Traveling to Halki Naxos is like a journey back in time! Here’s a self-guided day trip to discover the best secrets of this old and colorful former capital of Naxos, which is among the most picturesque villages on the Greek islands.
Halki Naxos (Chalkio) at a glance: A Gem in the Mountains
Naxos is a stunning mountainous island hiding charming village communities in its central plains and hillsides.
Although many will go to the well-known beautiful villages of Filothi and Apeiranthos, it is Halki (also called Chalki, Chalkio, or Khalkion) that I love best. Amidst its olive groves, byzantine churches, stone houses, and marble sculptures, you’ll find it easy to understand why.
Not the largest village, Halki is cosmopolitan yet traditional, with a long history that is evident in beautiful Byzantine church frescoes (Panagia Protothroni), its trade center heritage, its cafés culture, and its arts and crafts workshops.
This Greek island’s old capital is an ideal day trip break from the beach routine. You can spend as little as a few hours on a day trip to the mountains that include the village of Halki, or base yourself here for your stay on Naxos.
You can also quite happily spend a few days here, soaking up the leisurely pace of the village. Leave your car rental, and bring comfortable shoes to walk about and explore the village.
If you decide to stay over, here are my top 3 picks for where to stay in Halki.
Where to stay in Halki Naxos
Naxos Chalkion Beautiful Detsis House – has the loveliest decor of the homes and apartments in Naxos. A good location and has a great jacuzzi on the terrace. Some noise from the road, but a very highly reviewed comfortable house.
Traditional House at Kaloxilos Naxos – This home is a completely quiet and peaceful home surrounded by nature and with a large terrace overlooking the garden. Modern, tasteful, and my pick in Halki Naxos.
ELaiolithos Luxury Retreat in Naxos– there are many great reasons to choose this accommodation, the most compelling is the ‘farm to fork’ meals prepared by the hosts using local bio-organic products ad ensuring you are completely stuffed before you embark on your day.
Things to know before you get to Halki
Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades islands and one of its liveliest – with a year-round economy, organic agriculture, wine and spirits distilleries, but also fabulous beaches, great water sports spots, and a family-friendly vibe.
It is a first holiday choice for both Greeks and foreign visitors, many of who return each year for their summer holidays.
Things to know before you get to Halki – Getting around
Naxos is serviced by daily ferry and airlines. This makes the trip from Athens, Thessaloniki, or the neighboring islands of Paros, Mykonos, and Tinos an easy journey. Day trips to Santorini are also very popular.
The trip to Naxos from Athens, and indeed all ferry routes in Greece vary in time depending upon the type of ferry. The high-speed and the large and slowest ferries are the best for rough waters, and the price differs according to the speed of the journey.
Schedules change in Greece regularly, so I use Ferry Hopper to check up to the minute schedules and to buy my tickets in advance. During the summer months of July and August things get quite busy, so if you want to get on a ferry on a particular day, make sure to book your tickets as soon as you’ve booked your accommodation.
The island of Naxos is best discovered by car rental vehicles, be it cars, ATVs, or motorcycles. Naxos has plenty of options to drive away straight from the ferry and enjoy its vivid villages. But like all of the popular Greek islands, if you’re coming in summer, you need to book a car rental well in advance. I use Discover Cars because they’re a global, reputable company.
Alternatively, a public bus is also available, the trip from Naxos town is around 30 minutes (€2.3 adult, one-way) and the bus stop is called, unsurprisingly, “Halki”. The Last bus leaves around 7 pm both to and from the village.
When is the best time to visit Halki Naxos?
The best time to see Halki is when you have had a few beach days had a good look around Naxos Chora and would like a break from the heat and sun on the beaches. Still, it can get quite hot in the mountains too, so local siesta hours are usually between 2-5 pm.
Visit Naxos off-season (April to mid-June and September till the beginning of November) for more relaxed weather, milder northern Meltemi winds, and ever-fresh food. Naxos is a great off-season island, as its community and daily activities are not only tourism oriented.
You will find plenty of hiking paths to enjoy during the spring, heritage buildings to discover during the autumn when the temperatures are milder and of course – fantastic food and wine to sample!
If it’s just a day trip you’re after, early morning breakfast, a few hours exploring the village, then a sumptuous lunch will give you time to head off on a hike, before returning to the beach bars in time for Happy Hour or a sunset cruise!
Where is Halki and how did it get its name?
Halki got its name from the Greek word for copper or bronze (Chalkos). The village is named after several coppersmith families that were settled here by the Venetian rulers of the island.
