This September I had the great pleasure of meeting Mr Sunvil himself, Noel Josephides and his lovely wife Sue. As we chatted, I asked which Greek islands were the most popular in 2022, and which weren’t.
Reader, you could have knocked me down with a cheese pie when Noel said almost no one went to Chios--one of my favourite islands!
Admittedly, it’s not the easiest to reach—you need a connecting flight from the UK or a seven plus hour ferry from Piraeus. Nor does it try very hard to seduce visitors to its shores, even though the Chians are famous for being business-minded, cultured and cosmopolitan, often reserved (for Greeks). Or crazy--just google ‘Vrontados rocket war.’
If watching the parishioners of two rival churches launch hundreds of homemade rockets at each other on Easter Sunday isn’t fun enough, here are ten other good reasons to visit Chios:
1. You get three islands in one. Chios is the fifth largest in Greece, so there’s plenty to explore in the mountainous north, the fertile Kambos in the middle and the arid lands of the south.
2. Chios smells good. Its nickname is myrovólos, ‘fragrant’ for its many wild herbs, citrus blossoms, roses, and…
3. Masticha, sweet mastic, the diamond like ‘tears’ from the skinos bush, which stubbornly refuses to produce mastic anywhere else in the world. Among other things, it’s made into a trendy liqueur called Skinos (delicious in a Greek mojito!)
4. The Mastic villages. In 1822, when the sultan ordered the massacre of Chians (subject of Delacroix the famous painting in the Louvre), he spared the 24 Mastichochoria. Many especially Pyrgi, have facades covered in stunning geometric black and white designs, while Olympi is a perfect example of a medieval fortified village.
5. Kambos is just as unique; hire a bike to explore its medieval manor houses, walled gardens, and tangerine groves, built by the Genoese and Chian merchant dynasties (one was the Benakis family, who founded the museum in Athens).
6. UNESCO World Heritage site Nea Moni boast rare if damaged 11th-century mosaics—the most beautiful on any Greek island. Nearby, stroll through wild orchids at Avgonyma and visit the haunting ghost town of Anavatos.
7. Summers of Chiosare chock full of events: film, concerts, art exhibits, and traditional village panigíri with dancing all night long.
8. Although the capital, Chios Town looks like a mini Piraeus (it had to be rebuilt after an earthquake in 1881), it’s buzzing year round. Don’t miss its quartet of windmills lined on a jetty and excellent archaeology museum; there’s even a bowling alley for rainy days.
9. Northern Chios has some dramatic mountain scenery: aim for Volissos, with its castle first built by Belisarius and a valley of water mills.
10. Black pebble Mavra Votsala beach, the island’s most beautiful, is near the archaeological site of Emborios, a rare 8th century BC Ionian town, from the time of Homer, who was born on Chios—or so they say!