At a glance
Greece’s fifth largest island, jasmine-fragrant Chios, has all the right southern Mediterranean features to lure holidaymakers in their droves every summer: a large choice of lovely, sun-drenched beaches, warm and welcoming locals and delectable food with intriguing influences from neighbouring Turkey.
All of this is back-lit by a complex, turbulent history and a vibrant traditional culture, starring, throughout the ages, one of the country’s largest communities of wealthy shipping families. In essence, though, what distinguishes Chios from any other island in Greece are its precious Mastic trees, the pride-inspiring product of 24 medieval villages around the island, that ‘weep’ tear-shaped resin from the incisions artfully cut into their bark.
The so-called Mastic villages (‘Mastihohoria’) have become an attraction in their own right, particularly Mesta and Pyrgi, the best preserved and the largest, respectively. The latter, with its M.C. Escher-reminiscent patterned houses, is said once to have been home to Christopher Columbus, while another illustrious resident of the island, the epic poet Homer, taught at Daskalopetra, where ‘Homer’s rock’ still stands.
The island is curiously not a tourist-heavy destination makes it all the more appealing to those who travel here in search of the unhurried, natural pace of life enjoyed by the residents.