My lovely Halki! The dusty-pink house fronts. The bougainvillea that climb up to reach the iron cast balconies. The pebbled alleys that hide among leafy and shady gardens… Just 15km away from Naxos’ tropical coast line and in altitude of 280m, you find yourself easily forgetting that you’re on a Cycladic island. Neither the village’s architecture nor the rich plantation of the Tragaia valley where it’s located, resemble of the dry scenery of Cyclades. Halki has its own, charmful character. Although it’s a small village, it’s full of interesting places to visit and beautiful artistic shops with elegant, handmade objects.
Half a day is enough for a complete visit and gives you plenty of time to wonder around, noticing the unexpected burst of colour from the flowers, the lovely neoclassical houses and the well-put cafes. After meandering around, you can pay a short but interesting visit to the Distillery of the Vallindra family, just off the village’s main square. Dating back to 1896 when it was established on site and housed in an elegant old mansion, the distillery offers an insight on the production of one of Naxos’ most famous products, that of Citrus liqueur. Through an exhibition of family portraits, old photos, documents and advertising posters you reach the old production space with traditional, copper ambushes and big, aged bottles. The distilled liqueur which is solely produced by locally cultivated citruses, can be tried in three different versions right on the spot: the yellow one is the most intense and highest in alcohol, followed by the white one and the mildest green one. At the sales point in the wood-covered entrance hall you can buy your preferred bottle. It’s an exported and P.D.O. ( Protected Designation of Origin ) product worth trying.
Another interesting sight is the Byzantine church of St George Diosoritis that stands amidst the Tragaia basin since the 11th century. Just follow the pathway indicated by the signs you’ll see inside the village and a short 10 minute walk will lead you through olive and fruit-baring trees to an isolated and peaceful location where the small, stone church is.
Its simple plan of an Orthodox cross with a dome is rather rare in Naxos. The murals inside are particularly interesting, with the depiction of God Almighty surrounded by angels on the dome, Virgin and the Child on the apse and many depictions of St George. The church is usually open on weekdays from morning till afternoon and only during the summer period. Even if you can’t make it at these hours, the walk alone is rewarding enough and the serene atmosphere around the church is really worth enjoying.
Back to the village and I have the perfect way of recovering the calories you burnt through walking! A delicious piece of fresh “galaktoboureko” – a sweet pie rich in custard cream and syrup – at the traditional coffee house named Kafenio Spitiko is an integral part of any visit to Halki. The few tables just outside the corner “kafeneio” are usually occupied by the elder habitats who are regular customers for a Greek coffee or some tsipouro with meze. Before taking your sit, have a look inside where time seems to have stopped decades ago and find yourself surrounded by all sorts of old decorative objects that have been carefully preserved.
Recently, a spacious yard has been added to the available sitting area just across the road. There, you will sit under the imposing stone walls of the Barozzi Tower, a 3-storey, huge and strict fortress type residence, that was built in the 17th century for the famous Venetian Barozzi family. It’s still in residence today but you can approach the main entrance to see the coat of arms on the stone exterior entrance.
Just opposite the Kafenio Spitiko you can see the church of Virgin Mary ( Panagia Protothronos ), a large, bright white church in service since its latest renovation, that dates back in the 11th century. It’s really worth visiting in order to observe five different layers of frescoes that archaeologists have revealed.
Should you decide to spend some more time in this beautiful village, you can head towards the main square, dominated by a traditional tavern known for its meats on the spit or choose a casual café-bar for a refreshing Citrus based aperitif. As the evening moves on, Halki’s pulse becomes more vivid and it never fails to charm all of its visitors.
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