At 50km long and about 15km wide, this comma-shaped island is one of the largest in the east Aegean. It faces Turkey, just 7km to the east, across the Çeşme Strait, at its closest point. Chios’s thousands-year trading history with Greek Anatolia came to an abrupt end in 1922 when the Greeks who had been living there since about 1,000 BC were uprooted and forced to re-locate in Greece following the Greko-Turkish war, which ended in total defeat for Greece. A population exchange followed, with all of Greek Ionia shifting over to Greece, some of them to Chios.
Chios is a fascinating place with a lot to offer, full of topographical and historical marvels, and any stay there should last at least a week or more. Take its beaches. They run the gamut from the well-organized, packed-out variety attracting the international crowd, with its beach bars complete with throbbing disco beat, and classic tavernas on the water’s edge, to the more remote, private beaches that may not offer a lot of amenities but provide a great deal of privacy. For more on beaches, see the end of the article.
The landscape in the north of Chios is more dramatic than in the south, featuring mountains, rocky outcrops, and some areas stark and barren of vegetation, such as Mt. Aipos, a few kilometers north of the capital, Chios Town, in the middle of the east coast. In other places, such as Agiasmata in the northwest, there are thermal springs (you can read about this in the section just before “Beaches.” In others there are fresh water springs, and fertile plains. As for vegetation, the most famous plant on Chios can be found In the south. These are the mastixa or mastic (chewing gum) trees which grow in abundance here and nowhere else in the world. It The mastixa chewing gum processed from this is Chios’s best-known product.
Chios is considered the traditional birthplace of Homer, mainly due to some specific references about his home village, Volissos (near the west coast of Chios about 30km from Chios Town), written by Herodotus (circa 500 BC) about 500 years after the blind poet’s death. The island also has a rich maritime history and once contributed 100 ships to the naval battle of Salamis.
Chios used to be known as Ophioussa Viper Island), as well as Pityoussa (Pine Island). The Roman naturalist Pliny, in the 1st century, AD refers to the island by its modern name “Chios,” saying that the name may be derived from the Greek word for “snow (chioni),” or from a nymph named “Chione.”
Evidence of Neolithic (ca 6,000 BC) settlements have been found in the northwest, near Agio Galas, where cave dwellings, the ruins of an ancient settlement, and a necropolis have been discovered.
Archaeologists believe the island was likely uninhabited during the Middle Bronze Age (2300-1600 BC), but subsequent exploration and excavation may disprove this.
During the Archaic period the island was inhabited by the Leleges, one of the 6 proto-Hellenic peoples which combined to make up the Greeks. They were displaced by the Ionians from Asia Minor, who themselves were one of the 4 tribes of early Greeks (the others being the Dorians, Aeolians and Achaeans.).
As a founding member of the Ionian League (12 cities in Asia Minor, including 2 islands, Samos and Chios), Chios was one of the first cities to strike its own coins, at the end of the 7th century. They used the Sphinx as their symbol.
In 546 BC Chios was absorbed into the Persian Empire. Chios then joined other cities of Ionia in the Ionian revolt of 499. It was Athens’ help in the revolt which triggered the Persians’ invasion of Greece and the famous battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, and Salamis. The might of Chios was demonstrated in its ability to field 100 ships, the largest fleet in Greece, to the battle of Lade (494 BC), the decisive naval battle of the Ionian revolt which resulted in a Persian victory and the end of the revolt.
However, 15 years later, in 479 BC, the battle of Mycale, on the Ionian coast opposite the island of Samos, combined Athenian, Spartan, and Ionian forces brought victory for the Greeks and the deliverance of Chios from Persian rule. After that, Chios became one of the few non dues-paying members of the Athens-led Delian League, established to prevent further Persian aggression.
Chios was a powerhouse during this time. Its population was about 120,000, which is about 3 times what it is today, a figure that was calculated from the size of the necropolis in Chios Town. Chios revolted against the increasingly heavy hand of Athenian leadership, which had slowly become an empire, and remained an independent state for a few decades until the Macedonians conquered the island around the middle of the 4th century, BC.
Theopompus, a famous ancient historian from Chios, called his mid-4th century history of the region the “Philippic History,” after Macedonia’s king Philip I, the father of Alexander. Theopompus was exiled from Chios after Philip’s victory over the island, but was able to return during the reign of Alexander the Great, in 333 BC.
