The Cave of Za and hiking Mt Zas in Naxos was another adventure during our 2021 trip. The Cave of Za is also known as Zeus Cave. How many people get to visit two Cave’s of Zeus in one trip? The First Zeus Cave, in Crete is believed to be the birthplace of the Greek god, Zeus. The second Zeus Cave is in Naxos on Mt Zas and is believed to be where Zeus spent his childhood.
We had originally not planned on hiking this as we didn’t think we would have the time, but we were up early and decided at the last moment we should check it out!
In Greek mythology, Zeus is the supreme god, the god of the gods. Zeus is also a protector of all. His beginnings were not so god like though. He was born in a cave in Crete called Dikteon Cave. Legend has it Zeus was raised in the Cave of Za in Naxos, which is included in this post. My understanding of the story of Zeus is as follows: Cronus, the father of Zeus, did not want his children to take over his kingdom so he would swallow them as soon as they were born. Rhea, the mother of Zeus did not want this to happen. She decided to trick Cronus. After Zeus was born, she swaddled a large rock, gave it to Cronus, and he swallowed that instead, believing it was Zeus. Because of this, Zeus was hidden until he grew up and became strong enough to defeat Cronus.
There are two paths for hiking to the summit of Mt Zas in Naxos. We started at the Aria Spring trail. Aria Spring is a little over 30 minutes Southeast of Chora in Naxos. Basically, follow the signs to Filoti, follow Epar.Od. Damariona-Danakou/Epar.Od. Naxou-Apiranthou Road and you will arrive at Aria Spring in just over 5 minutes. The road was easy to drive and follow.
About Mt Zas
Mount Zas in Naxos is the highest point in the Cyclades and the cave of Za is on the way to the summit. Rising at 1003m (3290ft) this impressive hike has beautiful views. It is a rugged mountain with lots of rock and goats! There are great views of Naxos when hiking Mt Zas.
Where to Start
There are two ways to hike to Mt Zas. You can start at Aria Spring which is shorter, steeper and more rugged, or you can start at Agia Marina which I understand is easier and less steep. Some people start at one side and end at the other. If you want to visit Zeus Cave, it is just off of the path and visible if you start at Aria Spring. We chose the Aria Spring route as we wanted to see the Cave of Zeus and we like a challenge.
We parked along the side of the road by Aria Springs, there were a few other cars there as well. Aria Spring is natural spring. It is a nice shady area with trees and stone walls. This is where you start the hike to Mt Zas and Zeus Cave.
The Hike Up
You can’t miss the path to Aria Spring and after you pass through this area you will soon see a sign.. Don’t let the distances fool you into thinking this will be a quick hike. I have read about this hike and the information I found has made this trail sound anywhere from easy to impossible so I was curious to find out for myself. As always, difficulty of trails is based on my opinion and experience.
The trail started out easy and uphill. The path was easy to follow and well defined at first. Careful stepping as there is some loose rock.
As we came closer to Za Cave, the path became hard to walk on and some scrambling became necessary. The rocks are slick as many of them are Naxian marble which is abundant on the island. I figured if the goats could do it so could I. I also picked a great day to wear white shorts!
Cave of Za
Right before the Cave of Zeus, the trail became much more difficult with large loose stones and no discernible path other than up. This was taking much longer than we expected and we almost turned around here, but decided to continue after the cave, mostly because of the views! The cave was rather disappointing, but because of the legend, I was glad we went.
We noticed most people turned back after the cave. We continued upward and not surprisingly the hike became much more technical. There were many slippery loose rocks and it became a difficult path. In the photos below, we thought we were getting close to the summit so we trekked on.
The Turn Around
Once we came to what we thought was the summit, much to our dismay we were wrong. We continued on a bit further and enjoyed the views but increasingly disliked the trail. Shortly, we came across another group hiking down and they informed us we were about half way to the summit. We decided to turn around as we wanted to make it to a beach yet this day. We were in a beautiful spot so it was a good stopping place.
The Hike Down
In retrospect we were quite happy we turned around as we found it much harder going down than going up. Careful stepping was needed as we slid more going down and it was also hard on the knees.
Hiking Mt Zas in Naxos is a beautiful hike but tough. We hike a lot and this trail was surprisingly difficult. I would rate it as more difficult than most of the Colorado hikes we have done, mostly because of the loose rock trail. Although I would have loved the view from the summit, I am glad we turned around as we made it to the Lionas Beach later and it was spectacular. You can read about Lionas Beach in my next post.
