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Naxos, Greece

Sailing into Naxos harbor, you’ll pass the Portara, the columned portal of a 6th-century BCE temple of Apollo that was never completed. It stands on a small island welcoming those arriving by sea. Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades Islands, and its tall peaks catch passing clouds, providing enough rainfall to make it exceptionally verdant and productive. The island also is a source for emery stone, one of the most important natural abrasives since ancient times. As such, Naxos ruled the Cycladic region and was noted by Herodotus as the “most prosperous island” around 500 BCE. The town, and indeed the other villages on the island contain many historic remnants of Greek, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman domination. The medieval Venetian Kastro atop the town is still occupied, and makes a fascinating place to recapture the spirit of earlier times. Within its confines stands the French School, now a museum, where Nikos Kazantzakis studied as a youngster. Villages in the countryside hold many pleasures, such as the Byzantine frescoes at the monastery of Panagia Drosiani in the village of Moni. The Sanctuary of Demeter, built in 530 BCE, stands in splendid isolation, while the Venetian Bazeos Tower can be visited en route to the village of Halki, home to a distillery and museum dedicated to the aromatic liqueur Kitron, distilled from the fruit and leaves of the citron tree. Near Apollonas village, a 28-foot marble statue of a kouros lies unfinished in an ancient quarry, a silent testament to a rich past.