It all started one day as I was having my morning coffee. I was browsing through my files. They were full of routes; biking routes, running routes and hiking routes all over Naxos. My eyes and mind got stuck on a day in last July, on an ULTRA MARATHON route when I had circled Naxos covering 152 kilometers on my mountain bike. I started laughing for that craziness of mine and at the same time thinking not what I had done but what I hadn’t done yet! After that morning everything happened so fast. A few days before, my friend Tasos, who has created the whole hiking network of the island, had showed me a route he had planned. It was ready to receive international certification but someone had to walk it and provide him with some missing detail. In my mind, I instantly ran across Naxos on my favorite paths. I would help my friend and at the same time I would make some more craziness of mine come true. I had already crossed the entire island of Naxos on my bike. It was time to cross it running. The previous time my company was my bike but this time I needed to share it with a friend. Not to show off or prove something. I just wanted to make my island and its beauties known. My friend Vasilis was the ideal person for that as he likes nature, running and challenges. Also, at the end of some good training he never says no to some cold beer! So, I started studying the route. It was easy because I had already covered almost all of it bit by bit. I put the pieces of the puzzle together, called Vasilis and that was it. Of course we had to think of every detail and leave nothing to chance. We had to carry backpacks with food, water, clothes, and all this at the minimum possible weight. The route passed through mountains and high altitudes and the first thing you think about when you run carrying a backpack is its weight. We soon found ourselves on the beach of Plaka. As I said before, the route should make Naxos and its beauties known, so the best place to start off was definitely the sea.
December 1st 2018. Winter. The day was short so we had to make most of it. At 6 o’ clock in the morning, still dark outside, we turned on gps on our watches, grabbed our flashlights and set off. We took paths among and beneath reeds, such an impressive sight and such a pleasant surprise for someone who sets off right from the beach. Leaving the reeds behind, we started ascending on passable paths among agricultural areas and sparse vegetation. The first village we came across was Vivlos. The smells from the local bakery were inviting us to stop but we were determined. The sun started rising and we kept going uphill. We were running on my favorite routes and I remembered last July. I knew we would make it. Vasilis was keeping up with my pace while he was enjoying places he had never seen before. After all, it is my desire and pleasure to share all these little-known gems of Naxos with others, and this is exactly what my jobs aims at. The villages to follow were Ano Potamia and Kato Potamia. “Am I really on an island?” Vasilis asked me. Little rivers, streams, greenery everywhere, birds singing, old little bridges, springs with drinkable water. Pure nature. Nothing else matters here. Even though I have crossed these villages so many times, I still find the scenery breathtaking. We stopped here for 5 minutes to drink some water from the spring and have something to eat. Next, the scenery changed and we admired the view from above, which reminded us that we were surrounded by the Aegean Sea. We ran on stone paths admiring a unique view passing by Byzantine churches and a Venetian castle, which led to the next village, Chalki. For hikers it is perfect to stop for a coffee, food or chatting in traditional spots. We, however, were just passing by. We had to finish before dark. The next paths took us to gullies and leafy areas, and then we were on a rocky trail crossing Filoti, with an amazing view suitable for photos. We could see the large plane tree of the village beneath us. It was calling us for a hot glass of rakomelo but we had to take a rain check. We kept going uphill on paths with very good signage up to Moni Fotodoti. Once you are here, you can see why my friend Tasos has included this area. It’s a piece of art. Running on totally green stone-paved paths we reached Apeiranthos. This unique picturesque village is ideal to rest in beautiful traditional restaurants and cafes. But we didn’t. The next path is one of my favorites. We were going up Mount Fanari. Rocks everywhere, a breathtaking view from above and at last we were heading downhill. Stone bends (I think this was Vasilis’s favorite spot of the route), fog all around us and something different awaited us beneath. We reached a gully in the middle of dense vegetation, fallen trees and smooth rocks. I was happy. I love green and every time I come across it on the island I love, my face just lights up with joy. We then got to Moni and stopped for water from the fountain in the village square and to check my map. The signage was still clear and plentiful. Our next goal was to pass through Sifones and Kadi. The paths there were made in a traditional style within sparse vegetation and they led us to Keramoti. Once again I thought that this route has it all. When we saw stone steps going uphill in front of us, we remembered the feat we had taken on and our backpacks seemed really heavy. At an altitude of 700 meters we could see Koronos below, a little picturesque village with lush greenery you will never forget. There were 547 downward steps between us. We ran on them and really enjoyed it, especially Vasilis, who had been looking forward to a downward direction. We stopped for 5 minutes for water and food. As we were heading to Skado, we kept talking about the huge variety of landscapes we had come across. We had seen everything on that day, from breathtaking views from above surrounded by the Aegean Sea to lush vegetation and green bends. So, we were about to reach Komiaki, my favorite memory. I still talk about that; plane trees, mainland paths, little rivers, leafy plants, unique smells. I couldn’t resist, I took my most beautiful photos there. I didn’t just run there. I walked. I didn’t want it to finish. Vasilis thought that we weren’t on Naxos any more. We didn’t feel tired at all. We were now thinking about the sea. We passed Komiaki, no more uphill, and we could see Apollonas below us. A passable 7-kilometer path would take us to a couple of cold beers. Among and beneath reeds, just like when we set off, we finished the most amazing route I have ever covered. It was 16:50. My dear friend Tasos was waiting for us to finish. He had provided me with all the necessary information I needed for the route and I handed him the detailed file he needed.
– Cheers, Vasilis! We did it, and we did it our way.
– Michalis, today I got to know Naxos, he answered and we indulged in our glasses of cold beer.