When Anthony Bourdain came to Greece, he intended to film an episode of his CNN show Parts Unknown on various islands in the Cyclades Chain. His first stop was Naxos where he fell in love with the sun-soaked ‘foodie island’ canceled his other plans and devoted the entire episode to this one island. Once you taste the culinary delights in this epicurean oasis also known for its beautiful beaches – it’s easy to see why.
Picturesque Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades Islands is the only one that is totally self-sufficient. All food products are sourced directly on the island. Unmatched ingredients are the product of the fertile island’s long agricultural heritage. There’s a great respect for the land, food and tradition; artisanal cheese, olive oil and bread are plentiful. You’ll find a popping gastronomic scene with creative authentic dishes in town and traditional specialties with a taste of the village culture in the mountains. It would be hard to find more delicious offerings anywhere else in Greece.
Anthony Bourdain spent time with Yannis Margaritis and his wife Maria Polikreti who have the top hotel on the island – the Naxian Collection. It was here that he first tasted and was dazzled by Naxos’ exceptional cuisine prepared by talented chef/co-owner Maria and her mother Juliana. (Her mother has now taken it over) Needless to say Mr. Bourdain knew a thing or two about food. Meals have always been a high point at the resort. Artisanal breakfasts impress with omelets made with vegetables and aromatic herbs grown right on the property as well as savory pies filled with spinach and local cheeses plus scrumptious baked goods.
For lunch and dinner, you can even pick your own tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, eggplant and other produce fresh from their organic garden as well as walnuts from the groves. And the olive oil made from their 2,500-year old olive trees is sublime. The delicious hyper-local cuisine consisting of handcrafted pasta, local meat including luscious lamb, poultry and fresh seafood are all perfectly prepared from recipes passed down through generations. If you want to take your foodie experience home, you can learn the art of Cycladic cooking in a class with master cook ‘Mama’ – Juliana.
Recent upgrades to the luxe villas at Naxian Collection close to the main town and also to glam beachfront sister hotel Naxian on the Beach, make a visit to Naxos a ‘must’ while you’re island hopping to nearby Mykonos, Santorini or Paros. Luxurious, spacious suites and villas at the Naxian Collection with Jacuzzis, huge private pools, kitchens, and expansive terraces overlooking the sea and Naxos town have been restyled from all white to a rich beige and brown color scheme. The rustic elegant décor with local carved wood chairs and chests, vases, beautifully textured dark wood headboards and plush sofas make a cushy Mediterranean haven.
Over at the beach, Naxian on the Beach – perfect for couples, features smaller stylish rooms done in beachy chic décor decorated with wicker light shades, baskets and bamboo design accents. Each has an indoor or outdoor whirlpool tub and some contain steam baths. All have balconies with a table, chairs and hammocks overlooking the blue Aegean, ideal for taking in glorious golden sunsets. Just 30 feet from sugary white sand Plaka Beach – one of the island’s prettiest, the hotel has its own stretch of sun-beds marking a private area for Naxian guests with meal and beverage service. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day.
The food at Tortuga, the resort’s trendy open-air restaurant has always been good. But their recent consultancy with acclaimed Athens eatery Varoulko and the famous hip Athens cocktail bar The Clumsies, has elevated their gastronomic quotient to new heights.
The focus here is on seafood and the catch of the day is delivered fresh from the fisherman, straight from his boat. Exquisite grilled crawfish, tuna ceviche, white fish carpaccio, spaghetti with lobster and to die for scallops with sweet potato puree danced on my palate. I also relished a mouth watering Rib eye. Everything was exceptional. In additional to the excellent wine, star mixologist Eric will craft a sybaritic cocktail especially for you. For ultimate pampering, the hotel can arrange an in room treatment with holistic therapist Michael that will leave you blissed-out.
The scenic island also offers remarkable ruins, charming mountain villages, and the old town Chora enchants with its white washed houses, cobblestoned alleyways opening to shops, eateries, the Venetian Castle, Temple of Apollo and lively waterfront dotted with cafes. Be forewarned: It’s difficult to leave the comfy sun-beds and Tortuga’s fabulous fare. As Anthony Bourdain said, “ If paradise exists, it will be here. ”
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