Chios at this time was the largest exporter of Greek wine, stamping its amphoras (clay wine casks) with its characteristic sphinx symbol. These sphinx-embossed amphorae have been found in archaeological excavations as far away as France and Southern Russia.
IN 168 BC the Romans took Chios from the Macedonians, and Chios became part of the Roman province of Asia. The New Testament Book of Acts mentions the Apostle Paul sailing past Chios his 3rd missionary journey in the late 50’s AD.
After the Roman empire divided into two sections, Chios became a member of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine Empire from 395 AD. After the sacking of Constantinople by the Roman Catholic western empire in 1204, Chios entered a period of turmoil and frequent changes of rulers due to the ongoing power struggles in the region.
Some stability was restored with the coming of the Genoans, who controlled Chios from 1304-1566, with a brief interruption when the Venetians took over. Christopher Columbus is believed to have lived on Chios for 2 years. Some people believe that Columbus was a native of Chios, which would make him Greek, and not Italian. The Genoese brought stability and order to Chios, and organized the trade in mastic. After the Genoese it was the turn of the Ottoman Turks, who ruled the island from 1566 until the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in 1821.
Chios joined with her sister island Samos in revolting against the Turks in 1821. In 1822, deciding to make Chios an example, the Turks landed and massacred entire villages, killing 25,000 and enslaving 80,000. Most escapees left Greece entirely for cities around world. The Ottoman massacre at Chios in did much to draw the attention of much of Europe to the conflict. It was memorialized in a famous painting by Eugene Delacroix and described in a poem by Victor Hugo. The Great Powers of Europe responded by sending troops and supplies, which helped Greece, and Chios, gain its independence for the first time in over 2,000 years, dating from the conquest of Philip II in 338 BC.
During the decades after regaining its independence Chios shipping took off; in 1765 its fleet was 6 ships, and by 1875 it had 104. The number shot up to 440 by1889.
In 1881 a 6.5 magnitude earthquake devastated Chios and killed up to 10,000 people. In 1912 Chios formally re-joined greater Greece.
The British occupied Chios during WWI despite Greece’s neutrality, because of Greece’s proximity to Ottoman Turkey, Britain’s enemy. After the population exchange in 1922, the Castle, or Kastro, the heart of Chios Town’s old town, was evacuated by Turks, who re-settled in Anatolia. The Castle was then re-settled by Ionian Greeks.
The Greek Civil War, which determined Greece’s place in either the free or the communist world, and was won by the West, was won in Chios when the last band of communist fighters was trapped and killed in the Kambos orchards.
The mastic trees suffered damage after a forest fire on Chios during the summer of 2012. Another major fire broke out in late July, 2016. This fire damaged or destroyed about 50% of the trees.
The Town has been inhabited for 6,000 years, with the original settlement built on the north shore of the harbor. The Greek town was build about 1,000 BC. The 1881 earthquake leveled most homes and the re-built town is heavy on neo-classical elements. Many of the surviving buildings have been and are being restored.
Today Chios Town, or Hora, as the locals call it, is the year-round home of about 32,000 people. It has a 3rd name: Kastro, the name of the original fortified city built by the Genoese and, later, the Ottomans over the older 10th century Byzantine foundations. Most of the life of the city takes place between the harbor side and the Kastro, which houses museums, civic buildings, the Municipal Gardens, and the main shopping district.
The Italian rulers from Genoa and Venice who ran things in the Aegean during the Middle Ages were essentially merchants who had to protect their trade routes from pirates and the rising power of the Ottoman Turks. For that reason they spent a great deal of time building fortifications in the capital cities of all the islands they were responsible for. They used, as in Chios, as their foundations the previous fortifications built by the Byzantines.
The Castle, or fortified town of Chios, is shaped roughly like a square, and is about an acre in size. It has a moat, and towers and bastions on several of its corners. It is packed with narrow lanes, some Turkish-style houses, and a Turkish cemetery. The Guistiani Museum, housed in a 14th century building between the Castle’s main gate and central square, has among its exhibits some fine 13th century frescoes, Byzantine murals, post-Byzantine icons, and some Byzantine and Genoese sculptures, among other items.