The heritage of craftsmanship, trade, and commerce, as well as its role as a main administrative center, is visible in its many townhouses, mansions, commercial squares, and public buildings along the narrow streets.
Set in the heart of the valley of Tragea at the altitude of 280 meters above sea level, Halki is 16 kilometers away from Naxos town (Naxos Chora), Naxos airport, and Naxos port.
Nowadays it is a local administrative center nestling in the heart of the most productive olive-producing area of the Cyclades.
The stone houses with tiled roofs, wrought-iron gates, and paved courtyards indicate a break from the traditional Cycladic architecture. Some of the Naxos’ oldest churches are here, along the cobbled village streets lined with bougainvillea flowers.
When visiting, leave the car at the end of the village (parking located near the supermarket) and start exploring the village of Halki!
Churches, towers, and monasteries
Halki Naxos is also known as “Little Mistras” or “Mistras of the Aegean”, a name referring to the throne city of the last Byzantine emperors, deep in the Peloponnese region of Greece.
The resemblance comes from the many byzantine temples in and around Halki, all of them in beautiful surroundings and worth a visit.
Churches and temples
Arguably the oldest church on Naxos island, the Church of Panagia Protothroni (Panagia of the First Throne) stands proud since at least the 7th century AD adorned with magnificent Byzantine and post-Byzantine frescoes.
It is a large whitewashed church famous for five layers of wall paintings discovered by archeologists. The earliest layer of frescoes was painted around the same time as those at the Paleochristian Monastery of Panagia Drosiani (see below). The fresco above, of Saint Isidore, is from the earliest layer of frescoes.
Next, visit the church of Saint George Diasoritis, which is about 500 meters further on from the village center.
The way is signposted and following the signs around the village, you walk through orchards and olive groves. You’ll suddenly find yourself in the secluded spot where this small stone-built domed church is located.
Built and adorned during the 11th century, this byzantine church is a gem of traditional ecclesial construction of the time, as evident by its architectural features, frescoes, and sculptures.
You can visit the interior of the church at no extra cost. Arrive early as it is open during the morning hours of the summer months.
The same legacy is preserved in the Byzantine Church of Taxiarchon (Monoitsia Naxou), a short walk 800 meters north of the village of Halki, and well worth a visit.
You can hike to it from the village of Rahi, too. Its stone build walls, emblematic apse, and tranquil location really gives you the feeling of being in a very old part of the Mediterranean.
Monastery in the hills
On the road between the village of Halki and the settlement of Moni, is the Paleochristian Monastery of Panagia Drosiani, built around the 6th century AD.
Like the other temples, this monastery is set in the pristine nature of Naxos island, among hundred-year olive trees, palms, and aromatic herbs.
During the time of the Venetian occupation of the island, the monastery belonged to the wealthy Belonia family, only to be returned to the hands of the Greek Orthodox churches when the Ottoman forces captured Naxos in the 16th century.
Its many domes, along with bell tower and stone walls are a sight to see under the Cycladic sun! I have seen a lot of painted churches and I was blown away by the vividness of this fresco – and it’s been there for 1400 years!
Naxos is dotted with Venetian towers. Almost every beautiful village has its own, but the one that is best preserved is found in Halki.
Built by the influential Barozzi family during the 17th century as a secure stronghold able to withstand both Ottoman and pirate attacks, the Barozzi-Gratsia Tower has been in continuous use ever since. It was renovated recently and is inhabited by the same original family in the central area of the settlement.
You will love the massive rock entrance and the coat of arms carved in stone that reminds visitors of the golden days of Halki. You can find it just behind Panagia Protothroni.
Naxos is a hiking paradise and one of the many Aegean islands where every hiking trail is connected with local heritage points of interest, archeological sites, and striking landscapes.
Trail no. 4 of Naxos serves the village of Halki and the surrounding area of Tragea, offering the possibility to see many of the fine byzantine churches and local cafes in the villages along the route.
In previous centuries, the hiking trails were the main transportation network of the island, serving both people and commerce. A fantastic day trip idea!
The Route No. 4 itinerary
Route no.4 goes starts in the village of Halki, towards the villages of Agia Marina, Monoitsia, and Rachidiotissa. It continues to Drosiani, Moni, Kaloxylos, and Acadimi, eventually ending up again in Halki. It covers a distance of 7.2 km (4.5 miles) and takes 2 hours and 10 minutes to complete the circuit through the olive groves and the “Byzantine park.”
