Chios, south of Lesvos, claims to be the birthplace of Homer. Its landscape is very varied and its main crop is mastic, the chewing gum, produced by trees that grow nowhere else in the world.
Its capital and chief port, also called Chios, is a lively town on the east coast of the island, opposite the shores of Ionia in Asia Minor. A happy blend of traditional and modern, Chios has a large mediaeval castle which dominates the harbour. Its walls enclose the old section of town, whose houses are embellished with lattice windows and balconies. The traditional commercial street is called Aplotaria and leads to the central Vounakiou square. The town also has two distinguished museums, the Archaeological Museum with finds from the island, the Homerian Cultural Centre, where theatrical and musical performances are held, and the Byzantine museum.
In addition, the Korai Library, one of the most important in Greece, contains 130,000 volumes, including the founder.s collection of rare books, and an exhibit of local costumes. The south part of the island is where the mastic trees grow in abundance. An unprepossessing, bush-like plant, its sticky sap forms crystals, which are gathered for use in many products, including pharmaceuticals. The villages in this district, the socalled mastichohoria or mastic villages, have retained their vivid mediaeval character. The first one you come to is Armolia (24 km), known for its pottery and its ruined 14th century Genoese castle. Pirgi (30 km.) is the second in line. It looks as though it has emerged intact from the Middle Ages, with its narrow, often roofed alleyways and its house façades covered with the unique ,xysta, decorations, geometric patterns in grey and white. Eight kilometres from Pirgi there are traces of a 6th century B.C. temple of Apollo at the archaeological site of Phanes. Emborios, 10 km. south of Pirgi, is a typical seaside village, whose wonderful beach consists of black pebbles (Mavra Volia). 10 kilometres west of Pirgi lie Olymbi and Mesta, another wellpreserved medieval village. Many of its traditional houses have been converted by the GNTO into guest houses, where visitors can stay. 4 kilometres north of Mesta is the fishing hamlet of Limenas where there are delightful beaches for bathing. In the northern half of Chios the first stopping point is the village of Vrondados (5 km.), which boasts the famous Daskalopetra (Teacher's Rock), where legend maintains Homer used to teach. Langadas (15 km) is a picturesque fishing village not far from Delfinio, an ancient naval and military base founded by the Athenians in 412 B.C. Kardamila and Marmaro are two more typical fishing villages set at the back of little bays with a variety of delightful places to swim. Continuing northwest, you will arrive at Volissos (40 km.), one of Chios's most beautiful villages, spread over the lower slopes of a hill where the remains of a Byzantine castle stand sentinel.
Tradition has it that this is one of the many possible birthplaces of Homer. The road to Volissos passes through impressive mountain scenery with wonderful views towards the sea.
Two kilometres away, the fishing hamlet of Limnia is where you can board the caique that sails to Psara and the monastery of Agia Markela (5 km.). Finally, 13 kilometres to the west of the capital, stands Nea Moni, one of Greece's most important Byzantine monuments, which was proclaimed by UNESCO a Monument of Cultural Heritage. Founded in the 11th century by a monk named Constantine, the monastery contains extraordinary frescoes and mosaics. In the same area, the evocative buildings in the semi-abandoned mediaeval villages of Avgonima and Anavatos transport the visitor to another era. Swimmers will find a variety of lovely beaches on Chios. These include the resort of Karfas, not far from town, Agia Ermioni, Komi, Vrondodo, Agia Markela and others. For a new taste experience apart from the famous mastic, try some of the traditional Greek spoon sweets, preserves made from a plethora of fruits, for which the island is famous.
USEFUL TELEPHONE NUMBERS:
Port authority: 22710 44.433
Police: 22710 81537
First Aid: 22710 44.302
Municipal Tourism Office: 2710 44.389, 22710 44.344
Tourist Police: 22710 81.539