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Chios: The island of aromas

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Chios: The island of aromas

Chios, the homeland of Homer and the fifth largest island of Greece, is a destination that combines history, nature, and culture in a unique way.  

Its famous and valuable mastic (or mastiha) produced exclusively on this island, but also its citrus fruits that spread their aromas throughout its fertile valleys, gave the island the name  "Myrovolos Chios", meaning “Sweet-scented Chios”. Moreover, Chios can offer thrilling experiences to its visitors: unique medieval villages that keep their traditional colon unchanged, dazzling beaches with crystal-clear waters and significant monuments scattered in the hinterland. This and much more give visitors far too many reasons to come back to the island again and again...

Routes & attractions

In Chios Town, which is also the island’s port, wander in the medieval, well-preserved Castle of the 10th century. In Chora you will find the Korais Library, a valuable ark of knowledge with over 200 thousand publications. The same building houses the Art Gallery and the Folklore Museum of Chios.

You should also visit the Byzantine Museum that houses the exact copy of Delacroix's famous painting "The Massacre at Chios" that hangs at the Louvre Museum.

Discover the 24 Mastihohoria (mastic-growing villages), where the unique, miraculous mastic tree is cultivated with its "tear" giving us the beneficial mastic. Mastic cultivation is included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO.

Visit the Chios Mastic Museum to learn about its history and production and tour the mastic tree orchard overlooking the village of Pyrgi. In this village you can admire the "xysta", a local style with black and white geometric designs that adorn the facades of the houses.

Mesta is also one of the most beautiful Mastihohoria, characterized as a heritage monument and built like a medieval castle reminiscent of a labyrinth. On the way to Mesta, visit Olympi, also a medieval, heritage village, near which is located the impressive cave of Sykia with a history of millions of years.

The eerie atmosphere of the medieval village of Anavatos is surely unforgettable. The village was deserted after the massacre of 1822 and its houses, with their open windows, stand imposingly on the edge of a steep cliff.  Avgonima is another stone-built picturesque village with very few residents, from where you can enjoy a wonderful sunset.

Take a walk in Ano Kardamyla, and admire the traditional architecture of the houses in the picturesque alleys especially in the neighbourhood of Spilia. Enjoy your coffee, food or drink in the village harbour with the fishing boats and the ship-owners’ yachts.

Visit the legendary New Monastery of Chios, one of the most important Greek monasteries and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was founded in 1024 by Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos and has impressive frescoes and famous, beautiful Byzantine mosaics. Another site of historical value is the unique ossuary of the victims of the massacre of Chios in 1822.

Wander around the traditional settlement of Kampos and surrender to the intoxicating scents of the citrus orchards. Admire the mansions and courtyards made of black and white pebbles that form elaborate designs.

Visit Volissos with its Byzantine castle, which was reportedly the birthplace of Homer. It is worth coming to the beach of Agia Markella, the point where the saint was martyred. There, you will see hot water gushing into the sea. Stay until sunset, you will not regret it!

Beaches & activities

The island has several beaches to meet all tastes.  The most famous is Mavra Volia, famous for its dark coloured waters due to the black pebbles on the shoreline that formed after the volcanic eruption. Particularly popular is Nagos in the north, with its small colourful pebbles and cool waters.

Next on the map is Giosonas, a picturesque beach with crystal-clear, blue waters. Agia Fotia is a very popular, developed beach, as is the Beach of Glaroi. Agia Dynami offers a charming setting, with its white sandy shore and turquoise waters.

Visit the picturesque beach of Agios Isidoros with the namesake chapel. One of the most beautiful beaches is Vroulidia, with a sandy shoreline, small pebbles and white rocks.  Komi is a popular, long sandy bay while the largest beach on the island is Managros, which spreads out in the Aegean Sea with its thick sand and pebbles.

Tastes of the island

Thanks to its aromas, Chios offers unforgettable culinary experiences! According to mythology, Oinopion, son of Dionysus and the first king of Chios, began the cultivation of vines on the island and the production of the famous "Ariousios wine", also known as the "nectar of the gods". You may enjoy its modern version today.

Don't forget to try the beneficial mastiha liqueur in various versions, even as an exotic cocktail or local souma (tsipouro made from figs). Refresh yourself with a local tangerine drink, made of Chios POP tangerines and try the traditional sweet masourakia (sweets with almond and honey) or mammoulia (biscuits).

For food or snacks, try the eggplant risotto, the malathroftedes, made of aromatic fennel, the begoto (whitebait with onion), the tampouropita, stuffed with yellow pumpkin, sfouggato with koutsounades, an original omelette with poppy leaves. Of course, don’t forget to try the delicious mastelo of Chios, the local cheese as a saganaki or on the grill.

Traditions & events

The village of Vrontados in Chios is famous for the spectacular custom of the rocket war, between the churches of the two parishes, Panagia Ereithiani and Agios Markos: in the evening of the Resurrection, the locals throw thousands of fireworks from one church towards the other. Also, in Easter, in most of the island’s Mastihohoria, such as Mesta and Pyrgi, the custom of Fanos comes to life. The locals gather piles of branches and logs in the middle of the square, making a lantern and use the holy light of the Resurrection to light it up and burn the effigy of Judas.

During Carnival, the island celebrates with many special customs. One of them is the Mostra of Thymiana, a festival that has its roots in the Middle Ages, when pirates and corsairs plundered the islands and seized property and crops. In many Mastihohoria, the custom of "Aga", which has its roots in the Turkish occupation, revives on Ash Monday. It involves a very special court, from which no one escapes without a fine! In Volissos you will experience the custom of "Diplos" on the last Sunday of Carnival. The locals hold hands as they sing and dance in the main square of the village, forming a very long chain.

If you visit during the summer, you’ll definitely have the chance to experience one of the festivals and celebrations held on the island, in honour of Panagia, Sotiros, Agia Paraskevi, Prophitis Elias or the patron saint of Chios Agia Markella, on July 22, an official holiday for the island. In the summer and autumn, Chios holds a couple of very interesting Greek and international festivals with concerts, as well as theatre and dance performances.

Don't miss...

Visit the nearby islands, the aristocratic Oinousses and the historic Psara, homeland of Konstantinos Kanaris, the hero of the 1821 Greek War of Independence.

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