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My trip to the island of Chios, Greece was spontaneous. I agreed to go with a group of people I hardly knew three days prior to my flight. It was the most irrational thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never been happier with a decision.
The Island of Chios Greece
Chios is a hidden gem in the North Aegean Region of the Greek islands. It’s so far east that Turkey’s coast can be seen just across the water, dancing beneath a gentle haze. Daily ferries offer rides to Turkey for a low cost and many locals of both countries take advantage of the proximity.
It is an island largely untouched by American tourism. The inhabitants of the island are either from other areas of Greece or have family ties to the island, making it the perfect getaway for those interested in being fully immersed in Greek culture.
The airport is underwhelming, its four walls encompassing a space no larger than a bowling alley, but don’t let its size deceive you. However, outside its walls, the island offers a magnitude of opportunities for exploration and adventure. From museums to beaches to historical landmarks, there will always be new areas to explore.
Vast blue seas, fortresses, castles, mountainous terrains and black rock beaches make Chios one of the most beautiful and memorable places I’ve ever been. The magic of the island is felt everywhere.
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The Culture of Chios
We stayed in the Ileo Xenia, a quaint 12 room inn on the Paralia Agias Foteinis beach. The hotel was a mere ten-meter walk to the water and the subsequent restaurants, cafes, and ice cream shops. Each morning, we ordered a coffee, sat on the chairs lining the stone beach and breathed in the salty sea air.
Days were spent moving slowly. We laid out under the sun, swam in the sea, drank coffee and ate Dakos salads. Our checks came hours after we’d ordered and there was never a rush to pay or leave.
Locals joined us on the beach throughout the day, many coming in the later hours for coffee or cocktails with friends. Their energy was intoxicating. We livened up after dark when we went into the city of Chora for dinner, drinks and dancing.
The bustling nightlife of Chios continued deep into the night. More than once, we stayed out past sunrise. Young locals could be found drinking, smoking Hookah and dancing at all hours.
Eleftoria, one of the girls I traveled with, taught me a dance specific to the island of Chios. Back in Montreal, she was a part of a Greek dance troupe. They learned dances from all the Greek islands and wore traditional dresses.
The dance she taught me was three steps; 1… 2, 3. 1… 2, 3. That night, with ouzo flowing through my veins, I swayed along to the Greek music, trying to mirror the way that she moved her body.
“Do not move your hips,” she told me as I followed along. “That is not the way we dance.”
The History of Chios Greece
Chios has a rich history, dating back thousands of years. The history can be seen down each alleyway and in every structure. One of the best places to observe this history is The Castle of Chios.
The well-preserved fortress stands in the center of Chora, Chios’ capital. Its structure dates as far back as the 30th century BC. Within its stone walls are slim alleyways, high homes and graveyards belonging to Ottomans from the Ottoman Empire. Stepping through one of the castle’s three main gates is like returning in time. Each alleyway provided a new encounter with the past.
We arrived at one of the fortresses restaurants, βραδύποδες (meaning “sloth”), at 9:30 pm.
Dinner included savory cheesecake and oil-soaked octopus paired 2-euro wine. Each bite was delicious and we sat in the center of the restaurant for three hours enjoying our meal, completely uninterrupted. That is the nature of Chios: slow and relaxed. Nothing is rushed.
Another marvelous place for history is in the Painted Village of Pyrgi. In Pyrgi, the stones are carved into decorative designs, dating back to the 15th century. Each home has a unique exterior of traditional black and white geometric patterns.
This style is not found anywhere else in Greece. During our visit, the village was quiet and calm. But our taxi driver told us that after church on Sunday, the square fills with locals drinking coffee and sharing stories.
The Tears of Chios
Along the winding roads of Chios are the Mastic trees. These trees are known only to grow on the Southern Side of Chios in the Mastichochoria (“Mastic Villages”). Many have tried – and failed – to cultivate the tree elsewhere.
Throughout the South of Chios, the Mastica stand tall, letting off tears of sap that transform into sundried brittle and fall into white powder beneath them. The locals plant, harvest and clean the Mastic. For years, this ritual has been a part of their culture; a way of socialization.
Gum, alcohol, body scrub, ice cream, and more is produced from the tree. The Mastic’s unique earthy aroma follows you through the streets of Chios, permanently etching itself into your mind. When I smell the mastic gum I brought home, I think of Chios.
The Food of Chios
The food in Chios was unlike any I’ve ever tasted.
I am often anxious at the prospect of trying new dishes, but all my fears crumbled the moment I took a bite of feta. The cheese melted on my tongue in a way no feta in America ever had. I even braved the vinegar-soaked Octopus, ignoring the tiny tentacles on its meat.
All the food, from the fish to the fava to the fresh vegetables, was incredible. We ate out every night, ordering ten to twelve dishes for the four of us to share, along with bottles of ouzo and wine.
We paid less than sixty euros at every meal for the dishes and drinks, and we were never disappointed.
Our Favorite Restaurants:
Oz Bay’s Veranda – unbelievable ambiance, incredible food, gorgeous drinks (pictured above).
Βραδύποδες – who doesn’t want delicious food in a castle? Be sure to get a reservation.
Suenos – Incredible for drinks, hookah, and fun with locals.
Chios is an island you cannot miss. Its internet footprint is small, and for good reason. The locals cherish the island and want to preserve its magic. I have been to Santorini and Mykonos – both marvelous – but I have never felt as in love with Greece as I did in Chios. If you get the opportunity to spontaneously fly across the world to Chios – I say go.
Book This Trip
Ready to explore the open waters and historic setting of Chios, Greece? Start planning for your trip with insider tips on the best local shops, Chios restaurant reviews, hotel or VRBO accomodations and more through TripAdvisor and Travelocity.
Visit the Mastic Museum to learn about Chios’ famous Mastic tree. Explore the cave of Olympoi, one of the most gorgeous sites of Chios.
Experience the incredible food, from the Creteian Dakos salad to the fresh fish. You cannot go wrong. Take one of the daily ferries to Izmar, Turkey. Most importantly: be present and enjoy every moment.