Greek Guide

Chios Island Greece Guide Chios

Chios Island Greece Greek Holiday Destinations

Chios is one of the Greek North Eastern Aegean islands located 283 kilometres to the north east of the mainland port of Piraeus and separated from Turkey by the eight kilometre wide Chios Straits. It's a starkly beautiful island largely untouched by mass tourism despite having the best beaches in the archipelago and some of the most fascinating medieval villages in the whole of Greece.

The package holiday industry has been kept at bay partly because of the lack of direct charter flights from northern Europe and partly because the island's past wealth and self sufficiency enabled it to resist the lure of the tourist industry. Foreign visitors didn't arrive here in any significant numbers until the 1980s and even today the island remains mercifully unspoilt by the worst excesses of tour group tourism. Rumour has is that some of the shipping magnates who have luxurious summer retreats on the satellite island of Inousses, off the north east tip of Chios, pay the locals not to set up tavernas and domatia. And wealthy landowners have seen no reason to surrender their land in order to extend the runway to accommodate big jets at Chios airport.

You can fly to the island from Athens there are several Olympic Airways flights a day to the airport, four kilometres south of the capital Chios Town. There are daily ferries to and from Piraeus (eight hours) and Lesvos (three hours) and less frequent services connecting the island with others in the group. During the summer months ferries and excursion boats run daily to the Turkish port of Cesme.

Most holiday accommodation is in Chios Town, on the island's east coast, which is home to about half the island's 50,000 strong population. The town lacks the charm of many other Greek island ports simply because most of it was destroyed in the violent earthquake of 1881 when 6,000 islanders were killed. But there are some interesting museums to visit and a charming old quarter with narrow lanes flanked by Turkish houses built around a Genoese Byzantine castle. The town's lively and colourful bazaar is a fascinating place to visit with merchants hawking all manner of goods from screeching monkey and parrots to the local mastic gum which was the island's chief export for centuries.

A visit to the so called "mastic villages" in southern Chios is top of most tourists' agenda. The medieval architecture and elaborate artwork adorning the walls of the local houses make these some of the most unusual and attractive settlements in the Greek islands. The fortified villages were built in the 14th and 15th centuries and prospered from production of gum from the mastic bushes which flourish in the area. For centuries the local mastic resin was used in paints, cosmetics, medicines and an addictive chewing gum enjoyed by the Ottoman sultans and their harems.

One of the island's other major attractions is the World Heritage listed Monastery of Nea Moni, built in the 11th century high up in the mountains 15 kilometres west of the capital. Both the Byzantine building and its collection of well preserved mosaics rank among the finest of their kind in Greece. Just inside the main gate a chapel serves as a chilling reminder of one of the most horrific massacres of the Greek War of Independence. A cabinet contains the skulls and bones of islanders who fled to the monastery to escape the Turks during the uprising of 1822. About 30,000 islanders were slaughtered and tens of thousands more were taken as slaves.