There are two reasons to hike Mount Zas…to stand on the highest point in the Cyclades and to summit the mountain where Zeus was born and raised.
According to Greek mythology, Mount Zas, also called Mount Zeus, is the place where Zeus spent his childhood. Tucked away on the slopes of the mountain is a small cave where Zeus was born. You can visit this cave as you hike to the summit.
Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades. It feels vastly different from volcanic Santorini and windswept Mykonos. Naxos is mountainous, fertile, and covered with patches of trees, a rarity in the Cyclades. The geography, and the mythology, make Naxos one of the best spots in the Cyclades to go hiking.
If you know us, then you know that we can’t resist a good hike. And to explore the slopes where Zeus was raised, how cool is that?
The hike to the peak of Mount Zas is relatively short, but it’s also steep and strenuous in spots. In all honestly, I wouldn’t classify it as a “fun” hike, but the main reason for doing it is for the breathtaking views from the summit and for bragging rights that you stood on the highest peak in the Cyclades.
Here’s how to do it.
How to Hike Mount Zas
There are two main routes to the summit. The easiest route is from Aghia Marina. This hike is 7 km round trip with 300 meters of elevation gain.
The second route starts at Aria Spring and steadily gains elevation as you first pass the Cave of Zas (Cave of Zeus) and later summit Mount Zas. This article is about the hiking route from Aria Spring to the Cave of Zeus to the peak of Mount Zas.
Mount Zas Hiking Stats
Distance: 5 km (3 miles)
Elevation Gain: 500 meters
Length of Time: 2 to 4 hours
Elevation profile of the hike
Getting to the Trailhead
The hike starts at Aria Spring, also called Fontaine d’Aria on Google Maps. The closest town is Filoti. If you are driving here from Naxos City, it takes about 30 minutes.
The last section of the drive is on a narrow road that hugs the edge of a hillside. There are no guardrails here so be careful.
The road ends right at the spring. We were the first car of the day and we parked up against the rock wall at one of the widest sections of road. Just note that there is not much room to turn your car around. This will become even more challenging once the road fills with more cars. If you get here early, like we did, consider pointing your car back down the road so it’s easier to drive away once finished the hike.
A short, paved walking trail takes you to Aria Spring. This is a natural spring and I read that you can drink the water directly from the spring. This is a pretty spot and there is also a goldfish pond here.
Cave of Zeus
From Aria Spring, the trail starts to climb up the mountain. Mount Zas looms in front of you and it seems almost impossibly high from this point. You get an idea of how steep the trail will get, since it’s only 2.5 km (1.5 miles) to the summit.
At first, the path is paved with marble rocks. It’s easy walking.
A short distance before reaching the Cave of Zeus, the marble path ends and a true hiking trail begins. The trail is easy to follow, but when in doubt, look for the rock cairns (stacked stones of rocks that serve as trail markers) or red blazes painted on the rocks.
From Aria Spring, it takes about 20 minutes to get to the Cave of Zeus. You can enter the cave and if you feel like exploring, I read that if you go in far enough, you can see stalactites and stalagmites. The flashlight on an iPhone is not bright enough to light the cave. You need something stronger, like a hiking headlamp or a flashlight.
Hiking to the Summit
The next section of trail is the most challenging. It’s rocky, it’s steep and at times you might even need to use your hands to do a little rock scrambling. Also, beware of the short, prickly thistle bushes. These are covered with sharp thorns and really hurt if you accidentally grab onto them. We found out the hard way.
Looking down at the gully
About 10 minutes after you leave the Cave of Zeus, the trail will turn to the left. You’ll leave the rocky gully and hike up an easier trail.
There will be a short section where you walk on a bare, somewhat slippery rock face. Just beyond this, the view really begins to open up. From the trail, you can look out over the nearby villages and the hilly terrain of Naxos. The summit doesn’t look so far off and impossible from this point.
Now, it’s just a hike up a giant slope of scree and boulders until you get to the summit. The trail will join that of Aghia Marina and most likely you will see more hikers at this point.
The Summit of Mount Zas
Once on top of Mount Zeus, enjoy 360° views over Naxos. You are now standing at 1003 meters (3290 feet), the highest point in the Cyclades. A concrete post marks the highest point.
Looking back at the hiking trail from the summit.
To get back to your car, return the same way.
About Our Experience
We did this hike in mid-April. The high temperature for the day was 15°C (60°F) so we had ideal hiking conditions. And since it was still the off-season, the trail was relatively quiet.
Tips to Have the Best Experience
During the summer months, start this hike early in the morning. There is no shade on the trail. In the summer, temperatures can soar so it’s best to finish this hike early in the day.
Bring sunscreen and lots of water. During the summer, I recommend 2 liters of water per person.
The trail was a little difficult to follow just past the Cave of Zeus. It turns to left just before you get to a wide swath of rocks and gravel in the gully. We almost missed the turn. Keep an eye out for the red blazes and the cairns. Sporadically, there will also be small metal signs with the number 2 on them.
And watch out for the prickly thistle bushes. Those suckers hurt!!
Comment below if you have any questions about how to hike to Mount Zas or if you want to share your experience.
