Chios, the fifth largest Greek island, is relatively near the islands of Mytilini, Samos and Ikaria, and a hop from the islands of Psara, Oinousses and the Turkish coast. It combines the trademark sunny buoyancy of the Greek isles with a terrain that is partly reminiscent of the parched landscape of the Greek mainland, with some stretches of flatter and greener terrain in the south and the east. Chios, an island that boast a venerable maritime tradition reflected in local traditions and artifacts, is an island of dazzling variety and year-round attractions for relaxed, action-packed or alternative holidays, given some familiarity with its topography. The island is chock full of history and the ebb and flow of conquests through the centuries, a reputation for being the cradle of mighty shipping families, but also artists and scientists, and of course the home of the world-famous masticha (or mastic), right up there in the list of traditional Greek products.
Chios, which (legend has it) is the birthplace of Homer but also Christopher Columbus among many other prominent historical or contemporary figures in a dozen different fields, has become a veritable paradise for hikers, cyclists of all abilities and preferences, and nature lovers who will particularly appreciate the island’s orchids and its diverse fauna, among other earthly delights. Yet the island also has a pulsating nightlife and a vibrant restaurant and coffee shop scene, more so at the Chora, a stronghold in that department. The Chora is also home to the castle of Chios, which hails back to a 14th century fortress and contains the Giustiniani Palace and the Ottoman graveyard. Other popular hotspots around the island, some of which come with a beautiful natural setting, include the resort towns of Karfas, Komi, Agia Fotini and the towns of Lagada, Kardamyla, Volissos. The area of Kambos is definitely well worth a visit for its citrus groves, stunning architecture and overall atmosphere that sets it apart from the other Aegean islands.
The medieval masticha villages, unique in the Mediterranean and sought after through the ages by the Venetians and the Genoese, are frozen in time and are one of the island’s unique attractions. Many survived a devastating earthquake in 1881 that left the main town and most of the villages on Chios in ruins. These include Vessa, Armolia, Olymbi, Mesta, one of the oldest, and Kalamoti. In some of these towns the houses fuse into each other and become a maze of narrow streets, stonewalls, doorways and passages beneath arches, occasionally opening up into spacious squares. The medieval village of Pyrgi is well-known for its mesmerizing facade decorations, the "xysta", and Anavatos has been described as the "Mystras of the Aegean", a reference to the famed medieval town overlooking Sparta.
Unsurprisingly, Chios has countless swimming spots in the form of beaches, coves, bays or rocky outcrops. The beaches of Glari, Karfas, Agia Fotia, Vrontados are among the more popular ones and some feature water sports and beach bars. The spacious and pristine beaches of Giossonas, Managros, Metochi, Kato Fana, Nagos, the volcanic beach of Emborios and Lithi are good choices for a family expedition or a swim on the quieter side. The western coast has many big and small beaches, but public or private transportation is a must for getting around.