For many centuries, the island of Chios has played a primary military role due to its strategic position in the heart of the Aegean Sea. This crescent-shaped island is one of those places people dream of during cold winter days, when the desire for sun and sea are high and the mind is magically transported to areas blessed by a mild Mediterranean climate. A vast array of events and activities await travelers in this historic destination, where traditions and customs blend perfectly with the natural beauty of the coast and rugged inland.
According to an ancient legend, Homer, the great father of epic literature and author of the Iliad and Odyssey, used to teach his epics on the island by the seaside area of Daskalopetra, purposely known as “Homer’s Stone.” Chios is also believed to possibly be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. Because Chios was once part of the Republic of Genoa, this could not be a far possibility.
These are few things to see and do on the island:
Chios is a paradise for windsurfing enthusiasts who may particularly appreciate the presence of the “meltemi,” a north-northeast wind blowing steadily during the summer months. Choices of sandy or stony beaches surrounded by the deep blue Aegean waters abound. The beach of Mavra Volia, in particular, is worth mentioning due to its characteristic black pebbles of volcanic origin providing quite an unusual scenery.
Amazing Floral Displays
Visitors cannot ignore the variety of tulips blooming around the island during spring. It is believed that Dutch sailors admired such flowers and fell in love with them so much that they took some to their country. This explains how and why Holland became so popular for its tulips. The island is also home to more than 80 species of orchids.
Tour of Mastic Villages
Chios is the only place where a special type of resin, known as mastic, is produced. This resin is collected by making small incisions to the trunk of the mastic tree, causing the resin to flow. The resin solidifies quickly making it an ideal product for producing chewing gum, alcoholic drinks, sweets, spices, perfumes, chemicals, and medicines. A unique specialty of the island is the “vanilla submarine” – a spoon sweet made of mastic resin dropped into a tall glass of cold water. Visitors can join an interactive tour and take part in the mastic production by participating in “Masticulture” events taking place year-round.
Medieval Trips in the Past
Chios retains an enchanting medieval atmosphere, mostly witnessed in some of its small towns and monuments. Pyrgi Village, the Chios Medieval Castle, the Monostery of Nea Moni, and the picturesque village of Olympi, which also boasts a cave rich in stalactites and stalagmites, are a few places conserving a distinct medieval flair.
Rocket War: A Striking and Spectacular Display
One of the most intriguing events on the island is the folkloristic ”Rocket War,” which takes place in Vrondados on the night of the Resurrection. Each year, about 60,000 rockets are fired from one church to another by competing teams. The parishes involved belong to Saint Mark and Virgin Mary Erethianis. The target of the rockets is to hit Saint Mark’s bells and Virgin Mary Erethianis’ clock. The spectacular yet quite dangerous event is held from approximately 8 p.m. Saturday night till Easter Sunday around 12:30 a.m.
There is belief that this peculiar tradition began during the Turkish occupation. Several Christians from the two churches, frustrated from not being able to celebrate Easter as they wished, decided to simulate a fake war by launching rockets towards each other. Frightened by such display, the Turks were kept away, allowing the locals to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection inside the church as they wished.
Where to Eat in Chios
Restaurants in Chios serve a vast array of typical Greek dishes including Greek salad, moussaka, mezedes, souvlaki, and saganaki.. Pita aficionados will enjoy the strong presence of several pita diners scattered on almost every street corner. Many restaurants on the island also boast fish just as in the other Aegean Islands. Fresh seafood can be enjoyed at the Meltemaki Restaurant by the sea boasting squid, shrimp, octopus, cuttlefish, and mussels.
Katarraktis, Chios, Greece
Phone number: +3022710-62105
Where to Sleep in Chios
For a peaceful stay, visitors cannot go wrong by staying at Mousaliko Hotel, a family-run bed and breakfast in a traditional stone building nestled in the heart of Kampos and only minutes away from the airport. Rows of orange and tangerine trees surrounding the property allow guests to awaken with the sweet perfume of citrus blossoms. Stone pillars, a wheel well, and impressive archways contribute to the beauty of this hotel.
52 Chalkousi Maria and Paidousi
Irini Street, Kampos
821 00, Greece
Phone number: +30.227.1031624 or +30-6974057299
The sweet-scented island of Chios is blessed with warm summers and mild winters, making it literally worthy of being visited year-round. Unlike overcrowded touristic destinations, Chios has retained a humble, sincere reputation that makes it an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of more popular touristic destinations. Perhaps this is ultimately what makes this place so special; witnessing the strong connection between this land and its people and interacting with its ancient traditions almost leaves travelers feeling as if they have become part of this island’s beautiful soul.