The Land that time forgot.
Non-naturist venue but still worth a return visit.
Before booking a holiday to Apollonas on Naxos, Greece, ask yourself what it is you want from your vacation. Do you want a vibrant nightlife with loud music blaring out from numerous bars and clubs on every street corner? If so, look elsewhere. The music of the night in Apollonas is the sound of crickets chirruping in the vegetation and the waves swooshing onto the beach. Unless of course you are fortunate to be passing a small taverna where a couple of the locals have gathered and brought their bouzoukis to play impromptu Greek music whiling away the time as they sit drinking the local wine or a glass (or five) of ouzo. Don’t be surprised if you are dragged into the bar, sat down and invited to join the party.
Are you looking for a regular bus service to the main town for some variety? Look elsewhere. There are two buses a day in and out of the village and neither at particularly convenient times for getting to and from Chora. One at 6.50 in the morning, the second at 15.30. If you get the first be warned the last bus back to the village is at 13.30, if you get the second one, be prepared to stay overnight in Chora or book a taxi back to the village (Approx €70).
Are you looking for numerous, overpriced restaurants selling expensive international cuisine? Look elsewhere. There are a couple of restaurants in the village and a line of snack bars fronting the sand beach, but don’t expect caviar and fillet streak or a full and varied wine list. Don’t think about pushing the boat out either, I dined alone one night on five lamb chops and French fries washed down with half a litre of wine. Watermelon “on the house” for dessert and a bill of €13.50. Another night I ate chicken carbonara and a half litre of local red wine, followed by a slice of home made baklava and a glass of mastika and had change from €20. Probably just as well really because if you want an ATM, look elsewhere, there are none in the village but fear not, if you have used a place twice and realise you have no cash they are as likely to tell you to pay the following day as take a card, although cards are widely accepted. Oh and whilst we are on the subject of eating, don’t bother looking at the menu for the fish. You will be offered whatever was caught earlier in the day, be that red snapper, sea bass, bream, octopus, or the small grilled sardines. Probably whatever you order would have been swimming quite happily in the sea less than 24 hours earlier
If you are looking for regimental rows of beach loungers and sun umbrellas, look elsewhere, you won’t find any in Apollonas. People leave their own sunshades and chairs on the sandy beach (and they are still there and not being use by others next day). On the rocky beach further around the bay one of the tavernas has put a couple of chairs on the stones and the Hotel Kouros have placed a few plastic loungers on the beach, free to use unlike some other places in Greece.
I stayed at the Kouros Hotel on the outskirts of the village, a ten minute stroll along the rocky shoreline towards the sandy town beach.. From the outside, the hotel looks like a good coat of paint wouldn’t go amiss, but what it lacks in looks, it definitely makes up for in hospitality. My first night there I was told they were organising a souvlaki bbq in the beach bar. Souvlaki wraps €2, a large beer €2, a glass of red wine €1.50. The food was excellent the beer cold and the wine perfectly acceptable. Three nights later I saw a notice in reception informing people that “Tonight, we have dinner party where we provide FREE food and local wine for our guests, vegetarian food also available.” Costas and Christos the owners were the hosts, ensuring guests sat together and socialised. Once the food was finished we wandered down to the beach bar and continued the party well into the early hours. Although the outside of the hotel needs a coat of paint, the rooms are spotlessly clean, comfortable and larger than some Greek hotels. There was a constant supply of hot water for the shower and although the internet signal was not strong in the bedrooms, it was okay in the public areas, so, if you can’t do without super-fast wifi in every area, look elsewhere. Although the hotel has rooms overlooking the sea, I’m glad I didn’t pay the additional few euros a night to have one. My view overlooked the hills at the back of the hotel but it had sun on the balcony from noon until it dipped behind the mountains at seven or so in the evening. Two comfortable chairs and a small table on the balcony, and a comfortable double bed, dressing table, wardrobe and fridge in the bedroom. The hotel was not full even in August when I was there and part way through my stay I was asked if I wanted to change rooms to have one overlooking the beach. I declined the kind offer being quite comfortable where I was. The next day I was invited to take lunch with the family, lots of food and local wine. I wouldn’t suggest everyone will get the same invite and I think myself fortunate to have had one. If you too are invited, make sure you accept, you won’t be disappointed.
Do I have any tips about a stay in Appolonas? If you want to get out of the village, car or quad rental is a must. But if you want to hire them locally, look elsewhere. That said, the hotels will be happy to arrange for one for you, the problem is, you may need to get the bus to town to collect it! If you do, ask Chistos to borrow the book he keeps behind the bar “Naxos off the beaten track” and go out one day following one of the routes described.
You will perhaps see why I entitled this review “The land that time forgot.” Apollonas reminds me of the Greece I knew 30 years ago, before mass tourism and the quest to make money spoilt the way of life. I was half expecting to be charged in Drachma rather than Euros. It is a place where local women dressed in black, and local men with large white moustaches sit on chairs outside their front door chatting with their neighbour. Say kalemera to them as you pass in the morning and when you walk back in the evening, they will still be there so wish them kalespera or kalenichta depending how late it is when you return to the hotel from the village.
I booked the hotel via Booking.com and unfortunately I can’t find a direct link to this hotel.