Tip: If you feel like spending a half day hiking around Halki, this is a great route. In summer, start early and see the village after your hike. Take lots of water.
Every beautiful village on this path is close to Halki!
Arts and Crafts of Halki Naxos
Halki village keeps the tradition of the commercial center of the valley – the old neoclassical houses and mansions in the colorful streets have been turned into art galleries, craft workshops, boutiques, and shops selling hand-made souvenirs.
As you arrive in the village, stroll the shops and the art galleries to see the remains of the handicrafts traditions of the Naxos hill towns.
Liqueurs are produced only here in the whole of Greece
Historic Vallindras distillery is the single most important living connection of present-day Halki Naxos with its industrial and craftsmanship past.
Operating continuously from 1896 and through five generations, Vallindras Kitron distillery produces the finest liqueurs of Naxos that are the pride and joy of this Greek island.
A museum is available on site, where the whole process of making this tasty citron leaf aperitif is made. The mansion-style neoclassical house keeps memories in family photographs, old equipment, copper cauldrons, old glass bottles, and advertising posters, centered around a lush inner courtyard.
Vallindras liqueurs are products with a protected origin seal and definitely my pick for that special souvenir from the Halki. For sure one of the best things to do and experience on Naxos island.
Jewelry and ceramics
In one of the central streets of Halki village, you will find Penelope’s shop. Here hand-woven fabrics are turned into contemporary pieces, and there is a traditional wooden loom as a centerpiece on display.
Further down the road, don’t miss the arts-souvenir shops of Flouri and Filotechno. I also love visiting the Fish & Olive Workshop Gallery for unique pieces of jewelry and art ceramics by world-renowned designers Alexander Reichardt and Katharina Bolesch – look for the olive-styled jars and cups!
For traditional pure and painted pottery, visit Manolis’s workshop, atelier, and exhibition gallery, which has been operating in Halki since 1937.
Continue straight onwards to the general store (pantopoleion in Greek) Ariston, a place located nearby and truly devoted to keeping Hakli’s history alive.
Under one roof you can stock up on high-quality goat bells, excellent cheese, beans, and chickpeas in one-kilo plastic bags, hand-woven baskets, local beers and wine, Greek tin wine jugs, and other paraphernalia essential for understanding the Greek rural lifestyle.
The gray and white building of the petite Phos Art Gallery houses excellent exhibitions, while the main cultural event of Halki is its annual European Music Day.
Every second summer, the Axia International Festival of music, art, poetry, and creativity briefly transforms Halki into the cosmopolitan capital of Naxos island. It takes in the main square over three days and is organized by Fish and Olive in Halki.
Eating and drinking
Halki is dotted with small coffee houses, pastry shops, and restaurants located along its main streets.
I am in love with the semolina and cinnamon cakes and the citrus cakes that are such a simple treat, but incredibly moist and with the taste that you can only get when the fruit has not been commercially produced and treated.
A Gastronomic itinerary
Visit all of these on a savvy route, beginning with Galani Kafeneion, where besides fresh Greek coffee and homemade juices, you should definitely try the traditional syrup sweets of galaktoboureko and kadaifi.
Keep on to Kera for homemade loukoumades, Greek doughnuts covered in honey and nuts – best enjoyed under the shade of a plane tree, a fruit tree, or under an archway along the cobblestone alleys.
True mountain-style recipes with hearty meat dishes await in Gianni’s Taverna, after which you should go to Era for fresh fruit and homemade marmalades.
Continue your gastronomic adventure by exploring Dolce Vita, the oldest coffee shop in the village and one of the bars with hidden gardens.
Try Caffe Greco (which has a beautiful stone well), Kitron, or Mitos ARTernative BAR, where you can try the famous black pizza with squid ink and Naxos Graviera cheese.
Greek island epicureanism at its best, and in beautiful surroundings too!
I love Halki village on Naxos island for its mountainous charm, local products, cosmopolitan vibe of a bygone era, and its rich Byzantine and Venetian history. However, you can also visit Halki during your beach day!
Where to go to the beach from Halki
Agia Anna beach, Agios Prokopios, Agios Georgios (close to Naxos town) as well as Plaka beach is just half an hour’s drive away to the west. I think the best is the long sand dunes of Plaka beach.
I hope you’ve found this self-guided day trip to Halki Naxos useful. And I hope I’ve inspired you firstly, to take a chance on a holiday to strike out from Naxos Town by car or bus to lovely Halki, where you can walk and explore the history, cafes, shops, and fine Byzantine churches of this interesting mountain village.