Next door to the museum is the dungeon where the Turks kept the civic leaders of Chios for 40 days before hanging them as part of their massacre of the island’s inhabitants in 1822.
The town has spread out well beyond the defensive walls. Just southwest of the Castle are the Municipal Gardens, shaped like an elongated oval and at a half acre one of the largest green spaces in any island capital in the Aegean. It’s anchored on its southeast, or harbor side, end by Voukianiou Square, the town’s largest, which has its complement of open-air cafes and older-styled ouzerias and cafenia peopled by older men playing tavli (backgammon), or sipping ouzo and nibbling mezedes (appetizers) as they read the latest news, watch the people, or talk quietly with friends.
At the eastern end of the square is a former mosque which is now home to the Byzantine Museum. There is also an old-fashioned open market with its stalls selling just about everything edible and drinkable that Chios can offer: fish of all kinds, meat, fruits and vegetables, olive oils, mastica and mastica-based products, and kitchen utensils, among other things.
Aegiou Street, on the waterfront, has all the best cafes and bars, and is a magnet for the younger crowd. There is even a Turkish-style bar with hookahs on offer. You’ll see young Greek soldiers in fairly large numbers as well, which makes sense considering Turkey is just a few kilometers across the strait.
About 250m off the southwest end of the harbor is the Archeological Museum, on Mouseio (Museum) Street, which runs SW, inland, from Aegiou St. It’s a large museum, with all periods of the island well-represented. It includes an intact mausoleum. It’s considered one of the better island archeological museums.
Greater Chios Town
Chios Town is slowly growing, north towards the neighboring village of Vorontas (5km), and south towards the airport (3km), and on further south to Karfas, another couple kilometers south of the airport. Karfas is a beach village, and the most active resort area on the island. Having said that, it’s pretty laid-back compared to some of the really hopping resort areas in the Aegean, such as Mykonos. Heading north from Karfas back to Chios Town, you’ll find one beach after another. There’s even a beach in Chios Town. It’s not ideal, but it’s quite swimmable and will do in a pinch.
Going north from Chios Town, Vrontados is the traditional home of many of Chios’s nautical families. The spread of Chios Town has now made Vrontados a suburban village a couple kilometers north of the capital. Vrontados has old mansions, and narrow streets worth exploring. It has a beach mostly used by the locals. Its best feature is the picturesque row of 4 windmills built on a small, man-made peninsula jutting into the sea to catch the meltemia winds which blow most of the summer. Lit up at night, the cylindrical structures accentuate the seafront with their golden glow.
The Vrontados Rocket War dates back to the Ottoman Occupation. Every Easter eve, a Saturday, a mock battle takes place using rockets and fireworks. The combatants are young people from two parishes in the town. They started off firing small canons at each other. As time went by they started improvising rockets and fireworks. This very elaborate battle takes an entire year to prepare for: immediately after one years’ battle, preparations start for the next year’s battle. The night time sky over the village comes alive every Easter eve with thousands of brilliant, controlled, explosions.
Mastixoria and Chios Natural Mastixa (or Mastic)
Mastixoria (Mastixa Villages) is a region in the south of Chios. About 5,000 people live in its 20 villages, the largest of which is its capital, Pyrgi (pop. 1,000). We’ll deal more in detail about this fascinating village and its highly unusual decorations on its buildings a bit further down.
This chewing gum resin, the island’s trademark, has a long history within the island, regionally, and internationally. How and when it was discovered is unknown, but the resin of the Pistacia lentiscis, or mastic tree, has been recognized for its numerous health benefits.
Mastic has proved so popular that in 1822, under the Ottomans, when the massacre of the island was ordered by the Sultan, the Mastixoria were spared so they could continue to produce mastic for the Sultan and his harem. One can picture the bored women of the harem, who spent their whole lives locked up in the palace awaiting the pleasure of the sultan, sitting around, chewing and popping their mastic like cheap floozies from a 1930’s Hollywood feature.
The tree grows throughout the Mediterranean, but the special variety found on Chios is found nowhere else. It is the only one that produces this chewable resin. Further, this type of tree grows only in the south of the island.
Harvesting mastic is a complex and labor-intensive process. Cuts are made in the trunk of the trees in strategic places. The resin then begins to flow. Two weeks later it is harvested. After the mastica is gathered, the ground around the tree is raked, leveled, and sifted in order to collect any resin pieces that have fallen to the ground. Harvest time commences in mid-August and runs to mid-September.
