Discover Chios: The Aegean’s Best Kept Secret

June 11, 2024

Imagine stepping onto the sun-kissed shores of Chios, an island where history whispers through medieval villages and nature flaunts its beauty across fragrant mastic groves and shimmering beaches. This gem in the Aegean Sea, often overshadowed by its more famous neighbors, holds a charm that beckons the discerning traveler to explore its unique blend of culture and natural beauty.

Chios, also known as the Mastic Island, is not just another dot on the map of Greece; it’s a vibrant canvas painted with the deep greens of its mastic trees and the bright blues of its inviting waters. The island is famed for its mastic production, a resin cherished worldwide for its culinary and medicinal value and only found in the southern part of this enchanting isle. From the spellbinding architecture of Mesta to the striking volcanic shores of Mavra Volia Beach, Chios offers a palette of experiences that cater to both the adventurous explorer and the peace-seeking soul.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
Sunrise in Chios, Greece

Let’s dive deep into what makes Chios a must-visit destination. Explore the captivating beaches, discover historic villages like Pyrgi, indulge in the local culinary delights that include the exclusive Chios mastic, and uncover the best places to stay—from quaint guesthouses to luxurious hotels. Whether you’re planning a holiday packed with activities or a serene getaway, Chios promises a memorable escape. Join us as we journey through an island where every path leads to discovery, and every sunset brings a promise of another extraordinary day.

Exploring Chios Island

Chios: A Hidden Gem in the Aegean

Nestled in the Northeast Aegean Sea, Chios strikes a remarkable pose against the expansive blue waters that surround it. As the fifth largest of the Greek islands, its geography is as varied as its history, featuring mountainous terrains in the north and serene, rolling hills in the south covered with the iconic mastic trees. Chios’s position close to the Turkish coast has made it a historical crossroads of trade and culture, which is evident in its rich architectural heritage and diverse cultural influences.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret

The history of Chios is a tapestry woven with threads of triumph and tragedy. From prosperity in the Genoan and Roman times to devastating conflicts and earthquakes, Chios has seen it all. Yet, it remains stoic, proud of its ability to rebuild and regenerate. The island’s cultural significance is perhaps best exemplified by its mastic production, which has been designated a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product. This rare resin, used in everything from cooking to cosmetics, is a symbol of the resilience and uniqueness of Chiot culture.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
Mastic Trees

Unlike its more tourist-trodden neighbors, the Mastic Island offers a quieter, more introspective kind of travel experience. It’s a place where visitors can truly connect with Greek history and tradition, away from crowded tourist spots. The island’s diverse landscapes and rich historical tapestry make it an exceptional destination for those seeking to delve deeper into the Greek way of life.

Chios Island Beaches

Chios is encircled by a stunning collection of beaches, each offering its unique allure. At the forefront is Mavra Volia, a spectacular beach known for its striking black pebbles and deep blue waters, a result of ancient volcanic activity. This beach not only captivates with its dramatic natural beauty but also offers a serene atmosphere, making it an ideal spot for those seeking tranquility and a connection with nature.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
The famous Mavra Volia Beach

Didima Beach is another must-visit coastal gem. Unlike the more popular sandy stretches, Didima is characterized by its twin coves, which are separated by a natural rock formation. The beach is less developed, providing a raw, unspoiled landscape that appeals to adventurers and those looking for a quieter day by the sea. The clear waters and pebbly shores are perfect for snorkeling and swimming, offering a more secluded alternative to the island’s busier destinations.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
Didima Beach

For those willing to venture further, Vroulidia Beach offers a secluded haven accessible via a steep path. The journey there is well worth it, as visitors are often rewarded with a private beach experience surrounded by steep cliffs and pristine waters.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
Vroulidia Beach

Another less frequented but equally enchanting spot is Agia Dynami. Nestled on the southern coast, this small cove is shielded by towering rock formations, offering a secluded spot for relaxation and a favorite for snorkelers drawn to its clear, fish-filled waters.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
Agia Dynami Beach

Exploring the beaches of the Mastic Island is like flipping through the pages of a visual diary, each turn offering a new scene, a different mood, and a fresh perspective on the island’s boundless beauty. Whether you seek the comfort of a sun lounger or the thrill of a secluded swim, Chios beaches promise a refreshing escape into nature’s embrace.

