Naxos’ Castles & Towers – Where History Meets the Divine
One of the beauties of Naxos is its incredible landscape and its rich history that speaks of the island’s turbulent past through the imposing Naxos castles that still stand proudly, defying the whip of time. Once a prosperous place, the Cycladic islet used to be home to several towers in strategically important locations that served as attack-alarms. In case of a pirate invasion, a large fire would be lit on the roof of the nearest tower. Shortly after, the other towers would follow, sending fire signals throughout Naxos so the islanders could seek refuge.
Some towers were former monasteries while a few other Naxos castles were the residencies of the (Venetian) noble and wealthy families of that time. Today, a portion of them remain in good condition, welcoming visitors to their impressive grounds and museums. History and architecture lovers will probably find the following Naxos attractions quite fascinating:
1. Agia Tower (built in the 17th century)
Formerly a Kokkos family property, Agia Tower occupies the northern side of Naxos, just a few kilometers from Apollonas village. The purpose of its existence back in the Venetian times was to be the restless eye on the northwestern part of the island and help warn for approaching enemies. To reach the top story and the very few windows that gave access to the outside world, one had to climb a particularly narrow and steep stairway. A 1992 fire, unfortunately, damaged a significant part of the Agia Tower, except for the battlements and the walls.
2. Bellonias Tower (built in circa 1600)
Just a breath away from Chora (Naxos Town), this tower is located in the village of Galanado and was a glorious mansion belonging to the Venetian Bellonias family. Today, the awe-inspiring Naxos castle has passed to the hands of another family and has fantastic views of the entire island. Right next to the castle is a chapel, Agios Ioannis (St. John) Church, which offers something you don’t see often – two separate altars, one for the Roman Catholics and one for the Greek Orthodox that lived on the island. This is believed to be a strategic move on behalf of the Venetians who wanted the islanders to be living with one another in perfect harmony.
3. Glezos Tower (built in the 13th century)
Naxos Island Greece hosts a 4-floor tower the locals refer to as the Crispi. The Tower of Glezos is perhaps the best-preserved of the estimated 12 towers of the Naxos medieval castle and the only one with a round tower next to it. This, too, was owned by a Venetian nobble, Duke Guillermo II Crispo (hence the name) who served as governor in the late 1400s. Above the interior wall, one can see the coat of arms of the Crispi family, as well as that of Joseph Barozzi who got the tower into his possession after Crispo before its ownership was passed to the Glezos family (who eventually donated the tower to the state and is one of Naxos attractions open to the public).
While there, make sure you visit the Byzantine Museum that operates in the northwest ramparts of the Naxos castle. And, if you are lucky, you may witness an event or concert – of the many staged there every year.
4. Bazeos Tower (built in the 17th century)
Situated slightly over 10 km from Naxos Town and the Naxos Greece hotels many visitors prefer, the Bazeos Tower (aka Timios Stavros, which means Holy Cross) was a monastery that also served as a line of defense for the islanders. After the Ottomans defeated the Venetians, it was solely a place of worship until the early 1800s, when it was abandoned. Soon after, the now known as Bazeos family (formerly Bassegio) purchased the tower, refurbished it, and turned it into an exquisite sample of elegance for their summer vacations. Today, the Bazeos Tower hosts a plethora of dance shows, theatrical performances, and festivals, the famous Naxos Festival included, among others.
Other Magnificent Naxos Castles Worth Visiting (in good or fairly good condition)
- Frangopoulos-Della Rocca Tower
- Tower of Heimarros
- Zevgolis Tower
- Oskelos Tower
- Gratzia Tower
- Bardanis Tower
- Tower of Ypsili
- Barotsis Tower
Where to stay
To be able to see most of Naxos attractions, including its spectacular castles and towers, you may choose one of the hotels in Naxos Greece located in the island capital. For the majority of landmarks and important monuments, the distance is a short drive away.
If you don’t fancy the crowds that gather, especially during peak times at the Chora, there are excellent options on the outskirts. For instance, the beautiful, secluded sandy beach of Agia Anna (less than 8km from Naxos capital) is a picturesque area where many beach hotels in Naxos with superb sea views are built, offering unique experiences to those seeking sublime vacations.