Nestled in the heart of the Aegean Sea on the island of Naxos, a quaint town known as Apiranthos, or Apeiranthos, in the charming way Greek names are translated into English, beckons with its unique charm and an unexpected treasure trove of five museums.
In a nation celebrated for its collections of antiquities, Apiranthos stands out as a boutique haven for culture and history. This picturesque village, home to just over 1,000 residents, offers a captivating blend of museums, architectural splendors, and a distinctive local dialect believed to trace its origins back to the village’s establishment by Cretans during the 10th century.
Naxos, the largest gem in the Cyclades archipelago, located southeast of Athens, boasts Apiranthos as its crown jewel. While this idyllic town may lack expansive beaches and bustling tourist crowds, it shines brightly, situated 26 kilometers from the coast and perched more than 600 meters above sea level.
Visitors to Apiranthos can also explore nearby hill towns like Halki, among other enchanting villages, enriching their Naxos experience. Accessible via public buses at an affordable cost, or by rental cars, quad bikes, or guided tours, these attractions offer an easily navigable adventure.
Apiranthos’ five museums span diverse domains, including archaeology, geology, natural history, fine arts, and folklore. Though unassuming from the outside, these treasure troves offer a wealth of historical and cultural wonders waiting to be explored.
For enthusiasts of antiquity, the Archaeological Museum showcases Cycladic clay vases dating back to 3000 BC, as well as marble-footed jars from the early Cycladic period (circa 3000 to 2700 BC). The collection also features hammered rock carvings from eastern Naxos, dated to 2700 BC, and a tripod vase from the geometric art period, circa 800 BC, for those interested in more modern history.
The Geological Museum boasts an extensive collection of over 2,000 rare exhibits, including various types of Greek marble, including the valuable and distinctive large-crystalled Naxian marbles, which are still being extracted from the island.
In harmony with its surroundings, the Natural History Museum offers a diverse display of the region’s flora and fauna, reflecting the fertile landscapes that grace the hilltops.
For a glimpse into the village’s way of life through the ages, the Folklore Museum presents meticulously restored items ranging from clothing and cookware to toys and tools.
Lastly, the Visual Arts Museum, located at the village’s entrance on the main road, serves as a gallery for paintings, engravings, and sculptures created by local artists.
Simply wandering through Apiranthos is an immersive historical experience in itself. The narrow, marble-paved mule tracks, archways, quaint squares, and two-story stone houses all harken back to the days when Naxos was part of the Venetian Empire. Venetian towers and Byzantine churches dot the landscape, offering a sense of the region’s rich history.
Just a short distance from Chora, en route to Halki and Apiranthos, lies the village of Eggares, home to an olive press museum. Visitors often leave with a delightful array of olive-based products, including sweet dessert olives.
In the nearby farming village of Galini, guided visitors can partake in the challenge of preparing a Greek lunch at a cooking school, featuring stuffed tomatoes, bell peppers, aubergines, spicy meatballs, and a classic Greek salad. The experience includes a visit to a nearby farm known for its diverse produce, including traditional kitron trees. To savor this unique fruit, resembling a large, lumpy lemon, head to Halki’s main square, where Vallindras Distillery crafts kitron liqueurs. These come in three variations: yellow, the strongest without added sugar; green, sweeter with lower alcohol content; and white, striking a balance with a touch of sugar—a favorite among the locals. Nearby, a cafe specializes in kitron-based cocktails for further exploration.
Apiranthos and its surroundings offer an immersive journey through history, culture, and natural beauty, making it an unmissable destination for travelers seeking a unique and enriching experience on the island of Naxos.