HOW TO HIKE MOUNT ZAS IN NAXOS GREECE

Viewpoint at the top of Mount Zas.

People hike to Mount Zas in Naxos for two reasons; 1. Mount Zas is the highest peak in the Cyclades region and 2. Mount Zas also referred to as Mount Zeus is the childhood home of the Greek God himself.

What makes this hike even more special is that you can visit the cave Zeus is said to have grown up in.

There are 2 ways to hike up Mount Zas:

The easiest route is from Agia Marina. The bus will drop you off outside the Church and then it is a 5 minute walk to the beginning of the track. The route has sign posts to help you along the way and is far less steep than the second route.

The more strenuous route is from Aria Spring, this track includes Zeus’s family cave. The distance between the spring and the cave is roughly 20 minutes and marked out well.

As I missed the stop for Aria Spring I got dropped off in Drimalia just below Prophet Elias Church. This seemed like a common occurrence, as other hikers got off the bus with me. We started the steep 10/15 minute walk up the road to the trail path. This route still allowed me to pass Zeus childhood cave.

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Trail Information about the Hike to Mount Zas in Naxos Greece

Aria Spring:

Distance: 3.5 miles (5.6km)

Duration: 4 – 5 hours round trip (with short legs)

Difficulty: Moderate to hard (depending on fitness level)

Agia Marina:

Distance: 4.34 miles (7km)

Difficulty: Moderate (depending on fitness level)

Duration: Same time frame as above

Mount Zas Elevation: 1,003m (3,290 feet)

To avoid the heat, start hiking early and head to the village of Filoti for lunch time.

How to prepare for Mount Zas

This hike doesn’t require walking boots, but I do suggest a sturdy trainer like the Nike Wild Horse Trail shoes. The terrain changes over the course of the trail and does require some climbing/scrambling.

Before you embark on the hike download What 3 Words. This app converts GPS coordinates into 3 words that will help emergency services know your exact location if something were to go wrong.

Be sure to pack:

  • Lots of snacks
  • Blister plasters/mini first aid kit
  • Battery Pack
  • Sun cream
  • Hat
  • 1.5L/2L of water
Rolling hills, the Aegean Sea and a biscuit in the foreground

How to get to the Mount Zas hiking trails

The budget friendly option to get to Mount Zas is by bus. Get off at the Agia Marina or tell your driver that you want to start the Mount Zas hike from Aria Spring. A return journey will cost roughly €6 (£5). If your legs can handle another 20 minute walk then I suggest picking the bus up from Filoti after a spot of lunch. Check out the Naxos bus timetable.

If you have the funds and want to discover more parts of Naxos then renting a car would be your best option. Parking is limited at both starting points, so be sure to start the trail early to avoid parking issues.

What to expect when you hike Mount Zas in Naxos

How the Mount Zas trail starts:

Depending on where you start your hike will determine the bus route and the terrain you will come across.

If you are planning on taking the bus it is best to ask the driver or the ticket office about the stops for Mount Zas. If you want to do Aria Spring and Zeus cave first, get dropped off either in Filoti and walk half an hour up. Or get off at the stop after Filoti as that will drop you closer. I got dropped off a couple of stops after, on the road below Prophets of Elias Church (Drimalia). And then walked up and began my route from Saint Mariana holy chapel (there is some parking spots on the road). Keep google maps open to see where the bus stops.

Once you are past the chapel, the beginning is very easy with dirt tracks and red #2 signs to mark the path. You will walk through rolling valleys for about 40 minutes before the terrain will change. Along the way you might see; goats sheep and lizards.

map explaining the route from the road under prophets of Elias Church to the Saint Mariana Holy Chapel, the start of the hike.

Aria Spring

2km from Filoti is Aria spring it is a said that the fountain never stops running even in the seasons of draught. The area is shaded and offers views of the village and a fish pond. 20 minutes on from Aria spring is Zeus cave. The path is cobbled but well sign posted and easy to follow.

Zeus Cave and the history of Mount Zas

According to Greek Mythology, Zeus was brought to this mountain as a child to escape the rage of his father Kronos. It is also said that this mountain is where the eagle offered Zeus the thunderbolt which eventually would lead to him being king of all gods and men.

The cave itself is bigger than it looks on the outside. Make sure to bring a flash light to have a proper look inside. The cave goes in 11m but I wouldn’t recommend going that far!

Getting to the summit:

As you get higher up Mount Zas, you will start to notice the path gets less obvious. Cairns (rock piles) will be your markers from now on. However there are so many rocks it is hard to tell if they are legit markers or just stones that have piled up over time.

My moto was “go to the path of least resistance” so as I continued up I just kept looking for faint path lines. I was an hour in before I saw another person coming down the mountain, which reassured me I was going in the right direction.

The last part of the hike is the hardest, you get to a relatively flat area and then see lots of jaggedly rocks leading to the top. If people weren’t going up and down it, I wouldn’t have been able to tell it was the summit. Be careful of loose rocks, it’s a long way down with a bruised ankle! All the walking trails join at this point so you will see a lot more hikers.

Terrain to get to the top of Mount Zas

At the summit:

Once you have scrabbled your way to the top. You will be rewarded with panoramic views of the island and the Aegean Sea. There is colourful bunting across the stones to signify you are at the top.

I believe the bunting is a prayer flag because it comes in the 5 colours: blue for the sky, white for air/wind, red for fire, green for water and yellow for earth. But I could be wrong and it is just standard bunting.

Take some deep breaths and enjoy the feeling of being on the tallest point in the Cyclades Islands.

Way down:

If you didn’t see Zeus cave on the way up you can go down that way. I ended up on the Agia Marina route back which was less steep and kinder on the knees. Returning on this path was a happy accident, as going down the mountain was a little disorientating and I just veered down in a different direction.

I still managed to get back to the bus stop, but after 15 minutes of waiting I didn’t like my chances. Filoti was only 20 minutes away with a main bus stop and plenty of cafes.

Getting to Filoti

Google Maps can be a little dodgy when it comes to the route to Filoti. I ended up walking down the road, then through a gate into a field with a dodgy path, over a fence, walked down a path I wasn’t convinced I was meant to be on and then through a few houses, opened a fence and got into the village!

I would recommend taking the road route, because I felt a little anxious. My brain immediately went to an angry goat farmer screaming in Greek with a rifle to get off his land. It is amazing what our imaginations can do when we are on edge.

Once you are in the lovely little village of Filoti there are plenty of cafes and restaurants to choose from. Be aware the bus departs from Filoti at 2pm and 4pm.

Club Sandwich at Filoti Village

Final thoughts

If you are planning a trip to the island of Naxos, Mount Zas should definitely be on your to do list. Doing a hike half way through your island hopping trip really breaks up the constant beaches.

I loved the Hike up Mount Zas in Naxos because it had beautiful views all the way up, it consisted of different terrain so you didn’t get bored and, it is the tallest mountain in the Cyclades islands (standing at 1,003m 3,290 feet).

It is 100% worth the visit.

As always, Happy Exploring!

wind swept at the top of the mountain
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