Chios is the fifth largest of the Greek islands, situated in the Aegean Sea, seven kilometres (five miles) off the Asia Minor coast. The island is separated from Turkey by the Chios Strait. The island is noted for its strong merchant shipping community, its unique mastic gum and its medieval villages. The 11th century monastery of “Nea Moni”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located on the island.
Coordinates: 38°25′N 26°0′E (1) Chios (2) Oinousses (3) Psara
The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Chios (town). Locals refer to Chios town as “Chora” (literally means land or country, but usually refers to the capital or a settlement at the highest point of a Greek island).
Chios island is approximately crescent or kidney shaped, 50 kilometres (31 mi) long from north to south, 29 kilometres (18 mi) at its widest, and covers an area of 842 square kilometres (325 sq mi). The terrain is principally mountainous and arid, with a ridge of mountains running through the spine of the island. The largest of these, “Pelineon” (1,297 metres (4,255 ft)) and “Epos” (1,188 metres (3,898 ft)), are situated in the north of the island. The centre of the island is divided between east and west by a range of smaller peaks, known as “Provatas“.
Chios can be classified into five regions:
Midway up the east coast lies the main population centres, the main town of Chios and the regions of Vrontados and Kambos. Chios Town, with a population of 32,400, is built around the island’s main harbour and medieval castle. The current castle, with a perimeter of 1400 m, was principally constructed during the time of Venetian and Ottoman rule; although remains have been found dating settlements there back to 2000 B.C. The town was substantially damaged by an earthquake in 1881 and only partially retains its original character.
North of Chios Town lies the large suburb of Vrontados (population 4,500), which lays claim as the birthplace of Homer. The suburb lies in the Omiroupoli municipality, and its connection to the poet is supported by an archaeological site known traditionally as “Teacher’s Rock“.
Directly south of Chios Town lies the island’s airport and the region of Kambos (“plain”), a large fertile plain noted for its stone mansions and walled orchards. At the southern edge of the Kambos plain lies the town of Thymiana. Thymiana is noted as the sole source of a beige-burgundy two-tone sandstone used both in the local mansions and much of the town itself. Inland lie a number of villages rising up into the central mountains culminating with the village of Ayios Georgios Sykoussis perched at the peak dividing east from west. Along the coast lies Karfas, a large sandy beach, which along with the nearby village of Ayia Ermioni is now the main tourist centre with a number of large and small hotels.
The south of the island is noted for the Mastichochoria (literally: Mastic Villages), the six villages of Mesta, Pyrgi, Olumpi, Kalamoti, Vessa, and Elata, which together have controlled the production of mastic gum in the area since the Roman period. The villages, built between the 14th and 16th centuries, have a carefully designed layout with fortified gates and narrow streets to protect against the frequent raids by marauding pirates. Between Chios Town and the Mastichochoria lie a large number of historic villages including Armolia, Myrmighi, and Kalimassia. Along the east coast are the fishing villages of Kataraktis and the south Nenita.
The south coast is sparsely populated with only two populated areas; the modern bay of Komi and the ancient village of “Emporio“, inhabited since 1800 BC, and the site of the black volcanic beach of “Mavra Volia” believed to have been created by the explosion of Santorini island in 1600 BC.
The west coast, between the deep natural harbour of Limenas at the south and the town of Vrontados at the north, forms a crescent shaped series of almost uninhabited rocky bays. The nearest population centres being the two hillside villages of Lithi and Sidirounta, while further inland lie the villages of Elata, Vessa, Agio Giorgi, Angonyma and the deserted village of Anavatos. On the west coast there still stands a system of stone beacons that were built at regular intervals to signal the approach of ships and warning the islanders against invasions by pirates.
The north of the island contains two major villages: Volissos on the west coast, and Kardamyla on the east. Further to the north, are three villages where cherries are grown –Amades, Viki and Kambia. In June Kambia holds an annual Cherry Festival- “Yiortí ton Kerrasión“. Kambia holds several festivals during the summer months. Also located in the northern region is the island’s tallest mountain, Mount Pelineon, at 1,297 metres (4,255 ft).
Spartounda and Fyta are a few miles before Kambia. In the village of Fyta stands a watchtower dating back to the late 16th century, the time of the Genoese occupation. Spartounda is the highest village of the island.
The village of Kourounia lies 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of Volissos in the northwestern part of the island. Next to Kourounia is the village of Egrigoros.
Directly in the centre of the island, between the villages of Avgonyma to the west and Karyes to the east, lies the 11th century monastery of Nea Moni, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monastery was lavishly built with funds gifted by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX, after three monks, living in caves nearby, had petitioned him while he was in exile on the island of Mytilene. The monastery had substantial estates attached, with a thriving community until the massacre of 1822. It was further damaged during the 1881 earthequake. In 1952, due to the shortage of monks, Nea Moni was converted to a convent.
Further south is the region of Kambochoria. This is a collection of medieval villages (Halkios, Vavili, Vassileoniko, Ververato, Dafnonas, and Zifias) with a combined population of about 3,000 and an agricultural economy. In this region grows four varieties of wild tulips.
West of the Kambochoria on the central ridge of the island lies the 16th century village of Agios Geórgios Sikousis. The village is situated 400 metres (1,300 ft) above sea level, strategically overlooks both sides of the island, and was previously fortified with both wall and tower.
Read about the history of Chios at Wikipedia’s website