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Chios is a blissfully quiet island with a wealth of things to see. Hugely mountainous in the north, flattish but undulating in the south, it is a paradise for bird-watchers and for botanists who will find here the greatest concentration of wild orchids anywhere in Europe. There are several monasteries, including the famous Nea Moni in the middle of the island.
The road system is excellent, reputedly built with EU help and considered important by Greece because of the danger of a Turkish invasion at any moment. [Danger? What danger? The Turks have no shortage of land!] Wherever you drive you will find tempting, empty beaches especially on the west and south-east coasts, pretty villages and dramatic scenery. There are two reasons for the lack of tourism – firstly, Chios is the home of many rich ship-owning families who do not need tourism money and, secondly, the airport runway is too short for charters: ergo, go now whilst that remains true! The only developed areas for tourism are on the east coast, primarily at and near Karfas, south of Chios town, with odd dollops here and there where a village happens to have a good beach. Inland in the south are the famous mastic plantations, trees which produce the gum for chewing and for various manufactured goods: in any taverna you can order a mastika which will be a bit like a sweet white toffee apple served on a stick in a glass of water.
A number of recommended walks are shown on a map of the island, but they suffer from the assumption that when you have done a walk downhill to the coast from some considerable height you will want to walk back up to repossess your car. The ideal way to avoid that is to holiday with another couple (or two) and juggle with two cars. In theory buses could serve the purpose, but few are sufficiently frequent, or conveniently timed, on Chios.
The mediaeval villages of Olympia, Mesta and Pyrghi should not be missed. Their narrow streets, tiny squares and, in Pyrghi, the extraordinary geometrical patterns on every house are fascinating. In the middle of the island near Avgonyma is the deserted village of Anavatos, now being slowly re-populated, but it remains basically a memorial to the villagers who threw themselves off its perpendicular cliff-side to avoid capture by the Turks. Don’t emulate them.
It is possible to make a boat trip to the off-island of Oinousses (v.sub) or across to Cesme on the Turkish coast just a few miles away.
Chios is reached by domestic flights from Athens.
Oinousses is difficult to visit without an overnight stay. It has a very attractive Chora overlooking the recently rejuvenated promenade, home to many smart yachts. Many wealthy ship-owners have smart mansions here and the Maritime Museum is well worth a visit. There are plenty of beaches to walk to and explore. Oinousses is a collector’s item for anyone keen on visiting islands no-one has heard of.