What to Do in Chios

Chios isn’t just a feast for the eyes; it’s a playground for the curious traveler. Whether it’s stepping back in time within medieval walls, exploring the poignant beauty of abandoned villages, or uncovering the unique culture of mastic production, this island offers a tapestry of experiences. Here’s your ultimate guide to making the most of your Chios adventure.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
The little church of Agios Isidoros

Explore the Medieval Castle in Chios Town

Start your journey in the heart of Chios town, where the imposing Medieval Castle stands as a sentinel over the city. Built in the 10th century and expanded by the Genoese in the 14th century, this fortress encapsulates centuries of history and conflict. As you walk through its robust gates and along the ancient walls, you’ll discover remnants of mosques, public baths, and a Byzantine museum that collectively narrate the story of a turbulent past. The castle isn’t just a historical site; it’s a living part of the town, offering panoramic views of the harbor and bustling life unfolding below its protective embrace.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
The old fortress in Chios town

The Medieval Villages of Mesta and Pyrgi

No visit to Chios is complete without a tour of its medieval villages, particularly Mesta and Pyrgi, which are among the most well-preserved in the Aegean. Mesta, a mazelike village designed to protect inhabitants from pirate raids, offers narrow alleyways and arches that create a labyrinthine delight. The village squares, fortified walls, and quaint churches speak of a community built to endure through the ages.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
The traditional village of Mesta

Pyrgi, often called the ‘painted village’ because of its unique façade decorations known as “xysta,” is another must-see. These geometric black-and-white patterns adorn the walls of the houses, reflecting a blend of Byzantine and Genoese architectural influences. Walking through Pyrgi not only offers a visual feast but also provides insight into the artistry and cultural amalgamation that defines Chios.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
The traditional village of Pyrgi

Echoes of the Past: The Abandoned Village of Anavatos

Perched on a granite peak, the abandoned village of Anavatos is a hauntingly beautiful testament to resilience and tragedy. Often referred to as the ‘Mystras of the Aegean,’ this village was deserted following a massacre in the 19th century during the Greek War of Independence. Today, the stone houses and narrow streets stand silent, offering a poignant window into the past and breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Visiting Anavatos is a reflective journey, ideal for those who appreciate the beauty in solitude and the echoes of history.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
The abandoned village of Anavatos

A Mosaic of History: Nea Moni Monastery

Nea Moni is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a pinnacle of Byzantine art and architecture in Chios. Founded in the 11th century by Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos, the monastery is renowned for its stunning mosaics, which are considered some of the finest examples of Macedonian Renaissance art in Greece. The intricate details and vibrant storytelling within these mosaics provide spiritual and artistic enlightenment to all who visit. Surrounding the monastery are peaceful forests and trails, making it a perfect spot for contemplation and exploration.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
Nea Moni Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site

The Essence of Chios: The Mastic Museum

To truly understand the heart of Chios, a visit to the Chios Mastic Museum is essential. This modern museum is dedicated to the cultivation and processing of mastic, an agricultural treasure unique to the island. Through interactive exhibits and historical displays, visitors can learn about the traditional techniques of mastic cultivation, its economic significance, and its varied uses throughout history. The museum not only educates but also immerses visitors in the aromatic world of mastic, making it a sensory and enlightening experience.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
Mastic Tree Farming

Each of these destinations in Chios offers a unique perspective on the island’s rich history, culture, and natural beauty. From the solemn beauty of Anavatos to the lively streets of Pyrgi, Chios invites travelers to delve deep into its heritage, making every moment of exploration a discovery of its enduring spirit.

