Chios is an island in the North Aegean sea, lying between Lesbos
and very close to mainland Turkey. It is known as the mastic island because it cultivates the precious mastic trees from which mastic resin is obtained. The Chios mastic is granted protected designation of origin and it is widely used in food industry, pharmacy and cosmetics. Sometimes they call the mastic "the tears of Chios" because the resin is produced in drops (tears). Besides the mastic trees and the various mastic cookies and liquors, Chios will grab you with the unique geometric patterns called "xysta" which adorn many of the old houses, and the preserved Medieval villages looking like real fortified towns and reminding of the turbulent history of the island. The legend says that the poet Homer was born and lived on Chios.
Chios can be reached by airplane from Athens or by sea. Ferry connections are available with the ports of Piraues, Thessaloniki and Kavala, and the rest islands of the group, as well as with Cesme, Turkey. Ferries from/to Thessaloniki and Kavala are once or twice per week even in the summer and the journey takes more than 10 hours.
The capital Chios Town
is located on the east coast and it is also the main port but some ferries stop at Mesta
(Limenas) which is on the west seaside. Chios town is quite big for the standards of Greek island Chora and it has merged with a few neighbor villages like Vrontados
, Varvasi and Karfas
. The town has a population of about 30 000 residents and it provides commercial streets, public buildings, banks, museums, libraries and a hospital. The old town and the castle by the sea are worth a visit but it is a bit noisy for accommodation if you are on a holiday. Karfas and Vrontados, being the closest seaside resorts to the capital, offer the largest choice of hotels and places to eat but they tend to be overcrowded in July and August, especially Karfas which is famous for its sandy beach. The rest seaside resorts are smaller and quieter. Nice beaches can be found on the south and west coast, some of them sandy, others pebbly. Emporios, Agia Fotini, Glaroi and Daskalopetra are equipped with facilities like sunbeds and parasols.
The mastic trees are cultivated in the south part of the island and resin production is controlled by a union of 24 villages called Mastichochoria. The largest of them are Pyrgi
, Olympi, Mesta, Kalamoti
and Armolia. Pyrgi is one of the most scenic and namely there you can see the geometrical paintings on all the houses in the center, that is why it is called "the painted village". Almost all villages of the Mastichochoria area have preserved architecture from Medieval times and they look like fortified settlements with towers, stone houses and streets. The most prominent of them are Mesta and Olympi. The deserted village of Anavatos in the middle of Chios is known as the "ghost village", and it is one of the most important and impressive sights on the island - solid stone constructions built on the top of a high hill. The villages in the north are less in number and their architecture is more contemporary and like that of the North Aegean islands.
Main sights and interesting places to visit on Chios:
- Chios town with the Genoese castle next to the port
- The stone windmills in Vrontados village
- Pyrgi village with its painted houses
- The fortified villages in Mastichochoria area, like Mesta, Olympi and Armolia (the latter famous for its pottery)
- Anavatos, the ghost village of the island
- Vigla, a fortified watchtower located on a small peninsula on the west coast
- Mavro Volia, the so-called black or volcanic beach of Chios next to Emporios, with black volcanic rocks and pebbles around the shore
- Monastery of Nea Moni which is in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- The Homer`s rock at Daskalopetra beach, the place where Homer taught his students and thus the name of the beach ("daskalopetra" means the "the stone of the teacher")
- A daily trip to the nearby inhabited islets of Psara