of the Flisvos empire and is an ideal place for a post windsurf beer with the sunset. They serve very good food all day with popular themed buffets in the evening including a surfer chill out night.
Average meal: €5-€15
Very popular restaurant in the main square. The staff are extremely friendly and prices are reasonable.
Average meal: €8 – €15
Extremely popular Pizzeria. Well known for its delicious Italian Pizza and a good option if you are getting bored of Greek Salad and Tzatziki. It can get very busy so you might have to pre-book.
A cheap place right in the centre of town which serves good food. As the name suggests it has a roof garden. Good for a quick Gyros in town before a night out.
The Waffle House
Best place for desert or late night/afternoon snacks in town. It is very hard to resist their tempting ice creams and delicious waffles! Still quite overpriced…
If you are keen for a quiet night in there are many minimarkets/ supermarkets close to town. Since it is an island, food prices can be quite high, especially in the minimarkets. The cheapest and biggest supermarket is Koutalieris which is where most locals go. It can be found on the main road behind the Flisvos Beach Cafe.
Price: 1kg Tzatziki for €3.15 and 1kg Olives €2.55!!!
There is lots of nightlife in Naxos but as on most Greek islands it doesn’t start before midnight and goes on till dawn! A standard night could involve starting off at On The Rocks or Jam Bar followed by Escobar, Prime and Soul2Soul. These can all suit a range of different music tastes.
Drinking in bars is expensive, usually €7 for a beer and €5-€8 for a cocktail. Although beware that these are much stronger than in the UK.
The gipsy way of drinking is either at home with beers (€0.7) or wine (€3) from the supermarket, or on the port with slightly more expensive drinks from one of the minimarkets. Although watch out as some individuals have been known to be kicked out of the clubs for not buying drinks!
It is usually very safe at night but as with anywhere keep your wits about you and try not to go home alone/empty handed.
- Bored Of Windsurfing
One of the best features of Naxos is that there is loads to do for the non-windsurfer. Apart from having a beautiful town to explore the other activities for low wind days are:
- Mountain biking – rental from Flisvos
- Catamaran trips to Paros – from Flisvos
- Horse Riding – very popular for some reason you will often see them wading in the laguna
- Cliff jumping – There are great cliffs to the south on a beach called Pirgaki
- Wakeboarding – from Flisvos watersports
- Quad bike/buggy or scooter – the town is full of rental places
Off the water!
- If you’re not into super oily Gyros then ask for them not to fry the pita when you order.
- The island is very mountainous so if you decide to explore then it’s worth renting a car instead of scooters. Unless it’s a powerful one you will struggle to climb any of the hills especially with two people onboard..
On the water!
- If you’re unlucky and the forecast looks bad for the next couple of days it’s worth considering renting a car and taking kit to some of the other beaches on the island. For example Mikri Vigla usually has 5-10 knots more than laguna. This is where the Flisvos kitesurfing centre is located but they also have a selection of windsurf equipment. If you are renting from the laguna then ask about spending a day or two down there until the wind picks up.
- There are also many other beaches around the island, especially on the east side, which are well known to get wind when there is none in the laguna itself.
Standard of Locals
The EFPT freestyle tour stops at Naxos in the middle of October. Towards the end of August there are usually a gang of local sailors from Athens who are training in preparation for the event, these guys are very friendly and happy to offer tips to anyone who is learning freestyle.
The range of activities and the easy learning environment make Naxos an ideal destination to take non windsurfing partners or a family. The downside for short breaks is that there are no direct flights and the wind is only fully consistent in July/August.
Name: Al Bentley
Local beach: Hayling Island
How many years sailing: 4 years
Last windsurf move you cracked: Shaka
What you’re working on now: Burner
Competition results: 2nd SWA Wave series 2009
Sponsors: Boardwise, Severne, Boohai
Name: Maeli Cherel
Local beach: Hayling Island
How many years sailing: 8 years
Last windsurf move you cracked: Spock
What you’re working on now: Grubby
Competition results: 1st SWA Women’s Freestyle/Wave 2009