Find your Hotel on Chios Island

Discover Serenity at Giustiniani Apartments

Nestled in the heart of Chios, Giustiniani Apartments presents a perfect blend of luxury, comfort, and historical charm, offering an unforgettable stay for every traveler. This exquisite hotel, encapsulated within the walls of a beautifully restored mansion, provides a unique window into the rich cultural tapestry of Chios, making it more than just a place to stay—it’s an experience in itself.

Giustiniani Apartments

Each room and apartment at Giustiniani is meticulously designed to reflect the elegance and grandeur of its historical setting, combined with modern amenities that ensure your stay is both comfortable and luxurious. Whether you choose a room, a studio, or a more spacious apartment, you’ll find each is equipped with high-quality bedding and state-of-the-art bathroom facilities, while some come with a fully functional kitchen. The interiors are adorned with tasteful decorations that highlight the building’s original features, such as exposed stone walls and traditional woodwork, bringing a sense of Chios’ past into your living space.

Giustiniani Apartments

The location of Giustiniani Apartments offers the ideal starting point for exploring Chios. Positioned conveniently in the city center, you are just a short walk away from the island’s vibrant markets, charming cafes, and the historic Castle of Chios. For beach lovers, the stunning shores of Chios are only a brief drive away, allowing you to easily balance your time between relaxing seaside excursions and enriching city explorations.

Giustiniani Apartments

At Giustiniani Apartments, guests are treated to a warm welcome and personalized service that makes you feel right at home. The staff are knowledgeable about the local area and can provide insider tips on the best places to visit, eat, and relax, ensuring you make the most of your stay in Chios.


Culinary Delights of Chios

Chios is not only a visual and cultural feast but also a culinary one, offering flavors that are as unique as its landscapes. From the aromatic mastic to vibrant local dishes, the island promises an unforgettable gastronomic journey.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
Sfougato, a type of omelette

Chios Mastic: A Unique Flavor

Mastic, a resin harvested from the mastic trees of Chios, is not merely a local produce but a symbol of Chiot’s identity. This ‘tear of Chios,’ as it’s poetically known, is the only place in the world where true mastic, the sap of the Pistacia lentiscus tree, grows. Its cultivation and harvesting methods have remained unchanged for centuries, protected under a PDO status that ensures its unique qualities are preserved.

Mastic’s significance extends beyond its cultural ties; it’s also prized for its versatility and health benefits. It is used in everything from culinary delights to beauty products. In the kitchen, mastic transforms simple recipes into gourmet experiences by adding a slightly sweet, pine-like flavor to bread, desserts, and even meats.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
Mastic tears

For those looking to bring a piece of Chios home, the Chios Mastic Museum offers not only insights into the history and production of mastic but also sells genuine mastic products. Additionally, small shops in the medieval villages of Pyrgi and Mesta offer handcrafted mastic goods, from the resin itself to mastic-infused oils and spices, ensuring you receive the most authentic products.

Local Cuisine and Dining in Chios

Chios is a paradise for food lovers, offering a culinary journey that is as colorful and varied as the island’s history. The local cuisine is deeply rooted in the rich agricultural bounty of the region, especially noted for its exceptional citrus fruits and distinctive local beverages.

Citrus Delights of Chios

Chios is renowned worldwide for its citrus produce, particularly the mandarins which are recognized as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product. These fruits are celebrated for their intense aroma, tender flesh, and uniquely sweet flavor. When visiting Chios, a must-try is the fresh juice or a fruit salad made from these delectable mandarins. Additionally, the local specialty of lemon flower spoon sweet is a fragrant and delightful treat that captures the essence of Chios’ citrus bounty in a jar.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret

The island’s citrus fruits are not only consumed fresh or in juices but also play a crucial role in the production of spoon sweets and essential oils. Moreover, the peels are repurposed as nutritious animal feed, illustrating the sustainable practices of local agriculture.

