Chios Island in Greece is a remote yet stunning destination, known for its beautiful beaches and impressive medieval villages!
Famous for its medieval villages, diverse landscapes, pristine beaches, and the miraculous mastic product, Chios Island in the Northern Aegean chain is a treasure trove of “travel” gems waiting to be discovered.
The island boasts vast blue seas, fortresses, castles, hilly terrains, and black volcanic beaches, making Chios one of the most beautiful and memorable places you’ll visit. The magic of the island can be felt everywhere, as it lies far to the east, where you can glimpse the coastline of Turkey just above the water, dancing under a gentle mist…
It is also the home of rare Mastic bushes, tiny trees that produce a resin used in the original chewing gum and is still utilized in food, cosmetics, and other items today. When driving around Chios in the summer, you’ll smell the scents of Mastic trees, thyme, and oregano growing wild by the roadside, hence the name “fragrant island.”
Main destinations on Chios Island, Greece:
1. Chios Town:
As the capital and main port of Chios, it is situated on the eastern coast of the island. Chios Town serves as the administrative, spiritual, cultural, business, and educational center of the island. The town has faced considerable damage due to a devastating earthquake in 1881, which caused the loss of some of its beautiful architecture. However, modern Chios Town still preserves some interesting historic buildings witnessing its ancient history through the centuries.
Classical buildings and mosques with Arabic influence still adorn this part of the town. Modern coffee shops, shops, residences, and administrative buildings harmoniously blend with the old architecture, creating a vibrant and appealing ambiance. Important sights to visit in Chios Town include the public garden, the ancient theater, the statue of Kanaris, the bronze statue of the Unknown Soldiers, the remnants of the ancient Chios city walls, and the medieval district within the walls of the Genovese castle. There are many shops, entertainment venues, accommodations, and tourist facilities available in Chios Town.
2. Pyrgi Village:
With over 60 villages on Chios Island, you only need to visit a few to discover the unique story of this North Aegean island. This is particularly true when it comes to the medieval villages of Chios, mostly found in the southern part of the island.
Pyrgi is a picturesque and aesthetically pleasing village with a lively square. It is the largest and most populous village among those in southern Chios and is about 30 minutes by car from the island’s center. Here, you can enjoy a beautiful coffee in the square and admire the charming houses adorned with lovely and eye-catching patterns crafted by friendly artisans.
Pyrgi is renowned for its black and white patterns on houses, a decorative style inspired by Byzantine traditions, known as “Xistà.”
3. Chios Mastic Museum:
Explore the renowned mastic product of Chios Island within its medieval settlement complex, called Mastichochoria (meaning mastic villages), dating back to the 14th century. Even today, mastic harvesting and all related processes are done by hand. Moreover, mastic is used for medicinal purposes as well as in cosmetics.
You will come across the Chios Mastic Museum, where the history and tradition of mastic unfold before your eyes. The environmentally friendly 3,270m2 building, which houses the museum, is built on a 12,000m2 plot, 5,000m2 of which is covered by mastic trees. The museum aims to explore the history of cultivation and harvesting, which is a part of Chios’ cultural tradition, not to mention that it was inscribed by UNESCO on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (2014) as a hidden gem of the island, nurturing mastic gum.
4. Mesta Village:
The furthest medieval villages to the south are among the best-preserved ones. Mesta is another village with architecture reflecting both wealth and the need for mastiha production, having only two entrances and exits. You should visit the Old Taxiarhi Church, with its arched basilica and intricate wooden carvings. This Greek destination also has plenty of taverns and coffee shops, where you can try souma (a spirit similar to ouzo made from distilled figs) or the village’s wine, or you can have loukoumades – honey-dipped fried dough balls.
Chios Island is an extraordinary destination in Greece, offering a blend of historical charm, natural beauty, and unique experiences that will leave lasting memories for any traveler.
Mesta, a small village, is located about 35 km southwest of Chios Town, in the area known as Mastihochoria. It is one of the best-preserved examples of defensive architecture. Narrow cobbled alleys wind around the houses, leading to a charming central square. The traditional architecture of Mesta is protected, and any intervention that deviates from the original style is prohibited. The villagers also maintain their traditional customs and traditions.
