Iraklia (Irakleia or Heraklia) is an island located to the south-southeast of the larger Naxos and the southwest of Skhinousa. It is roughly three miles from Ay Katomeri, the southern point of Naxos. Its remote and isolated location in the Middle Cyclades has gradually caused a reduction in its population over the years. Although, it is still an island of interest for tourists because of a small hamlet in Ayios Yeoryios and several ancient caves near the Panagiya chora.
Characterized by barren hills that can double up as hiking trails, Iraklia is one of the least popular and least populated islands in the Lesser Cyclades. Naturally, this makes it a humble abode for solo tourists.
Due to the paucity of amenities, inaccessibility, and improper governing, Iraklia is today considered a wild island, distanced from the core Cyclades civilization.
Navigation and Anchoring
Sailing to the Iraklia island from the east is easier than from the north. Even if you don’t travel during the meltemi season, navigating to the Ayios Yeoryios mole can be tricky as it cannot easily be seen from the north. However, due to its excellent cover from the meltemi, it will act as a good resting stop, with enough are to park your private boat.
All three anchorages – Ayios Yeoryios, Ormos Livadhi, and Ormos Pigadhi – are suitable for mooring. Anchor in three to six meters into the sandy and a bit rocky bottom (across the bays) that will provide good holding. A trip-line is recommended to avoid impact from sudden gusts and old debris lying on the bed.
History of Iraklia
Iraklia is the largest island of the Lesser Cyclades. It used to be an active civilization spot, with historical artifacts today dating back to at least the fourth century BCE. According to historical texts, the island was governed by the Hozoviotissa Monastery.
The Second World War drove a majority of its inhabitants northbound, leaving the island at the mercy of nomadic recluses. The village of Livadhi – once an active civilization spot – was abandoned post war and has stayed that way since. However, the ruins of houses built during the Hellenistic and later the Venetian times stand attentive today.
Together with Skhinousa and Koufonisia, Iraklia is administrated by the municipality of Naxos and the Lesser Cyclades. As of 2011, the population stood at 141.
Places of Interest In and Around Iraklia
Iraklia’s most distinct feature is the small hamlet at Ayios Yeoryios, which has bravely sustained the assault of aimless modern architecture on the island. With small concrete houses lining the village’s boundary, it exists as a marvel in itself, reminding us of the ancient Aegean culture of the islands. A stroll through this hamlet will be a rewarding experience for most.
Some paintings were excavated during the late twentieth century. They are now preserved at the Naxos Museum. There’s also a small chapel at Panagia and another one near the main port.
The main port of Ayios Yeoryios will offer sufficient provisions and accommodation. Tavernas and small cafes exist on the shore as well as in the chora. You will also find food stalls and hotels in the village, which make up a part of the dwellers’ livelihood.
Only Ormos Pigadhi does not have a reliable provisioning setup.