Most of the gathered harvest is processed into the chewing gum that is eventually shipped, in little rectangular yellow and green chiclet packages and can be bought internationally, and always at the thousands of street kiosks in Greece.
A kilo of raw, unprocessed mastic is worth about 70€. The harvest is tightly controlled by a local consortium. They know how many trees each farm has, and how much mastic they are expected to produce, so the kind of theft of agricultural products one sees on the mainland, mainly involving Romani people, who sell their plunder out of trucks on the street, is almost impossible. This type of tree will only grow in a certain type of soil composition that can only be found on Chios, and mostly in the south of the island. The mastic crop is so tightly regulated that private ownership of a mastic tree on one’s property for personal use is not permitted.
In addition to chewing gum, the processed mastic can be made into flavors, aromas, pastries, a soft drink sold all over Greece called “Mast,” liqueur, and even pharmaceutical and cosmetics products. Because using it is medically proven to help indigestion and inflammation of the skin, mastica has been recognized as a health aid by official European agencies. If that weren’t enough, mastica can be processed for use in the manufacture of musical instruments, painting products, and cotton products.
The Kampos of Chios
The Kampos is a group of small agricultural villages about 6km south of Chios town. In the 14th century, while Chios was under control of the Italians, the Genoese and local aristocracy began building a collection of walled mansions and villas there.
Many of them have gardens of citrus trees. It’s the most fertile region of the island. The mansions are protected by order of the Greek Ministry of Culture as both a historical site and a traditional settlement. Many of the gardens are bordered by high walls of red stone from Thimiana, a village about 6km south of Kampos.
Tulips grow in abundance here, and some believe this is where the Dutch got the tulips they imported to Holland.
The Italian-influenced architecture of these mansions includes arched doors and windows, large iron estate gates, marble-paved patios, and painted ceilings. Landscaping features lush gardens, grape arbors, pines and palms,. There were once about 200 estates here. Some have been neglected, but others have been restored and are being rented out as high class bed and breakfasts.
Of the villages of the Kampos, Vavilli features a Byzantine museum and a Catholic church, Kallimasia has a folklore museum which demonstrates old cobbling, blacksmithing, tailoring, ouzo distilling and olive oil pressing techniques. The eventual goal is to re-create an entire early 20th century village. There is also a Popular Art Cooperative which sells traditional Chios costumes, dolls, sheets and embroidery.
Chios’s Ecclesiastical tradition
During the Byzantine era a lot of impressive buildings went up: Castles at Chios Town (Hora) and Volissos, early Christian basilicas such as the 5th century St. Isadore’s in Chios Town, and several monasteries and churches.
Examples of interesting monasteries include the 11th century Nea Moni, commissioned by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Monomaxos (“the one who fights alone”) Its fresco art closely mimics that of Constantinople in its religious buildings. It has been declared a UNESO World Heritage Monument. Its thousand year-old mosaics are some of the best preserved in Greece, and the most important of their period.
There’s the Moni Moundon monastery, a Byzantine-ea complex dedicated to John the Baptist, in the village of Diefha.
As far as churches go, there’s the St. Victors’ Metropolitan Church of Chios, in the capital, dedicated to the three martyrs Minas, Victor and Vincent. It has a Russian-style ark (chest) on the Holy Table, and the relics of Chios’ patron saint, St. Isodoros, who died in 251, which were returned from Venice from Venice in 1967.
The church was destroyed a number of times during the 19th century and was rebuilt, the last time in the 1880’s, in a neo-Byzantine style.
It has a beautifully-designed pebble-paved yard with images from the early centuries of Church history, and a number of complicated geometric designs worked into the paving. There are similar pebbled courtyards n many of the mansions on the island.
There’s the Church of the Old Taxiarchs, in the medieval fortified settlement of Mesta, with its vaulted one-aisled basilica, later remodelled to 2 aisles in 1794. This church is noted for its beautiful frescos and its carved wooden iconostasis with detailed scenes from testaments painstakingly hand-carved into the wood. They date back to 1833.