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Follow these Links for more posts of my 2021 Greece Vacay:
Catamaran around Naxos, Sept 2021
Kouros of Melanes, Naxos, Sept 2021
Kalamitsia Monastery, Naxos, Sept 2021
The Portara of Naxos, Sept 2021
Elounda Peninsula All Suite Hotel, Revisited 2021
Ancient City of Lato, Sept 2021
Aforesmenos Lighthouse, Crete, Sept 2021
Avli Lounge Hotel, Rethymno, Sept 2021
Matala Beach Caves, Crete, Sept 2021
Hike to Martsalos Beach, Sept 2021
The Chapel at Georgioupoli, Sept 2021
Koutalas Beach and Sea Cave, Sept 2021
A Walk Through Chania, Sept 2021
Links to our 2018 and also 2019 Trip can be found in this post:
10 Days in Greece Athens, Crete, Santorini 2019
8 Days in Greece, Athens, Milos, Santorini 2018
Diary of a Gen-X recommendations for hotels, restaurants, & tours are based on our own experiences. We do not receive compensation for recommending at any of these nor are we affiliates of any hotels, restaurants, or tours. The only hotels & restaurants we recommend are places we stay which are clean, comfortable, and also provide exceptional hospitality.
32 thoughts on “Hiking Mt Zas and the Cave of Za, Naxos”
This is very interesting site to see..haven’t been to that of Crete ..a great area to see
We enjoyed it!
That hike does not look easy at all! Kudos to you for conquering it!
I find going down much harder than going up too. The path does look a bit narrow and steep in places. Hopefully your white shorts didn’t get too dusty. What better way to reward yourself than by going to the beach afterwards.
It was a rough hike although my white shorts survived better than expected! The beach was perfect! Not a lay out on beach but beautiful!
What a fun looking hike! Love the goat! Those rocky trails are tough on the knees, though. I had a hike like that in Phoenix a few months ago and I called it a patella-buster!
It was fun!! I have heard some hikes around Phoenix are tough!
That is one rocky path. Glad you kept on for the views. Thanks for sharing Lori. Allan
What we won’t do for a good view! Have a good weekend!!
I know. At our age, when we get into a predicament, we keep asking ourselves “When will we ever learn?”
that sounds like a tough hike, but it sounds like you got to a nice spot that offered some spectacular views. sounds like this Zeus guy liked his caves! 🙂
All in all it was good! I’m learning more on Greek mythology and it seems the more I learn the more confusing it is!
yes, I would have trouble just keeping all the names straight…
Um, those stones look like kankle twisters. LOL
Yup! I was very careful! We drastically underestimated this hike!
Very nice to see this hike from you and is funny to see all these new places (for me) via your posts, while I have been to most of the mountains of Greece!
Well done and greetings from Greece!
Thank you my friend! I wish we would’ve spent more time and ask if there are some pretty amazing hikes there. Since this was a last minute decision and I had only sneakers for shoes I would love to return with my trail shoes and trekking poles and reach the summit! I can always dream!! Although the views we saw were beautiful I would have loved to see the view from the summit. Lori
This looks really cool! The hike looks like it would be exhausting in the heat, but well worth it for the views 🙂
It was pretty amazing!!
Looks like such wonderful historic sites and information, Lori ~ you guys visit the coolest places!!!
Thanks, Phil! I do a lot of research to find out of the way places. We also asks locals for good spots to check out!
I truly admire you for a hike of this magnitude! Although the scenery and the findings are exceptional, you still have to think about your endurance, etc. throughout the hike. Proud of you. And thanks for sharing these great photos. Your reward for hiking was awesome!
Thank you! Sometimes we night off more than we can chew!! Had we had more time we may have went to the top, then again, at our age it’s good to know our limits as well!
I’ve learned to carry a stick when I hike these days. Loose rocks definitely present a challenge.
Is there any real factual evidence from your work that Zeus actually lived? Or is he just an imaginary God?
I do not know if Zeus actually was real or not, I guess it depends on a person’s beliefs. Kind of like there is no physical proof that, for example, Moses lived.
That looks tough, but what a cool thing to claim as accomplished!
We felt good about it!!
Bummer the cave was a disappointment, but glad you made it there
It was still fun and the views on the way were great!