More Information for Your Trip to Greece
NAXOS: Learn how to plan your visit to Naxos in our article Best Things to Do in Naxos. We also have information on how to hike to Apano Kastro and a detailed guide to hiking the Village Trail to Melanes, Myli, and the Kouroi.
SANTORINI: For a full list of things to do, read our article Best Things to Do in Santorini. In our Santorini Itinerary, learn how to plan your visit, whether you have 1, 2 or 3 days. In our Santorini Hotel Guide, we list the best hotels in Santorini, organized by location and budget.
MYKONOS: Learn about things to do and how to get around Mykonos in our Guide to Mykonos.
ATHENS: Plan your visit to Athens with our 2 Days in Athens Itinerary and our guide to the Best Hotels in Athens. We also have a detailed list of Things to do in Athens and a guide to the Best Views of Athens and the Acropolis.
GREECE ITINERARY: Learn how to visit Athens, Santorini, Naxos and Mykonos in our 10 Day Greece Itinerary.
EUROPE TRAVEL INSPIRATION: For more great ideas on where to go in Europe, check out our article 30 Beautiful Places to Visit in Europe and the 20 Best Hikes in Europe. You can also get more travel ideas in our 10 Days in Europe itinerary guide, which has 10 great itineraries for your next trip to Europe.
Planning a trip to Greece? Read all of our articles in our Greece Travel Guide.
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What time did you arrive at the trail? We are going first thing in the morning!
I don’t know the exact time, but if I had to guess, it was around 8 am.
This looks awesome. I have only been to Naxos Town but I’m returning in a few weeks, so would love to hike to the summit.
Hello there! Thanks for an amazing and detailed description. Very helpful! I have a question. Are there any spots or parts of the path difficult for a person with a fear of falling/high? Thank you!!
The worst part could actually be the drive on the narrow road to get to the trailhead. It’s not too bad, but it is narrow so this may bother some people. But the trail doesn’t have any drop-offs or a lot of exposure in any spots from what I can recall. Cheers, Julie
Thanks for sharing this. I will do the Hike tomorrow morning!
Hi – I’m going to be on Naxos in late September and first few days of October. I wasn’t planning to get a car but I want to hike Mt. Zas. Any recommendation on how to get there and back?
I don’t know much about getting around other than with a rental car. I don’t think you can get to the trailhead with public transportation, but I could be wrong. If you have a hotel booked they might be able to give you some info. Cheers, Julie
Hi! We just hiked Mt. Zas a few days ago (on August 6, 2019). It was AMAZING–definitely do it!! The views at the top are spectacular. It’s not an easy hike, though, and we started at the church, which is the shorter hike (about 2-2.5 hours round trip). We did have a rental car to get to the trailhead. In Greece you can always arrange a taxi, so if you don’t have a car that’s what I would do. The taxi is going to have to either wait for you or come back after the hike. Our drive to the Aghia Marina church was a CRAZY 40 minutes from our villa in Plaka beach–lots of narrow roads and switchbacks. To be honest you might want to consider renting a car just for the day you plan to do the hike. The smaller the car, the better–it’s a tough, scary drive at times, and we were SO glad we took our small rental car rather than the big 7-passenger van we rented (our group was big and rented two vehicles for the trip–only 5 people in our group of 12 did the hike). I honestly don’t think the van could have gotten up those roads. Either way, don’t miss the hike! I would recommend it to anyone who visits Naxos who is in good physical shape. Also–we didn’t start early in the morning (more like 12:30pm), but that was fine because it was a windy day (August is nearly always windy there). We had no problems with heat–the wind felt great. Have fun!
Thanks for your trip report and the tips! Glad you had a great hike! Cheers, Julie
Thank you for your recommendation to rent a small vehicle for the drive to the trailhead. We will be hiking the summit end of April 2020 and there are 6 in our group. Was your thought that a van would have difficulty because the road was too narrow for 2 cars to pass each other; or that the road was too steep? Was it the entrire trip to the church windy and steep or just the last part which looks very loopy on the map? Also was the road paved?
We are all avid hikers so the distance and terrain is not as big an issue as getting there.
The road is paved the entire way. It’s just the last section of road (a few kilometers) where it is very narrow (but it’s not too steep). In my opinion, the hardest part about having a van is parking it, since space is very limited. You can do it, just get here very early so you are one of the first vehicles. I can’t remember what time we got here, but it was probably around 8 am. Cheers, Julie
Are hiking shoes/boots 100% necessary, or do you think athletic sneakers (running shoes) would be fine? Thank you!
Athletic/running shoes are totally fine. That’s what Tyler and Kara wore. Ha ha…I wore Converse sneakers and Tim wore a pair of walking shoes/loafers. We didn’t feel like lugging 4 pair of hiking shoes to Greece for just a hike or 2. Have fun! Cheers, Julie
Thanks for the great post – we are visiting Naxos this summer and I am trying to convince my family to take this hike, so I appreciate the detailed directions and tips to stay on the trail and reach the summit. We will be there in June, so I have a feeling we’ll need to start out early to beat the heat as you mention.
It’s a cool hike. I will be writing more about Naxos in the next few weeks, so stay tuned. We also did a great walk between the villages and a short hike to Apano Kastro, which was nice too. Cheers, Julie