The church of Agioi Apostoli, the Holy Apostles, in the village of Pyrgi, with its octagonal dome, and the main church of Nea Moni, features the complex brick work often found in Byzantine churches: denticulated bands (bricks in a horizontal row with their corners sticking out forming triangular teeth), phialostomia (hollow terracotta tubes or mouths with crimped sides embedded in the masonry of Byzantine buildings for decorative purposes and to ventilate the walls), arch and dome work.
Panagia Krina church, in the village of Valvili, was built at the end of the 12th century by Efstathios Kodratos and his wife Eirini Doukaina Pepagomeni, who were members of the court in Constantinople. The walls are covered with frescos dating back to 6 different artistic periods on 2 layers of plaster, providing a clinic on the historical progress of Chian art. Over the entrance of the church is the oldest work, dating from the 13th century. As you go along the narthex you begin to see the work of the 2nd layer, which was painted during the Turkish Occupation, roughly corresponding to our Middle Ages.
Medieval Villages and Castles- Mesta, Pyrgi, and Olympoi
Chios’s position as a large island halfway down the eastern coast of Turkey was strategic, which led to the original Byzantine building of extensive fortifications and it’s appointment as the Byzantine seat of the Naval Administration of the Aegean Region.
Chios boasts the best-preserved Medieval defensive works in the Mediterranean. Surviving structures include castles, defensive walls, watchtowers, and fortified settlements. Architecturally, most of the work is Genovese and Venetian, built upon Byzantine foundations.
Houses in the Medieval villages face each other across lanes so narrow that none of them have balconies. Produce often hangs from hooks outside windows on exterior walls. During the summer months the residents of the villages, most of whom are older, simply sleep with their windows and doors wide open for the night breezes. Nobody takes anything. The following medieval villages are all within a few kilometres from each other and are part of the Mastixoria in the south-center of Chios.
Mesta (pop. 350)
Mesta is one of the 20 villages of the Mastixoria in south Chios. It’s on UNESCO’s list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity Sites” Mesta is a fortified, well-preserved, village 35KM southwest of Chios, 120m high, and 4KM from the sea. It was likely built in the 12th century, AD, with its port at Limeas, Chios’s southwestern harbor.
The village’s outer walls describe a west-pointing pentagon which encloses a warren of narrow streets, at the center of which is the church of the Megas Taxiarchs (Archangels), a massive rectangular structure 30m by 20m which completely dominates the centre of the village and whose outer courtyard provides the only open space within the village. It is a beautifully colorful church on the inside, magnificently appointed with wall paintings, frescoes, mosaics, many featuring Old Testament scenes, carved wood, gold-painted furniture, and a fantastically complex hand-carved iconostasis in front of the alter.
The church is dedicated to the only two archangels named in the Bible, Michael and Gabriel. It’s called “Megalos”- Big- in order to distinguish it from the smaller, older church of the same name. It’s built on the site of the village’s old castle. After the Genovese left, the castle was abandoned under the succeeding Ottoman rulers. After the Turks left the citizens decided to tear down the castle and put up a church- an appropriate symbol of exchanging warfare for peace.
It took 10 years to build, and the nearly thousand square-meter (or a quarter acre) building (included its colonnaded exterior) was finished in 1868. It’s one of the biggest churches in Greece. There is a bell tower with double staircase build of red stone from Thimiana. At the feet of the double staircase are courtyards paved with raised black and white stones half the size of an egg and arranged in cement in various geometric patterns. In the narthex, or interior of the church, are the remaining courses of stone of the original watch tower which has been turned into a water basin called “fountana” by the locals.
Pyrgi, the Painted Village
Its name means “Tower.” This Chief settlement of the Mastixoria, Pyrgi (pop 1000) is also the largest Medieval village on Chios. It’s in the middle of the village group, about 25km southwest of Chios Town. Its nicknamed the Painted Village for good reason:
The buildings are decorated in a fantastic array of brown geometric shapes with a white background. Predominate shapes include linked triangles, diamonds, circles, half circles, symmetrical vases with symmetrical vine-like plants shooting out of their tops, striped, flag-like shapes, and circular, kaleidoscope-like figures. The building were decorated this way during the Frankish Occupation (13th-16th centuries).
The village dates from before the 10th century, and escaped major damage from the 1881 earthquake, which preserves its medieval architectural style. Pyrgi is named for its central tower.
