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Chios has made quite a name for itself with its mastic villages and proud sea captains. And yet, it’s one of the most unexplored islands of the North Aegean, full of secrets, surprises and hidden gems. Blessed by nature and history, it is fragrant, authentic and irresistible. All the ingredients for an unforgettable holiday in the Aegean. So be prepared to leave behind a little bit of your soul. It’s that kind of island.
Discover a network of narrow roads that barely fit a car, tall walls made by skilled stonemasons and ornate doors with beautiful arches. Chios’ most aristocratic families once lived here, in the island’s most fertile valley, and it is where the Genovese built their mansions in the 14th century.
There are about 20 medieval mastic villages in southern Chios and the experience of strolling within, and even between them, is magical. Particularly noteworthy are Pyrgi and Mesta, followed by Vessa, Armolia, Nenita and Patrika.
You will be surrounded by the famed mastic fields, full of the low bush with outstretched branches and a bent trunk that is related to the pistachio tree and is the symbol of Chios. The harvesting of its resin, which consists of making incisions in the tree (what the locals call Kentima or embroidery) results in mastic ‘tears’ dripping from the trunk and gathered in August.
The gentle, fragrant and pricey product is exclusive to Chios and has been cultivated here since the 1st century AD. It is also believed to have therapeutic properties. Tradition says that the mastic trees began crying when Agios Isidoros was tortured on Chios by the Romans.
An unforgettable sight, the once fortified village of Anavatos lies in ruin, but it still clinging defiantly to the side of the cliff, offering a reminder of Chios’ medieval past.
A suburb of the island’s main town, Vrontados is famous for its rocket wars (roketopolemos) which happen every Easter, when thousands of rockets are fired from opposing camps, creating an incredible spectacle across the night sky.
The landscape surrounding Chios’ highest peak, Pelinaio, is full of picturesque villages and dirt roads leading you to some of the island’s most secluded beaches. If you’re looking for a suggested route, try Kardamila-Nagos-Amades-Viki-Kambia-Kipouries-Diefha.
The most important monastery on Chios, and one of the most notable in Greece, the Nea Moni monastery was established in 1024 by the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachos. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the mosaics by the altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary are amongst the most beautiful in the world.
Other than its famed masticha, Chios offers a large choice of local produce and authentic tastes. The culinary wealth of this island includes butter and cheeses (such as mastelo), citrus fruit (mandarins), ouzo and aromatic liqueurs, wines of excellent quality, local sweets, pasteli (a sesame and honey bar) and of course abundant fresh fish and seafood.