The Portara of Naxos, or the Great Door, is the most well known and emblematic monument on the Greek island of Naxos. This blog post covers a little myth and history about the Naxos Portara.
Where is the Portara of Naxos?
The 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.
Most visitors arriving to Naxos by ferry will immediately spot it as the ferry docks in port. 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!Useful reading:
History of the Portara in Naxos
As with many Ancient Greek monuments, the origins of the doorway combine a little myth, history, folklore and guesswork!
The doorway 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.
Before it 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 faced Delos. It's also what the official signposts say!
According to others though, this temple could have been intended to be linked with Dionysus.
Greek Mythology 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!
It didn't all end badly for Ariadne though. She later married the God Dionysus. There's also a small pool area on Palatia known as Ariadne's pool
A Doorway to Nowhere
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 to be used in other constructions on the island. When you wander around Naxos Chora, you may see some of them embedded in the Venetian walls.
Fortunately, the Portara was simply too huge to be broken up 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.
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!
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
FAQ About Naxos and the Portara
The most frequently asked questions about Naxos and the Portara 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.
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 Greece. Follow Dave on social media for travel inspiration from Greece and beyond: