Naxos Portara – A Gateway to Ancient Delights

The Naxos Portara A Gateway to Ancient Delights

Located on the tiny islet of Palatia, just a short walk from Naxos Town, Portara is one of the most famous landmarks of the island. It is also a popular spot for watching the sunset.

The massive marble gate, the only remnant of a never-finished temple to Apollo, has welcomed visitors to Naxos since 523 BCE. Legend says if you make a wish within its doors, Apollo will get to work to make it come true.

The History

The Portara, also known as the Great Door, is a massive, 2,500-year-old marble gate that serves as Naxos’ main landmark and emblem. It’s situated on the islet of Palatia, which is connected to the main island by a causeway north of Naxos town.

The gate was built as part of an unfinished temple that was begun by tyrant Lygdamis in the 6th century BC. He envisioned a grand temple to Apollo, but the project was abandoned when he was overthrown. Over the centuries, most of the temple’s ruins were dismantled and its building blocks used in other structures on the island. Only the Portara remained.

It faces directly toward Delos, which was believed to be Apollo’s birthplace, so most scholars believe the temple was dedicated to him. However, it could have been a shrine for the god Dionysus as well, since he was also worshiped on Naxos at that time.

A visit to the Portara is one of the best ways to gain a better understanding of the history and culture of Naxos. You can read the inscriptions on the gate to learn more about its origins and past uses, or simply look at the carvings and markings that have been left behind by visitors through the ages. You may even stumble upon ancient treasures, such as gold jewelry and incredibly detailed marble sculptures.

The Location

Located on the islet of Palatia next to Naxos port, the colossal doorway of the Portara has become one of the most recognizable landmarks of the island. It was once part of a temple dedicated to Apollo, the God of music, poetry, prophecy, and light.

It was begun in 530 BC by the tyrant Lygdamis, who had ambitious plans to make Naxos the cultural and religious center of the Aegean Sea. However, he was overthrown before the completion of the temple, and the only part of it that remains is the Portara’s lintel.

The Portara is the first thing visitors see when they approach the island on a cruise ship or arriving by ferry, and it has since become a symbol of Naxos itself. It stands as a gateway to the past and beckons visitors with its ancient beauty.

The site also offers stunning views of the Aegean Sea and Naxos town, and the ruins provide plenty of photo opportunities. The Portara is the perfect place to take a romantic walk and spend some time contemplating its ancient history. There are several hotels in Naxos that offer rooms with a view of the Portara, so it’s easy to stay close by and enjoy its magical atmosphere. If you wish, you can even take a boat trip to see the ancient wonder at night as it lights up against the blue of the Aegean Sea.

The Symbolism

The huge marble doors of Portara (the locals call it the Big Door) are a symbol of Naxos and its main landmark. It is the single remaining part of a temple built to honor Apollo that was abandoned in 530 BC, and it still has an amazing energy.

It was a project by the tyrant Lygdamis on the tiny islet of Palatia and it was designed on a colossal scale with inspiration drawn from the Temple of Zeus in Athens and one dedicated to Hera on Samos. But the building was never finished and in fact, it fell apart during construction.

Despite that, it is the emblem of Naxos and people visit it to experience the unique energy. The best time to see the Portara is at sunset when it takes on a mesmerizing glow.

During the evening, you can join a guided tour that will take you through the streets of Chora and its maze-like alleys. Your guide will show you hidden locations that will illustrate the island’s history, and you will end your walk at the Portara to watch an awe-inspiring sunset.

The View

If you are a fan of ancient Greek architecture, the sight of this massive marble gate looming over Naxos will take your breath away. It is truly awe-inspiring, especially when you think about how the builders constructed it without modern equipment.

The Portara is a trademark of Naxos and has become a symbol of the island. It is the first thing visitors notice when arriving to Naxos by ferry, towering over the harbor. It has also become a popular spot to enjoy the sunset.

It was once part of an unfinished temple of Apollo commissioned by the local tyrant Lygdamis in 530 BC. He envisioned the temple to be an Aegean cultural and religious center. However, he was overthrown before the construction could be completed.

The temple was abandoned and the marbles were dismantled over time to be used for other structures on the island. During the Venetian period, some of these stones were even used to build parts of the castle of Naxos Town. However, the Portara was simply too large and heavy to be dismantled.

Today, the Portara stands on the islet of Palatia, which is connected to the main island by a causeway. It overlooks the harbor of Naxos and with a little imagination, it can seem like a portal into another world. The imposing structure has become a symbol of the island and a must-see attraction for all tourists visiting Naxos.