An Epic Island Escape
Just seven miles from Cesme, Turkey, across the Aegean Sea is the Greek island of Chios—the birthplace of Greek poet Homer, and famed for its stunning beaches, medieval villages, and mastic production. Like most Greek islands, Chios comes to life in the summer, thanks in part to Mavra Volia, a well-known volcanic beach covered in coal-black pebbles.
According to archeological findings, the first inhabitants reached Chios in 6000 to 2000 B.C. When the Roman empire fell, Chios joined the Byzantine empire and the island gained great strategic importance. Castles, villages, and strongholds were built, most present to this day, giving Chios its unique character. In 1822, the Turkish navy and army burned and destroyed everything on the island, resulting in what is known today as the Great Massacre of Chios. The city was rebuilt 10 years later, and in 1912 was freed from Turkish occupation to become part of independent Greece. Today, its laid back atmosphere, family resorts, and natural beauty make Chios a popular destination for holidaymakers.
Perhaps most well-known for its production of mastic, Chios is home to 24 masticochoria, or mastic villages. Producing over 300 tonnes every year, residents of these well-preserved 16th century villages cultivate the sweet-tasting gum of the Lentisk or Mastic bush by hand to be used in medicine, cosmetics, jams, and of course, local delicious ouzo! The villages of Pyrgi, Olympi, and Vessa all offer a picturesque look into the cultivation process, as well as the unique architecture, such as the ksistá, or “scratched surfaces”, on the facades of the houses.
Much as Chios is renowned for its mastic, it is not the only magic one can find on this island. Black pebbles, white sand,, and crystal clear waters—the beaches of Chios are plentiful and unique. Emporios, Mavra Volia, and Karfas are popular, however a leisurely exploration of the island will uncover a plethora of secluded, quiet beaches for total relaxation and privacy.