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Published: July 22nd 2019
When you think of Greek Islands you might think immediately of Santorini and its picturesque hillside splash of white buildings and stunning sunsets. When Seda mentioned taking a day trip to the island of Chios we both though, ‘ok, exploring an island we don’t know anything about for a day why not.’ Our expectations were fairly low. Well, we went for that day trip and liked it so much we returned for three more days after that and wish we could have stayed longer.
We accessed the island from Cesme, Turkey via a rather short (approx.. 20 minutes) ferry. Then, both times, upon a recommendation by a friend, stopped at a small local car rental place just on the water by the port to rent a car (one day for 34 euros, 3 day for 25 euros per day). Chios is interesting in that most of the best beaches and historical sites are in the south and so most tourists don’t even venture much into the northern half, and neither did we. I would recommend renting a car as getting around via public transportation would be difficult and not allow you to get to some good spots, namely beaches. Driving
is relatively straightforward once you get out of the main town of Chios. However, we recommend to follow the signs that you will see rather than relying on Google navigation. Our experience was almost movie-like, of the comedy genre. One moment the rental car guy is saying that they have this brand new Hyundai that we can use if we guarantee to drive it gently. Of course, we are nodding yes and assuring him we will do so. Then flash forward an hour on our attempt to reach our hotel via Google navigation. The car is tilting downhill on a gravel road going nowhere. The tires are spinning and kicking up gravel while Seda is falling into the sticker bushes on the side trying to keep them off the car as we back out. Our advice: stay on the main roads, watch for signs (e.g., to Mesta), and park at the edge of villages and walk in to avoid issues of parking and tight spaces.
We stayed in an absolutely wonderful two level apartment with an incredible view over the water from our balcony. The place is Amarandos Sea View Apartments (3 nights for 212 euros for the superior
apartment) and Angeliki, the owner, is just as incredible as the view. The place is in the southeast on Vokaria Beach near the village of Nenita. This is one of the best places that either Seda or I have ever stayed. Just down the driveway is the beach. There is also a restaurant and bar just next to the beach. Admittedly, we were never thrilled by any of the food on our four days on the island. But, this may also partly be due to the fact that we are so spoiled with good food in Turkey. On our next visit we hope to find something better and are thinking of trying the seafood restaurants on the west coast in Lithi. Our top recommendation for Chios is to stay at Amarandos with Angeliki, you won’t want to leave.
For our daily excursions we did mostly a mix of taking in the historical villages and visiting beautiful beaches: Mastic Museum:
The island is quite proud, and for good reasons, of being the only place in the world to produce mastic. Mastic is a sap that is taken yearly from trees that somewhat resemble olive trees in their
size and structure of their trunk. If you look carefully while driving (or hiking) you will see rows of these trees all over the island. Some standout out with the white limestone powder that is spread at their base. And each village has their own variations on the trees and the process of harvesting the mastic. Maybe you wouldn’t think it would be too interesting to go to a mastic museum but the you will be surprised. There is a relatively new museum showing off the mastic heritage of the island up on a hilltop near Pyrgi. Mastic is used for all sorts of things including gum, cosmetics, liquor, ice cream flavor, for baking cookies, and tooth paste. The museum is definitely worth a visit to get a better understanding of the island’s identity and also to try out some mastic products. Villages:
We really enjoyed both Pyrgi and Mesta. And both are ideal for photographs with their unique and ancient buildings accented with colorful flowers. Pyrgi is distinctive by the black and white geometrical patterns on their buildings while Mesta is a maze of stone buildings in a fortress labyrinth. You can spend an hour or
two in each wandering around watching local life or visiting cafes. You might notice elderly ladies around the villages wearing all black, a sign that their husband has passed away. You will see clusters of men huddled together exchanging local gossip or playing various table games. Olympi is another ancient village giving an example of what life might have been like inside a tight, walled society. In addition, to these ancient villages we also enjoyed stopping at Lithi. It is located in a beautiful setting on the sea and you get a great view from above as you approach. It has a very busy beach and a number of sea food restaurants. Beaches:
Our favorite beach was Agia Dynami in the southwest. Dynami is not one of the top advertised beaches but has gorgeous turquoise water and a smooth sandy floor. It sits in a small basin under an old church. It wasn’t overcrowded when we were there even on a weekend day. And you can hike along the shore to another beach around the corner that is even less populated. We were not too fond of the top-billed beach, Mavra Volia, a black stone beach in
the southeast but you will see it recommended frequently. But, around the corner is a beautiful small harbor in Emporios Bay. Our second favorite beach was Vroulidia Beach at the very southern part of the island. It is set in a dramatic location under cliffs. You park above and walk down to the beach. The colors here too are stunning turquoise blues and the beach is sparsely populated. The water is filled more with smooth rocks rather than sand like Dynami. But, also, unique is the box on a pulley for ordering food from the café above. If you want something to eat or drink you can simply have it ‘delivered.’ Near Lithi we went to Trachili Beach. Trachili was so nice upon arrival because you are driving on the high coastal road and you get nice views of a small peninsula that juts out in the water complete with one of the ancient lookout towers on top. The beach sits just below but be aware that the access road on the way down is not particularly suitable for rental cars. We opted to park off of the main road at the top and walk down. The setting is beautiful
as is the color of the water but the waves were pretty strong when we were there. I also chose to hike up to the lookout tower for some photos and saw a couple wild goats guarding the place. Last, we also visited the Komi beach area to eat one day. This is another popular open beach spot, but nothing on the scale of beauty as Dynami or Vroulidia.
A nice site on the best beaches of Chios: https://chios-secrets.com/experience/best-beaches-chios/
We are looking forward to our next return to Chios. If you are looking for a place to relax and take in some sun this is a good spot. We are hoping to uncover some new beaches in the future and and to relax on the balcony at Amarandos. Other Tips:
-Visit the site of the old windmills either when you arrive or when you are leaving. They are just north of the port, 5 minutes by car
-Stop at Lidl in Chios before heading to your accommodation and stop up on very affordable groceries.
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