Portara Naxos (Temple of Apollo)

The Portara of Naxos is a huge marble gate that can be seen from the Naxos Port. This blog post examines a little myth and history about the Naxos Portara.

The Portara of Naxos

Where is the Portara of Naxos?

The most well-known and iconic monument on the Greek island of Naxos is the Temple of Apollo Portara. This monumental structure is located on the islet of Palatia, just outside of Chora which is the main town in Naxos.

It is connected to the mainland of Naxos island by an artificial causeway, which is a popular swimming spot with locals thanks to the shelter it provides.

The causeway from Apollo temple in Naxos to Chora

Most visitors arriving to Naxos by ferry will immediately spot these the Portara gateway when the ferry docks in port in Naxos Town. If you're looking for a good sunset spot for your first night on the Cyclades island of Naxos, the Portara is a wonderful place to be!

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History of the Portara in Naxos

As with many Ancient Greek monuments, the origins of this massive marble doorway in Naxos combine a little myth, history, folklore and guesswork!

The monumental gate was part of an unfinished temple commissioned by the tyrant Lygdamis in the 6th century. Designed on a colossal scale, it drew inspiration from the Temple of the Olympian Zeus in Athens, and one dedicated to the Goddess Hera on the island of Samos.

The Portara of Naxos along with some abaondoned stones from the temple

Before the Temple of Apollo Portara could be completed, war broke out (as it so often did in Ancient Greece!), Lygdamis was overthrown, and the temple left unfinished. It's at this point some uncertainty arises.

According to some, this temple would have been dedicated to Apollo as it faces Delos. It's also what the official signposts say!

palatia sanctuary of delian apollo naxos

According to others though, this temple could have been intended to be linked with Dionysus. Perhaps whether the Portara would be part of a temple of Apollo or not is one of the mysteries of ancient history that will always be subject to debate.

Greek God Dionysus and Naxos

Why Dionysus you might ask?

Myth has it that the islet of Palatia was exactly where Ariadne, the Minoan princess was abandoned by her lover Theseus after he killed Minotaur on the island of Crete. And this was after she had helped him defeat the beast at Knossos! There's also a small pool area on Palatia known as Ariadne's pool.

It didn't all end badly for Ariadne though. She later married the God Dionysus here. Therefore, some people believe that Dionysian festivities may have been held in the area. They certainly were a bit further away at the Temple of Dionysus Yria about 4kms from Naxos Town.

Portara Naxos – An Unfinished Temple of Apollo Naxos

The main temple gate, which is seen today, lies amidst traces of the foundations and peripheral colonnade that were never completed.

Over the years, most of the stones used to build the temple were carted off from this ancient site to be used in other constructions on Naxos island, especially during the years of Venetian rule.

When you wander around Naxos Chora, you may see some of them embedded in the Venetian walls.

Side view of the Naxos Portara

Fortunately, the Portara was simply too huge to be completely dismantled and used this way. This means that today, we get to enjoy the monumental site of the Great Door, and can only imagine how impressive the Temple would have been had it been finished in ancient times.

Sunset at Naxos Portara

The Portara is perfectly positioned to act as the ultimate backdrop for sunset photos. You can of course expect it to be busy during July and August, so it might be advisable to do some prior recon so you know where the best sunset spots will be!

Enjoying the sunset at the Portara in Naxos island Greece

Oh – there's no entry fee for the Portara, which I found to make a very refreshing change! So feel free to wander over from Naxos town at any time of day and night.

Other archaeological sites in Naxos

If you're interested in seeing more archaeological sites in Naxos, then you should visit a few of the following places:

  • Temple of Demeter
  • The Ancient Quarry of Apollonas
  • Archaeological Site of Grotta
  • Kouroi of Melanes
  • The Ancient Sanctuary Dionysus at Yria

Temple of Demeter in Naxos

FAQ About Naxos and the Portara

The most frequently asked questions about the Portara Naxos Temple are answered below:

What is Portara?

The 2,500-year old marble doorway standing over the Aegean Sea on the Greek island of Naxos is known as the Portara or Great Door.

What can you buy in Naxos?

Naxos is proud of its traditions and crafts, which means that you can pick up tasty local food products, traditional textiles, handmade jewelry, mouth-watering sweet preserves, and unique liqueurs to name just a few things.

What is Naxos Greece known for?

In Greek Mythology, Naxos is known as the island on which Theseus abandons the Minoan princess Ariadne after she helped him defeat the Minotaur. Today, Naxos is known as being a family-friendly holiday destination in the Cyclades.

How many days do you need in Naxos?

Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades group, and deserves as much time as you can spare. 3 days in Naxos will enable you to see the main attractions, while you'll probably enjoy it more if you can spend a week there.

How do I get to Naxos?

Naxos has flight connections with Athens Airport, but the most common way to travel to the island is to take a ferry.

The monumental Portara of Naxos, Greece

Dave Briggs visiting an island in GreeceDave Briggs
Dave is a travel writer who lives in and writes about Greece. If you enjoyed this summary of the Portara Naxos, you might like to to check out his other travel blog posts about Naxos, mainland Greece, and the Greek islands. Follow Dave on social media for travel inspiration from Greece and beyond:

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