Pyrgi is home to a Mastic Museum, just opened in June, 2016. The museum chronicles the use and production of the resin, which was declared in 2015 as a natural medicine. Health benefits are explained, as well as the history of the tree’s cultivation on Chios and how it has affected the island’s economy.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Nea Moni (New Monastery) was built in the 11th century by Byzantine emperorConstantine IX Monomachus. It’s on Mt. Provato (Sheep Mountain), about 15 km from Chios Town in almost the exact center of the island, where 3 monks say that they miraculously found an icon of the Virgin Mary hanging from a myrtle branch. It’s the greatest monastery on Chios. One of its claims to fame are its exceptionally well-rendered mosaics, which are good examples of “Macedonian Renaissance” devotional art.
Emperor Constantine had been exiled to nearby Lesbos, and the monks came to see him, giving him a prophecy that he would one day become the Byzantine emperor. Constantine agreed to build a church on the site where the icon was found if he became emperor, and when he did, in 1042 AD, he gave the order for the building to be raised and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Olympoi sits on a treeless plain far from the sea, 31 km south of Chios Town, 6 km from Pyrgi. Its present form dating from abut the 13th century, it is another Genoese-built medieval fortified town, this time with a ring of houses with connecting walls which form the town wall.
There is a main gate into the village, known as Kato Porta. The streets are narrow and stone-paved, and the buildings are made of the massive blocks of stone which characterize Medieval construction methods. They’ve been shaped into buildings, tunneled archways and a 20-meter tower that stands in the center of the village which has been remodeled into a restaurant Structures of interest include the church of Agia Paraskevi, which has a number of beautiful icons, and the medieval-era Trapeza (Bank) of Olympoi.
On Shrove Monday during the pre-lenten carnival in late winter, the “Agas” is celebrated in this and many other villages in the region, in which one person is chosen to play the role of the “Agas,” a strict judge from the late Ottoman era. The tradition goes back to 1830 or so.
There is an interesting cave near Olympoi, at Sykia, a few kilometers southwest. There is evidence of it being in use for 200,000 years, and it’s stalactite and stalagmite formations are particularly beautiful, many of them forming frozen, curtain-like sheets. The nearest beach, Kato Phana, is 6km away. It features the ruins of the temple of Phanaios Apollo.
Rimokastro is on the now mostly barren plateau of Mt. Aipos, above the north suburb of Chios Town, Vrontados. A viewing platform as been built at Rimokastro which overlooks farming and stock raising facilities dating from as long ago as the 5th century, BC. They can also be seen from Astyfidolakko. Both places have information boards. The two viewing areas are connected by a 4.5km hiking path. Remarkably, some of the ancient retaining walls and stone fences are still in use.
About 7km north of Chios Town, and just north of the harbor at Vrontados, Daskalopetra (Teacher’s Rock, or Homer’s Stone), is traditionally the place where Homer taught. The rock itself resembles a square podium, a peg of worked stone maybe a meter high with a stone bench projecting from its base, set in the middle of a much larger, flattened stone area surrounded by pine trees. Nearby is a stele with an inscription from Herodotus, who came along 500 years after Homer, claiming that he taught there. There is also a beach there.
Kato Fana, on the southwest coast, was the site of a 6th century, BC temple to Apollo, along with an extensive palm forest, says historian, philosopher, and geographer Strabo (63 BC- 24 AD). Kato Fana has a pretty nice beach, as well. The temple is on a low hill overlooking the bay of Fana, and was a place of worship dating back to at least the 9th century, BC. The site became a center of Byzantine Christian worship, and chapel of St. Theodore has been built their. The story is that Delos (the sacred island around which all of the other Cyclades revolve), was revealed to Leto, Apollo’s mother, as the place where she would give birth to her son. The temple was well-known throughout Ionia, and famous as far away as Egypt, judging by the number of Egyptian scarabs (jewelry shaped like winged beetles) found there.
Emborios, on the southeast coast of Chios, was built on what is now called Profitis Elias hill, above a harbor sheltered by rocky uprises on either side. It was a major population center of upwards of a thousand inhabitants. Excavations have brought to light a walled acropolis, a temple of Athena, and a megaron (large hall). Artifacts found at the site, and now on display at the Archeological Museum in Chios Town, include vases, figurines, jewelry, and sculpture fragments.
