Naxos is part of the Cyclades group of islands in the Aegean Sea. The closest island to Naxos is Paros to the west, while to the south and southwest lie Irakleia, Schinoussa, Ano & Kato Koufonisi, Keros, Ano & Kato Antikeri, and Amorgos. On the east side of Naxos lies Donousa, and on days with very high visibility, Ikaria can be seen from the eastern part of the island.
The island’s terrain is predominantly mountainous, with a range crossing throughout the island. Mount Zas, the highest peak at 1004m, was named after the God Zeus, father of the Olympian Gods. The eastern hillsides of the mountain range are steep, while the western slopes gently descend towards the more populated areas with arable agricultural lands. The island is home to many springs and streams, which contribute to its lush vegetation.
In previous geological periods, Naxos was connected to other Cycladic islands, forming a landmass known as Cycladia. The island’s geology is part of the Attic-Cycladic zone, characterized by schist rocks. Naxos is renowned for its mineral wealth, particularly in marble and emery. Emery has been mined on Naxos since ancient times due to its high hardness and availability in significant quantities. The island’s economy was largely based on emery mining for many years. Naxos marble is also unique due to its larger crystals, known as Crystallina, which allow light to penetrate the material and give it an inner brilliance. Today, marble quarries are still operational and produce materials for construction and artistic purposes. Additionally, Naxos is home to other crystalline schist rocks that have yet to be explored.
The climate of Naxos exhibits typical Mediterranean features. Winters can be cold and rainy, while summers are warm, dry, and sunny. During the winter months, some days may be cloudy and rainy, while others may be sunny. In the summer, the island is usually bathed in bright sunshine, and the sky is clear. The “Meltemi” is a prevailing northwestern wind that blows from around the summer solstice on June 21st until the end of August.
The island of Naxos boasts a diverse range of natural landscapes, providing the perfect environment for an abundant and unique flora.
The predominant plant species on Naxos are Mediterranean macchia and brushwood. Shrubs, such as sparta, lavender, oregano, rosemary, heather, milkweed, thyme, and sage, are also common on the island. Wild herbs, known for their therapeutic properties since ancient times, are plentiful.
Naxos also hosts a rich biodiversity of annual small plants, including anemones, dandelions, lupines, violets, orchids, daisies, chamomile, cyclamen, and many others.
Oak and plane tree forests can be found throughout the island, alongside willows, poplars, myrtles, oleanders, and wicker. On the coasts, sparse forests of sea cedar and tamarinds add to the island’s natural beauty. Coastal species such as wild sand violet and sea daffodil create a stunning landscape when in bloom.
Thanks to the presence of water on the island, Naxos also cultivates a variety of tree crops, including olives, almonds, citrus fruits, figs, grapes, pears, and mulberries. The best times to observe the botanical and flower species of Naxos are from March until mid-May, and mid-September until the end of October.
The wildlife of Naxos is particularly notable for its bird population. The island is home to a wide variety of birds, including those found in wetlands, Mediterranean vegetation, and large predators. Birds of prey such as Buzzards, Barn Owls, and majestic Griffon Vultures can be found in the lush, mountainous areas on the eastern side of the island.
In addition to birds, Naxos is home to several species of small mammals such as hedgehogs, martens, rabbits, hares, various species of bats, and rodents. These animals can be found in both the wilderness and the countryside near the villages.
Naxos’s coastal regions are home to a diverse marine ecosystem, including rocky reefs, underwater caves, and extensive seagrass meadows mainly composed of Posidonia oceanica. These areas provide habitat for a range of protected species, including marine mammals like striped dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and monk seals (Monachus monachus). Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) are also known to reside and nest on the island, while Green turtles can be found along the coasts.