Spring Destination: Chios, the Mastic Island

Known for its citrus orchards, medieval villages and rich cultural heritage, Chios is a dream destination for a springtime break.


TOP REASONS TO VISIT

1. Hiking on the mountain trails in the north

Spring is the best time of the year to lace up your hiking boots and head to the less-frequented northern side of Chios. Here an easy and gorgeous mountain trail winds through a forest of chestnut and plane trees alongside the river in the gorge of Kambia under Mount Pelineo, ending at a seaside village and beach. Walking around the area of Volissos, you will come across pretty groves, small churches and water mills. In Kardamyla, the marked path leading up to the Castle of Gria reveals a stunning bird’s-eye-view of Chios.

2. The intoxicating bike rides in Kampos

Kampos is the king of spring on the island. Chios owes its nickname Myrovolos (meaning fragrant) largely to the gardens and orchards of Kampos. Take a bike ride on the tarmac bike lanes when the air is laden with the scent of tangerine and orange blossom, cycling between citrus groves and vegetable gardens and along narrow streets lined by impressive mansions.

If you want to peek into the interior of a typical walled garden here, visit the Citrus Estate for a tour of the Citrus Museum and try fruit pies and sweet mandarins. For an organized bike ride with local guides, contact Masticulture.

3. The enchanting Mastic villages

Any trip to Chios is not complete without a visit to the masticohoria, the medieval villages of south Chios, where for hundreds of years mastic (the aromatic resin from the lentisk tree) has been produced.  Note on your map the well-preserved villages of Mesta, Olympi and Armolia – the last with a long tradition in producing ceramics. Also visit the ‘castle village’ of Vessa, and Katarraktis, a picturesque settlement by the sea.

In Pyrgi, after admiring the xista – the intricate black and white carvings on the buildings’ facades — visit the excellent, newly-opened Chios Mastic Museum of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation. Afterwards head down to the coast to reach the famous Mavra Volia (black pebbles). Even if you’re not up for a swim, a visit to the beach that is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Greece is worth it for a walk on its dark pebbles.

EASTER ON CHIOS

For many years in Vrontados, a relentless battle has taken place between two parishes. While the midnight service is taking place on the evening of Holy Saturday, thousands of fireworks are fired from one parish to the other, aimed at the churches’ bell towers. However there is some doubt as to the future of the custom which was banned last year over safety concerns.

4. The city’s sights and museums

Take a long stroll up and down the promenade, stop at a cafe for a classic vanilla ypovrihio (a spoonful of vanilla fondant submerged in ice-cold water), and take photos by the windmills.

You will need more than a day to take in everything the city has to offer, such as a walk down Aplotaria street, which brings you to the main shopping area and the old mansions built by Chios’s wealthier families. Other notable stops include the Korais Library, the Metzitie Mosque that today houses the Byzantine Museum, Chios Castle with its lively streets and the Ottoman baths with their striking architecture. The collections of the Maritime Museum will take you on a voyage through the island’s seafaring history.

MINI GUIDE

How to get there

Flights from Athens to Chios by Aegean, with an average price of 126 euros return. By boat from Piraeus, from 102 euros return.

Accommodation

Fabrika, Volissos, tel. +30 22740.220.45. A guest house in a converted flour and olive mill, with castle views in the center of the village. 35 euros for a double.

Topakas House, Kampos, tel. +30 22710.299.79, +30 6932.958.950. Traditional mansion with a vivid green garden. 45 euros for a double.

Chios Chandris, tel. +30 22710.444.01. Accommodation with sea views in well-known hotel chain. Two nights with breakfast 115 euros during Easter term.

FOOD

Hotzas, Chios, tel. +30 22710.427.87. Tavern with a 135-year history offering meat pies, eggplant dip and other traditional dishes from Chios.

Manaras, Chios, tel. +30 22710.235.71. Famous for its loukoumades, a honeyed deep-fried pastry.

Drosia, Katarraktis, tel. +30 22710.614.30. Daphne’s cooking is always on point in this seaside little tavern.


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