The Portara, or “great door”, is a large marble doorway in Naxos, Greece. It is a fantastic place to watch the sunrise or sunset and is easily accessible for tourists! The site is located near the port on the islet Palatia, which was a hill on Naxos before sea-level rise. A causeway connects Palatia to the main island of Naxos.
According to Mythology, Naxos is where Theseus abandoned his lover, the Minoan princess Ariadne, after defeating the Minotaur on Crete. Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility (and a LOT of other things), found Ariadne on the island and made her his wife. Some myths even say that Ariadne died on Naxos, slain by Artemis.
The Portara is the entrance to a temple (more on that in the “history” section!). The entrance was built to line up with the island of Delos, making many scholars believe the temple was to be dedicated to Apollo. Other scholars believe the temple was going to be for Dionysus or even the Cult of Ariadne because of their connections to the island.
As I mentioned above, the Portara was the entrance to a temple. Sometime in the middle of its construction in the 5th century BC the temple was abandoned. The temple was eventually taken down for its marble, but the Portara remained standing. It was SO massive (20 tons!!) that it couldn’t be moved.
Visit the Portara
Visiting the Portara is FREE! You just have to walk the causeway from Naxos Town to the islet and you are there. It takes 5-10 minutes, depending on your pace. The ground can be uneven at points, so be sure to wear sensible footwear.
While at the Portara, make sure to take a swim from the stairs! Head to Palatia Beach Restaurant “under” the site for a meal before heading back to Naxos.
Be sure to check back each week for a new Site Sunday post!
PS: check out my previous Site Sunday posts to the Acropolis, Theater of Dionysus Eleuthereus, and Delos! Also, check out my Guide to the Greek Mainland and Cyclades if you’re planning a trip to this beautiful country.