Agiasmata Thermal Springs Spa
The natural springs here in the far northwest corner of Chios, 57km from Chios town, have been in use since at least the 16th century, with the baths built in the early 20th century still being used. The waters have a constant temperature of 57.5 degrees C (135 F). They are reputed to help all kinds of ailments, such as rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica, lumbago, skin disorders, disorders of the nervous system, and gynecological diseases. They help in the recovery from injuries, such as sprains, fractures, tendonitis and more. For younger people the waters are supposed to help fight acne, and may also contribute to cure or relieve eczema and psoriasis, and dry skin.
Visitors can drink herbal teas and juices as they do their therapy. In addition, they can do “thalassotherapy-” sea therapy: the summer meltemia winds causes the sea to crash against the rocks of the shore with great force, creating a mist which is then inhaled.
About 100m from the hot springs is another, cold water mineral spring which can be drunk by visitors. Agiasmata is on a network of 50km of hiking trails which visitors can use while they stay at the spa.
Some beaches have been mentioned already in passing. There are some 60 named beaches on Chios. Here is a sample of some of the more prominent ones, most of which can be reached easily by island busses. We’ll start with beaches on the island’s east coast, and work our way around the island, clockwise.
Karfas is the most popular beach on the island, just a few kilometers south of Chios Town, in the center of the resort area of the island. It is a sandy beach, fully organized, with a large variety of restaurants, beach bars, and hotels within walking distance to choose from. It has shallow, warm, clean waters, making it family-friendly. Karfas was also the site of an ancient quarry.
Megas Limnionas is a couple kilometers down the east coast of Chios from Karfas. Its sand is not quite as fine as at Karfas. It’s a favorite of the locals. It also has several restaurants, bars, cafes, and accommodations. Both Karfas and Megas Limionas are linked to Chios Town by frequent bus service.
Daskoloptra, the Teacher’s Stone where Homer supposedly instructed his students also has a beach. The beach, like the stone, is, well, stony- or pebbly, at least. But the water is a gorgeous, almost neon-blue. There are umbrellas and sun beds for rent there. If you prefer sand, go a few hundred yards further north to Lo Beach, which also has water sports.
Southeast Coast- Agia Fotia is about ¾ of the way down the eastern shore, about 12km south of Chios Town, and 6km south of Karfas. Agia Fotia has white pebbles, and plenty of amenities to serve its clientele, including restaurants, taverns, hotels and bars. Komi, some 25km south of Chios Town, and approaching the southern end of the island, is large, and sandy. Accommodations and places to eat can also be found there. Mavra Volia (black pebbles) also called Emborios, another couple kilometers south of Komi, is only about 5km from the southern tip of the island. It is a beach uniquely comprised of round black volcanic pebbles. This small beach, bracketed between rocky outcrops, and fringed with tamarisk trees for natural shade, is never very crowded. Be advised that the water deepens rapidly, and can be a bit chilly. The only refreshments you’ll find on this unorganized beach are at a nearby cantina. Emborios is also the site of an important ancient settlement (see Archeological Sites).
Southwest Coast- The beach at Kato Fana is next to the site of the ancient temple to Apollo, so you can get some history along with your beach experience. The beach is pretty isolated, at the end of an unpaved road, and with no amenities whatsoever, so what you bring is what you consume. Best way to get there is either by taxi, with a pre-arranged pickup time, or by rented motorbike.
West Coast- There are plenty of beaches, but access can be a little difficult without rented transportation. One that is accessible by bus is the 600m-long beach at Limenas Lithiou, a nice little resort area on a crescent-shaped bay at about the mid-point on the west coast, nearly due west of Chios Town about 18km. There’s a fairly large marine there where fishing boats share dock space with pleasure craft. Just a few kilometers north is the Mastixoria beach of Trachili, a remote, beautiful, mixed pebble and sand place that has no amenities.
North Coast- Giossonas Beach, toward the eastern end of the north coast, is oriented to the northeast. It’s mixed sand and pebbles, and there are a few places to rent near this non-organized beach. Nagos, a kilometer further along to the east, is a pretty, crescent-shaped beach a couple hundred meters long. Its small rental cottages right on the water gives it an old-fashioned feel. Nerby is Pigi Nagos, an artesian spring which tumbles over rocks as it comes out of the ground and rushes down towards the sea, waters the area, making it greener than many other places in Chios. Nagos was also the site of an ancient settlement.