Mavra Volia Black Beach: A natural beach with a stunning turquoise sea covered with black stones due to volcanic formations next to Mesta village. It is surrounded by rocky hills with low vegetation and greenery. This area stands out for its natural landscape and serene surroundings. If you come from the village, you can reach the natural beach after walking a few hundred meters to the right of the pier. As the beach is protected, there are no facilities, so you can bring your umbrella. The beach is rocky, so it’s advisable to wear shoes or flip-flops.
Chios Oinousses Island: Oinousses is a group of nine small islands to the east of Chios Island, located between Chios and the coast of Turkey. The main island and the port are Oinoussa, where the main settlement is found. The population on Oinousses does not exceed 1,000 permanent residents, most of whom are engaged in shepherding, fishing, and seafaring.
Anavatos Village, Chios: Anavatos is an abandoned village located 19 km west of Chios Town. It was built on a hilltop at an altitude of 450 meters above sea level, with steep rocky slopes, blending harmoniously with the natural environment. It is believed that this medieval settlement was established for military purposes, especially to monitor the western coast of Chios. The village was deserted after a devastating earthquake in 1881, and today it is a national monument for the island.
The ancient village still preserves its medieval framework with fortifications, the Taxiarhis Church, old schools, and the Virgin Mary Church. In the lower part of Anavatos, there are still some inhabitants welcoming tourists. The village is connected to the center of Chios by a beautiful route that takes about 45 minutes by car. Additionally, there is a wonderful path ideal for hiking through the forest, starting from Provatas and leading to Anavatos.
Cuisine on Chios Island, Greece:
Chios is a hospitable island all year round and brings forth a world of images, colors, flavors, and scents!
The mild Mediterranean climate combined with the island’s fertile land yields high-quality products used to create a range of unique local dishes. The island offers delicious dishes, homemade wines, ouzo, spoon sweets, and renowned mastic products. Let’s travel to this magical island and taste the distinctive dishes of Chios, which will surely leave a lasting impression on your taste buds.
Mastic – The Queen of Chios: A unique treasure grown only in this part of the world, the mastic tree gives its precious tears! You can enjoy it in various forms: as a component in sweet ypovrychio, liquors, ouzo, biscuits, and even chewing gum!
Mastic is a natural resin, fragrant, and shaped like droplets of water falling on the ground from scratches on the trunk and main branches made by the cultivators. Initially, it is a transparent and sticky liquid, and after several days, it solidifies into an asymmetric crystal form, influenced by the intense summer heat and prolonged sunlight. After hardening, it takes the form of crystals and is then harvested and cleaned by the cultivators.
The Golden Apples of Hesperides: Chios is famous for its pleasant, quality, and distinctive flavors of citrus fruits, including delicious sweet oranges and unique Chios lemons. The island’s lemons are among the finest varieties in the world and have been registered as a PDO product for their soft fragrance and sweet taste. Try fresh fruit juice, enticing fruit salads, or delicious spoon sweets made from Chios citrus fruits! And don’t forget to taste the fragrant and sweet lemon flower syrup.
Notable and high-quality drinks on Chios Island, Greece, include “Ariousios Oinos,” a famous dark red wine dating back to ancient times, considered the nectar of the gods. Strong spirits are also produced abundantly on Chios and are a perfect choice for wine enthusiasts. Some of these spirits include souma, a liquor made from figs, ouzo with flavors of anise, fennel, thyme, lemon, or mastic.
Try the excellent quality white cheese from Chios with its soft texture, milky flavor, and slight saltiness due to a short brining time. Enjoy it grilled or fresh in salads or traditional pasta dishes.
Chios cuisine also includes various types of pasta that pair well with meat or seafood. Don’t forget to try the short spiral fytilaki, tagliatelle with mastic flavor, and traditional spartos pasta topped with a simmered tomato sauce. Rolled pasta with Chios mushrooms makes a wonderful dish to accompany white meat or seafood.
If you happen to visit Chios Island during the early autumn rains, you may come across amanites, a type of mushroom that grows in the northern part of the island. You can buy mushrooms by participating in mushroom hunting or at local grocery stores around the island.