Local Dairy and Pasta

Chios is also famous for its white cheese, a delightful dairy product with a soft, milky, and slightly salty flavor due to its short brine curing. This cheese is excellent, both grilled and raw, in salads or traditional pasta dishes.

When it comes to pasta, Chios has its own unique offerings, such as fytilaki (short twisted), curly tagliatelle flavored with mastic, and traditional spartos pasta, all typically served with a cooked tomato sauce. These pastas make an excellent side dish to complement meat or seafood dishes.

Seasonal Gastronomy: Autumn Mushrooms

If you visit during autumn, don’t miss the chance to partake in a “mushroom hunt” after the first rains, when “amanites” mushrooms(Lactarius Salmanicolor) sprout under the pine trees in the northern parts of Chios. These mushrooms are a perfect companion to ouzo, enjoyed either fried or grilled.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret

Signature Drinks of Chios

Chios offers a variety of local beverages that reflect its rich tradition in drink production. The “Ariousios Oinos,” a supreme red wine known since antiquity, is often referred to as the nectar of the Gods. For spirit enthusiasts, Chios produces mastika, a liqueur seasoned with mastic, souma, a traditional spirit distilled from figs, and ouzo flavored with anise, coriander, fennel, lemon flowers, or mastic, providing a spectrum of flavors that are both unique and invigorating.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret

Moreover, Chios is home to its own blonde beer brewed in Kampos. This ale is noted for its orange highlights, fruity taste, and discreet bitterness, with fennel and citrus aromas that make it a refreshing choice for beer lovers.

Dining in Chios

For those looking to experience authentic local dining, To Kechrimpari in Chios town is a gem. This family-run taverna not only serves traditional dishes but also embodies the warm, welcoming spirit of Chiot hospitality. Here, diners can indulge in a menu that highlights local ingredients and showcases the traditional flavors of the island.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
Pyrgi Village

Exploring the culinary delights of the Mastic Island is an adventure that offers a deep dive into the flavors that define this beautiful island. From its citrus-infused sweets to robust local spirits and hearty traditional meals, Chios presents a palette of tastes that are as memorable as the landscapes they come from.

Practical Tips for Travelers in Chios

Visiting Chios is an enriching experience, but like any travel destination, knowing a few practical tips can help make your journey smoother and more enjoyable.

Travel Logistics

Chios is accessible both by air and sea. Chios Island National Airport welcomes flights from Athens and other major cities in Greece, offering a quick and convenient way to reach the island. If you prefer traveling by sea, frequent ferries run from Piraeus and nearby islands. The picturesque journey by ferry can add an element of adventure and scenic beauty to your trip.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret

To explore the Mastic Island at your leisure, consider renting a car or a scooter. This allows you the flexibility to visit remote beaches and hidden villages at your own pace. Public transportation is available, with buses serving major towns and key attractions around the island. However, service times can be infrequent, so it’s worth checking the schedules in advance. Taxis are also an option, though more costly, they provide convenience and comfort for shorter trips.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret

Language Tips

Obviously, Greek is the official language of Chios, and while you will find English spoken in most tourist areas, learning a few basic Greek phrases can enrich your interaction with locals and show respect for the culture. Simple words like “Kalimera” (Good morning), “Efharisto” (Thank you), and “Parakalo” (Please) can go a long way in creating friendly exchanges.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
Cobblestone street in Mesta

Currency: Greece uses the Euro (€), and while credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, and shops, carrying some cash is advisable for smaller establishments and local markets.

Discover Chios: The Aegean's Best Kept Secret
The harbor on Chios Island

Chios is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty, offering a unique blend of experiences that cater to both adventurous souls and those seeking tranquility. From its aromatic mastic groves to the rich tapestry of its medieval villages, each corner of this island tells a story worth discovering. Whether you’re exploring its rugged landscapes, savoring its culinary delights, or soaking in the sun at its pristine beaches, Chios promises a journey that’s as enriching as it is memorable. So pack your bags and set sail for Chios—the hidden gem of the Aegean waiting to be explored.